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was to form independent characters, in the good sense of the word, who might afterwards walk alone without leading-strings. But let us take his own simple record of the visible start in 1847:
The schools,' he says, 'began in a very humble way by half a dozen of our boys hiding themselves behind a bench two or three times a week, after they had done their day's work and had their tea, to practise writing on scraps of paper with worn-out pens, begged from the counting-house. The foreman of their department encouraged them, and as they persevered and were joined by other boys, he begged that some rough moveable desks might be made for them. When they had obtained these they used to clear away the candle-boxes at night, and set up the desks, and thus work more comfortably than before, although still at great disadvantages as compared with working in any ordinary school-room. My brother encouraged them with some books as prizes, and many who had been very backward improved much in reading and writing. The fact of the whole being the work of the boys themselves seemed to form so large a part of its value that we carefully abstained from interfering in it further than by these presents of books for prizes, and of copy-books, spelling-books, and Testaments, and by my being-(though not till long after the commencement, and after being much pressed, and being assured that it would cause no restraint)— always present at the school to give them the sanction of authority, but taking no more part than hearing the boys their spelling.'
This was the secret-this being always present;' this drudging on with dull boys at their spelling; this kindly sacrifice of leisure after a hard day's work in the counting-house; this practical sympathy with the lads-sympathy, too, and toil, and oversight, as distinct from interference. Many a manager, or many a manufacturer, may 'give orders' that there shall be schools for his people,' and drive off to his villa day after day as soon as he has done whatever partners or proprietors had a title to expect from him: here and there such a gentleman may once or twice a year, or even once or twice a month, honour the school with his presence, and patronise the affair; but to reach success there must be something warmer and heartier than this. Nor should it in fairness be omitted that, even where there exists a most sincere desire to work out good in such a line, it may be in fact impossible for the individual to give the time and pains requisite for a satisfactory achievement. The energies of youth may not be at command: there may be the urgency of strictly domestic cares and duties-a world of other serious hindrances will suggest themselves on a very little reflection. But to proceed with the Belmont boys.
By and bye the half-dozen who began with the worn-out pens' in the midst of the 'candle-boxes' had increased to about thirty and it was much to be desired that they should have
some better place for their school meetings, that in which they then held them being dirty, exposed on all sides, and moreover requiring every school evening considerable labour to clear it sufficiently for the putting up of the moveable desks.
'Now, there was one part of the factory,' says Mr. Wilson, which we had long looked upon as very dangerous in case of a fire occurring. We gutted all this part of the building, clearing out enough old wood to have burnt down half a dozen factories, and making in place of the two lower store-rooms one lofty school-room, big enough for about 100. It was in the winter of 1848 that the boys got into this first schoolroom, still working entirely by themselves, so much so that the prayers with which the school closed, now that the separate rooms had set them free from the bustle of the factory, were always read by themselves.'
After this, as older boys came in, it became necessary to have the school placed more under authority, though Mr. Wilson still guided rather than governed all. The new room began to be overcrowded, so much so that all the desks had to be removed from it, and the boys were obliged to write on pieces of stiff cardboard, held in their hands or on their knees.' Soon, therefore, a second school-room was built, and, by and bye, the company having taken the business of Child's Night Lights,' the school system, now including girls, required still further expansion. To save time, one of the railway arches of the South-Western was seized upon, and, being made water-tight, it was extemporised into a school. The progress was thenceforth rapid. At an inspection which took place in 1851, when the schools were emptiest, 512 scholars were present; and in the winter, when business would be slack, Mr. Wilson was confident of numbering 800.
It is not, however, simply of the growth of the schools-this marvellous growth of a scheme which began with half a dozen boys hiding themselves behind a bench once or twice a-week'— it is not of bare cold schooling only that we have to speak. It is the tone, the spirit, the character that was given to them, the evident action they had on the whole state of the factory, the leaven which they spread-the kindly, nay, the religious sympathy which sprang up between all ranks and bodies in the establishment. We can find large Factory Schools in many parts; they are compulsory in several kinds of manufactories; but few are conducted in such a spirit as those at Vauxhall. There is often too much starch, too much drill, too much outward mechanical regularity and order; and in speaking of the tone which Mr. Wilson gave to the whole, we have to remark on the wisdom with which he effected what he desired. He was bent on producing, if possible, a Christian factory, but he did not force religion down. Nay,
he often sought his greater object by pursuing lesser ones, though we see the greater impressed on all he did. It was the heart of the system, though, like the heart itself, it did not beat outside, to be looked at. Mr. Wilson felt that he was requiring a good deal of those who had been hard at work all day, to spend a couple of hours at the evening school, with their 'spellingbooks and their Testaments '-that it was a trial under any circumstances, especially to youths whom penny theatres and all the low pleasures of low London life were beckoning away: he therefore set himself to smooth the trial.
With this view,' he says, we repeatedly, in the spring and summer of 1849, asked all the school to a tea-party in the new room. The first tea was an interesting one, from the fact that very many of the boys had not been at anything of the sort before, and that many of them, not being then in the habit of going to church, had never perhaps put themselves into decent clothes at all. Those who came untidily or dirtily dressed to our first tea, feeling themselves out of keeping with the whole thing, tried hard to avoid this at the next party. I hope that to several our first tea was the occasion of their taking to neat dressing for life. I will just mention here that, so far as our experience goes, there is not with boys, as with girls, any danger whatever in leading them to think much of their dress, for the more they attend to it the nearer they get to plain black. Almost all our best boys now come to chapel in plain black, though not a word has been said to them, or required to be said, about their dress. . By the help of these tea-parties we made the boys who did not belong to the school feel awkward and uncomfortable about not doing so; and very many joined several however stipulating that they were not to be asked to the next tea, lest that should be supposed to be the motive for joining.'
Such was the beginning of a system of recreation which soon took a more valuable and more permanent form.
"In following up our plan of combining as much pleasure as possible with the schools, the next step was to teach the boys cricket-yet it was anything but a pleasant occasion which decided the time of beginning this. In the summer of 1849 the cholera came, and it was fearfully severe in Battersea Fields and the lower parts of Lambeth, where numbers of our people live. For a time, the first thing every morning was to compare notes as to the relations whom the men and boys had left dead or dying on coming to work; and in the latter part of the time no doctors could be had, as they were all knocked up. Before it got very bad, we got good medical advice as to whether any precautions against it were possible for our boys, and it was decided that fresh air and exercise out of the factory were the best preventives. We therefore closed the school entirely, and a gentleman (Mr. Symes) having most kindly let us take possession of a field which was waiting to be occupied by a builder, we set to
work hard at learning cricket after working hours. I say learning, for cricket is not a game of London boys. I do not like to pass this part of my story without noticing how everybody's heart seemed to warm up directly towards such an object as ours, when applied to for assistance in it. Mr. Symes had never seen me before, nor I him, when I went into his office to ask him for his field; but when the case was stated, his answer was, "Certainly, for such an object I shall be delighted to let you have it until I am obliged to turn you out for building;" so I got the field, and the beginning of a most true friendship besides. Afterwards, Mr. Graham, who holds a great part of Battersea Fields, also an entire stranger to me until I called on him on a similar errand, no sooner understood it than he told me of all the land he had, and the terms on which he held the different pieces, and offered to let me pick which I chose out of the whole; and we have had very many minor instances of this readiness to help us.
The cholera seems an odd reason for taking to cricket, but I dare say the cricket had a very happy effect on the general health of our boys, and so may have strengthened them against catching it. We lost only one (an amiable and well-conducted boy of seventeen), although many lost relations living in the same houses with them. Always, when the game was finished, they collected in the corner of the field, and took off their caps for a very short prayer for the safety from the cholera of themselves and their friends; and the tone in which they said their "Amen" to this has always made me think that, although the school was nominally given up for the time, they were really getting from their game so concluded more moral benefit than any quantity of ordinary schooling could have given them. They also met me every morning in the school-room at six o'clock, before beginning work, just for a few minutes to give thanks for having been safely brought to the beginning of the day, and to pray to be defended in it.'
We need not point to the lights of this picture; the short prayer that closed the hour of harmless, healthful sport-the manager's interest in the scene-are things which speak for themselves. In 1850 they played in the same field three nights a week, working in the school the other three nights. Bricks and mortar, however, soon drove them out of that field— and they got another of above six acres, the edges of which were allotted to gardens. Many now took to gardening—and, though perhaps they at first 'just barely knew which end of the spade went downwards,' the novel pursuit by degrees inspired in not a few feelings and tastes they had no idea of before, and of a nature to have a most softening influence upon them.' We now begin to see the men drawn into the circle of Mr. Wilson's influence, and the 'cricket' seems the attractive power. The three nights when the boys were schooling, the men were got to play-and then at last boys and men were brought together.
'What gave the game the greatest start was, that some of the boys
took it into their heads to send a challenge that twenty-two of them would stand the eleven of a cricket club, formed by a few of our men, who, having been cricketers before coming to the factory, had joined themselves together to keep up their practice of the game, as they best could, on Kennington Common or elsewhere. Some of this eleven, being pretty good players, and knowing what novices our boys were, treated the challenge with great contempt, their captain saying he would play the twenty-two himself. But the boys practised very hard till the day of the match, and when it came, to the great astonishment of themselves as well as of all the rest of the factory, they beat the men in one innings. Later in the year they beat again in a return match of sixteen to eleven, and in the coming summer they mean to try eleven to eleven. They are looking eagerly forward to the 1st of May, on which day we propose to begin the cricket again, and they will, I hope, have a happy summer of it.'
It is truly a comfortable thing to hear the boys and men of a factory thus spoken of-to see them treated by their employer with all this heartiness. Imagine the change from the stifling toils of a candle-factory to a breezy field and a good game of cricket, with their master himself looking on their sports and joining in their prayers. The grand difficulty in factory work and in all co-operative labour on a large scale is that the people are together without knowing or caring for each other; it is community without communion, co-operation without concord; all goes round like a mere machine; this set of men quietly do this thing, another set do another thing, and the whole system, active, orderly, skilful, bearing part on part, carrying out one work, is all the while, as a living system, utterly fragmentary, disjointed, unsympathetic, cold, without any link whatever between part and part. We must get them away from the calico or the candles and bring them together in some unbusiness-like way, if we hope to give the business portion of their life a proper tone. Hear Mr. Wilson again:—
"I think the mixing of the boys and myself with the men in the cricket and gardening produced much good and kindly feeling among us all, and has made many work together in the factory during winter as friends who felt almost as strangers before. I can answer for myself, that I got to know well and to like many of the men whom I had scarcely known at all before, and I believe they got to know and like me. Everybody is ready to preach about the necessity of this knowledge of each other by masters and men, but I suppose only masters can know the extreme difficulty of getting to be on a footing, at all deserving the name of personal friendship, with the men of a factory, when the number is large, however anxious they may be to get on such a footing. In business hours both master and men are too busy to have time for gossiping, and directly business is over the best of the men go, and ought to go, straight to their families. . . . With the boys