Two Happy Factories in England.
BY MARCUS WOODWARD, IN PEARSON’S.
Workers in the factories of Cadbury & Co. at Bournville and Lever Bros, at Port Sunlight, labor under ideal conditions. To read of all the advantages they possess in the way of bright, clean homes, pleasant workrooms and congenial surroundings, one feels that the millenium may really be a possibility sometime.
IF you take the slightest interest in the social questions of the day, if you have ever been concerned with the housing problem, if you have ever read with harrowed feelings of the white slaves of England, or have been inspired by the hopeful idea of garden cities, then you would find it absorbingly interesting to make the same short tour that I have lately undertaken, and now set out to describe.
You leave London in one of those trains from Euston that run so smoothly that a glass of water may safely be set on the dining-table filled to the brim, and come after a swift run through happy England to Birmingham. Changing trains, you travel thence for five miles to one of the beautiful valleys of Worcester, that through which flows the pretty River Bourn; and here, where white
stones on a green lawn beside the station trace the words “Cadbury” and “Bournville,” the first stage of the journey ends.
From the platform, gay with flowers, your eyes wander delightedly over a wide, wooded, pastoral valley, with three chimneys in the foreground to mark the site of Cadbury’s great cocoa and chocolate factory. From the station you step directly into the finest model village in the world.
When Mr. George Cadbury was a young man, as a worker in the Birmingham Sunday schools he came into close touch with poor people; and, impressed by the wretchedness of the working-man’s home, he made a vow that, if ever riches came to him, he would do something to brighten alike the workman’s home and life. Later, as an employer of thousands of work-people, when he
came to know the life-histories of hundreds of men and women, he was deeply stirred by the thought that so many lived under conditions that were scandalous to civilizationhoused in filthy, evil-smelling lanes, deprived of fresh air and sunshine, strangers to grass and flowers and trees, but familiar from childhood with vice. He determined to attempt to solve the housing problem by building a model village at Bournville—a village where there should be no crowding of cottages on tile land, or of people in the cottages, where each house should have a big garden, where roads should be wide and tree-bordered, and where at least one-tenth of the land, in addition to roads and gardens, should be reserved for parks and playgrounds. So Bournville was founded, and in one year two hundred houses wiere built.
Bournville is now an object lesson to the world. A more delightful, a ¡moire perfect, village could not be imagined. It is picturesque to a degree—airy, spacious, tree-covered, flowe'r-bedecked. The cottages—most of them semi-detached, or built in blocks of four—are one and all artistic in design. Some have two sitting-rooms and three bedrooms, others one large living-room and three bodrooms, with all conveniences in the way of sculleries, tanks to catch rain-water, gas, water, and sewers, the rents ranging from 5s. 6d. a week, rates included, to 12s a week. Forty per cent, of the householders work at the factory, the others in Birmingham.
To each house is attached something like 600 square yards of garden, so that enough vegetables may be grown to supply a family of six. Then each garden has its fruit orch-
ard, containing apple, pear, and plum trees, and currants and gooseberries—the taller trees screening one garden from the next. In a few years, when the young trees of to-day have grown big, the garden village will become a village in a forest. The tenants cultivate their own gardens, taking the greatest interest therein. Two professional gardeners and a large staff of assistants are always ready to give help and advice, while seeds, bulbs, and trees are to be bought at low wholesale prices.
As one wanders through the villarge, every now and again a fine open space is encountered in a quiet corner, with a tree-sheltered lawn, seats, shelters, and swings. These are children’s playgrounds, where the little ones may play to their hearts’ content, without disturbing their elders or the peace of the streets. That is no idle phrase—the peace of the streets—for they are more like pretty country lanes. Each one is 42 ft. wide, bordered by trees, and named after trees—Elm Road or Sycamore Avenue.
Five years ago the estate and village were handed over to trustees as a gift to the nation, the revenue to be employed in developing the estate, arid then in founding other model industrial villages around Birmingham and large towns. The gift is valued at about £200,000, and its revenue amounts to some £6,000. The scheme is one that contains the principio of continual growth. It is calculated that in 150 years the revenue from the estates will amount to at least £1,000,000. In Bournville there are now 586 houses, all told, inhabited by a population of over 2,800.
A happy community indeed is "Bournville, The rural surroundings, the contact with Nature, the attrac-
tire houses and gardens, the absence of the monotony of unbroken terraces, the absence of incentives to drink and vice, all have an influence, especially on the young generation, that is far beyond reckoning.
The factory itself is set amid beautiful gardens, as are the cottages in the village. Flowers blaze in summer from the borders lining the roads between the low blocks of buildings, rockeries are covered with Alpine plants, the office windows look out on to trim little lawns, and creepers climb every wall. The employees are encouraged to cycle to their work : and, when they arrive, three bicycle houses await their machines, with boys in charge.
Inside, in the work-rooms, the work is planned as though the comfort and happiness of the employees were the one thing sought—as though the factory existed just to give 4,000 hands a pleasant eight hours’ occupation, so that they might appreciate the more their happy homes. High, light, and airy are the rooms ; cool in summer, warm in winter, fresh at all times. Is any dust made in the process of cocoa-making, do any fumes rise from glue-pots?—dust and odors are sucked away up special pipes. Does the snow lie on the ground, are boots wet?—special provision is made for drying foot-wear, and snow-boots are provided. Clothes are changed on arrival at the factory for neat white uniforms, supplied free in the first place by the company.
Drinking fountains are installed in each room, also telephones—120 telephones connecting department to department. Plants are distributed everywhere, to make the work-rooms cheerful and home-like. In each room, too, are members of the ambu-
lance brigade, with ambulance boxes under their charge, while the services of three nurses, a doctor, and a dentist are given freely to employees. If anyone feels tired or faint in the course of the day, is oppressed by a headache, or feels sick from a bilious attack, retiring rooms, with beds and easy chairs, invite them to rest awhile.
When the lunch hour comes, 2,000 girls may find seats in a spacious dining-room of their own, where they may procure a cup of tea, coffee, cocoa, or a glass of milk for a halfpenny, a basin of soup with bread for a pennj^ ; or a plate of meat, with vegetables, and a sweet, for fourpence; or, if they prefer, they may partake of food cooked for them, but brought from their own homes. The men have a separate dining-hall, with as liberal catering, while the foremen and fore-women retire to lunch in their own rooms, comfortably furnished.
Recreation is as much a feature of the factory life as work. Once a year for a fortnight the works are closed, and a universal holiday is taken, though wages are paid as usual to day workers, while Saturday afternoon is always a holiday. The women’s part of the grounds is arranged for tennis courts, net-ball games, croquet, and other pastimes. There is a magnificent swimming bath, where swimming is taught and encouraged, and a gymnasium where classes are held in physical training, which are compulsory for all boys and girls under sixteen.
The men have a superb cricket ground, so large that four matches may be played at once. Here professional cricketers are in charge. Overlooking the ground is a handsome pavilion, fitted as a gymnasium,
the finest in all the Midlands. The workmen may fish in a beautiful pool, swim in open-air -baths, play tennis, bowls, or football, while associated with the outdoor sports are walking clubs and harriers.
In the summer bands play in the grounds and parks, and in the winter choral societies give concerts in halls. Thoughtful minds are catered for by libraries, classes, and clubs and institutes of every known kind, from the sewing and eooking classes for the girls to the reading and chessrooms in the youths’ club house. Schools that cost £20,000 are provided for the children of the workers, and of others living in the village.
,And so on, without end. Nothing is omitted that could be done for the comfort and welfare of the workers; everything that is done is perfectly done. I have made no mention of a hundred schemes that deserve a page a-piece, such as, the impressive little service held thrice weekly in the factory; the village inn and shops; the institute where the boys are taught to carpenter and to make shoes; the sick clubs; the saving funds; the interesting group of cottages nearest the factory, where the fire-brigade is housed, with telephones at their bedsides: The Bournville Works Magazine: or the almshouses, a quadrangle of exquisite cottages, oakfitted and oak-furnished, where sixty old people rest from their labors, breathing an atmosphere of peace.
But time presses, and we have to go'far afield to finish our little tour in search of the social millenium.
In the year 1885, Mr. W. H. Lever, a grocer of Bolton, was seized by the idea of soap-making. It was a whim that took his fancy; and to carry it
out he bought a tumble-down factory, and began to produce Sunlight Soap. In two years the soap was coining a fortune, and enlarged works were necessary. Mr. Lever decided to found a model village and factory.
He bought a property hard by Birkenhead, on the banks of the Mersey, a somewhat unpromising bit of land, largely consisting of marsh. The marsh was drained, leaving dales with green slopes and a good waterway for the steamers to come to the factory ’s docks from Liverpool. Here Port Sunlight came into, being, with a model village covering 140 acres, and an ideal factory covering 81 acres. To-day the population of the village is 3,000—all being employees, or children of the employees, of the firm of Messrs. Lever Brothers. To-day more than 3,400 employees find work at the factory, while upwards of 15,000 people are dependent on the firm for a living. Seventy distinct trades are represented in the soap works. Six hundred houses, model and ideal, have been erected in the village, and four miles of tree-lined roadways have been laid out, widening at each junction into open spaces.
From all corners of the world, at all times and seasons, visitors, to the number of 60,000 every year, flock to inspect these model works and these model homes. Special gangways run through the works whence the visitors can watch every operation of soap-making. A staff of guides conducts parties five times a day.
The visitors study first the raw materials used in the manufacture^ of soap—tallow from Australia and America, cotton-seed from Egypt, copra oil extracted from cocoanuts gathered by natives in the South Sea Islands. Then they watch the pro-
cess of soap-making and packing. The fire brigade and the ambulance corps come in for particular interest. The suggestion bureaux are noted in each department, where, as at Bournville, suggestions for improving the welfare of the workers are received, to be considered by a committee, and awarded cash prizes if good ideas.
The systems of pensions in force, provided by contributions from the firm, insures that deserving workmen shall have a comfortable old age. Every employee, retiring after fifteen years’ services, receives at a certain age a yearly allowance. A workman whose wage, for instance, was 38s. a week, retiring at sixty-five, after thirty years’ service, would be entitled to a pension of £50 a year. Liberal provisions are made for those who retire from ill health or injury, and for the widows and children of trusted servants.
After looking ovet the factory, the visitors wander over the village, with its wide, tree-lined streets, and its groups of model' cottages in the Early English style of architecture, no two groups being alike. A score of professional gardeners tend all the front gardens with their trim squares of lawns, 20 ft. or 30 ft. wide; while at the backs of the houses are large allotment gardens, where each tenant cultivates fruit and vegetables.
The numberless societies, institutes, clubs and schemes, each having its building, are inspected; the schools for 1,300 children ; the handsome Congregational church ; the village theatre. The firm believes that the education of its workers is a payinginvestment. Among the excursions organized this summer, two thousand Sunlighters were taken for a free trip to Belgium, to improve their minds at the Liege Exhibition.
I have passed swiftly over all these things in order to come the more quickly to the great idea, of which they are but the tangible ¡outcome. The idea that brought Port Sunlight into being is the most interesting thing to be discovered there to-day. It is Mr. W. H. Lever’s idea of prosperity-sharing—an idea that is likely to do more than anything else to bring about the golden age for the working-classes.
That there is all the difference in the world between profit-sharing and prosperity-sharing, and that there is no philanthropy about prosperitysharing, are points that Mr. Lever is particularly anxious to have strongly brought out. Nothing makes him more angry than to be called a philanthropist.
“It would be absolutely incorrect,” declares the founder of Port Sunlight, “to compare me with a philanthropist. Philanthropy is only another name for charity, and charity can only mean pauperism. The question of cheap housing has nothing to do with charity or pauperism. There is so much misery that charity will always be impotent to remove it. The only means of remedying social evils is to conduct our own affairs wisely for the greater benefit of all. It is less our task to help the unfortunate than to prevent misfortune. There is no philanthropy at Port Sunlight, for there is no room for such a thing in business.
“The relations between employers and employes must be of a strictly business character; both master and workman must most loyally carry out their mutual agreement. Based upon this principle, I reason that if the directors feel the need, after a day’s work, to find a comfortable and attractive home awaiting them, the
same need must exist for their coworkers. It appears to me that those who have contributed towards the prosperity of our business have the same right as we to live a pleasant life amid pleasant surroundings.
111 can look any of my workmen in the face, and tell him, man to man: ‘We never patronized you; we never intended doing so, and we¡ never shall attempt to thrust our patronage upon you.’ And any of my workmen can look me in the face and say: ‘I never received any pay from you that was not due to me for my services, and that is all I want.’
“And if there is anyone who believes that a fellowman cannot be helped unless he be placed under the influence of patr nage or philanthropy he is grievously wrong. The strongest bond that can unite the different parties engaged in the same work is, indeed, the common interest which they all take in the common enterprise. ’ ’
How does this idea work out in practice ?
The capital sunk in the village represents a sum of £350,000, which represents an annual interest at 5 per cent, of £17,500. This £17,500 is given by the firm to the village—not in cash, but in prosperity.
“I estimate,” to quote Mr. Lever’s explanation, “that 2,200 workmen and girls reside in the village. In dividing £17,500 by 2,200 the result will be about £8. If I were to follow the usual mode of profit-sharing, I would send my workmen and workgirls to the cash office at the end of the year, and say to them: ‘You are going to receive £8 each; you have earned this money; it belongs to you. Take it and make whatever use you like of it. Spend it in the public-
house; have a good spree at Christmas; do as you like with the money.’
“Instead of that I tell them: ‘£8 is an amount which is soon spent, and it will not do you much good if you send it down, your throats in the form of whiskey, bags of sweets, or fat geese for Christmas. On the other hand, if you leave this money with me, I shall use it to provide for you everything that makes life pleasant, nice houses, comfortable homes, and healthy recreation. Besides, I am disposed to allow profit-sharing under no other than that form.’ ”
The £8 bonus put to the credit of the workers every year represents the difference between the nominal rent charged for their houses — only enough to cover up-keep and repairs — and the houses’ real rent value.
So it is that at Port Sunlight there is more to be discovered than pretty Elizabethan houses for the workers, with bathrooms and gardens,, more than a model village and a model factory, and social institutions of every known kind under the sun. “V\7e have aimed at producing,” in Mr. Lever’s words, “good fellows and good men.” And they have; been produced, in hundreds and thousands —the outcome of an idea.
Returning from Liverpool to London, as mile after mile of sweet pastoral England slips behind, one cannot help thinking of the reverse side of the picture. Indeed, it is a terrible thought that these happy garden cities of industry are so few and far between. One thinks of those many sordid factories in the slums of cities, where never a breath of fresh pure air enters the grimy workshops, where the toilers, pale and cheerless, suggest rather down-trod-
den slaves, or criminals in a prison labor colony, than free-born citizens.
One conjures pictures of workers at dangerous trades—potters, toiling under the shadow of lead-poisoning, and breathing an irritant dust that raises their mortality from bronchitis to four times as high as that of occupied workers in the aggregate; cutlers, working only to die in their prime from the inhalation of metallic particles; glass-makers, working in extremes of temperature; workers in deadly chemical industries, dyers and bleachers; workers in laundries, in match factories, in cheerless cotton mills, where the wheels and spindles set the pace, and' the human being, made in the image of God, is transformed into a mere machine.
True, they work of their own free will. They know well they are staking their lives against their wages, and they know that the game is a losing one. But are we to have no compassion for them on this account?
True, there is the Factory Act. It it full of wise regulations. Examine the abstract of one—that, for instance, which applies to non-textile factories, a copy of which “must be kept constantly fixed in the factory, where it can be easily read,” so that the workpeople may know how many of them the Government allows to work in each room, the periods of employment alowed, the times for meals allowed. The first regulations apply to sanitation.
“The factory must be kept in a cleanly state and free from effluvia.” The factory must be lime-washed at intervals. The factory must not be overcrowded—250 cubic feet of space must be allowed for each person. In every room must be sufficient means of ventilation. Floors must be drained. Washing conven-
iences must be provided, where lead, arsenic, or other poisonous substances are used. Suitable sanitary conveniences must be provided.
Then comes regulations headed “Safety.” Dangerous machinery must be fenced; provision must be made for fire escape.
Then follow elaborate regulations for the hours of employment and meal hours, for enforcing holidays on Christmas Day, Good) Friday and four bank holidays, or on days in substitution. Finally, come notes about outworkers and pieceworkers, notices, registers, and returns; exceptions to the regulations; the system of inspection; definitions; and a note as to the Truck Acts, requiring that wages shall be paid in money, and regulating fines.
It is all very excellent. And the factory inspectors are a splendid set of men, alive to their heavy responsibilities, and keen to bring down penalties on anyone who oversteps the law by a hair’s-breadth.
But everybody knows that these re gulations insist only on the minimum amount of care for employes that common decency dictates. Everybody knows that this minimum amount of care is daily evaded.
The little something that the Factory Acts do for the welfare of working people amounts to nothing in face of what must be done if ever the rising sun of reform that shines at Bourn ville and Port Sunlight is to .brighten all the land. Here and there in this country one might find other examples of employers who are doing welfare work for their employes — outside as well as inside, their factories—but they are few and far between. In America, too, here and there is an ideal factory. The finest of them ail, I may mention in passing, is that of the National Cash Register
Co., where labor and capital work together for the benefit of each other. The heads of the “Welfare Leagues,” to which most of the 3,800 employes belong, do everything possible to secure healthful working conditions, pleasant surroundings, and educational opportunities for mind and body. As President Patterson' has said again and again, when speaking of the welfare work carried on in his ideal
community, housed as it is in one of the finest groups of factory buildings in the world: “It pays.”
The happy factory undoubtedly pays. It blesses him that gives and him that receives. Of this you would be more than convinced if you were to make the little trip I recommend to Birmingham and to Liverpool, to the English model garden cities of industry.