MINERS' HOUSING IN SCOTLAND.
extracted from Chapter XIV Report of Royal Commission on the Housing of the Industrial Population of Scotland, 1918
(1) HISTORICAL INTRODUCTION.
Special Importance of the Problem.
As already indicated, the origin of the Commission was directly due to the representations made to the Secretary for Scotland by the Scottish Miners' Associations. Our Remit includes the housing of all classes of the Scottish population; but, as the result of the preliminary Reports prepared for the Local Government Board at the request of Lord Pentland, it was decided that the case for an investigation into the housing of miners was so overwhelming that we were directed to make special inquiry into housing in the mining districts. Accordingly, we considered it our duty not merely to obtain very full evidence on the conditions of housing in the mining communities, but also to inspect personally typical areas in the chief mining counties - Midlothian, Linlithgow, Fife, Lanark, Ayr, and Stirling. The evidence laid before us by witnesses we have thus been able to confirm by direct observation. Our visits of inspection were made principally during the six months before the War. The masses of evidence adduced and the records of observations made constitute a valuable body of evidence on all the problems connected with the housing of miners, and, in order to convey a substantive impression of our investigations, we are compelled to devote to the mining section an exceptionally large proportion of space.
But, as will be shown later, the amount of space is not disproportionate to the magnitude of the industry concerned. The mining industries, including shale-mining as well as coal-mining, necessarily give rise to special housing problems ; for the organisation of the industries is determined by the geological situation of coal seams or shale beds, not, as in many other industries, by the availability of power and accessibility to the sea. Frequently, as in the recently sunk shafts at Valleyfield in West Fife, the mine-owner sinking such shaft is the only employer having any interest in providing houses near the new shaft. Where, as in Lanarkshire, several mining shafts are within a short distance of each other, existing towns or towns resting on other industries may be in a position to provide adequate housing; but, as a rule, even in the special mining areas of Lanarkshire and Ayrshire, the houses have been placed as near as practicable to the mining shafts. The housing of miners, therefore, has a very direct and special relation to the nature of the mining industry. The industry requires considerable numbers of houses all approximately of one class. The convenient sites are not always the best drained or the most easily laid out. For these and several other reasons, the housing of miners presents a series of special problems.
These problems are not of recent growth. The history of the industry is not without relevance to the conditions of to-day; for, in some areas, the houses built more than 120 years ago continue to be occupied, and, in at least one place (Bo'ness), a mine has been continuously worked for over 100 years. In such an industry it was to be expected that customs should become too firmly rooted to be easily changed. Where fathers, grandfathers, great-grandfathers, and even great-great-grandfathers can be counted in the history of the same local industry, tradition naturally becomes a governing factor in the life of the villages. Here and there the shadows of the early bondage of miners seem still to affect the miners of the present generation. This seems to be the only explanation of the idea, frequently encountered all over the mining fields, that the miner's house was really a part of his wages and that half a crown a week should be the maximum rent. In the early days of the industry the "tied house" predominated. In certain localities it continues to predominate. As the industry has developed and transit has been better organised, the " tied house " has lost its general predominance ; but probably it is still, in the minds of some communities, a relic of the bondage days. The house is still very largely regarded as a piece of the mining plant, not as a place of free tenancy. There is, however, abundant evidence to show that, where the housing conditions have been improved, the personal interest of the miners in their houses tends to increase. The following historical notes, therefore, have a distinct bearing on present-day conditions.
We are informed that in the year 1592 special concessions and protection were given by the Scots Parliament to miners and salters because " they were dailie in the hasart of their lyves be the evill air of the saidis mynes". Unfortunately, certain acts of a fire raising raised a strong prejudice against the miners ; and the Act of 1592 was repealed and in 1606 an Act was passed by which colliers and salters were brought into a bondage as severe as that which existed in the fourteenth century and quite as cruel as that to be found in the wilds of Africa. This Act prohibited anyone from employing any collier, coal-bearer, or salter without a sufficient testimonial from their last employer ; and in the event of their being employed without such testimonial, the master from whom they came had power to claim them within a year and a day, in which case the employer was bound to deliver up the worker within 24 hours under a penalty of £100 Scots ; and such deserting colliers as had received " fair wages and fees " were to be held as thieves and punished in their bodies. (Acts Parliament Scots, vol. iv. p. 286.)
The existence of this state of servitude through the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries must be borne in mind in considering the social development of the Scotch coalfields. In 1775 an Act providing for gradual emancipation was passed, but proved ineffective. A young miner who had begun to work in the pits after 1775 felt that he could not leave his father, who was "thirled" to a colliery, and go to a new work. Hence it was that within a quarter of a century the Government was forced to move and bring in the 1799 measure, which declared that "many colliers and coal-bearers still continued in a state of bondage from not having complied with the provisions, or from having become subject to the penalties of the said Act." It was, therefore, enacted that from and after the passing of the 1799 Statute " all the colliers in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, who were bound colliers at the time of passing of the Act, shall be, and are hereby declared to be, free from their servitude."
Even this Act was robbed of its full effect by a rigorous system of long contracts which then grew up. In 1840 a Parliamentary Commission was appointed to inquire into the conditions of women's and children's labour in mines. Commissioners visited many collieries and mining towns and villages in Scotland, and in their reports, issued in 1842, they give us many interesting glimpses (1) of the housing conditions of the mining population, and (2) of the conditions of labour in the pits of 73 years ago. At many collieries the Commissioners found women at work in the pits, while boys and girls of from seven to eight years of age were daily being dragged down the mines by their parents, and were put to work for which they were quite unfitted. Strange to say, that in Mid and East Lothian, within a few miles of the City of Edinburgh, the conditions of labour were discovered to be much more revolting than in any other county in Scotland. The Commissioners found that in the Lothians women and young girls ("bearers") were engaged in the work of carrying coals in baskets on their backs for long distances underground and up stair pits to the surface. Although not so bad as in the Lothians, conditions were bad enough in other counties in Scotland, and as the result of the reports by the Commissioners an Act was passed by Parliament on 10th August 1842 prohibiting the employment of women and girls in mines, and stipulating that boys should not be engaged in pits under ten years of age. The Act became operative on 1st March 1843.
The Commissioners of 1840 found that the housing conditions in many mining centres were of a piece with the work in the pits. Mr Franks, in his report, deals at considerable length with the housing in East Scotland. He says: "The domestic condition of the collier population presents a deplorable picture of filth and poverty. I took the opportunity of examining many of the witnesses at their own dwellings, in order that I might become well acquainted with this branch of the inquiry, and it would indeed be difficult to witness a more disheartening spectacle. The hut is a wretched hovel, perhaps 10 to 12 feet square, in which a family of from six to ten individuals are huddled together ; two bedsteads, and sometimes only one, nearly destitute of covering, generally a few stools, sometimes the hanging of a chair, and some damaged crockery, fowls, occasionally a pig or jackass, dogs and whatever animals it may chance they possess, share the room with the family, and the only objects of comfort which present themselves are the pot and the fire over which it invariably hangs. The almost general absence of all furniture is to be attributed, as the women and men told me, to its giving inconvenience 'in flitting.' There is generally an absence of all drainage, and the filth, etc., of each cottage is accumulated before the door, not even in many cases placed on one side ; indeed, there is rarely any other deposit for filth except the entrance to the dwelling." (Report by Robert Hugh Franks in Blue Book, Art. I., Commission on Mines, 1842.)
In 1844 the Government appointed Mr Tremenheere, Inspector of Mines, to visit Scotland, and report on the administration of the new Act. Writing of the typical colliery village of Lanarkshire, Mr Tremenheere says: "The common form and arrangement of the colliers and miners' houses already described prevails here very generally ; that of long rows, single or one behind the other, or in parallelograms, containing from 20 to 100 houses or more together. They have no upper storey, and consist solely of a room on each side of the door. The general characteristics are crowded rooms, dirt and untidiness within and without, neglect of garden-ground, where there is any, and all other indications of a population either regardless of, or not in a position to observe, the comforts and decencies of domestic life." The Commissioner also obtained evidence from other parts of Scotland. For instance, Mr J. Johnston, Manager of the Redding Colliery, Stirlingshire, says : "One-third of our houses are single, the rest are double, or a house and a half. We cannot get them all to keep them as clean as we could wish. In 1832 we went through them all, whitewashed them, and furnished the people with bedsteads, blankets, etc., and cleared everything away about the doors. Since then their habits have greatly improved. Before that most of them slept on straw; four or five do so still." In the county of Fife, in 1843, the accommodation provided in most mining villages was meagre in the extreme. At many collieries the custom was to let houses of one room to newly married people, and two rooms to men with families. The ceilings were low and the windows small, and earthen floors were the order of the day. Little attention was paid to drainage.
At the same time, in some districts an improvement had begun to be felt. At Shotts, in Lanarkshire, about 26 houses had been built by the colliers, with a little initial assistance from the coal-owner through the agency of a building society to which they paid 2s. 6d. per week. At Coaltown of Wemyss, Fife, and Newbattle, Midlothian, improved houses were being erected ; and it is interesting to note that these two districts today possess some of the best miners' houses in the East of Scotland. It is apparent that conditions such as those described by Mr Franks and Mr Tremenheere in the middle of the nineteenth century to some extent explain, if they cannot really excuse, the persistence of the conditions which we are about to describe in the older rows in the twentieth century.
(2) CHIEF MINING COUNTIES OF SCOTLAND.
The Mining Population
In order to indicate the magnitude of the problem, we append the following table compiled from the Census Report of 1911, giving the number of (1) workmen below ground, and (2) total employed about the mines in the six principal mining counties of Scotland.
|County||Total Population dealt with (Census)||Employees working below Ground||Total employed and about the Mines|| *
According to the Report for 1911 of the Government Inspector of Mines the
total number of workpeople of all ages, male and female, employed
underground and above ground was 138,377.
** The number of miners resident in Edinburgh and Glasgow, though considerable, is small relatively to the total populations. Thus the figure, after deduction of these two cities and Leith, is the more accurate, though it does not allow for the non-mining portions of the counties.
|West Lothian (Linlithgowshire)||76,542||9,768||7,260|
Deducting Glasgow, Edinburgh & Leith**
Even allowing for the fact that in many cases more than one member of the family works as a miner, it is clear that the total population of coal miners (apart from miners in ironstone, shale, etc.) with their dependants cannot be far short of half a million.
Burghal and Landward Distribution of Mining
This large population, amounting to about one-tenth of the inhabitants of Scotland, is housed partly in burghs and partly in landward areas. In the burghs some miners live in types of house similar to those occupied by other wage earners ; but in some others - for example, Hamilton, Coatbridge, and Dunfermline - there are to be found "Miners Rows" that are at once recognisable as of the same type as those in the landward villages. On the other hand, in some of the county districts, large aggregates of population, amounting occasionally to 15,000 persons are under county government. Such are Blantyre and Larkhall in Mid-Lanark. In those places a clear majority of the population are directly engaged in coal mining. (Dr John T. Wilson, Report on the Housing of Miners, Lanarkshire 1910) Thus, in the mining districts, the apparent distinction between burghal and landward communities is more than usually indefinite. The differences between the administrative powers of burghs and counties are not reflected in the external differences of the communities. An Inspector of the Local Government Board stated that " a Sanitary Visitor would not be able to distinguish which were burghs and which were not in Fifeshire as regards 6 their administration."
Certain Common Features
In spite, therefore, of the differences in administrative control the mining communities, whether burghal or landward, show certain common features, and this is true of the various coalfields of Scotland. In all the coalfields there is a well-marked difference between the oldest houses and the newest, between the worst and the best. But there are also great differences between the different coalfields. The differences are shown in such matters as the proportion of old houses, the prevalence of overcrowding, and the current sanitary standard. Fife and the Lothians, whose development has spread over a long period, show great varieties of housing, and broad distinctions between the older and newer villages. On the other hand, Mid-Lanark shows, in its mining villages, a uniformity of house structure, a monotony of village plan, and a congestion of houses that are probably, to a great extent, due to the very rapid development of its mines during the middle and end of the nineteenth century. In our account of the different types of miners' housing, it is inevitable that the worst conditions should receive most prominence ; but the general impression given can hardly be more depressing than the reality. It is worth recalling that Mr Walker Smith's estimate of " new houses required," on the double test of overcrowding and uninhabitability, amounts to 18.59%, in the mining districts, as compared with 9.27% in the large burghs of Scotland as a whole, and 12.11% in the small burghs.
The evidence on which the following sections are
based is chiefly drawn from representatives (1) of the Central and Local
Authorities ; (2) of the coalowners, by whom a large proportion of the houses
are provided ; and (3) of the Miners' Unions, of which the largest is the
Lanarkshire Miners' Union, with over 40,000 members. We have also used the
reports by the medical officers issued in 1910-1912 at the instance of the Local
Government Board. These vary from a few pages in the Annual Report of the
Medical Officer of Health for Ayrshire to an elaborate and detailed volume of
242 pages, with plans and illustrations, in the case of Lanarkshire. As already
stated, we have checked the various descriptions by personal observations in the
counties of Lanark, Fife, Ayr, Midlothian, West Lothian, and Stirling.
(3) SITES AND PLANS OF COLLIERY VILLAGES
In the mining industry, three principles appear to have influenced the selection of sites and the planning of villages; first, the necessity for labour convenient to the mine; second, the commercial necessity to economise on the provision of houses as part of the mining plant; and third, the speculative risk involved in the limited life of the mine. In the selection of sites, probable proximity to the mine was the predominant factor. Frequently, mines had to be sunk at a considerable distance from populous places and in areas that would not naturally have been chosen as building sites. Hence, in the case of older villages, "the site was often ill-chosen, and no consideration was paid to the nature of the soil, subsoil drainage, excavation of soil underneath floors, etc." In the areas inspected by us, it was the exception to find that, in the selection of a site, any attention had been paid either to the nature of the soil or subsoil, or the amenities or exposure.
In the planning of the villages, the line of least resistance has, for the most part, been adopted; the houses, built of the cheapest available material, are arranged in the cheapest form, viz. the straight row. Usually the rows are arranged in parallel lines; occasionally the grouping is varied by "the square." But, whether arranged in rows or in squares, the greater number of the villages show so little consideration for the conditions of life demanded in a modern town, that privies, ashpits, washhouses, and other outhouses have usually been erected in the most conspicuous places, and on the most primitive designs. How gross the conditions continue to be in a large number of the villages, the detailed descriptions given below will demonstrate; but, to speak generally, the design of a colliery village is succinctly expressed in Dr M'Vail's description of a typical mining village in Stirlingshire or Dumbartonshire.
" The village consists of one or more rows of brick or stone or slated houses, opening on a private roadway for cart traffic, with a surface channel for drainage beyond the roadway, pillar wells at intervals beside the channel; a series of blocks of outhouses beyond it; and small gardens or clothes drying-greens on the further side of the outhouses."
Of the Fife coalfields, Dr Dewar remarked that the general improvement in modern miners' houses did not seem to have extended to the setting of the houses. Planning and arrangement he regarded as by no means unimportant; but it was the aspect in which the recently formed and recently extended mining centres of Fifeshire showed least favourably. He also criticised the want of provision of garden ground in some places. (Report on the Housing of Miners in Fifeshire (1909)) These strictures do not apply universally, as in some mining communities the taste for gardening is highly developed, but they apply very widely. It is, however, satisfactory to note that quite recently, not only as regards gardens, but in the matter of planning of the village, a reaction against the old careless and monotonous arrangement of the " rows " has begun to make itself felt on the side both of the mineowners and their employees. The general improvement is, however, very recent. Among the best miners' dwellings seen by us in Lanarkshire was a village of 127 houses erected about the year 1905 by Messrs Wm. Baird & Co. The houses, of two and three apartments, were well built of brick on the double-flatted plan, and had conveniences better than the average. But the number placed on the site was considerable, "between 26 and 27 per acre" though it was surrounded by open fields; and the arrangement of the houses in parallel straight lines, with washhouses, etc., placed at mathematical intervals between the rows, gave a bare and monotonous appearance. Small garden plots had been set aside, but were not made use of. There is, however, a growing tendency to condemn the straight row.
At Valleyfield (Fifeshire), and, in a less degree, at Kirkconnel (Dumfriesshire), and elsewhere, a definite attempt has been made to reach a more pleasing lay-out. Valleyfield is a carefully designed new village. The site is admirable. The amount of open space is very generous. The houses are arranged in crescents. Each crescent has a certain proportion of three-room houses, and a certain proportion of two-room houses - each house with scullery, w.-c. and - in many of the houses - bath, with hot water from the kitchen range for bath and sink, and garden. Every house has a back door opening to the garden. This apparently small detail has been found a great practical convenience in the management of the small houses. On the other hand, it has one drawback : it enables the tenant to subdivide his house into two houses of one room each, with one entrance from the front and one from the back. This has actually happened even in this new village, which, at the time of our visit, still had some houses unlet. The village is only partly built; it will be completed as the Valleyfield Colliery develops. The usual general conditions of housing are fulfilled - drainage, water-supply, and removal of refuse. When the village is completed, and the public buildings essential to the life of such a community - a school, a hall, reading and recreation rooms and churches - are established, this village will have all the machinery necessary for a sound civic life.
Since we visited Valleyfield in 1913 a number of houses have been built in pairs, with suitable garden ground to each. Similar provision of houses in pairs, with garden, has been made at Shotts, in county of Lanark.
In Mid-Lanark, the villages recently erected at Harthill and Cleland by the District Committee of the Middle Ward have been planned in the light of the latest views on garden villages. The contrast between the depressing monotony of the ancient rows and the graceful variety of the new villages is very striking. No doubt the type of house provided is a factor in the general pleasing effect; but the arrangement of the houses is an equally essential factor. For the sake of economy, the cottages are built in groups of two, and occasionally in groups of four; but nowhere is the dreary monotony of the long row repeated.
How far the speculative factor in the life of a mine has operated in inducing the owners to provide houses of inadequate structure, it is impossible to determine ; but it is certain that the failure to close uninhabitable houses has frequently rested on the allegation that the life of the mine was about to end, and that the houses would soon become automatically derelict. In some areas the life of the mine has ended; but it has been found that the houses were transferred to other owners. But, in other areas, where the mines were alleged to be approaching exhaustion, they are still in full operation, and the defective houses continue to be occupied.
(4) OTHER DEFECTS OF SITE AND ARRANGEMENT.
There are, however, serious defects of site in many mining villages, quite apart from defective or haphazard arrangement of the houses. In some cases a badly-selected site throws real difficulties in the way of improvements of sanitation by making satisfactory drainage difficult. In other cases the only outlook of the cottages is upon the " bings " of the pit at which the men find employment, varied in the case of the ironworkers' cottages by "old, obsolete properties," workshops, or needless walls, which cut off all view from the windows. Where this is the case something might even now be done by way of improvement.
We may give an idea of the conditions referred to by describing the surroundings of two Lanarkshire " rows " which we inspected. In one case near Hamilton, the site of the cottages was very low lying, a road running past their backs at a considerable elevation, and a large "bing" shutting out all view in front. They were back-to-back houses, for the most part of a single room ; and the outside privies were peculiarly offensive, even for Lanarkshire. The roadways were in bad condition. In another group of houses in the Bellshill district we noted a dirty combined ashpit and privy ; the premises being grossly exposed and looking, at the time of our visit, as if they were never cleaned. The streets were seas of liquid mud; the gutters broken in place ; and there seemed to be no idea of draining off the surface water either from the general area or from the floors of the latrines. At the same time we noted the cleanliness of several of the interiors of the houses, showing that the housewives at least were not responsible for and had not descended to the level of their surroundings.
(5) IMPROVEMENT OF DESIGN AND MAINTENANCE.
That there is no inherent impossibility in designing a mining village effectively is shown by the lay-out of the Garden Village at Woodlands, Doncaster. But the responsibility for the external amenity of a mining village cannot, unfortunately, be taken as ending with a good initial design. On our visit to Woodlands we were struck by the fact that in the upper and more closely built portion of the village there was a degree of neglect of the surroundings of the houses which, to a considerable extent, neutralised the benefits of the original plan. Nor is it surprising that those brought up in the sordid surroundings of a typical old-fashioned colliery village in Scotland, or the north of England, should not, in every case, at once respond to the improved external conditions of a village such as Woodlands. The indiscriminate keeping of poultry, and the scattering of the contents of ashbins were cited by the architect of the Fife Coal Company as tending to lower the standard of upkeep even in the better rows. But these are matters which can only be set right with the raising of the standard of occupancy through education ; and this process cannot begin until the present foul congeries of middens, ashpits, and coal-sheds are cleared away from the fronts of the houses in the older rows, while it can certainly be stimulated by better design of the villages of the future.
It seems clear that further powers are needed, whether under the Town Planning Act or extended byelaws, to enable Local Authorities to control the site and planning of all new villages. There is undoubted weight in Dr Dewar's further statement that :-
The want of power in the hands of the Local
Authorities ... to regulate the formation and laying out of new villages . . .
and of elaborating and devising their general arrangement and distribution
before actual building is permitted to be commenced, is fraught with a menace to
the welfare of the community for a hundred years to come. (Annual Report for
Fifeshire for 1909, page 172.)
(6) GARDENS IN MINING VILLAGES.
There are three other matters of sufficient importance to be mentioned here, viz. gardens, roads and footpaths, and lighting.
A reference has already been made to the absence of cultivated gardens in certain even of the more progressive mining communities of Fife, though ground can be had; and the same observation would apply to the West of Scotland. From this it may be deduced that the miner has no taste for gardening, and it certainly appears that the arduous nature of his eight hours' work below ground must naturally make him disinclined to "work another shift" when he comes to the surface. But the examples of several villages in the Fife coalfields, of Cowie in Stirlingshire, of Larkhall in Lanarkshire, and Niddrie in Midlothian show that this is not necessarily the case, but that, under favourable circumstances, the miner shows great taste for and skill in gardening. The three chief conditions to be fulfilled if this is to be developed are:- (a) sufficiently prolonged tenure of his dwelling and garden; (b) the adequate fencing of the latter ; and (c) proximity of the garden to his house.
Where there is constant shifting of the mining population, then, as among farm servants, the taste for gardening cannot develop; but when families remain long in the same village, either as tenants or, still more, as occupying owners, their gardens are often the subject of genuine pride. Thus it happens that, in some villages, especially in East Fife, good and well-cultivated gardens are associated with houses of a somewhat poor and antiquated type, the reason being that these are inhabited by families who have worked long and steadily in the same locality. In the same district good houses and good gardens are found in conjunction, but in this case also there has been continuous residence. The manager of the Wemyss Coal Company said in this connection that the occupants of most of the Company's houses "have been resident in East Wemyss and Buckhaven, their fathers and grandfathers, and sometimes their great-grandfathers, before them ; and although the houses are modern (the old houses have been pulled down and new ones put up), the families are there, and they have always been accustomed to keep a nice house and a good garden." It is also worthy of note that, where occupying ownership is common among miners, as in the Windygates district (East Fife) and at Larkhall, gardens are numerous and well kept. One miner, in Larkhall, when his garden was compulsorily taken by the railway company received £400 in compensation.
In a new village however, much depends on the extent to which the incoming miner finds the garden plot prepared. It should not be too large, as it was found at Kirkconnel that the large gardens originally provided were not taken advantage of until they were reduced to a more easily managed size. They also need some preparation by the company. But the chief point is that they should be adequately fenced - a point on which various witnesses laid emphasis. At Woodlands, where, as already stated, the upper part of the village showed signs of neglect, we were informed that the company hoped to remedy this by improving and strengthening the fences. One witness laid great stress on the necessity of having direct access from the house to the garden. But it was stated by a leading representative of the miners that, where this was not possible, small garden allotments might be provided a little way off. In this case, if the whole garden ground is fenced, the individual plots do not need to be. The last point was confirmed by a visit paid by us to two reconstruction schemes privately carried out some years ago in the burgh of Hamilton, the houses having been chiefly tenanted by miners both before and after reconstruction. Small areas of waste ground have been used to provide garden plots of 260 square feet, which have been taken up and worked by the tenants, with encouragement from the proprietor, who holds a competition and gives prizes every year ; and the success of the scheme has been most gratifying. The offering of prizes has also helped to promote successful gardening in the Cowie district. It was stated by Sir Thomas Munro, the County Clerk of Lanarkshire, and also by one of the representatives of the Mid-Lanark District Committee, that a demand is beginning to arise among certain of the miners for small allotments to work in their spare time ; and Sir Thomas Munro suggested that, if the provision of allotments could be combined in the same scheme with that of houses, the results would be excellent.
If Local Authorities receive and exercise in the future larger powers to control the lay-out of new villages, they can in this way secure the provision of garden ground ; but it must rest with the providers of the houses to promote the actual gardening. If this could be generally brought about it would do a great deal to redeem the mining villages of the future from the drab monotony of the past.
(7) ROADS AND FOOTPATHS.
In the evidence from all the chief coalfields reference was made to the extremely defective roads and footpaths which are common in mining villages. As representing the public health officials of several different districts, we may quote the following from the Sanitary Inspector for the Dunfermline District of Fife :- " Witness has in many reports referred to the very bad condition of the side streets 'or roads in mining villages. These roads in many cases have not been properly bottomed and drained, and in consequence they become covered with mud several inches deep in wet weather. The mud is carried with the boots into the houses, and it is impossible to expect that the floors can be kept clean while the roads are in such a state."
Dr M'Vail called attention to a photograph in his Report (p. 43) showing a row of "good 6 modern houses " with no external doorsteps and no footpath outside, and pointed out how the children, constantly running in and out from the ash-covered roads, made it impossible for their mother to keep anything but a dirty floor. His report calls attention to the extent to which the comfort and amenity of life in any village are influenced by the condition of the roadways within it.
Some strong expressions were used in this connection by the miners' representatives, but after some personal experience we could hardly take exception to their strength. It was stated that in one village in Stirlingshire the roads in wet weather " resembled the miniature bed of a river," and that in another case the Sanitary Inspector had to leave his vehicle at some distance from the village lest it should get stuck in the mud. In Ayrshire the difficulty seems particularly acute, perhaps because of the number of isolated "rows" at a distance from a high road. The representatives of the Miners' Union quoted several instances of excessively dirty roads and footpaths, but remarked on the great improvement caused in one row by the laying down of a clean concrete footpath.
On the employer's side the evidence varied somewhat, and represented a variety of practice, while it was claimed that considerable improvements had been made. The manager of the Wemyss Coal Company expressed himself as satisfied with the footpath made up with ashes in ordinary circumstances; but Mr Forgie, speaking for Messrs William Baird & Co., said, "We are providing all new rows with from 5 to 7 feet wide granolithic pavement adjoining the houses, and are also doing this gradually at our older rows. We provide and maintain well-made streets, roads, and footpaths where required." Witness added that part of the deterioration of service roads was due to the immensely heavier traffic, including many delivery vans, which they now have to carry, and stated that it was difficult to persuade the Local Authority to take over roads even when they had acquired a definitely public character. The manager of the Lochgelly Coal Company spoke of the reluctance of landward as compared with burgh authorities to undertake this service, and the same point was spoken to by the representatives of the Ayrshire coalmasters. The County Clerk of Ayrshire was disposed to admit that "it might be quite a proper thing" for the Road Authority to take over a number of the roads leading only to small colliery villages. He said the only difficulty was that in practice it would mean a very large addition to the road mileage for which the District Committees were responsible. Witness explained that the working rule was that before roads were taken over they " must be put into good order to the satisfaction of the road surveyor," and the proprietor must " show that the rate derived from the property to be accommodated by the road will be sufficient to maintain it " -which ought not to be difficult in the case of mining communities.
As against the criticism of landward Local Authorities by the coalmasters, we have to take the complaint regarding many of the owners of miners' houses by officials of the Mid-Lanark District Committee. They stated that in the original lay-out of building land, while attention was paid to the structure of the houses, little or none was paid to surroundings and means of access - as indeed we have seen to be the case; and also that, when complaints were lodged in regard to the disrepair of roads, all that has been done is " a little patch from year to year, with the result that matters have never improved."
(8) POWERS REGARDING ROADS AND FOOTPATHS.
But, even though there may have been a disposition in more than one quarter in the past to shirk responsibility for the provision of proper roads and footpaths in mining villages, it was made quite clear by various witnesses, including those last quoted, that the statutory powers of control in landward areas are insufficient. The defects in the statutory powers have already been referred to, from which it will be seen that there are practically no powers for county areas outwith special scavenging districts to secure the proper upkeep of private streets and footpaths. It seems clear that this matter should be dealt with on the footing that suitable access is necessary to every habitable dwelling rather than under the " nuisance " clause of the Public Health Act. In Dr. M'Vail's Report …. he mentions that a sheriff had at the date of writing recently given a decision that a road might be a " nuisance " simply through its muddy and dirty condition. The decision just referred to will not necessarily be followed by other sheriffs.
To a considerable extent the difficulty would be met if all Local Authorities, in counties as well as burghs, received authority to approve of the sites of and access to new houses. As regards the upkeep of private streets and footpaths, there seems no reason why the powers which county Local Authorities at present possess, but which are exercisable only in Special Scavenging Districts, should not be available outwith these districts, and we recommend that at least this additional power should be given. At the same time we consider that the maintenance of roads should in future devolve largely on the Local Authority. There is a steady movement in favour either of the main through roads being taken over and maintained by the State or of a substantial grant being given from State funds to assist Local Authorities in the upkeep of these roads. It is recognised, we think, that the main roads are in no sense local, and that the nation as a whole should take them over or at any rate bear a proportion of the cost of their upkeep. In the same way we consider that roads, other than the main roads and highways, are in no sense private roads, being available to and used by the public generally, and serving their convenience. Accordingly we recommend that, whenever an owner (or a series of owners) puts a road belonging to him (or them) in order to the satisfaction of the Local Authority, the latter should be under obligation to take over and maintain the road in future as a public highway. Wherever a dispute arises between an owner and the Local Authority as to whether a road has been put in proper order, we recommend that the dispute should be referable to the Local Government Board. We are aware that the above suggestions would leave open for dispute between an owner of a road and a Local Authority the question of whether a road was a private road or a public road. Accordingly, we recommend that in the event of any such disagreement the point should be referred to the Local Government Board for decision.
While this matter has arisen specially in connection with roads in mining areas, the same difficulties which we have discussed arise in other areas, and accordingly we consider that our recommendations above should be applicable to all districts.
(9) LIGHTING OF MINING VILLAGES.
As regards lighting also many of the mining villages appear to have been neglected; and when the above account of the condition of their roads and footpaths is taken into account - not to mention the even worse conditions of filth that persist in certain of the older and more neglected rows - it seems clear that they have an even stronger claim to adequate lighting than other communities of similar size. It was, for instance, stated that in Fife the colliery villages had until recently been entirely unlit. In Stirlingshire it was indicated that only in rows within or adjacent to County Lighting Districts were there any lighting schemes. In the West of Scotland the position appears to be the same, as Messrs William Baird & Co. do not provide public lighting in any of their numerous properties ; while the Ayrshire coalrnasters stated that " the lighting of villages is not usual" but that, in several instances, gas lighting is provided by the owners, even for villages not lying within lighting districts. It should, however, be stated that in the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire there are twenty-four Special Lighting Districts, with a total population of 129,813, as against twenty-three Special Drainage Districts, with a total population of 124,731.
In 1914 the Mid-Lanark District Committee obtained
a Provisional Order to remove difficulties in putting into force certain powers
of the Burghs Gas Supply (Scotland) Act, 1876, which are adoptive in landward
areas. They anticipated great benefit from this Order in the supply of certain
of the smaller villages. At the time of giving evidence they were hopeful that
it might be found possible to establish one or two main gas works, from which
gas could be conveyed throughout the whole district. If, after the war, this
scheme proves a success in the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire, it would help to
solve the problem of lighting mining and similar villages were the powers now
obtained by this District Committee to be made applicable through-out the county
areas of Scotland. It is also possible that in colliery villages which could not
well be lit by a Local Authority, the works' installation might be extended more
frequently to the miners' dwellings.
Ashpits are not confined to mining villages - they are still found even in towns, especially in the West of Scotland - but in the older "rows" they are particularly numerous, prominent, and offensive. In the detailed evidence submitted by sanitary officials and miners' representatives complaint as to these structures and their condition is a recurring note. Thus a miners' agent in Clackmannanshire spoke of the system of ashpits as almost universal, and stated that they were emptied about once a week. In some of the older rows they stand along the front, 10 or 12 feet from the windows of the houses. Representatives from West Lothian and Stirlingshire spoke of the odour from the ashpits in summer and their harmful influence as a breeding-place for flies. The evidence on the West of Scotland coalfields is punctuated with descriptions of the filthy ashpits, which in the older rows are commonly combined with privies - an arrangement to which we shall recur below. The stench from these in summer must add to the harmful effect of overcrowded rooms by preventing the opening of windows.
On this point the views of Dr Dewar (now Medical Inspector to the Local Government Board) in his report on miners' housing in Fife are of importance. He says, "If all ashpits were properly covered - that is, roofed over - properly drained, properly used, and frequently emptied, they might permissibly be erected within 20 or 25 feet of dwelling-houses - a great convenience for those engaged in domestic work. But ashpits never are properly used. All sorts of filth, liquid, and solid are deposited therein, and they are emptied at irregular and often at long intervals. In hot, still weather such ashpits may prove very offensive even at a distance of 60 feet or more. In view of the fact that the overfull and ill-kept ashpit is the rule, I consider that none should be allowed to be erected at a less distance than 30 feet from the nearest part of any dwelling." After describing a plan of improved ashpit which has been used extensively and with good results in the Dunfermline district, he continues: "More important than the construction of ashpit is its proper use, and frequent emptying and cleansing. It requires but an elementary grasp of socialism to perceive that she who deposits dead animals or putrid fish in the open ashpit in the middle of the 'square' is not achieving the greatest good of the greatest number. But when the retort is made, 'How otherwise can I dispose of them?' I confess I have no answer, for in many of these mining villages there is no available ground wherein such extremely offensive matters could be disposed of by burial." This last remark indicates why the twin problems of sanitation and scavenging are at once more urgent and more difficult in the relative congestion of a colliery village than in typically rural surroundings.
In view of these facts it was natural that Dr Dewar, like all other sanitary officers who gave evidence on mining villages, laid great emphasis on the establishment of adequate scavenging arrangements. When examined on the point, he stated that the emptying of ashpits should take place at the least twice a week, which would enable them to be greatly reduced in size. But the system of daily collection with portable ashbins is much to be preferred. Both from our own observation and from the reports of witnesses we can speak with assurance on the improvement that is effected when ashpits are abolished and daily collections of refuse are instituted. In the Blantyre district of Lanarkshire this was particularly marked. So in the central coalfields. Repeatedly in our visits we noticed the superiority of the villages with a daily removal of refuse over those with ashpits, which, even when they are emptied at frequent intervals can hardly be said to be cleaned. On the other hand, from many recollections of ashpits piled up with refuse of all sorts, we can confirm the statement above that infrequent emptying of ashpits is the general rule.
The most satisfactory procedure in this connection is the formation of Special Scavenging Districts ; and it was repeatedly suggested that the restriction by which these can only be formed on a requisition should be removed, as it is sometimes difficult to obtain a requisition from a Parish Council or from ten electors, and, as in the case of Special Water Supply and Drainage Districts, District Committees should be empowered to form them on their own initiative. We have no hesitation in endorsing this recommendation which, though made in this chapter on " Mining," we consider should apply to Scotland generally. The same recommendation applies to the procedure for the formation of Special Lighting Districts. To meet the case of the smaller villages where the colliery company can arrange more economically for the carrying out of scavenging - which they frequently do effectively, even when other sanitary arrangements are defective - we would adopt Dr M'Vail's suggestion, that power should be given to the Local Authority to call on the owners to make arrangements for cleansing to the satisfaction of the Local Authority.
These suggestions, which are parallel to those regarding lighting, would bring to all mining villages the improvement already enjoyed by many. If the older "rows" must remain featureless and monotonous, the surroundings of the houses can at least be made clean and wholesome.
(11) THE QUESTION OF PIT-HEAD BATHS.
Much stress was laid both by miners' representatives and by County Public Health Officers on the need for some adequate provision to enable miners to wash in comfort on coming off duty. Two forms of this provision were suggested - baths at the pit-head or baths in individual houses.
The question of pit-head baths was before the House of Commons during the passage of the Coal Mines Act in 1911. In the original Bill a clause (77) was inserted providing that "sufficient and suitable accommodation and facilities for taking baths and drying clothes shall be provided at the mine for the persons employed underground in the mine." It was further provided that "where such accommodation and facilities have been provided, the use thereof shall be obligatory on the persons employed underground in the mine, and every such person shall be liable to contribute the sum of 1d. a week towards the expenses of maintenance, including interest on any capital expenditure." When the Bill emerged from Grand Committee this clause (section 76) had been altered so as to be optional. The law now stands that if a majority of two-thirds of the workmen employed in any mine to whom the section applies demand the provision for baths and drying clothes at the mine, and undertake to pay half the cost of maintenance, including interest on capital expenditure, the owner shall be obliged to provide such facilities, so long as the estimated cost does not amount to more than 3d. per man per week. This sum is to be paid, l 1/2d. by the employer and I 1/2d. by the worker. The clause as amended contains no provision for the compulsory use of baths.
So far as we were able to learn, there did not seem much prospect of this section being at all generally enforced. It was stated that the Scottish Miners' Unions were in favour of making the powers compulsory at the time of the discussion in Grand Committee of the House of Commons. But, on the whole, the desire for baths in the houses seemed to occupy a much more prominent place in the minds of the miners' representatives who gave evidence before us, while the strongest advocacy of pit-head baths came rather from medical officers. There was some divergence of evidence as to the extent to which public baths near the miners' houses have been used in Fife. On the coalowners' side the difficulty was raised that the limit of cost under the Act would probably be insufficient to provide and maintain such baths; while a colliery manager in Lanarkshire expressed the decided opinion that pit-head baths would not be acceptable in Scotland, but that baths in the houses would be readily taken advantage of.
At one pit belonging to the Wemyss Coal Company the Company were, at the time of our inquiry, proceeding voluntarily to erect a large installation for bathing and for drying clothes. In this case there was a large free space available close to the shaft under the pit-head building, which was to be utilised for this purpose; and the manager gave as a special reason for the provision of these facilities that many of the miners came several miles to their work by tramcar. At the same time he stated that there did not seem to be much enthusiasm for the project among the men.
(12) DEMAND FOR BATHS IN MINERS' HOUSES.
The evidence on this point makes it quite clear that the direction in which demand is increasing is towards the bath in the individual house. Several witnesses, both among the miners and the Public Health officials, held that this was the first necessity, while a pit-head bath might be a valuable addition where it could be afforded, especially where miners had to travel long distances in their wet clothes. This view was clearly stated by a representative of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union, who said, "We want baths in the houses for the families themselves, apart altogether from the use made of them by the miners. A bath in the house is essential to a miner and his family ; a bath at the pit-head would be an addition thereto." It was suggested by Dr M'Vail that baths at the public schools might meet the need of the families, but the predominant opinion seemed to be that, if the bath were to be provided anywhere, it should be in the house. Among the witnesses who expressed a desire both for pit-head and private baths was the chairman of the Miners' Association in Leadhills, where many of the miners have built and own their houses.
Another argument, supported by experience in America of one witness, was that the Scots miner has a rooted prejudice against bathing in a public institution. Thus it appears that, while there is considerable hesitation in regard to pit-head baths, the demand for accommodation at home is growing rapidly, though there were differences of opinion in various districts as to how far it had already become urgent; but one significant fact is that, in their new housing schemes, the Mid-Lanark District Committee have decided to install baths in all houses erected, with a hot-water connection both from the kitchen range and from the boiler in the scullery. The feeling against the present arrangement, or absence of arrangement, in the ordinary one- or two-room miner's house was strong and general; and it was pointed out that, if the demand had not yet in all cases become universal, the provision of a bath-room in middle-class houses was, after all, a comparatively recent development, and that the same standard might soon be reached in mining communities, especially when the educative influence upon the children was taken into account.
There was some difference of opinion expressed by representatives of the mine-owners regarding the degree to which baths when installed are made use of. In Midlothian it was distinctly stated that they were largely used; and elsewhere, where their use was less regular, it was pointed out on the men's side that there was some defect in the installation of the bath. Several witnesses, including the chairman of the Mid-Lanark District Committee, stated that they had no doubt as to baths being appreciated and used if a proper hot-water system were installed. Others considered that it was also necessary to provide greater privacy than is provided when the bath is in the scullery beside the washing boiler; and this view was confirmed by the manager of the Woodlands Colliery, who stated that in Woodlands Garden Village about 50% of the baths placed in that position were used regularly, but that where there was a small separate bath-room the proportion was considerably higher. It must, of course, be borne in mind that a separate bathroom involves some extra expense.
The plan followed in the new village at Kirkconnel - where space is left for the installation of a bath supplied with hot water from the scullery boiler, the bath itself being only installed on application by the tenant - appears to work satisfactorily. In this case the extra charge when a bath is supplied is about 3d. a week ; and the view was expressed in other districts that such a small extra charge would be readily paid. At the time of our visit to Kirkconnel 19 houses were under construction, and 13 of the prospective tenants had applied for baths.
Thus it appears that this demand, which is very recent in its origin, is already widespread, and that both coalowners and Local Authorities are prepared to meet it in many districts. Dr M'Vail laid considerable stress on the importance of giving Local Authorities powers to require the provision of adequate storage for water and of water-softening plant in districts where water is scarce and hard. This has already been done at Bannockburn.
(13) FACILITIES FOR WASHING AND CLOTHES DRYING.
In the main the requirements for washing in a miner's family are not dissimilar from those elsewhere ; but many of the older houses have no separate washing accommodation. In this case the washing is frequently carried on outside the cottage in fine weather and sometimes even in bad weather - in the latter case to the detriment of the housewife's health. In other cases the washing is done in the kitchen, to the accompaniment of general damp and discomfort, which is emphasised in miner's houses by the fact that they are generally fully occupied, and if the man is working on a night shift he has to sleep while the washing proceeds, and the kitchen is filled with steam. In a number of villages washhouses have been provided for groups of tenants, and these are used in rotation, each household having the right to wash one day in the week. In some cases this arrangement appears to work well, but in others the washhouses are seriously out of repair.
It thus seems clear that Local Authorities should have power to require the provision of suitable washing accommodation in new houses, and its addition to old houses where the water supply and other circumstances permit. There was some difference of opinion as to the relative advantages of the outside washhouse, and the provision of a copper in the scullery. The former has undoubted advantages, but several witnesses from mining districts recommended the latter system on the ground that it enables the mother to keep the younger children in view when she is engaged in washing, while it is not impossible to arrange for the steam from the boiler to be carried up the chimney by a steam pipe, and in this way the amount of steam entering the house can be minimised. Witnesses suggested as a minimum one washing house for every three tenants.
In regard to the drying of clothes, miners' houses stand in a position by themselves ; provision for this purpose being not less necessary than for farm workers, and much more necessary than for those who work at a dry and clean occupation. One of the representatives of the Fife and Kinross Miners' Association said : - " From my own experience as a miner, I have known my wife to rise as often as six and seven times in the night-time and turn my clothes when I was working in a wet place, and we had to inhale the steam rising from these clothes all night." When it is remembered that the steam given off by the wet clothes may include injurious mineral fumes, it will be seen that the risk to the health of the children is very great when the kitchen (which is also the chief sleeping apartment) is used for this purpose both by day and night.
There are two possible ways of meeting this need.
The best plan appears to be that adopted in Germany, by which drying-rooms are
provided along with baths at the pit-head, where the miner leaves his soiled
working clothes at the end of his shift. This plan affords a complete solution,
and several witnesses urged its adoption. But, as we have shown, the provision
of baths at the pit-head seems, so far, to have met with only a qualified
support. Short of this, or pending its general adoption, most witnesses were
agreed that something might be done in providing and fitting up the scullery in
new miners' houses to allow of the boiler fire being kept on all night, in which
case clothes could be placed on a rack or pipes in the scullery. The atmosphere
of the kitchen would thus be purified, nor would it be necessary for it to be
overheated on account of the clothes requiring to be dried.
(14) GENERAL SANITATION.
In certain of the newer mining villages overcrowding is probably the chief blot upon the housing; but, taking the coalfields of Scotland as a whole, there is no doubt that the privy accommodation is the very worst feature. This is beyond question true of the older villages, especially in the West.
In certain small " rows " we were informed that sanitary accommodation is non-existent, and the people have to make what shift they can.. But in many other cases it is of a primitive and most objectionable order. We visited a row of old colliers' houses in the largest burgh in Fife, where the sanitary accommodation consisted of a "trough-closet," only 16 feet from the nearest house ; and from the stench issuing from it at the time of our visit early in spring we were able to form some conception of the nuisance and danger which it would constitute in summer. At another " row " (one of the oldest in East Fife) a similar erection served about twenty cottages, and its position, internal construction, and condition at the time made it certain that no woman could make use of it. One degree better in design are the blocks of two, four, or six privies which are common in the older Fife villages ; but, owing to their position and the divided responsibility for attending to them, they are frequently allowed to become semi-ruinous - keys lost, doors off, etc. What we saw in Fife confirmed Dr J. T. Wilson's opinion that an external trough-closet common to a row is little better than a privy-midden.
The representatives of the shale miners in the Lothians made very similar complaints. Nor do attempts at improvement appear to be always well judged; for a case was quoted in which eighteen water-closets had been provided for twice that number of families, but had been placed in two rows of nine at the centre of the village - an obviously objectionable arrangement. An even worse form of " improvement " was seen by us at the rows, described later, at Whifflet, in the burgh of Coatbridge. Common water-closets had been erected, but not only had they no doors - the brick partition was so inadequate that the interior of the privy could be photographed from the open space behind the houses. The only explanation given by a member of one of the Local Authorities of this disgraceful arrangement was that the firm owning the houses had been particularly difficult to deal with.
It is in the West of Scotland, where the
"conservancy system" of sanitation has persisted longer than in the East, that
the worst conditions are most commonly found in mining villages. Here the
privy-midden, or common dry-closet combined with the ashpit for a group of
houses, till recently formed the rule, and is still found in full offensiveness
in not a few places. It seems necessary to quote two descriptions of these
erections, one by Dr Dittmar of the Local Government Board, the other by the
Sanitary Inspector of the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire.
"For 20 inhabited houses (with about 100 people) there are two sets of public privy ashpits, one with two privies and the other with a single privy. These erections are of brick, with brick floors and wooden roofs, and wooden unlocked doors ; a low brick wall with wooden cope provides a seat for the users of the privy ; a large ashpit behind receives the droppings and the refuse of the houses. It might be added that not only are there no locks on the doors, there are not even catches or hooks or any means provided to close them from the inside. The ashpits behind the privies are large, and enclosed by brick walls about 2 feet high, with earth floors and without any roof. The floors of the privies were littered with faeces on the day of my visit. They constituted a nuisance of a recurring type." This last opinion is confirmed by the fact that, although reported on by representatives of the Local Government Board in April 1903 and March 1905, yet, when another of their inspectors saw these privies in October 1912 they were still in the same condition. The same view was taken by Sheriff-Substitute Glegg in March 1912, when, in a Note attached to an interlocutor declaring that certain privy-middens of this type constituted a nuisance, he said : - " The evidence leaves no reasonable doubt that a nuisance exists, and will continue to recur so long as the sanitary conveniences are of the kind and amount of those at present in use."
The description of the Lanarkshire privy-middens furnished by the Sanitary Inspector, and confirmed by our personal observation - though in the worst cases too near an approach was neither pleasant nor advisable, - is as follows : - "Generally they are of large dimensions, and, without exception, found to be in an extremely foul condition, so much so that any who have any regard to their person would not enter them ; neither will the occupants undertake the cleansing of them, as they are for common use not only amongst the occupiers but the public as well. For this reason I am quite in sympathy with the people's views, as I consider it a most debasing duty for any person to perform, an opinion recognised by the Court in refusing to commit defaulters under such circumstances. In fact, they are an abomination and a danger to the community."
In view of these strictures, it is not surprising to find a colliery manager in this district stating that he knows of cases " where these conditions are so bad that the people prefer to go out into the fields."
Such evidence might be paralleled from other districts - e.g. a certain number of old "rows" in Stirlingshire and the Lothians shale field, which have not yet been touched by the improver. In Ayrshire the proportion of badly constructed privy-middens is very high. The vice-convener of the county mentioned as the most frequent causes of complaint the absence of washhouses and coal-cellars, and the existing horrible privy-ashpits.
But these general descriptions do not and cannot give a proper conception of the grossly insanitary conditions found by us in our tours of inspection, which tours were arranged by the mine-owners and the representatives of the miners' associations. In each case a fully elaborated record of the sanitary conditions had been prepared by the miners' associations. Broadly, we are able to confirm the reliability of the representations made to us in the reports prepared by the miners' associations and printed in our evidence. But, in order to bring out the confirmation in some detail, it is essential to supplement the statements already made by giving the Commission's notes of the various inspections. These notes (winch are printed at end of this chapter) were made on the spot, and were - and are - intended to give an impression in some - but by no means full - detail of the concrete conditions. The conditions recorded would alone justify very strong comments on the failure both of the industry and of the responsible authorities to secure and to maintain decent and cleanly conditions for the lives of the many thousands that occupy the houses in question. If, as has occasionally been alleged, the powers of the Public Health Act, 1897, are not sufficiently wide to enable the authorities to take direct and drastic action for the suppression of the primitive and disgusting types of privy-midden, then the Act must be subjected to extensive amendment. But we are not satisfied that the present powers have been as fully used as they ought to have been in the last twenty years.
Our impression on this point is confirmed by the fact that since the agitation against the conditions of miners' houses became acute, considerable improvements, with and without pressure from the Local Authorities, have been effected in the mining districts; and even, as we are aware, our visits to some of these districts have been followed by, if they have not resulted in, the Local Authorities being more insistent in enforcing their powers. So far as we can judge, the neglect to secure a reasonable standard of sanitary decency may have some excuse in the inadequacy of the administrative powers, but it has none in the economics of the industry concerned. For in that industry profits, if not uniformly good, have at least been equal to any of the best industries in the country, and the wages of miners have been at least as good as any other industry requiring equal skill.
(15) SANITARY IMPROVEMENT AND RETARDING
While we saw in the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire the most deplorable sanitation in the more neglected " rows" we saw also many signs of an effort after better things, such as the addition of annexes containing scullery, washhouse, and water-closet to individual houses ; and the replacement of large common ashpits by individual bins. The evidence laid before us by the District Clerk showed that much has been done in recent years. In eleven Special Scavenging Districts in the Middle Ward the power to abolish privy-middens in such districts has been enforced, with the result that, of 1891 of these erections which existed at the formation of the respective Special Districts, all but 207 have been removed and water-closets installed in their place. In Blantyre this change took place in 1905, and daily removal of refuse was instituted ; and the health of the community benefited, especially in the diminishing prevalence of typhoid fever. The deaths from typhoid fell from 69 in 1905 and 81 in 1906 to 9 in 1911 and 6 in 1912. The figures are striking, even when qualified by Dr Wilson's statement that typhoid does not invariably accompany privy-middens. The summary of improvements effected in the Middle Ward during the first five years' operation of the Housing, etc., Act, 1909, is worth quoting in full at this point, as the properties referred to (nearly 100 in number) are practically all miners' rows : -
Houses closed.......................................................... 699
Sanitary improvements completed .............................. 1221
„ ,, in progress. ...................................................... 1065
„ „ under negotiation ............................................... 1365
Total .................................................................... 4350
The cost of such improvements naturally varies, according to whether a more extensive reconstruction is carried out at the same time; but even when the cost of adding a scullery and boiler to each house, and a water-closet for every two houses, is taken separately, it amounted a year or two before the War to about £25 per house. Two such improvements, one of 276 miners' houses in Lanarkshire, the other of about 300 in Midlothian, both brought out this figure, which may thus be taken as typical. Usually an addition is made to the rent to cover this outlay - a reasonable proceeding if the previous rents were reasonable. But this is a point on which it would be hazardous to express too confident an opinion without inspection of the houses before and after the improvement was carried out.
Since this extensive, and certainly greatly needed, improvement has taken place in the Middle Ward in very recent years, we naturally tried to find a satisfactory explanation of its having been so long delayed. The explanation advanced was threefold : (1) There was the fact that the system of common dry privies remained much longer in the West of Scotland than in the East, and that thirty years ago it might be argued that what was good enough for the city of Glasgow could not be condemned in a mining village ; (2) there was a lack of statutory powers in landward districts - a point with which we deal elsewhere; (3) till a water-supply adequate for the provision of at least one closet for every two houses was available, no really satisfactory substitute for the common privy could be devised in these congested villages.
Of the three matters referred to, that of the water-supply has perhaps the greatest importance ; and it is the completion of the District Committee's very extensive water scheme which, has opened the way most directly for the recent advance. The whole cost of the scheme was about half a million. Across the watershed in West Lothian the Sanitary Inspector told the same tale - the introduction of adequate water supplies had led to a general introduction of sanitation by water carriage at Broxburn and elsewhere. We were struck by the effort to improve conditions in this area. These facts emphasise the need, which we point out elsewhere, for a systematic survey of the country's resources in the matter of water, so that competition for the use of particular catchment areas may be avoided, and the resources of the country in this essential respect economically (and extensively) developed.
The possession of a good water-supply is not the only precondition of improved sanitation, however, as the question of drainage works and sewage purification also comes in, and occasions real difficulty both to companies and Local Authorities. This is especially so on high ground, such as Shotts district, both because the streams are small and readily polluted, and because such a watershed is often an administrative boundary, as in this case between Mid-Lanark and West Lothian. The representatives of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union, including their consulting architect, argued strongly in favour of the institution of drainage districts co-extensive with the largest water districts, in order to equalise drainage rates, and to extend the benefit of public drainage to villages which are too small to bear the cost of individual drainage schemes. But doubts were expressed as to whether so large a scheme was practicable. Both elements (i.e. water and drainage) have entered into the acute housing difficulties at West Benhar and Harthill; nor had any definite solution been found at the time of our inquiry. If a special commission is appointed, or if Government engineers are instructed to survey the watersheds of Scotland, their remit or their instructions might with advantage include the question of drainage schemes in neighbouring administrative areas as well as that of water supplies. The cases in which a conflict of interests arises in regard to drainage are fewer than in regard to water rights, but they may give rise to difficulty if any considerable population lives near the watershed.
IMPROVEMENT AND RETARDING CAUSES-AYRSHIRE.
In many of the Ayrshire villages we found, as we have already stated, that the privy accommodation was of a particularly inadequate order. In his special report in 1910 the Medical Officer for the county said : -
"In the largest number of cases the privy accommodation is fairly good, but at some rows-e.g. at Rankinston, Coylton Parish, and Burnbrae, Tarbolton-the privies are defective, and are without doors. These very unsatisfactory ones are comparatively few in number, and are gradually decreasing."
The Local Authorities were apparently in our opinion too easily satisfied with this alleged gradual decrease, as it was distinctly stated by the County Clerk that, apart from the ordinary activities of the sanitary staff, "no special action was taken" on the report. Nor was attention generally called to the matter until it was taken up by the Ayrshire Miners' Union, and by others in the press and elsewhere, as the result of a resolution passed by the Ayr County Insurance Committee on January 17th 1914 calling for action in regard to the insanitary state of many of the miners' rows, which was held accountable for much of the infectious disease in the county. So far had the "gradual decrease" of the privy-middens, which was reported in 1910, been from securing their elimination, that the Medical Officer admitted four years later that there was "a great deal of truth " in the sweeping report on the subject prepared by the Ayrshire Miners' Union, and now printed in our Minutes of Evidence. Nor did either the Medical Officer or the representatives of the mine-owners defend the privy-midden as a means of sanitation. In a Minute, adopted after an inspection of the mining districts on June 19th 1914, the Housing Committee of Ayrshire County Council passed, inter alia, the heroic resolution that "Privies should have doors and seats."
At the time of our visit we received the impression that considerable improvements were being carried forward, but that no action was being taken comparable in thoroughness to that of the Mid-Lanark District Committee, The difficulties to be encountered are the same in both cases, except that the scattered nature of certain of the Ayrshire "rows " may form an additional handicap by rendering the introduction of an adequate water-supply more difficult and expensive.
(17) USE OF MODEEN SANITARY APPLIANCES AND
SUGGESTED MINIMUM STANDARD.
On the whole there was testimony that, where modern sanitation had been introduced, the closets are well looked after in mining villages. Dr Dewar said that he could name districts in Fife where the replacement of the old privies by water-closets had "made an absolute change in the habits of the people" ; and Dr Robb stated in his Report in 1912 that in the previous year he had inspected hundreds of the modern water-closets without finding one out of order, while neatly all were clean. At the same time there have been instances of abuse in certain localities by tenants who were either careless or unaccustomed to the use of proper sanitary appliances. This experience - which, after all, is limited to proportionally a small number of cases - is not confined to mining areas.
Some of these cases, which, as we have indicated, are the exception to the general statement as to the careful use of water-closets, may be due to the presence in mining communities, as elsewhere, of a certain number of habitually careless tenants; but in part they are clearly, as was hinted by the witnesses who mentioned them, difficulties due to unfamiliarity with the new appliances provided; nor is it surprising that individuals brought up from childhood among the privy-middens which we have already described should take time to learn the use of more civilised sanitary arrangements. But, on the whole, the adjustment to the new conditions appears to have been rapid.
But there are two points, closely connected with
one another, which either facilitate or hinder the proper care of water-closets,
viz. their position relative to the house, and the number of houses that share
the use of each. The Sanitary Inspector of Bathgate mentioned, as showing the
bearing of these points, a group of sixty-eight colliery houses which had common
water-closets and ashpits between the rows, which were "a continual source of
trouble." Ultimately the manager was persuaded to build a scullery with boiler
and a water-closet adjacent to each house, after which in three years the
Sanitary Inspector had not one choked water-closet to deal with. An expression
of opinion to precisely the same effect, but based on a larger number of
observations, was that of the Architectural Inspector of the Local Government
Board, who said :-
"As the number of families using a common water-closet and its distance from the houses increased, the habits of the people and the condition of the sanitary fittings became worse. Colliery owners and others have stated that miners would not keep sanitary fittings in order if they had them in their houses, but where I have seen them in such houses they are kept fairly clean, though they may be abused occasionally."
The representative of one large mining firm gave it as his personal opinion that one water-closet for each house was desirable in mining communities. Both the chairman and the officials of the Mid-Lanark District Committee spoke emphatically of the impossibility of tracing delinquents when closets were shared by more than one - or at most two - families. Section 31 of the Public Health Act, 1897, which provides that, in default of proof which user of a common water-closet is responsible for a nuisance, all may be fined indiscriminately, was described as well-meaning but ineffectual; for no Sheriff will enforce so obviously unfair a provision. Where one or two - for there was less complete agreement here - families only are concerned, the law is readily enforceable.
The standard of sanitation suggested by Dr Dittmar
of the Local Government Board, with special reference to mining villages, is a
water-closet to each house. But where water supply and drainage schemes are
prohibitive in expense (which will not often be the case in mining villages), a
pail-privy should be provided for each house at the end of the garden, not less
than 20 yards from the dwelling, and, if possible, further away. Dr Robb and Dr
M'Vail, however, point out that in selecting a site for earth closets privacy
should be aimed at. Dr Robb's experience is that a pail closet is as a rule,
well kept if it is close to the house, or is situated in a well-fenced garden
attached ; and he states that if the convenience is attached to the house it
ensures privacy, and that there can be no doubt that the further away from a
house the convenience is situated the less supervision there can be. The
District Clerk of the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire argued that, as regards old
houses, some discretion should perhaps be left to the Local Authorities ; but
that, broadly speaking, a building should not be considered to be in a state of
habitability which does not provide (where reasonably practicable) for at least
one water-closet for every two separate houses, and that even this concession
should only be allowed in the case of old properties. On the other hand a
witness from Midlothian argued that water-closets were kept perfectly clean when
shared by two tenants, each of whom had a key.
(18) SIZE OF HOUSES.
There are no exact figures obtainable as to the number of rooms in houses occupied by miners, as these are naturally included in the general figures for each area in the Census Report. But statements were made by witnesses, and other figures on this point are to be found in the special reports of the medical officers above referred to ; so that a general idea can be obtained of the proportion of one- and two-room houses in certain of the mining districts.
As regards the total number of houses, the following figures may be taken as more or less typical. In the mining districts of Midlothian and West Lothian, Dr Robb estimated that, excluding larger houses for managers and others, about 11%of the total have one apartment, 65% have two, and 24% have three or more. The one-apartment houses are for the most part old, and a considerable number of them have now been joined to form larger houses. In many of the old two-room houses, however, while the kitchen is of fair size, the room is hardly worth the name of room, being very small and frequently without a fireplace. Often it is used only as a store or lumber room. The smallness of the second room in certain of the older houses may lead to a discrepancy as to the number of one- and two-room houses respectively. In one instance in Lanarkshire the employers reckoned a group of houses as having two apartments which the Medical Officer described as " houses of one apartment and small bed-closet." The representatives of the Shale Miners' Association estimated the proportions as follows in the Lothian Shale Field :-13% one apartment; 72% two apartments ; 15% three apartments.
The Fife Coal Company own a large percentage of the miners' houses in Fife. Their houses have less than 2% one room, about 80% of two-rooms, and the balance of three. Of 1024 houses owned by the Lochgelly Coal Company, 106 have one room, 121 have three rooms, and the balance two rooms.
In the burghs of Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath, which are chiefly occupied by miners, though a large proportion of the houses are privately owned, and which are largely of recent construction, there were, in 1911, 11.5 and 16.6% of one-room houses respectively ; 65.2 and 58.0% of two-room respectively ; and 16.2 and 18 4 % of three-room houses respectively.
In Lanarkshire the number of one-room houses is
very much larger. In 1911 the percentages in the county of Lanark, excluding
burghs of over 2000 inhabitants, were as follows : - 21.2% one-room houses,
48.3% two-room houses, 12.5% three-room houses, the balance of 18% having four
or more apartments. But in the large mining burghs the standard was even lower,
as the following table shows (the figures represent percentages) :-
|One Apartment||Two Apartments||Total of one and two|
In Ayrshire the proportions of one- and two-room
houses respectively in the county, exclusive of the larger burghs, are 15.2 and
44.5% but in the mining burgh of Galston they are 28.2 and 46.7 respectively.
The Ayrshire Coalowners' Association gave the following figures representing the
houses owned or leased by their members:-
(1) One apartment 1095=17.0%
(2) Two apartments 4546=70.8%
(3) Three 516= 8.0%
(4) More than three apartments 269 = 4.2%
(19) ACCOMMODATION IN NEW HOUSES.
The Wemyss Coal Company have built 715 houses in about fifteen years, of which 300 have a room and kitchen and 415 two rooms and kitchen; and the very fact that this preponderance of three-apartment houses stands out as exceptional, shows how low the standard of accommodation has been even in recent building. The district with the highest standard, however, is a portion of the Midlothian coalfield, in which Provost Brown, speaking for the miners, stated that while there might be one or two single-apartment houses in some of the older villages, he did not know of any. He further stated that at Rosewell houses of three apartments and a scullery were the rule, and at Newtongrange evernlarger houses were common. As regards the mining areas of Stirlingshire and Dumbartonshire, Dr M'Vail has given full figures showing the standard both of accommodation and equipment of the houses erected in these counties subsequent to the introduction of bye-laws in 1898. We have condensed the facts in his Report and give them in the following table :-
Particulars of 873 Miners' Houses erected in Stirling and Dumbartonshire between adoption of Bye-laws in 1899 and Dr M'Vail's Report in 1910.
Walls. - 466
strapped and lathed ; 407 hollow.
|One Room||Two Rooms||Three Rooms||Four Rooms|
|Cubic capacity of house in cubic feet||av. 2300||2963-4440||av. 5448||av. 5200|
|* (16 of these were built in 1899.)|
|Water Closet for each house||Water closet for Two houses||Dry-closet|
|Number||53||281||539 or 61.8%|
|334 or 38.2%|
In Lanarkshire during the same period the standard was very much lower, as is shown by the fact that of 10,737 houses of which the plans were passed by the officials of the Middle Ward District Committee between the years 1898-1908, 12.5%had only one apartment, 56.9% had two apartments, 14.1% had three apartments, and the balance four or more. But even this very high percentage of new one-apartment houses does not fully represent the percentage in the purely mining districts; for in the four parishes of Blantyre, Dalserf, Bothwell, and Cambusnethan, the percentage varied from 19-9 to 13-7. In the following years (1909-1913), of 1555 houses forming part of tenement dwellings erected in the Middle Ward, 281 were of one apartment and 1078 of two.
(20) DESCRIPTION OF HOUSES.
The typical miner's house has only one storey, though in a few recent cases attics have been added, or cottages have been built on the double-flatted principle. In the older rows the houses are commonly "but and ben" or "single end." It is exceptional for them to be built back-to-back, but even where this is not the case, the window in the back wall is either non-existent or too small to be effective. The more recent rows consist for the most part of "through" houses of two apartments. There is usually a small square lobby inside the door. The kitchen, which also serves as living-room, has two bed-recesses in the wall opposite the fireplace. Usually these are open for their whole width and height, but may be partially screened by curtains. Opposite the window a door gives communication directly into the room," which commonly has a fireplace on one side and a single bedplace on the other. Dr M'Vail estimates the average size of these apartments in the central coalfields as : -Kitchen, 15 feet by 10 or 11 feet by 9 feet, its cubic capacity being about 1400 cubic feet, or with the bedplaces about 2000. "The room is of the same width and height, but is probably somewhat shorter from front to back."
While this description may be taken as very widely
applicable, it is necessary that we should briefly describe houses which are
respectively below and above the common standard.
(21) DEFECTIVE HOUSES.
One of the best descriptions of these was supplied by the Architectural Inspector of the Local Government Board. He stated that in many parts of Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, and Fifeshire the old houses occupied by miners and other workmen are barely above the habitable standard, this being due to these houses being from 60 to 100 years old; that they have, as a rule, the plaster placed hard on the outside walls ; that there are no rones or down-pipes to carry off roof water, no damp-proof course at the ground level of the outside walls : that they have tile or brick floors with the bare earth exposed under the beds, and where wood floors have been laid that there is no ventilation underneath them; that in many cases the roof timbers have sagged and the tile or slate roof covering has been left unrepaired; and finally, that all these defects tend to bring a dwelling-house into such a state of structural disrepair that the house sooner or later falls below the habitable standard.
As an extreme example of unsatisfactory housing, we
may quote the following description of the Rosehall rows, Whifflet, given by the
Lanarkshire Miners' Union, which, after visiting the rows, we can fully endorse.
"They consist of four long parallel rows of single-storey hovels; most of them have not rones to carry the rain from the roofs. Rainwater simply runs down the roof and then runs down the walls, or falls off as chance or the wind decides. There are no coal-cellars; coals are kept below the beds. There are no wash-houses. Water is supplied from stands in the alleys. The closet accommodation is hideous. A number of these hovels are built back-to-back."
From reports on other districts we take the following, showing that the same defects are apparent in the older rows in most of the coalfields. A group of 92 houses at Broxburn was described in the following terms by the Medical Officer for West Lothian in 1912 :-
"Single-storey brick houses in rows situated close to refuse bing ; 48 one-apartment houses back-to-back, 24 two-apartment houses back-to-back, and 20 two-apartment "through" houses; 20 houses have no coal-cellars ; no washhouses ; water outside ; open channel drainage ; privy midden conveniences very unsatisfactory ; plaster work defective in places ; dampness in walls in wet weather, very bad in some ; rones, etc., defective. Nearly all tenants complain of "smoky" chimneys, probably due to position of houses near refuse bing; surroundings and streets unsatisfactory ; inferior houses.
A group of 23 one- and 5 two-apartment houses in
the Bellshill district, Lanarkshire, was described by the Medical Officer for
Lanarkshire, in terms in which negatives predominated:-
"Erected probably about eighty years ago ;- stone built, one storey; no damp-proof course; plastered on solid walls ; wood floors, unventilated, one or two of cement ; internal surfaces of walls and ceilings in fair condition, but some are damp. No overcrowding; apartments fair size. No gardens; no washhouses; no coal-cellars. Three lots midden privies, two being of recent construction. No sinks; drainage by open channels. Water supplied from two standpipes."
To which description it may be added that, owing, to the absence of coal-cellars, coals were kept below the beds ; and that there were no rones on the houses, which extended to the extreme limit of the feu and had no openings in the back wall.
In two other squares in the Parish of Old Monkland (Lanarkshire), of which the older was built in 1846, we saw two-storey houses built on the double-flatted principle in which box-beds with doors were still to be found. Apart from dampness and defective plaster-work, the ash-pits, etc., in the centres of the squares were the cause of very serious nuisance; and it was stated to us that the water-supply from standpipes in the squares was defective, and that water had often to be carried round from the front street. Four years before the date of our visit Dr Wilson had reported :-
"Action has been taken with regard to the defective
and foul condition of the outside sinks and drainage arrangements, but
improvements have been of an intermittent nature."
The accuracy of this last remark was fully apparent to us on our visit in March 1914.
As regards Ayrshire, very full evidence was given by the Miners' Representatives and also by the Vice-Convenor of the County who gave independent evidence, strongly dissenting from the official Report of the County Officers. As an example we may take the Drongan rows, of which the witness last named says:-
"The houses on the west side here are simply awful, and should be closed. They are damp and practically irreparable. Nothing but reconstruction from the foundations will make these houses fit for human habitation."
We visited this district, and noted the absence of lath and plaster, the very damp walls, and the damp floor consisting of tiles in the open portion but of bare earth under the bed. These houses, admittedly among the worst in the county, were receiving some tardy attention, and a few had been closed.
(22) SPECIFIC DEFECTS-DAMP.
In the evidence of Miners' Unions, as in that of farm servants, the most frequent complaint regarding the structure of the houses was that of persistent dampness, the chief causes being lack of damp-proof courses and the frequent absence of proper rones and conductors. Several instances have already been given, but the following, in the evidence of one of the Medical Inspectors of the Local Government Board regarding mining villages, can be added :-
They may be without a damp-course, and the walls may be unstrapped, with the result that they are damp; eaves spouting and rainfall spouts may be absent or defective; means for surface drainage may also be absent or defective.
In regard to the Ayrshire villages, the complaints of damp were particularly frequent. In addition to the houses at Drongan just described, we noted another house in the district where the bedroom was so damp that the paper came off the wall in masses. In the Old Cumnock district the reporter of the Miners' Union noted the same, quoting the phrase of a woman in one of the houses : - "Ane has nae heart to clean them, for your work is never seen." In another row the same witness stated that he saw a basin set to catch the drip of rain. A square in Stirlingshire was described as having no gutter pipes, so that the rain from the tile roof dripping down the sides made the houses very damp and formed a channel for itself.
(23) DEFECTIVE FLOORS.
The state of the flooring of the older houses also provided considerable occasion for complaint, especially where the floor was of bricks unevenly laid, or of wood without proper ventilation beneath. Indeed, this defect is closely connected with the more extreme cases of dampness which have just been referred to. In one house at Kelty, when a new floor was provided, six inches of clay and water had been found below the old one. In other cases the making up of the roadway has resulted in the floors being below the level of the adjacent ground. The architect of the Fife Coal Company admitted that in 1913 there were still some houses in which this was the case at Kelty, and explained that, where the roof was not high enough to allow of the floors being raised and adequate ventilation provided, such a condition could hardly be remedied. In the same year Dr Dewar, reporting to the Local Government Board on the miners' houses at Townhill, which had become the property of Dunfermline Town Council, called special attention to the state of the floors - one being "of brick, partly in poor repair," another " rotten towards the back wall," and still another "of wood, very old .... one hole in the centre of the room admitted my boot and leg to the vertical distance of 15 inches."
The representatives of the Ayrshire Miners' Union gave similar evidence regarding brick floors in the older rows, cracked and uneven through subsidence. They described one house in which half the floor was of wood which had rotted, the other half of the original brick. In another village they reported that the coals are kept below the bed; that the floors are of the usual brick-tiled type; and, as is the case wherever they have seen this kind of floor provided, that the surface is very uneven and cracked, and it is a heartbreak to the housewife to keep it clean ; that if waxcloth is laid on it it is cut up in a short time; and where no covering is put on, the children carry the "muck" in from the quagmire of a road outside ; and that there is no covering on the earth below the beds.
Dr Dewar called special attention to these points
A floor of old and cracked bricks, lying unevenly and full of crevices, reduces the possibility of cleanliness and comfort in a home.
In some houses no proper flooring has been laid in the bed-recesses ; and the place of a floor is taken either by earth beaten down, or by rough fragments of stone and lime, debris left from the erection of the building. In the former case the surface becomes gradually befouled and cannot be properly cleansed; in the latter case cockroaches and other undesirable animals are sheltered.
The remedy clearly is that an impervious floor through the whole extent of the living-rooms should be considered an essential condition of habitability, and that any house not so furnished should be considered as eo ipso in a state of " nuisance." When coals are kept below the bed, "coal-dust is rarely the most objectionable material that is found."
(24) DEFECTIVE WINDOWS.
Other specific defects in the structure of houses in the older colliery villages are similar to those found in houses of the same age and type elsewhere. Such, for instance, are windows inadequate in point of size, or failing to open through faulty construction, disrepair, or disuse ; with the consequence that lighting, ventilation, or both are permanently defective. It was argued by the Medical Officer of Health for Ayrshire that when windows are made to open, this fact is often not taken advantage of; and that miners, coming up from work at a high temperature, are sensitive to draughts and cold houses. The argument, which may indeed be true for a time, before habits have had time to change, would, if taken literally, dispose of all motives for reform. This would simplify matters certainly, but it can hardly be questioned that the provision of windows of adequate size and suitably hung is a consideration of the first importance.
(25) IMPROVED MODERN HOUSES.
From this description of the common defects in miners' houses of the older type, we pass to a consideration of the newly erected houses, of which we personally inspected a certain number. It was freely recognised, both by county officials and by the witnesses who spoke for the miners, that these newer houses represented not only a decided improvement on the standard common even in the fairly recent past, but also a commodious and satisfactory type of miner's dwelling. The miners' representatives in some cases added reservations regarding the rent charged or the sufficiency of the sanitary accommodation or provision of baths ; but in all the cases referred to their attitude was one of cordial recognition of the improved houses now being supplied by the coal-owners. In a considerable proportion, while the structure and surroundings of the houses and the sanitary arrangements were described as adequate, the houses themselves were still of the room and kitchen type, though in some cases a large scullery was added. Elsewhere, however, there was a welcome increase in the proportion of three-room houses. In some of these there is a large attic bedroom with storm windows: but in most cases the traditional plan of the one-storey house is adhered to. On the whole the occupiers probably prefer this; and as sufficient land is usually obtainable in mining villages, it is argued that there is no need to build above a single storey. The double-flatted cottages found in two or three of the more modern villages are said to be noisy for the family on the ground floor; while, although the self-contained two-storey cottage is not common in Scotland, two of the miners' representatives stated that where such cottages had been built the occupants soon became accustomed to them. The provision of gardens and the greatly improved lay-out of certain of these villages has already been commented on.
It may be worth while for us to refer in more
detail to three or four examples of the improved miner's cottage. Provost Brown
claimed that the houses at Newtongrange (Midlothian) were probably the best
miners' houses in Scotland, as they contained a kitchen and four or five rooms,
with conveniences and gardens. The rents of the best houses are 10s. 6d. a
fortnight, and these large houses are taken chiefly by families with several
members working. In West Lothian good houses have been built in several centres,
some of them being arranged on the garden suburb principle. Those contain, in
addition to three rooms and a scullery, a small pantry off the kitchen,
bathroom, etc., the rental being 6s. per week, including all rates. In a group
of new three-room miners' houses in the burgh of Bo'ness, the house has a total
size, interior measurement, of 6171 cubic feet. In Raasay, the island adjacent
to Skye, a West of Scotland iron firm has built a group of miners' houses which
are stated to have set a new sanitary standard for that part of the world. As
regards Ayrshire, the miners' representatives specially called our attention to
the cottages built by the Dalmellington Coal and Iron Company, at Broom Knowe,
and we consider that their description and comments are sufficiently important
to quote :-
The cottages are built in two rows, and are of
brick and roughcast. There is a small garden-plot of ground, surrounded with a
wooden railing, in front of every house. Each house has both a front door and a
back, and the accommodation provided is two rooms, a kitchen, a scullery, with
washing-house, boiler, and a water-closet and coal-house. The dimensions of the
apartments are as follows :-
Kitchen, 21 feet by 10 1/2feet (exclusive of set-in beds).
Room No. 1, 11 feet by 10 feet.
Room No. 2, 11 feet by 10 feet.
Back kitchen or scullery, 10 feet by 9 feet.
The rent of this house is 4s. per week, including rates. The kitchen is fitted up with a large press reaching from the ceiling to the floor, and is arranged so that one compartment serves as a wardrobe and another serves as a cupboard. The back kitchen, the water-closet, and coal-house are built like outhouses, but joined to the main building. There is no ashpit, but the people put their refuse in pails, and this is collected by the scavenger every day. This is almost an ideal house for a miner's family. The addition of a bathroom would have made it complete, and it will be observed that the length of the kitchen, 21 feet, leaves almost sufficient room to take a portion of it for a bathroom, and still leave an ordinary sized kitchen. This could have probably been done at a cost of another 3d. per week on the rent. We are of opinion that if this were done, and houses of that description supplied to the miners, the housing problem, so far as these workers are concerned, would be practically solved.
In Fifeshire, the Fife Coal Company have provided new houses of a superior type at High Valley-field, a description of which we have already given.
(26) HOW FAR LARGER HOUSES ARE APPRECIATED.
The question naturally arises how far miners are prepared to take advantage of the improved accommodation now being provided in certain districts. In Midlothian and West Lothian there was strong testimony as to their appreciation, though it was indicated that at first the additional rent might be felt to be something of a hardship. There was evidence also regarding the improvement in the use made of the houses when families formerly housed in inferior dwellings had grown accustomed to them. The manager of the Pumpherston Oil Company spoke strongly of the desire for improvement on the part of foremen and managers as well as of miners, and still more of their wives.
On the other hand, it was stated by witnesses
speaking for coalowners both in Fife and Lanark-shire that the urgent demand was
for houses of two rooms, and that larger houses sometimes stood vacant. There
can be little doubt that in the mining districts of Lanarkshire there was till
recently, if not actually up to the present, a demand for one-room houses among
a certain class of miner; though this, we are glad to say, has been strongly
discountenanced both by Local Authorities and by the men's own leaders. The
figures already given regarding the building of new one-room houses up to about
1910 are significant, and are borne out by the statement of the chairman of the
Middle Ward District Committee of Lanarkshire :-
That there is no doubt whatever that you will let a one-room house very much quicker than you will let a larger house.
Mr Fraser was arguing for the prohibition of the
one-apartment dwelling as a family house. Mr Forgie, of William Baird & Co.,
Recently we have been providing a larger proportion of three-apartment houses to accommodate our workmen with large families, but have had difficulty in getting them let.
And similar evidence was given by the architect of the Fife Coal Co. as regards certain rapidly growing districts in Fife. Mr Forgie also stated that in many cases the "room" in two-apartment houses is left unfurnished, or if furnished is little used and seldom ventilated, even where there is a fairly large family. He gave particulars of 536 two-apartment houses in Kilsyth, in 62 of which the " room " was unfurnished and in 71 was only furnished with a bed. In another case (the double-flatted houses at Bedlay already referred to) the statement was made that 40% had only one room out of two furnished ; but a revised statement, given by Mr Forgie about a year later, showed that the percentage, while still high, had been reduced by 11%. At the beginning of 1914, 10.84% of these houses had only a bed in the room and 18.07 no furniture at all. Mr Forgie suggested that the furnishing of 11% more "rooms" in the course of a year was probably due to a period of good wages.
The same village was one of those in which three-room houses stood vacant for about a year after being opened, in spite of the fact that employment was good and men were needed. In this case the houses were isolated, and some of the men preferred to live in Coatbridge, four miles away, and travel to and from their work, finding apparently that Coatbridge was an attractive place of residence. This and similar difficulties in newly established colliery villages are largely due to the fact that a newly opened colliery tends for a time, until conditions become settled, to attract a shifty and unsatisfactory class of workmen. In these cases efforts made by the colliery owners to initiate improved conditions met with less response and greater difficulties than would be the case in a more settled area with a steady type of miner. This difficulty was recognised by more than one of the miners' representatives.
But while the response to the new standard is not immediate, especially in the newly opened coalfields, the evidence goes to show that on the whole it is both rapid and progressive. Mr Forgie summed up his opinion on the difficulties referred to by saying :-
Example, I think, will have a wonderful effect in time - a far better effect than compulsion.
The opinion of Mr Gibb of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union was as follows : -
We are prepared to say that there are some miners who do not want a better class of house, but we also say that the majority of our people want a better house and would be willing to pay a bigger rent than they pay at the present moment for that better class of house.
To which Mr M'Kerrell of the Ayrshire Miners' Union added that he was in favour of the drastic treatment of any man who, while a house of three or four rooms was available, overcrowded his family in order to save 6d. or Is. 6d. a week.
The representatives of the Lanarkshire and Stirlingshire miners also gave instances from their practical experience of the readiness, and in some cases eagerness, with which new houses were taken advantage of in their districts, as did the town planning engineer of the Middle Ward District Committee of Lanarkshire. This evidence relates to new houses at rentals of from 4s. to 5s. 9d. per week, involving a rise of perhaps £5 or £6 per annum on the rent previously paid. The last-named witness stated that in their recent building schemes they had increased the proportion of three- and four-room houses over that originally contemplated owing to the readiness with which the larger houses were applied for.
One of the miners' agents specially referred to the anxiety of the women to obtain better houses. But as regards the readiness of the women to make good use of a better type of house, we feel that the strongest evidence consists in a care and cleanliness which were very widely, though not, of course, universally, shown in the keeping of houses which are structurally defective, spoiled by damp, or cracked by subsidence. Our own observations on this point are confirmed by two of the Ayrshire witnesses, representing the divergent views on the Local Authority. The Housing Committee of the County Council were, we were informed, in the course of their inspection, -
much struck with the way in which many of the occupants, notwithstanding the adverse conditions which prevail, succeed in keeping the houses they occupy fairly comfortable, clean, and neat.
Similarly the Vice-Convener of the county summed up his impression in the statement that, as a rule -
the dwellers even in the worst places showed a
remarkable and successful ingenuity in making bad houses, damp walls, cracked
ceilings, defective and uneven floors appear attractive, and in puttig the best
face upon their surroundings.
(27) HISTORICAL CAUSE OF LOW RENTS.
The question of the average proportion of wages
paid by miners in house rent received a good deal of attention from various
witnesses. The facts appear to vary so widely that they are not readily
summarised. This variation is due to the fact that the last fifty years have
seen a gradual change from the old system, under which the miner received his
house free but was bound to a certain term of service - a system which still
holds in the case of the farm-servant in Scotland - to the state of things in
the newest and best-appointed colliery houses, where the rents charged are not
much below those paid for similar accommodation to private landlords. One
witness mentioned that he had himself lived in a rent-free house in the Dalkeith
district as a young man, and that in 1874, when nominal rents were first charged
for the houses, there was considerable discontent; and other witnesses mentioned
that the effect of this tradition still persisted, as -
The miner has grown up in the belief that he has his house at a cheap rent as a perquisite, and he naturally resents a higher rent.
Mr M'Kerrell said that the traditional idea of the Ayrshire miners was that they ought not to pay more than Is. 6d. or 2s. 6d. a week in rent, but spoke strongly of the necessity of that standard being altered. In the North of England the system still persists of giving the miner his house rent free as part of his wage, while those not living in colliery houses receive a cash allowance. This does not appear in practice to be far removed from the Scots system, by which employees of the companies housed in their dwellings have the rent deducted from their wages at the time of payment. In cases where the houses owned by the companies are old and poor in type, as well as low in rent, the system appears to have a bad effect both on the miner, who is reluctant to pay a larger rent than he has been accustomed to, and on the company, which can plead when improvements are demanded that the houses are yielding a very low return.
(28) INSTANCES OF RENTALS IN COLLIERY DISTRICTS.
Bearing these facts in view, we may proceed to give certain examples of the rents charged. We give first certain figures furnished by the Ayrshire miners regarding bad and old houses in their county: - single apartments, 1s. 5d. per week, 1s. per week, 6s. 6d. per month, 7s. 11d. per month, 1s. 6d, per week, 1s. per week, 1s. 3d. per week ; two apartments (one very small), 2s. 1d. per week; two apartments, 2s. per week, 9s. 6d. per month, 8s. 7d. per month, 1s. 3d. per week. The range of rents in this county were stated by the Coalowners' Association as from 1s. to 2s. 1d. for one-apartment houses, from 1s. 5d. to 3s. 4d. for two-apartment houses, from 2s. 6d. to 5s. 9d. for three-apartment houses, and from 1s. 8d. to 6s. 4d. for more than three-apartment houses.
The witness added -"The rents of houses in towns, with similar accommodation, are much higher than in mining villages." In the Valuation Rolls for Stirlingshire and Dumbarton-shire in 1908-9, 2735 colliery houses in landward areas were rented on the average as follows :- 495 one-apartment houses, £2,14s. 9d.; 2096 two-apartment houses, £6, 1s. 4d.; 126 three-apartment houses, £10, 9s. 5d. Dr M'Vail, in quoting these figures in his Report, pointed out that 760 two-room houses in East Stirlingshire, where the villages are old, had an average rental of £4,13s. 8d.; 466 two-room houses in East Dumbartonshire (somewhat newer) averaged £5, 14s.; while in central Stirlingshire, which includes the newest villages, the average rental of 946 two-room houses was £7, 5s. In the case of one large Lanarkshire colliery village with 458 houses the rents are elaborately graded from £4, 17s. 6d. for a one-apartment house with water outside, through seven intermediate stages (of which £10, Is. 6d. for two rooms with separate conveniences may be taken as typical), to £14, 6s. for three apartments with all conveniences and bath.
It has to be kept in view that in some mining centres the standard of habitability is so low (a house so called - consisting of very little else than four walls and a roof - no scullery, no water-closet, no coal accommodation, no presses, water to be carried from a distance) that "rent" in its ordinary significance does not enter the minds of either colliery owner or the miner tenant. The houses - such as they are - are simply looked on as part of the colliery plant - and that the least expensive - for producing as large and as remunerative an output as possible.
(29) PROPORTION OF WAGES PAID IN RENT.
Thus any wide generalisation as to the proportion of wages spent by miners in house rent must be subject to considerable corrections at both ends of the scale. The Sanitary Inspector for Musselburgh stated that it was very difficult to give an average rental for houses occupied by miners, owing to the extreme variations from £3, 10s. for a single room to a maximum of £16 ; but that in his opinion the average might be taken as about £9. On this basis a miner in regular work, who was the sole wage-earner of his family, would in 1913 have been paying from one-tenth to one-twelfth of his wages in rent. This proportion was lower than that paid by shop assistants (from one-sixth to one-eighth), by skilled workmen in the building trades (from one-eighth to one-ninth), and by a group of miscellaneous workers (from one-ninth to one-tenth). The only trade mentioned by witness in which the proportion paid was lower was that of builders' labourers, paying £5 rent, or about one-twelfth of their income : but here there would be much broken time. The evidence shows that miners living in towns pay a higher rent to private house-owners than those living in colliery rows do to their employers. In Cambuslang, miners were in 1914 paying up to £17 or even £19,19s., including rates, for three rooms and bathroom. It is somewhat hazardous to generalise from the conditions in one or two towns ; but, so far as we can judge, the proportions given above appear to be representative, except that in the majority of miners' rows owned by the companies, the average rental would not amount to £9. Dr Dewar's estimate, based chiefly on experience in Fife, was that the average rent amounted to about £5, 14s. per annum, while the family income would in most cases, even at a period when "short time" was common, be in the neighbourhood of £100. This gives a proportion of rent to income of less than 6 per cent. The rents of colliery houses invariably include occupier's rates. Two witnesses distinguished between the case of a single earner, who might pay from 8 to 10 per cent., and that of a household with more than one wage coming in, where the proportion would be about that named by Dr Dewar. Witnesses representing the coalowners of Fife mentioned similar figures.
But, while certain miners, especially those living in towns, spend a much larger proportion of their wages in rent than that just indicated, there are also extreme variations at the other end of the scale. The Managing Director of Messrs William Baird & Co. mentioned five instances of earnings at Bothwell collieries going into one house. In the first, a father and three sons earning in all £7, 4s. 3d. per week were paying £7, 7s. 4d. per annum for a two-apartment house occupied by thirteen people. In the second and third cases, the rent and accommodation was similar, and there were eleven occupants : while in one three workers were earning £5, 11s. 6d. per week, and in the other two workers were earning £4, 6s. 6d. In the fourth case, a father and three sons were earning £7, 4s. 5d. per week and paying £7, 4s. per year in rent; while in the fifth, the earnings amounted to £10, 10s. and the rent to £14. Witness stated that there were larger houses readily obtainable in the district at the time. Mr Forgie estimated the average rent paid by Messrs Baird's workers living in the Company's houses at 2s. 9d. per week inclusive of rates, as against 4s. 6d. in outside houses.
The Clerk to the Mid-Lanark District Committee supplied us with full details of the wages received and rents paid by iron workers as well as miners in that district, which supported the general conclusion that rents do not vary with wages to the extent that might be anticipated, For instance, the smelters and smelters' helpers employed by a well-known firm were before the war receiving wages varying from £6, 5s. to £2, 3s. per week ; but in spite of these variations they are all stated to occupy two-and three-apartment houses with rents running from £11 to £16, 10s. In the case of another firm, "first smelters" receiving £8 per week were said mostly to reside in houses built by their Union, containing two apartments and bathroom, and rented at £13, 10s.; while "under hand puddlers," who only received £1, 8s. per week, and labourers in receipt of £1, 3s. were occupying works houses of one apartment at 2s. 9d. per week (£7, 3s. per annum), or two apartments at 4s. 3d. per week (£11, 1s. per annum.) In a third case, labourers with a wage of 22s. to 24s. and furnace fillers receiving 40s. to 44s. per week were both returned as occupying houses of one large and one small apartment at 18s. per month.
In the cases cited above, showing disproportion of rents paid to earnings or family income, it is probably true to say that the rents paid were as much as the houses were worth, and the problem is, on the one hand, to get better houses provided and, on the other, to induce miners to break with environment and long tradition and to occupy improved houses when provided-at a higher rent.
(30) WILLINGNESS TO PAY A HIGHER RENT FOR BETTER
The great majority of witnesses stated that miners would generally be found willing to pay a higher rent if improved houses were provided. Dr Dewar said that he had never known a case of complaint regarding the rent charged unless the condition of the house was being complained of. Of the miners' representatives who appeared before us, the great majority took the same line, though in certain cases some qualifications were made. Two of the witnesses from Fife, while emphasising the urgent need for better houses and indicating that they would be well used, were unwilling to pledge themselves to any considerable increase of payment. Another witness held that " workmen would not be averse to paying what would be reasonable and fair under all circumstances for the increased conveniences, but that they would not be willing to pay such an increased rental as to enable employers to reap an increased return from their houses." The representatives of the shale miners urged that Government should advance money at a rate which would permit of a house with all improvements being provided at 3s. to 4s. per week. But the majority of the miners' witnesses were willing to accept the general principle that improved housing implied the payment of higher rents. They recognised, indeed, that there would be reluctance on the part of certain of the men; for, in the words of Provost Brown, "There will always be some who will raise objections to any increase whatever the benefits are to be." But the general feeling appeared to be that such opposition would give way before education and example, while one or two witnesses were prepared to apply compulsion to men who refused to pay for adequate accommodation for their families. The representatives of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union were quite emphatic that no State subsidy was desired, but that if their constituents were not able to afford to pay for the improved house on an economic basis, " then the fight must be in another direction " - i.e. for increased wages. It should, of course, be noted that this evidence was not given in view of war prices, although in March 1914 building prices were already high. One of the representatives of the Ayrshire Miners' Union took the same ground, but another expressed more hesitation. In the same way representatives of Local Authorities or mine-owners spoke to the ability, and in most cases the probable willingness, of miners to pay an enhanced rent. But it should be noted that in more than one case representatives of the mine-owners criticised the estimates of building costs on which the miners' statements were founded as decidedly too low.
(31) INCREASED RENTS FOR IMPROVEMENTS IN OLD
There was some difference of opinion as to the readiness with which an addition to the rent is paid in consideration of improvements carried out on the older houses. Two of the inspectors of the Local Government Board said that they had found that miners did not at all grudge such an increase. On the other hand, we were informed that in some cases the increase was considered excessive. This is a matter which greatly depends on the extent of the improvement carried out, and the way in which it is done. It was, for instance, stated that Messrs William Baird & Company were requested to bring water into certain houses and place sinks in the kitchen; but no agreement could be reached regarding the terms, as the owners claimed that an increase of 7d. or 8d. per week would be required to cover the cost of the improvement, while the house occupiers were unwilling to pay more than 3d. But this case was complicated by a difference of opinion as to where the sinks should be placed, the miners wishing them to be in the kitchen, while the mine-owners preferred on hygienic grounds to place them on the stair heads. The majority of recent improvements carried out in the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire have been charged for, although in at least one case expensive improvements have been carried out without any addition to the rent. In some other cases a compromise has been arrived at, and the miners occupying the houses have agreed to pay half the additional rent originally asked for. That there may be a willingness to pay an enhanced rent when old houses are reconstructed and enlarged and have sanitary arrangements added (as at Baird's Square, Holytown, where the increase was from 2s. l0d. to 4s. 1d.) is not inconsistent with a reluctance to pay a double rent where the improvement only consists in adding sanitary accommodation shared by several tenants. We were informed that the latter was the position in several properties in Wishaw.
(32) RETURN ON HOUSES OWNED BY COLLIERY COMPANIES.
Here also we have to distinguish between cases in which the tradition of "free houses" still largely determines rent, and others in which the Colliery Company charge a rent for modern houses which gives a moderate return on the capital involved. To judge by certain comprehensive statements submitted by coalowners in the West of Scotland, the former is the more usual position. Mr Forgie gave elaborate figures regarding the return on 976 workmen's houses built in Lanarkshire by Messrs William Baird & Company since 1874. These houses cost £128,593, and yield an annual gross rental of £7167, or 5.57% of the capital. The total annual burdens amount to £3640, or 2.83% of the capital. In the burdens are included 0.57% for scavenging, factor, etc.; 0.29% for land (this only represents a portion of the cost of the land, it being nearer 0.75%) 1.15% for rates and taxes; and 0.82% for repairs and materials. If depreciation were allowed for, the return would be reduced to 1.65%; nor does this figure take account of the proportion of rental expended in some years upon improvements. The Summerlee Iron Company have built 903 houses, containing 1678 apartments, with a gross rental of £5360, 19s. 7d. The return in this case is very similar, viz. 2.83%, or 1.77% after a deduction has been made for depreciation. The representatives of the Ayrshire Coal-owners' Association stated that a two-apartment house costing £150 could not be let at £6, 10s. - the average rent for a house of this size before the war - without a definite loss, and that rents would need to rise by about 100% if an ordinary return were to be obtained. The architect of the Association mentioned that the cost of upkeep and repair, including taxes, commonly amounts to 50% or 55% of the rental received.
(33) RETURN ON OLD HOUSES.
It must, of course, be borne in mind that, if the rents charged for the oldest type of house were often very low, the houses had been erected originally at a small cost. The only definite figures which we obtained on this subject were those related to houses erected by Building Societies in the middle of last century. The houses already referred to at Shotts were built about the year 1842 at a cost of £38 each. (Report (in 1844) by Mr Tremenheere, Inspector of Mines, appointed by Government to report on administration of Act of Parliament dealing with female and child labour in mines passed in 1842.) The Raploch Building Society, Larkhall, began, in 1860, building houses with two large apartments and garden, costing £95 each. The discrepancy between these prices seems very large, but probably it is in part accounted for by the more substantial character of the houses at Larkhall. The data are too slender to form the basis of a definite estimate; but probably it may be assumed that houses in rows built seventy or more years ago, some of which are still in use, did not cost on the average much over £50. If they were rented at 1s. or 1s. 6d. per week, as was not uncommon, this represents a return of from 5 to 7% gross on the capital, which cannot be called extravagant. But in some cases where houses of this character changed hands at the end of a colliery lease, the rents appear to have been largely augmented, and in this case the revenue obtained would be excessive. We consider that the main question which should be steadily kept in view is, not whether these houses are bringing in an excessive return to their owners, but whether they are fit to be let as dwelling-houses at all. The Medical Officer for the county of Lanark gave as his decided opinion that many of them had been built only to last for one generation, but had been made to serve two or three, and especially cited the cases in which property had been bought up-by private individuals as having had "most disastrous results."
(34) OVERCROWDING IN MINING COMMUNITIES.
There can be no doubt that overcrowding is particularly prevalent in the mining areas of Scot-land. This is clearly indicated in the evidence, but it is also shown by the last census ; and in this connection one may note that the overcrowding in several of these areas has been emphasised since 1911, as the recent movement of population has been towards the great industrial centres, especially those engaged in the iron and steel trades.
As a statistical test of overcrowding, we take the proportion of the population living more than three in a room, as shown by the Census of 1911. We find that, applying this test, the seven burghs and the eight counties that burghs under 2000 are included in counties for this statistical test) where overcrowding is most prevalent are all occupied to a considerable extent by miners. We give a table showing the percentage of population in these areas living more than three in a room and more than four in a room, and also the percentage living in houses of one, two, and three apartments respectively; and we add for purposes of comparison the figures for three typical agricultural counties, viz. Aberdeenshire, Berwickshire, and Wigtownshire.
|Percentage of Population living more than Three Persons per Room.||Percentage of Population living more than Four Persons per Room.||Percentage of Population in Houses of|
|One Room.||Two Rooms.||Three Rooms.|
(The only other county area (excluding large burghs) which showed a proportion of over one-fifth of the population living more than three per room was Shetland, with 204 per cent.)
We do not suggest that the prevalence of a low standard of accommodation in the mining communities is the only cause of this correlation between coal-mining and overcrowding, for these areas contain many other industries, and in some cases they have developed with great rapidity. Consequently, it is only to be expected that, at a time when there is a general scarcity of houses, they should show greater pressure on the available accommodation than agricultural districts with a stationary or declining population. But there is no doubt that in mining districts, especially in the West of Scotland, the movement from one and two rooms to three rooms as the standard family house has been slower than among other sections of the population. But in this connection it must be kept in view that, until recently, few, practically no, three-room houses have been built in mining villages.
(35) PARTICULAR INSTANCES OF OVERCROWDING.
The general impression given by these statistics is borne out by certain instances of acute overcrowding in mining villages which were cited in the evidence. In the Dunfermline district of Fife the Sanitary Inspector mentioned the following :-
A two-room house, the kitchen occupied by a husband and wife and three children and two lodgers, and the bedroom sub-let to a husband and wife and one child. In another case the kitchen was occupied by the tenant, his two brothers and mother, all adults, and the room by a man and wife and four children. In another case there were two families, consisting of five adults and eight children, in a two-room house ; and in still another a family of twelve, six adults and six children. In the last three cases cited the Sheriff ordered the abatement of the nuisance, and gave expenses against respondent, but did not impose a fine.
The representatives of the Ayrshire Miners' Union during their investigation found a husband, wife, three children, and three lodgers in an old house with a kitchen and very small room. In another house of one room they reported two married couples, besides a girl of eighteen years and three children. Other extreme instances in houses largely occupied by a mining population in the burgh of Wishaw will be found in the evidence of the representative of the Wishaw Housing Council. Nor is overcrowding confined to old and defective properties. It was also reported as prevalent at Valleyfield (Fifeshire) (where at the same time there was a large number of new empty houses waiting tenants), and in the Lothians, where houses are good. At Winchburgh, where 161 houses out of 230 recently erected have three apartments, there were said to be many young married couples living in rooms, and numerous cases of sub-letting to a distinct family owing to the great scarcity of houses. In some cases, where vacant houses are not available, the occupier and his wife will allow a married daughter and son-in-law to live in their house rather than postpone the marriage indefinitely.
(36) THE QUESTION OF SUB-LETTING.
But a more frequent cause of overcrowding than that just named is the custom of sub-letting a portion of a house to another family, and the constant difficulty regarding the accommodation of lodgers. It was reported that in Lanarkshire -
in quite a number of cases you get families living in both room and kitchen, although the tenants of the room must pass through the kitchen, as there is only one door.
This state of matters was said to be more common elsewhere when the house either had a front and back door, and the door between the kitchen and room could be temporarily closed, or was built with a lobby from which each room, or all three rooms, issued independently. In this case there is not the same objectionable association of the domestic life of the two households, but there is the very serious disadvantage that the family to whom "the room" is sub-let have no proper conveniences; e.g. being without a sink, the housewife is apt to empty all slop water into the open gutter in front of the row. One witness stated that in his opinion the provision of two beds in the kitchen of the miner's house promoted sub-letting, by encouraging him to carry on his full family life in one room, leaving the other free. A further reason given was that the rental of the new houses was considered high, and that to sub-let the room assisted with the rent; while the manager of the Wemyss Coal Company said that, after building a large number of three-room houses, they had to resume the construction of two-room houses, as when young miners marry they are, as a rule, unwilling to take and furnish a three-room house. The last-named witness mentioned that he had seen sub-letting in a two-room house, but not so often as with three rooms. A case was cited in Hamilton where a miner occupied a five-room house at a yearly rent of £10, 4s., using two rooms himself, and letting the other three to lodgers at a weekly rent of 5s. each apartment, although the latter rooms could be described as being " in a ruinous condition." In this case the inducement to continue sub-letting was sufficiently obvious.
(37) LODGERS IN MINING VILLAGES.
Several references were made to the difficulty which young men find in obtaining accommodation when their work takes them away from home. The problem is a difficult one, as the introduction of a lodger or lodgers into a two-room house occupied by a family, especially where the room opens from the kitchen, is obviously a grave social evil. It was stated that at Armadale, which heads the list of over-crowded burghs, this does not form a serious difficulty, as a certain number of regular workmen take advantage of the common lodging-house there. But we had considerable sympathy with the protest of one of the representatives of the Fifeshire miners against this arrangement becoming general. If an improved type of lodging house could be devised embodying some of the comforts and social advantages of home, this might form an excellent solution of the problem; but, as lodging houses are at present (see chapter on "Common Lodging Houses"), it appears to us that the taking in of lodgers by families forms the lesser evil. But for this purpose it is clear that larger houses than those commonly found in mining districts are imperatively required, and that some supervision is necessary. At present lodgers are frequently taken into houses which are already fully occupied by the family - whether from good-nature on the part of the occupier or from the desire to make some extra profit, or because of the entire absence of alternative accommodation.
(38) RESPONSIBILITY OF THE COLLIERY COMPANIES
As was not unnatural, somewhat widely differing opinions were expressed on this point. The Sanitary Inspector (Davison) already quoted stated that he did not consider the provision of 168 houses erected by one company was sufficient for a new mine employing about 620 workers. In the same district, in West Fife, a mine had been started employing over 500 men; but when our evidence was taken nothing had been done to provide houses, owing, it was said, largely to the unwillingness of the proprietor to grant a site. About 60 men had found houses in a village nearly seven miles away; and so they had to suffer the inconvenience of living a long distance from their work, while overcrowding had resulted in the village in question. In the Harthill district of Lanarkshire new pits were being started that would employ 900 men, these attracting a population of about 3000 people. In such cases it is clear that, whatever subsidiary measures may be taken, the only direct way of diminishing overcrowding is by providing a sufficient number of new houses.
In regard to the control actually exercised by the companies in the villages which they own, opinions were also somewhat divergent. On the one hand it was stated that no effective control was exercised, and that the companies seemed to be content to let things take their course. But representatives of the companies mentioned that considerable efforts had been made to control sub-letting (though they differed somewhat as to the success of these efforts), one expedient being to " intimate a charge of double rent." In another case it was stated :-
We do not allow overcrowding. Whenever any case is reported by the factor, the occupant has either to remove the excess occupancy or is served with a notice of ejection.
In still another it was claimed that, while the company had not found it possible to deal with lodgers, they discouraged sub-letting to a separate family as much as possible, and it was consequently "very rare." The witness who mentioned the first plan said that several expedients had been tried, but" had not served any good purpose," and that the only ultimate remedy in the hands of the proprietor was ejection.
On the whole the weight of evidence was in favour
of placing on the Local Authority the duty of checking sub-letting; but it is
clear that if this is to be done effectively, the co-operation of the colliery
company or other house-owner is essential, in addition to the provision of new
and larger houses. With or without such co-operation, if the Local Authorities
rigidly enforce their powers in this matter, colliery owners will be compelled
to build more houses where required, and at the same time overcrowding will
diminish and eventually disappear. The legal powers conferred upon Local
Authorities by Section 72 of the Public Health Act, 1897, appear ample, and are
stated to have been satisfactorily applied in Lanark-shire about the year 1902,
when there was a great influx of Lithuanian workers, mostly young unmarried men,
who came to live with their compatriots, and caused acute overcrowding. But this
active policy does not appear to have been persisted in, as during five years
prior to 1914 only thirty-one cases of overcrowding had been reported to the
Sanitary Inspector for Mid-Lanark.
(39) PROPORTION OF HOUSES OWNED BY EMPLOYERS.
It is of importance to give some idea of the number of miners who are housed in dwellings belonging to the companies who employ them. The figures supplied to us were incomplete except in the case of Lanarkshire, but we give certain typical examples. In the Upper Ward of Lanarkshire, out of 2329 houses occupied by miners, 921 were owned or leased by the mine-owners; in the Middle Ward the number was 7026 out of 17,364, and in the Lower Ward 294 out of 1564, giving a proportion over the landward areas of 38.7%. It must, of course, be remembered that of the miners who live in burghs a larger proportion lease their own houses. In Stirlingshire and Dumbartonshire, out of 12.276 miners employed in 1908, 4555 lived in houses belonging to mining firms in the landward areas. In Mid-Lothian and West Lothian the proportion was much higher, amounting to 7247 out of 9621. In Ayrshire it was roughly estimated that about 30.000 miners lived in rows belonging to the companies, while 10,000 resided elsewhere. In Fife it was estimated that at least 90% of the miners resided in houses owned by the coalmasters. This, however, hardly squares with the figures supplied by the Fife Coal Company, which employed before the war about 12,700 workers, as they owned 2952 houses, accommodating on an average about 1 3/4 workers a piece, or with the figures given by the manager of the Wemyss Coal Company, who only house 34 3/4% of the workers.
The estimate of the average number of workers per house in dwellings owned by the Wemyss Coal Company, the Fife Coal Company, and the landward parts of Stirlingshire and Dumbartonshire vary only slightly, being respectively 1.6, 1.75, and 1.65. This is an important point in its bearing on the question as to the proportion of their income which miners commonly spend in house rent.
(40) THE QUESTION OF HOUSES PROVIDED BY THE
Several witnesses dealt with the general attitude of miners to the system of the "tied house," by which the miner occupies the dual position of employee and tenant of the company. We have already given figures showing the number of houses owned by certain of the more important companies, which show that the question is a large and important one. Certain witnesses emphasised the advantages of the system, the chief being that the miner is supplied with a house near his work at a cheaper rent than he would have to pay elsewhere. On this account one colliery manager stated that the men desired to come into his Company's houses, adding that the payment of the rent in small fortnightly instalments was an additional attraction. A miners' agent in West Lothian mentioned that in some districts the privately owned houses were, if anything, below the standard of the companies' houses. It is felt to be an advantage from the employers' point of view that they can count more steadily on the work of men who live in the colliery houses, especially where the pits are removed from centres of population.
This very fact, however, constitutes the chief drawback to the system from the standpoint of many of the men, who are said to have a greater sense of independence when they occupy privately owned houses. Another colliery manager in Fife stated that, owing to the rapid development of the tramway system, men often preferred to live in a centre within reach of several pits rather than to be tied to working in one. It was also argued that the double position of employer and landlord gave the owner too great a hold-over the movements of the men. The representatives of the Ayrshire Miners' Union, who used this argument, stated that in their belief the majority of the employers themselves were anxious to assist in the improvement of housing conditions, but that a considerable fear of intimidation by employers' subordinate officials still existed among the men, although probably with less reason than at an earlier time. In such cases we take the point of this evidence to be that the miners hesitate to demand improvements from their employers.
(41) TENURE OF COMPANIES' HOUSES.
The method of letting these houses in Fife was described as follows:- A new employee lodges an application for a house, stating his requirements, which are met as nearly as possible; and the miner, if he wishes, can see the house before accepting it. The period of let is commonly fourteen days, and the tenant must vacate the house when his employment terminates: although it was also stated that he is commonly allowed to stay on for a fortnight, or even a month, during which time he frequently pays no rent. When there is a pressure upon the houses of the company, men employed elsewhere cannot obtain these houses, and in one case we were informed that "lodgers employed by other companies are not allowed to be kept." This provision regarding lodgers seems to add some weight to the suspicion that the "tied-house" system may tend to encourage colliery companies to connive at overcrowding in the case of their own employees.
In addition to the evidence from the representatives of mine-owners and miners on this subject, Dr Dewar, of the Local Government Board, described at some length administrative difficulties which he had found to occur in the case of "tied houses" which had fallen into disrepair. He stated that in certain villages, whether in Fifeshire or Lanarkshire, "One is adjured in every second house 'no to say that I was complaining,' or is told brusquely on entering that 'the house is all right' when a further inspection shows that its defects are many and serious." He also suggested that owing to the magnitude of the operations of the larger companies, complaints were apt to take an unduly long time to reach anyone in effective control. Defects which are not remedied until successive complaints have been made to the factor, and then the manager, after which the Sanitary Inspector may be appealed to and write to the owner, are not necessarily serious in themselves, but the delay in their rectification may inflict great inconvenience. Dr Dewar suggested that a solution would be found "if owners of a large number of houses would lend an ear personally or by deputy to all reasonable complaints." Mr Forgie, of Wm. Baird & Co., said emphatically that they "gave every encouragement to any householder to complain past the official in charge of the houses if he does not get repairs done," and that no man would be dismissed for so doing. Dr Dewar also mentioned that a higher rent was in some cases charged to non-employees. (In this case the justification would be that houses are supplied to employees at less than the economic rent.) At the same time, Dr Dewar admitted the advantages of the system in securing the supply of houses, and stated that it worked well in the case of new houses.
The general opinion of the Miners' Unions is without doubt in favour of housing by a public authority rather than by the employer. The majority of their witnesses did not specify what they considered the second best policy, but Mr Adamson, M.P., stated clearly that, during the interval which must elapse before housing by public bodies becomes the rule, the colliery owners cannot "divest themselves of the responsibility to their workpeople for providing reasonable housing accommodation at reasonable rents." Other witnesses maintained that the first responsibility lay with the employers; and it was stated that the chief objection raised by certain of the coalowners was that provision of houses for their workpeople was not by any means the most remunerative use to which they could put their capital. It was also argued by Mr Forgie, of Messrs Wm. Baird & Co. that the provision of houses gave great trouble, and formed a responsibility not generally assumed by employers in other trades. On the other hand, it was stated by Mr Mowat, who also represented the Lanarkshire Coal Masters, that the majority of firms would be willing to build any class of house that the miners wished, provided that they saw their way to secure 4 per cent, net return.
On the whole, the provision of houses by the employers is regarded on both sides as the second best course; but in isolated districts at all times, and in all districts for a considerable period before the war, outside builders had shown no readiness to step in to fill the gap. Thus the practical choice appears to lie between building by the employers or by the public authority, or partly by the one and partly by the other - a large question of general policy which we discuss elsewhere.
(42) THE PROSPECTIVE EXHAUSTION OF COAL-MINES IN
ITS BEARING ON HOUSING.
The problem of the effect on housing when the pit or pits for which the houses were provided approach the stage of being worked out was referred to at length by several witnesses. There can be no doubt that the possibility of this has been used as an excuse for the neglect to repair dilapidated houses or for the continued use of houses that are practically uninhabitable; and a real administrative difficulty has thus been created. We endeavoured to discover how far the difficulty was a genuine one, as it would be if coalowners were either faced with the loss of good houses or compelled to spend on the renovation of old houses a sum out of proportion to their prospective utility and value. On the whole, we came to the conclusion that, looked at from this point of view, it had been very considerably exaggerated. The clearest testimony to its existence was that of the Medical Officer for Midlothian, who stated that "in certain districts there are many houses uninhabited owing to the closing of a pit or work, with the consequent departure of the occupants to other places" ; and he cited the case of Bonnyrigg (in Midlothian), where "some very good houses were being gradually emptied" from this cause. One case was quoted from Lanarkshire and one from Ayrshire, in which houses had to be removed because of the abandonment of the colliery from the practical exhaustion of the minerals. In the former case the houses were rebuilt eight or nine miles away. No other clear case (i.e. where the houses were not subjects of complaint on the ground of dilapidation) was quoted, while several witnesses drew attention to the fact that the question is now less one of the life of the individual pit than whether the coalfield as a whole is approaching exhaustion. In certain cases (e.g. in the Slamannan district, Stirlingshire) the latter may occur, but other cases were quoted in which coalfields well over a hundred years old had entered on a fresh term of activity. Owing to improved methods, thinner seams can be worked now than formerly; nor will mine-owners readily erect the expensive plant now necessary if the pit is only likely to last for a short term of years. On this point Mr Forgie's statement is authoritative regarding Lanarkshire. There is little doubt, he says, that new collieries (with few exceptions) will have expectations of at least thirty to forty years' life; and he adds that the coalfields in Lanarkshire will go on for a long time yet, so that there is not much chance of any house property, built even at the present moment, being left unoccupied. It must also be remembered that the advent of the bicycle and the electric tramway have, as we have already pointed out, made it possible for workers to travel regularly to pits at a considerable distance from their homes.
Thus this particular form of the difficulty does not seem to be one which need cause much trouble in the case of houses erected in the future. But undoubtedly the tendency to reopen mines which had been closed or were on the point of closure, and the increased facilities for locomotion just referred to, have quite definitely led to the continued use of houses which had ceased to be habitable. The notorious case of the houses at West Benhar, in the county of Lanark, illustrates the danger that houses which have fallen below present standards and have been transferred at a cheap rate to a private owner may continue to find occupiers, because of the lack of alternative accommodation. The County Clerk of Ayrshire stated that he only knew of one case in that county where the termination of the lease had led to special difficulties regarding housing. This was the case of Darnconner, and here there could be no question of hardship to the owners, the only question being whether the houses should not have been closed long before. These houses belonged to Messrs Wm. Baird & Co.
(43) THE QUESTION OF TERMINATION OF COLLIERY
Thus, while under present conditions there appears to be little danger of colliery houses becoming derelict through lack of occupants while they are still in good structural condition, there does appear to be some cause for dissatisfaction with the arrangements for the disposal of houses at the termination of the company's lease of a particular mine. In such cases the houses may be handed over to the superior for a comparatively small sum. One case was quoted in Lanarkshire where at the end of a twenty-one years' lease (in 1904) a company had to clear away a large number of houses which it had erected, not on account of the exhaustion of the minerals, but simply because the lease had terminated, and by its provisions the lessees were bound to remove the houses. Mr Forgie stated that, owing to the heavy capital expenditure involved in present-day mining, the limitation of leases of land for housing to thirty-one years (which was formerly the limit on entailed estates) was not now desirable. We agree, and think a colliery owner should be entitled to a renewal of his lease on terms to be agreed on between him and the superior, or failing agreement on terms to be fixed by an arbiter. Apart from any possible hardship to the companies on account of termination of lease, an undoubted administrative difficulty is raised when, owing to the termination of the colliery lease, the houses have become the property of some party other than the company from whom the company rent them for the use of their workers. The company may accordingly be held responsible for the condition of the houses so long as they are so rented by them, although the houses do not actually belong to them. This is precisely the same difficulty which commonly occurs in the case of farm-servants' cottages - the difficulty being to determine whether the landlord of the farm or the farmer who rents the farm and cottages from him is responsible for the upkeep of the houses. Several of the worst groups of houses which we saw in Fife were instances of this divided responsibility, which was said by the Clerk of Works of the Raith estate to be "a very bad system, as the proprietor is held responsible by the Local Authority for the upkeep and condition of these houses, over which he has no control." We do not enter into the case of the houses belonging to the Corporation of Dunfermline, at Townhill, as many have now been closed. In this instance the Town Council let the colliery along with the houses on a nineteen years' lease, the rent obtained for the ninety-seven houses being £50. For many years the Local Government Board had the greatest difficulty in securing the repair or closure of the houses, the divided responsibility between the Town Council and the colliery company forming one element of difficulty.
There appear to be two possible solutions of these difficulties. The best (and the one we recommend) is that the colliery company should obtain the land required for building houses as a feu independent of the mineral lease. This is the policy now followed by Messrs Wm. Baird & Company ; and even in the event of the colliery having to be abandoned, the company would be in a stronger position regarding its houses, as they would not revert to the superior. The other alternative, which appears less desirable but would still be an improvement on the present system, is that there should be a definite valuation of the houses at the termination of the lease. If this were carried out by a representative of the Local Authority, there would be a guarantee that the state of the houses and the degree of wear and tear which they had suffered would be taken into account in the price awarded. In this case the superior would have some guidance as to the sanitary condition of the houses, and consequently their prospective life. Dr Dewar made the further suggestion that, in cases which are not complicated by the question of the transference of the houses, where the prospective exhaustion of a coal-mine is advanced as a reason for avoiding necessary expenditure on houses, a short time limit should be fixed, at the end of which measures would be taken "to secure that the houses in question be either renovated or closed and demolished." The principle of the time limit is open to the objection that during its currency nothing will be done for the upkeep of the houses.
On the whole, we consider that the recommendations made (1) that mine-owners should be entitled in future to obtain ground for their houses under feu-charter, and (2) that where they presently own houses built under leasehold tenure but do not desire to convert them into a feu, that such houses should, at the termination of a lease - if the superior is reletting the minerals to a new tenant - be taken over by the superior at a valuation, should go a long way to remove the evils which presently exist by reason of the dual ownership of the colliery site for houses. In this connection we hold strongly that a mine-owner and his assignees should - under statute - be entitled to a renewal of his lease of the minerals and of the sites for housing on terms which - failing agreement between the parties - would be fixed by a single arbiter. This point would have an important effect on good housing, as it would give the mine-owner security of tenure. In regard to the remaining class of case, viz, that in which the mine is or is averred to be nearing exhaustion, we do not recommend any alteration in the law, but we do suggest that the law should be rigorously applied. We cannot be any party to recommending any time-limit arrangement which would have the effect of allowing houses unfit for occupation to remain inhabited. If houses are unfit for occupation, and the owner will not or cannot make them fit for occupation, they should be closed. It will be for the Local Authority then to consider what steps they should take to provide sufficient housing accommodation for the people to be dishoused. If the houses are near other mines or other centres of industry, it may be that the Local Authority would, in the exercise of their discretion, deem it their duty to erect new houses. If, on the other hand, the mine is remote from any other centre of population, and if the Local Authority decide not to build new houses, they shall be entitled to require the mine-owner to erect such temporary houses as we recommend for cases where a mine is being opened and the minerals have not been proved, and failing the mine-owner erecting such houses the Local Authority should be entitled to do so themselves and to recover the cost from the mine-owner by way of special assessment. We refer to the recommendation which we make for temporary housing in the case of a mine being opened, and its being difficult or impossible to prove whether the minerals will be workable at a profit until a year or two has elapsed. (See succeeding paragraph.)
(44) DIFFICULTIES AT THE START OF NEW MINES AND
QUESTION OF TEMPORARY HOUSING.
More than one witness familiar with the conditions under which new mines are started called our attention to the uncertain prospects of some mines in the early stages of their development. Some time must elapse before it is apparent whether they will prove successful. Unexpected "faults" or other hindrances may occur, and the mine may even have to be abandoned. In these cases it is urged that the proprietors cannot at the outset commit themselves to the full capital expenditure required for the housing on permanent lines of the whole staff of the mine. It seems obvious, however, that no one else can relieve them of responsibility; and in many cases, both in isolated situations and in populous districts where there is no margin of unoccupied sanitary houses, new accommodation must be provided to meet the newly arising need. On this subject the words of the District Clerk of the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire are worth quoting :-
This is a new industry coming to the district, with the full knowledge that there are no houses available for the workmen. They (i.e. the promoters) must, as a commercial venture, reckon what it is to cost the concern to have the workers brought there, or they must be prepared to make adequate provision themselves.
He added that it would not be reasonable for an employer to "start his works and then say, 'We request the Local Authority to provide houses.' "
Thus in most cases of this kind it seems clear that the responsibility for the provision of houses must lie with the employer. If there is a limitation in the mineral lease to thirty-one years or some similar figure, the portion of the rents set aside for depreciation must be sufficient to wipe out the cost in that period. But if the difficulty springs from a real uncertainty as to the success of the mine, it is more difficult to indicate a remedy. It was suggested by Mr Walker Smith of the Local Government Board that in such cases temporary housing might be provided by means of sectional buildings. This plan was criticised on the ground that such wood and iron buildings, if they are satisfactorily constructed at all, are themselves somewhat costly, and that when they go wrong they do so very quickly. But though they may not last as long as brick and slate, they may serve a temporary need at two or three different places ; and at all events they can more easily be moved from place to place, if, as in the Lanarkshire case already referred to, it is necessary to take down a number of houses, transport them some miles, and re-erect them. Our inspection of the "Hut village" at Rosyth makes us incline to the view that the principle of transferable housing, there applied on a large scale by Messrs Easton Gibb & Co., may be commended to the attention of mine-owners entering on a new and uncertain development. But the plan and occupancy of such houses should be fully controlled by the Local Authority and some undertaking should be entered into that, if the mine proves profitable, permanent houses will be erected within a definite, and not too great, number of years.
We recommend that until it is proved in the case of a new mine that it is carried on at a profit and likely to be permanent, or at all events that it will have many years of life, the Local Authority should have power - where permanent houses are not otherwise available - to allow the mine-owner to erect temporary housing, which would probably take the form of huts constructed of wood and iron. These would, of course, be adequately ventilated and placed on carefully chosen sites approved by the Local Authority. They might be registered to accommodate a given number of adults and children, regard being had to the proper separation of the sexes.
If such a system for the control of construction and use of temporary houses were adopted at the outset, it would be possible to place a time limit, say of ten years, on the use of these buildings as dwellings for families. Before this period had elapsed it would be possible to judge if the mine was likely to be permanent, and, if so, the duty would then lie on the Local Authority to see that permanent housing was provided-either by the mine-owner or, failing his doing so, then by the Local Authorities themselves, subject to a power of special assessment on the mine-owner. This we shall further discuss in our General Policy and Recommendations.
(45) OCCUPYING OWNERSHIP AMONG MINERS-LEADHILLS
In the West of Scotland the building of houses by miners for their own occupation has been, in the main, confined to two districts. In the Middle Ward of Lanarkshire, out of 574 houses owned by miners, 299, or more than half, are in the parish of Dalserf, which includes Larkhall. The other district comprises Leadhills, and the adjoining village of Wanlockhead, in Dumfriesshire, which together form a very interesting community. They are the two highest villages in Scotland, and they are inhabited by workers in the lead mines of a race long accustomed to this employment. They have also, like the crofters of the Western Highlands, been accustomed to a large extent to build their own houses; and in many cases they are sufficiently skilled in construction in concrete to erect dwellings capable of withstanding the weather at an altitude of about 1300 feet. The houses are small, and for the most part lacking in modern conveniences, but they are scrupulously well kept. The Leadhills houses are held from the Marquis of Linlithgow on a somewhat unusual tenure. These villages give an interesting example of what can be done in the provision of houses by an independent community, even though wages have commonly been low (from about 20s. to 25s.); but space does not allow us to enter into full details, as the lead-miners form a type by themselves, working under conditions very different from those obtaining in the great coalfields.
At Larkhall, an old weaving community, now chiefly engaged in mining, the building-society movement goes back for a little over 100 years, as the pioneer Society was founded in 1815, a quarter of a century before that already referred to at Shotts. Unlike Falkirk, Dumbarton, and other towns, where the building-society movement has flourished, Larkhall, instead of one large society, has had a succession of at least sixteen smaller societies, by which the best houses in the town have been erected. The procedure followed has been very similar in all. A number of miners or others desirous of obtaining houses have formed a Society, and paid regular contributions until enough money was in hand to start the erection of the first group of houses, the occupancy of which was determined by ballot. It was then possible to borrow on the houses erected sufficient sums to enable the scheme to be completed. The procedure was so expeditious and the building so economical that one Society, starting with eighteen members in 1898, in a little over two years had provided eighteen houses at an average cost, including fencing and road-making, of £105 per house. It was expected that the debt would be entirely cleared off in about nineteen years. The rents were £6 for the first four years, and £5 thereafter. There was also a contribution to sinking fund, making (with the rent) a total of £10, 4s. per annum.
In regard to the finance of these societies, it is interesting to note that the money has all been found locally; and in some cases a single lender has financed a society. The highest rate charged has been 4 per cent., but money has been usually obtained at 3 1/2%. The Inspector of Poor stated only a month before the outbreak of war that no difficulty was found in obtaining capital - "We have quite a number of men who will give us money at 3 1/2 or 3 1/4 %." This indicates the confidence felt locally in the stability of these societies, and the regularity with which instalments are paid; and the business capacity of their members is shown by the fact that they save expense by doing much of their own legal work. The care and economy with which these societies have done their work is shown also by the figures for cost of construction just given. Even in view of the fact that the houses were built just before the sharp rise of prices of the last twelve or fifteen years, £105 is a remarkably low figure for the inclusive cost of a stone-built and slated house with two large rooms, a coal cellar, sink and water-closet, and a garden.
In these houses the rooms are of a good size - about 18 feet by 16 feet in the houses built about 1860 (the intention here having originally been to use the "room" as a weaver's shop), and somewhat smaller in the case of the Society which started in 1898. Till recently, no attempt has been made to modify the usual mining custom of keeping two beds in the kitchen, but in the three- and four-room houses, which represent the best result of the Building Societies' work, this has become needless. Of the forty four-apartment houses recently built, twelve are semi-detached cottages of good design, the rest being built in terraces ; but in both types the parlour has a large bow window, and all these houses are provided with baths.
We visited examples both of the older and newer
"building-society houses," and found ample evidence of "house-pride" ; and the
contrast in one case between the care taken of two-apartment houses of this type
by their owners, and the state of one-apartment rented houses in the immediate
neighbourhood was very striking. The strong expression of opinion by the
Inspector of Poor was fully borne out that-
comparing the condition of the workers dwelling in their houses with those in the (ordinary) miners' rows, the standard of comfort, cleanliness, and frugality are vastly improved, and a higher moral tone pervades the lives of the families.
There was also strong evidence of the interest taken in the gardens and the profit derived from them, As regards other districts in Lanarkshire, Mr Forgie, Director of Wm. Baird & Co., said :-
Only to a very small extent do miners own their own houses. A few of our provident workmen who have had good health and constant employment have, with the aid of the Building Societies, become owners of their own houses.
He gave particulars of seven employees of his firm at Bothwell who owned houses containing from three to eight apartments, in every case with water-closet and bath with hot and cold water.
(46) OCCUPYING OWNERSHIP AMONG MINERS-OTHER
Of other coalfields, a portion of East Fife is the district in which this arrangement is most usual; but the manager of the Wemyss Coal Company stated that he would only estimate the number of miners owning their own houses at 3%. Those who do so usually build a small block of houses, of two and three rooms alternately, occupying one themselves, and letting the other or others. According to this witness these houses are of about the same class as the Company's houses, and are not provided with baths. But the mines' agent of the Fife Coal Company in East Fife spoke of the miners as building a superior type of house -
these generally take the shape of a four-roomed cottage, with bathroom and water-closet combined, and have a garden attached.
It is worthy of note that the relative frequency of house-owning by the miners in East Fife is associated with a widespread interest in gardening; and that, especially in the village of Windygates, sites have been chosen in the centre of a large mining district, from which various pits are accessible by cycle, and so the miner is not tied by the possession of his house to employment in any one mine.
Among the miners' representatives there seems to be some variety of opinion as to the extent to which this policy should be encouraged. The miners' agent for West Lothian said that he thought that the number of miners owning their own houses in that district was under 5%, and added that the miner's calling is such that he cannot, even if he had saved sufficient money to build, take the risk of doing so. He has to change his work often. The general secretary of the Shale Miners' Association, dealing with the same district, argued that the burden of repayment of the cost of the house at the rate charged by the Building Societies was found to be too great, and that in consequence the purchaser was sometimes glad to escape from his obligation even at a sacrifice. He indicated, however, that if money could be more cheaply obtained from Government his opinion might be modified. The representatives of the Lanarkshire Miners' Union also argued in favour of the latter proposal, stating that the percentage charged by Building Societies, and the heavy legal fees, formed a barrier to their extension. While declining to commit themselves to any definite figures, they expressed their belief that -
there is a desire on the part of a good number of people to build their own houses. If the miners were to get the offer of money on the conditions stated, they would readily take it up.
On the whole the experience of the few mining
districts where the principle of occupying ownership has taken root suggests
that, in view of the good wages commonly earned by miners, it is capable of
being adopted more widely. But we doubt whether it will ever be widely popular
amongst the mining or any other working-class community which, generally
speaking, looking to its occupational conditions, is subject to change, or the
risk of change, of residence from one district to another.
(47) SUMMARY OF SUBJECTS ON WHICH
RECOMMENDATIONS ARE MADE IN LATER CHAPTERS.
Before dealing with the special question of damage caused to the surface by subsidence from mineral workings, we wish briefly to indicate how and where we propose in this Report to deal with the questions in regard to the housing of miners which arise out of the discussion and description in this chapter.
There are, as will be gathered from this Report on
the housing conditions in mining areas, many matters in respect of which
improvement is urgently called for. Most of these, however, are not peculiar to
mining communities, but obtain generally in housing conditions through Scotland
- though perhaps not always in the same acute degree. Accordingly, we propose to
deal with these matters in detail in the portion of this Report where we set out
our policy and recommendations, and meantime we content ourselves with
enumerating the subjects that we will discuss later, and upon which we will give
definite recommendations. These subjects are : -
(1) The responsibility for providing houses in mining areas.
(2) The maintenance of houses and the control of subletting.
(3) The conditions on which defective houses will be allowed to continue to be occupied in cases where the " life " of the mine is, or is alleged to be, very limited.
(4) Increased control over the planning of new villages, including approval of sites of houses, lay-out of streets, number of houses per acre, provision of garden and recreation ground, etc.
(5) Provision of proper water and drainage schemes, and introduction of water into houses.
(6) Provision of suitable and adequate sanitary conveniences and of baths, sculleries, coal-stores, etc.
(7) Increased powers to obviate difficulties associated with the adoption by landward Local Authorities of the Burghs Gas Supply (Scotland) Act, 1876.
(48) DAMAGE CAUSED BY SUBSIDENCE.
The hardship caused by damage to house-property through subsidence due to mineral workings was prominently brought forward by various witnesses both from Fifeshire and Lanarkshire. The emphasis laid on it seemed indeed somewhat out of proportion to the areas actually affected, but where damage on a considerable scale has occurred it is felt as, and in our opinion is, a very definite grievance that the house-owner has to bear the whole loss. The feu-charters in use in these districts expressly exclude any claim for compensation on account of mineral workings altering the level or affecting the stability of the site.
In both the counties named we were able to verify by observation the accounts given of the process by which properties are damaged and in a few extreme cases destroyed. The first sign of loss of stability in the site is the appearance of cracks in sills and lintels. These may be followed by cracks running up the whole height of a wall; and by this time floors become uneven and difficult to clean, shelving gets warped or broken, doors refuse to open and shut ceilings bulge and crack, and falls of plaster become frequent. In some cases partition walls may begin to part from the main walls.
Mr Paul, manager of the Lochgelly Coal and Iron Company, told us that at this stage the main support of the building is the ceiling joists, which tend to hold the building together. With the passing of the subsidence, the walls sometimes gradually resume their former perpendicular position, but as a general rule some repairs or rebuilding are necessary to make the house habitable.
One cause of very real hardship to occupiers is that house-owners, whether colliery companies or others, prefer to wait till the subsidence is over and the site has resumed its stability at a lower level before executing repairs, as it is more economical and more effective to perform the repairs all at one time - when the subsidence has ceased. Thus the tenant may have months to wait, with his rooms draughty and every part of his dwelling cracked and uneven. In some cases emergency measures must be taken to prevent accidents, though, owing to the gradual working of subsidence, there is much less actual danger to occupiers than might have been anticipated. In one row of comparatively new houses belonging to the Fife Coal Company (Adams Terrace, Kelty), some of the houses had been closed at the time of our visit, but others were still occupied, though daylight was visible through the cracks and the structure had to be shored up with stout timber posts placed in one or two instances inside the rooms. It should be explained that the reason for this subsidence being so hurtful to the property was the existence of a previously unknown old-fashioned "stoop and room" working of an upper seam near the surface.
It is obvious that the water and gas connections of
houses so damaged must be seriously interfered with ; and the danger to health
through injury to drains and sewers is even more serious. The Medical Officer of
Health for Motherwell stated that -
frequently the normal fall of drains and sewers is reversed in their whole length or in parts. The sewage is left stagnant and only escapes by overflowing into the sewer lower down or on to the street, whichever point is lowest.
The same reversal of flow has been known to occur at Thornton in Fife. It was also reported that fear of injury through subsidence had been one factor in hindering the formation of a much-needed drainage district in Mid-Lanark. The expenditure incurred by the Corporation of Hamilton over a period of several years through damage of this character averaged about £1000 per annum or 2d. on the rates. In this sum the largest item was loss through leakage of gas, above the leakage normal in other towns, £686 per annum. The burgh has, however, in the past received a very large revenue from mineral royalties. In November 1913 the Town Council of Motherwell expended £513 on the repair of a main sewer damaged through subsidence, and somewhat later found themselves confronted by an expenditure of about £1000 on repairs to sewage purification works which had cost £8000. These figures do not include the expenditure of private individuals on repairs to pipes and drains damaged through subsidence.
As regards the expense and inconvenience to private individuals, the Provost of Hamilton gave particulars of damage to eight properties, with a large number of tenants, portions of which had to be taken down and rebuilt, and in six of which tenants had to be warned out. The expenditure amounted in seven of the eight cases to more than one year's rental; while in the case of two small properties, with rentals of £50, 10s. and £53, it reached the sums of £500 and £450 respectively. Mr Findlay, ex-M.P. for North-East Lanark, mentioned sixteen houses which he had erected for his workers and which had been wrecked beyond the possibility of repair; but in this case compensation was given ex gratia by one of the beneficiaries of the estate in question.
The structural damage caused in Motherwell was estimated as £20,000 in twenty years, or an average of £1000 per annum, not including minor repairs to plaster, gas-pipes, etc., or the loss of rents during the period of repair ; but this estimate was criticised as being below the mark.
Other indirect difficulties may also result from the sense of uncertainty caused by the frequency or fears of subsidence. Our attention was called to the impossibility, owing to such fears, of obtaining new loans over house property in the towns specially affected. On the other hand, Mr Fraser (the Dalzell estate factor), while admitting that it was impossible to secure loans for house-building, attributed the responsibility for this state of matters to the public "agitation" for securing compensation as a right. It was also said that the congestion of certain parts of the burgh of Hamilton, which contain from 70 to 144 houses per acre, in spite of the fact that there is considerable free space in other parts, " must to a certain extent be attributed to the difficulty of securing stable sites."
(49) SUGGESTIONS REGARDING SUBSIDENCE.
Suggestions for a remedy fall under two heads : - Prevention; and Compensation for damage caused.
It was suggested by more than one witness that the damage which we have described is in some cases due to the unsuitable design or defective construction of houses, and that if attention was paid to the proper drainage of sites and provision of substantial foundations it might be much reduced. This witness recommended the construction of single-storey houses with strong concrete foundations in groups of three or four. The houses previously referred to in Adams Terrace, Kelty, had two storeys, and the architect of the Fife Coal Company attributed the severity of the damage largely to this. The restriction of houses to a single storey and the avoidance of long continuous rows is possible and desirable in some districts, but, so far as the practicability of building single-storey houses is concerned, hardly affords a solution for the congested urban areas of Mid-Lanark. At the same time, this is an additional reason why new developments in mining districts should be on " Garden City " lines ; and with modern improvements of transit, it may become possible to remove many of the houses from the actual mining area. Another form of prevention consists in the working of the coal in such a way as to avoid a sudden or irregular lowering of the surface; but this is a highly technical question regarding which we can do no more than call attention to its obvious importance.
There is, indeed a third possibility - that the main seams of coal under dwelling-houses or public buildings or works should be left unworked in order to support the surface; but no witness seriously suggested this course. The value of the minerals required to support a given area of surface represents many times the capital value of the surface for ordinary building purposes; and, in addition to the capital value, there is even the more important question of the general industrial prosperity of the district and of the wages which are paid when the coal is being extracted. In certain cases where public buildings or other edifices of special consequence are involved support has been left, but when such blocks of coal are left, the damage, if subsidence should occur, to the surrounding property is much greater.
In other areas, where the feu-charter provides for compensation being paid for disturbance and damage, only about one-third has been extracted, large pillars, about two-thirds, being left to support the surface. One such case is that of a colliery, now closed, which, for thirty-five years, extracted coal under the burgh of Hamilton. The closing of the colliery has resulted in a considerable loss of revenue to the town and of employment to workmen in the district. Thus there was general agreement that the coal must be taken out, the only questions being how to do so with least chance of damage, and in the event of damage by whom it should be made good.
One method was brought to our notice by which the
stability of the surface can be secured, and which has been largely practised in
the North of France and in Westphalia. It is that of "hydraulic stowage," by
which the place of the coal removed is taken by sand or fine gravel introduced
under high pressure, which rapidly solidifies. In one mine near Bothwell on the
Dalzell estate, where there was the danger of an inrush of water from the river
Clyde, this operation has been successfully carried out. This also is a
technical matter on which we cannot afford to pronounce, further than to state
that its adoption in favourable circumstances (i.e. where water and suitable
stowage material are readily obtainable) was strongly recommended by one or two
competent witnesses; but that the majority of those who dealt with the matter
gave their opinion that under Scots conditions the expense would be greater than
that of providing compensation for surface damage. This expense would, we
understand, amount to about 1s. 6d. per ton, or more than an average colliery
(The Town Council of the burgh of Hamilton, after considering a special report obtained by them from mining engineers in regard to the adoption of the hydraulic stowage system in the collieries at Hamilton, resolved not to proceed with such work on the ground that the expense involved would render the working of the minerals unprofitable.)
Compensation for Damage through Subsidence
While we wish to emphasise the importance of taking all suitable measures for reducing injury to buildings through subsidence, it appears that there will still remain a number of cases in which damage is likely to be caused; and here the state of the law is of importance. In certain of the older feus, compensation was, as a matter of fact, given for loss through mineral damage, and this is apparently still the case in certain estates in Lanarkshire where damage has not been frequent. But in the majority of cases in Mid-Lanark, and also in Fifeshire, in which land has been given off for building or other purposes of recent years, a stringent clause is introduced into the feu-charter exempting the superior from all liability in this connection. The land acquired by Local Authorities for drainage and other schemes has been acquired on these terms. It was represented to us that this form of charter contracts the superior out of his liability at common law to provide a stable surface for building where he exacts a rent or feu-duty for the land; but whatever may be said as to the equity or inequity of this, the clauses in question have been upheld in the Courts, nor is their legal validity now challenged. It was authoritatively decided by the House of Lords in the case of Buchanan v. Andrew, 10th March 1872, that as the contracts were voluntarily entered into, they must receive effect according to their terms, however great the hardship might be.
Three arguments were advanced in defence of the present arrangement. (1) Following the line of the House of Lords judgement just quoted, it was stated to us that feuars enter into the contract with full information as to its nature and bearing, and consequently there is no case for legislative interference. To this it was replied with much cogency that the freedom of contract enjoyed by the feuar is more apparent than real, since houses must be found within reasonable distance of the mines or steel-works which provide employment. Where all estates disclaim responsibility for damage through subsidence there is no effective choice, and the whole risk falls upon the proprietor of the dwellings.
(2) It was represented by the factor on the Dalzell estate, Motherwell (one of the chief estates concerned), that the risk had been discounted when the feu-duty was fixed. On this estate the feu-duties vary from £10 per acre for buildings for religious purposes and public works to £20 to £24 per acre for dwelling-houses, but the latter figure includes the cost of making feuing roads for opening up the estate for feuing purposes and providing the land for roads; and it was contended that the fact that certain portions of ground had been sub-feued at an increased rate showed that the feu-duty was reasonable. On other estates the terms regarding road-making and development are not so generous. But even on the assumption - which we think has not been proved - that feus in Motherwell and Hamilton are lower than burghs of similar character elsewhere, this would not meet the case of the individual feuar or tenant, as the damage caused by subsidence is very capricious and unequal.
It was suggested that his case would be met by a system of mutual insurance equalising the risk, but so far no such scheme has proved practicable. One was indeed initiated by the Dalzell estate in the year 1907, but did not come into action, the reasons being variously given as-that a majority of the feuars thought it unnecessary, and that the proposed initial premium was too high and would have constituted a considerable burden. The suggested premium at the commencement was 10s. per cent, on the rental capitalised at fifteen years' purchase, or 7 1/2 per cent, on the annual value. This would eventually find its way into the rent of the property and with the increased rates and taxes on the higher rental would, we think, prove a serious burden to working-class occupiers - especially the poorer paid workers. But the fundamental objection from the feuar's or tenant's point of view to a system of mutual insurance, is that it would result in making them pay as a class for the damage caused by subsidence to individual properties - damage for which, in their view, the superior should be made statutorily liable.
(3) The third argument in defence of the present system is that full information regarding the thickness and depths of seams and plans for working them is commonly placed at the disposal of feuars before the contract is completed ; and the factor on the Dalzell estate said that, if he had any doubt as to the stability of a site, he was increasingly careful not to feu it. But while this information is no doubt given in perfectly good faith, both on the part of colliery managers and estate authorities, there is some occasion to question its permanent accuracy. For plans for securing minerals may be extended, and the working programme of a mine may change, while the worst damage is often caused at some distance from the actual working or along the margin between different workings-all of which factors may reduce the value of the information given. Nor can it be claimed that the colliery managers can themselves predict with certainty the areas of subsidence ; for if they could do so accurately they would not themselves build new houses to be wrecked in a few years, as at Kelty. Referring to Kelty, the architect of the Fife Coal Company says, " It is usual to select sites for the workers' houses where damage is likely to be least, but it is impossible to completely obviate the trouble. The conditions in this instance were not known when the site was fixed upon." For these reasons it appears to us that the protection given to intending feuars in the form of information, in many cases verbal only, as to the prospective removal of under-lying minerals is seriously inadequate.
The recognition of a strong moral and equitable claim to compensation is not a new thing. One case has already been mentioned in which a lady, the beneficiary of a trust concerned, gave liberal compensation for damage caused. On a leading estate in Lanarkshire compensation was formerly given ex gratia in serious cases, but the attitude of the estate changed when efforts were made by the feuars to secure support for a Bill in Parliament giving them right to compensation. Generally this state of matters discriminates unfairly between different feuars or lessees, nor is it a satisfactory arrangement that the majority should be denied what a minority receive at the option of the superior.
The force of these arguments was recognised by the
Select Committee on Feus and-Building Leases, which reported in 1894, summing up
their view as follows :-
A majority of the Committee think that there is ground for the legislature interfering to reinstate or reserve this common-law claim to damages, both in the case of past and future feu grants, though not for requiring that support should be left for the surface and the buildings upon it, and thus in effect prohibiting the working out of the minerals. A minority dissent from this view, in so far as it relates to feu grants already existing, but think that it might properly receive effect as regards future feu grants.
The majority of this Committee thus endorsed the principle of the One-Clause Bill which has been frequently brought forward, but has never received facilities in the House of Commons, providing that the " contracting-out " clause in feu-charters with respect to damage through subsidence due to the working of minerals should be null and void.
There remains, however, certain important points in the application of this principle, which we shall indicate.
There is, first, the question of the extent of
compensation. The factor of the Dalzell estate near Motherwell stated that -
in every instance where a house or any part thereof is rendered uninhabitable it would be equitable to bind the mineral tenants to restore such abnormal damage.
But, against this limited application of the principle, it was argued with much reason that it is not these " abnormal " cases in which a property is rendered definitely uninhabitable which occasion the most frequent hardship, but cases in which the damage falls short of this but yet necessitates a heavy, and not infrequently a recurrent, expenditure to make good. On the other hand it seems needful, while admitting the claim of such cases, to give security against claims being run up to an exaggerated and fanciful figure. The Town Clerk of Motherwell (Mr Burns) stated that he himself had repaired damage to his own house (" simply . . . putting plaster and paper on the walls ") at a cost of about £10 twenty years before, but that in an ordinary arbitration he " could have got a couple of hundred pounds out of somebody." Mr Burns's estimate of what he might have got by arbitration seems too optimistic even for a compensation claim, but the idea underlying the cheerfulness of his figures serves to illustrate the danger - amounting practically to a certainty - of exaggerated compensation being given under the ordinary process of arbitration relative to claims connected with land or heritable property. Mr Fraser stated that damage to the Town Hall. Motherwell, estimated at first at £3500, had eventually been repaired for £33. It is only fair to say that when £3500 was mentioned, it was feared that practically the whole building would collapse. This fear happily turned out to be unfounded, because, as a result of the outcry, or of the appearance of the building and the seeming imminence of the fall of the tower of the hall, the superior and lessee of the mine left in sufficient mineral to avoid wrecking the hall. Again, Mr Fraser stated emphatically that his fear, from the point of view of the superior, was not so much that of the actual amount of compensation, as the protracted arbitration proceedings and legal expenses which would be involved. But this appears rather to be an argument for granting redress limited to proved and necessary expenditure in making good damage, and simplifying the machinery by which it is assessed, than for refusing it altogether in cases where the building is not actually destroyed. If an arbiter were appointed officially who was competent both to assess the amount of damage and to determine its cause, the procedure need not be either lengthy or expensive.
We are in agreement with the unanimous finding of the Select Committee on Feus and Building Leases (Scotland), already quoted, to the effect that there is ground for the legislature interfering to reinstate or reserve the common-law claim to damages. We think on grounds of public policy, and particularly in the interests of good housing of the working people, " contracting-out " by the superior of the surface of his common-law liability for damage by subsidence owing to mineral workings should be disallowed. We also agree with the majority of the Select Committee that the common-law claim to damages should be reinstated in the case of existing feu grants, subject, however, to the proviso that compensation should not be payable in respect of past damage, but only in respect of damage that takes place after the passing of the Act giving effect to the views of the Select Committee. To our view the feuar or lessee - being the proprietor of the buildings (or other works) - should be entitled - subject to the proviso aftermentioned in regard to subsidence caused by damage owing to working under a mineral lease existing at the time the Act of Parliament is passed - to compensation, limited and assessed, as above explained, from the superior of the surface from whom he (the feuar or lessee) has obtained his title. Where the superior of the surface is also the superior of the minerals the matter would end there, for, as will presently be seen, we consider that the superior of the minerals should be the person ultimately responsible for payment of the damage. But in our view, where there are two superiors, viz. (a) of the surface, and (b) of the minerals, the superior of the surface should be entitled to relief for any compensation for which he is found liable against the superior of the minerals. True, in future contracts the superior of the minerals may be able to transfer the burden or a portion of it to the mine-owner, and the mine-owner may be able to pass it on to the consumer. Even if that be so, we think that the coal industry and those interested in it, including the consumer, may be left to adjust the burden for subsidence damage as they may find themselves able to. Our point is that individual owners of property on the surface should not be left, as they are left at present, to bear the burden of the damage caused to their properties by subsidence from the working of minerals, the income from and the consumption of which benefits various other persons.
We, of course, have in view that damage may be caused to buildings after the Act of Parliament which we have recommended is passed, but under mineral leases entered into prior to the date of the Act of Parliament. Even so, we think the owners of property on the surface should have compensation, but it becomes a matter for consideration in what equitable manner in such cases should the compensation be allocated over the different parties interested. From the public and administrative point of view, as we have indicated, it is essential that damage to house property should be made good, and it is not in the public interests that the operation of the law in favour of giving repairing damage should be postponed until all the existing mineral leases have run out, which really would postpone the beneficial operation of the new Act of Parliament for an indefinite number of years - at least, in many cases. Our recommendation is that the damage caused by subsidence from working under mineral leases existing at the time the proposed Act of Parliament is passed should - on the principle of dividing the cost amongst the different parties interested in an equitable manner - be borne as follows : - When the superior of the surface is different from the superior of the minerals, each superior should bear one-third of the damage limited and assessed in the manner above explained, and the remaining one-third should be borne by the feuar himself. In the case of the superior of the surface and the superior of the minerals being the same individual, he should bear - in respect of his double interest (a) in the surface, and (b) in the minerals - two-thirds of the damage as before, and the remaining one-third should be borne by the feuar.
Several witnesses before us urged that some liability for compensation in the mine-owner's case would have a salutary effect in promoting the working of the minerals in the way least likely to damage the surface needlessly. The fact that on the Continent the responsibility of compensation for damage lies with the mine-owner is said to have had much to do with the introduction of "hydraulic stowage " to protect the surface. Whether that be correct or not, our recommendation that the superior of the mineral royalty should be liable for subsidence damage will no doubt result in a careful bargain with the mine-owner as to how he shall work the minerals so as to obviate, so far as possible, the risk of such damage.
We think there should be an obligation upon the superior of the surface where he is different from the superior of the minerals to obtain from the superior of the minerals a plan showing the working of the mineral field, both as already worked and how it is proposed to be worked in future, and there should be a counter obligation on the part of the superior of the minerals to furnish this plan. The superior of the surface should be bound to exhibit this plan to proposing feuars. He should also be bound to exhibit his feuing plan to the superior of the minerals. In this way there would be a guarantee that the feuing of the surface would have a direct relation to the working of the mineral field underneath. There would thus be some safeguard against the superior of the surface or proposing feuars giving or taking ground for building purposes where there was imminent or probable danger of subsidence. 1037. There is only one further matter which it is probably right to discuss in this connection. There may be cases-they have occurred already at Bathgate and elsewhere - of damage through some movement in old and disused workings or of damage which cannot be clearly attributed to a single working in the immediate neighbourhood of the feu. In these cases difficulty might arise in the superior of the surface operating his relief against the superior of the minerals. We are of opinion that in these cases the arbiter should be entitled to make inquiry and to decide in the first case whether the movement in the old and disused workings was caused by the working of adjacent minerals, and, if so, which adjacent minerals: and in the second case what mineral workings were really responsible for the damage caused! by subsidence. The arbiter would thereafter be entitled to fix the responsibility. In the event of his finding that the working of adjacent minerals had not caused the movement in the old and disused workings, the surface superior would have no right of relief against anyone.
We have clearly in view that our recommendations
will apply to houses which may be owned by the colliery company who are working
the minerals equally with houses owned by anyone else. We think this is only
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDATIONS AND SUGGESTIONS IN
(1) That where the owner or owners of a private road put it in order to the satisfaction of the Local Authority, the latter should be under obligation to take it over and maintain it as a highway; provided that any dispute as to whether a road is or is not private, or whether it has been put into a proper state of repair, should be referred to the Local Government Board for decision.
(2) That landward Local Authorities of themselves should be empowered to form special scavenging and lighting districts without having to obtain any prior requisition from either a Parish Council or from ratepayers.
(3) That in the case of smaller mining villages the Local Authority should have power to call upon the owners to make arrangements for cleansing to the satisfaction of the Local Authority.
(4) That Local Authorities should have power to require the provision of suitable washing accommodation in new houses and in existing houses where facilities permit.
(5) That if a survey of the country's watersheds is undertaken by Government engineers, their remit should include the question of drainage schemes as well as of water-supplies.
(6) That an impervious floor - wood or other - through the whole extent of the living-rooms should be considered an essential condition of habitability, and that any house not so provided should be dealt with as a nuisance.
(7) That a colliery owner should be entitled to a renewal of his lease on terms, failing agreement, to be fixed by an arbiter.
(8) That colliery owners should obtain the land required as a site for houses under a feu distinct from the mineral lease, or alternatively that there should be a definite valuation of the houses at the expiry of the mining lease.
(9) That in all cases where the superior is reletting the minerals to a new tenant, outgoing mine-owners owning houses built under leasehold tenure but not desirous of converting them into a feu should have the houses taken over by the superior at a valuation on termination of the lease.
(10) That where the mine is, or is averred to be, nearing exhaustion, the statutory requirements as regards housing should be exercised with power to the Local Authority, if need be, to require the provision of temporary accommodation by the mine-owner, whom failing, the accommodation may be provided by the Local Authority themselves, and the cost recovered from the mine-owner by special assessment.
(11) That in the case of new mines, mine-owners may be permitted to provide temporary transferable accommodation for a limited period, subject to the control of the Local Authority.
(12) That there is ground for the legislature interfering to reinstate or reserve the common-law claim to damages for subsidence, subject to the reservations and provisos specified.
(13) That the superior of the surface should be entitled to relief from the superior of the minerals for any compensation for which he is found liable in respect of subsidence due to the working of minerals.
(14) That in mineral leases running at the time of the new legislation the compensation paid in respect of subsidence (occurring subsequent to the legislation) should be borne as follows : - (a) where the superior of the surface is different from the superior of the minerals, one-third by each superior and one-third by the feuar; and (b) where the superior of the surface and of the minerals is the same individual, two-thirds by that superior and one-third by the feuar.
(15) That where the superior of the surface is different from the superior of the minerals there should be an obligation on the former to obtain from the latter - and on the latter to furnish - a plan showing the mineral workings existing and proposed.
(16) That the superior of the surface should be bound to exhibit the above plan to intending feuars and his feuing plan to the superior of the minerals.
(17) That the arbiter in assessing compensation should ascertain whether the damage is due to the movement of disused workings, and whether the movement was caused by the working of adjacent minerals, and should fix the responsibility accordingly.
(18) That where subsidence is not clearly
attributable to a single working, the arbiter should determine what workings are
responsible for the subsidence and award compensation accordingly.
NOTES OF CONDITIONS FOUND BY COMMISSION AT
County of Fife. (Visited 24th April 1913.)
Coaltown, Wemyss. - Typical houses here have been built at a cost of £160; rent, 9s. 2d. a fortnight (approximately £13 a year). Accommodation - three rooms; two beds in main room ; water-closet in house ; coal storage. Several of those houses have been reconstructed on the old foundation. This probably reduces the price. The usual rules of house construction - under-floor ventilation, etc. - have been fulfilled. In the same village a house twenty-five years old, with three rooms, was rented at 2s. 6d. a week ; water-closet and scullery in the house.
This village is interesting as showing, first, an
older type of miners' houses; second, a progressive improvement in the standard
of accommodation - the improvement being effected partly by construction, partly
by provision of entirely new houses.
In these rows there is a tendency to subdivide the houses. In one case, a room of a two-room house was let at 2s. per week. A common rent for a two-room house is 4s. 3d. per week. Formerly, there were gardens attached to these houses; now discontinued. The feu-duty is £40 an acre. This is commonly regarded as high. The area is well crowded with houses.
Methilhill. - Here, there is an older type of miners' house. A one-room house can be had at 1s. 4d. a week. In this row of very poor cottages there is no washhouse. Some of the cottages are damp. There is no water-closet for women. There is a filthy common trough-closet for men. The sanitary conditions generally are very defective. The ashpits are cleaned out once a week. Most of these houses are unfit either to be rebuilt or repaired.
Adams Terrace. - Here a whole street of recently built houses has been destroyed by subsidence. Arrangements were in course of being made for repairs as soon as the subsidence settled. At the date of our visit the subsidence had been in action for three months. It was supposed to be due to unknown ancient workings.
Townhill (Dunfermline). - The features of this colliery village are the large numbers of defective houses and the large amount of repairs. For many years the older houses of this village have been recognised as unfit for habitation. Some of them have been repaired. But, to take several of those visited as samples, the houses were not worth repairing, and are not very habitable even after repair. But, as in some other places, the demand for houses in this locality has been, such that the margin of occupation has remained very low.
County of Lanark. (Visited 10th to 13th March
Rosehall Colliery Rows, Whifflet. - These rows consist of one- and two-room houses. In a one-room house visited the rent was 1s. 3d. per week. The room contained two beds. No scullery, no bath, no water-closet within house. The closets outside were not used by women. The house was very clean. Inmates, parents and three children.
This is a fair type of the one-room house. In some of these rows, seven or eight persons occupy a single room.
The sanitary conveniences were in a state of revolting filth.
Calderbank Square. - In this old square there are four outside privy middens. The conditions of filth were such as could not be described in decent language. So far as this and a large number of other conveniences in this county are concerned, the Public Health Acts might as well not exist. At this time of day, such conditions of filth are incapable of defence from any standpoint.
Thorneywood Rows. -
Dirty combined ashpit and privy. The premises were grossly exposed. They appear
never to be cleaned. An old man is said to look after them; but they are so
constructed that no personal service can keep them in a state of cleanliness or
decency. The gutters were broken in places. There seems to be no idea of
training the surface water either from the general area or from the floors of
the latrines. A one-room house in these rows costs 1s. 8d. per week.
Craighead Rows.- A house of two rooms - rent of 2s. 8d. per week. A beautiful infant of less than one year old was having his morning bath in the kitchen. Even this small performance was a severe test of the available space.
Merry's Rows. - In a one-room house there were six persons-two parents and four children, of whom two were girls, one aged about 16, the other about 18. There was one baby. In order to make a wash-house, one house has been sacrificed for every six tenants. Washing accommodation is thus very good. Two water-closets provided for six tenants. In one house, two beds in kitchen, the mother was in bed with an infant nine days old. The whole work of the grossly overcrowded house was proceeding as usual. This child was the twelfth of the family. The house-room was grossly inadequate; but the inadequacy was, to a certain extent, redeemed by the splendid vigour and vitality of the father, mother, and children.
Holytown, Baird Square. - In Baird Square the houses have been partially reconstructed. The old ashpits, with privies, have been abolished. There is now a water-closet for each house. Washing-houses are provided. General repairs have been carried out. The rents have been increased to cover the out-lays on repair and reconstruction. A house formerly rented at 2s. l0d. per week is now raised to 4s. The houses mainly consist of room and kitchen, with accessories. Comparatively, the houses are " improved," but this is only another way of saying that they have been taken from a state of primitive and intolerable insanitation to a state of relatively good sanitation.
West Benhar Rows. - These rows have all been closed by the Sheriff at the instance of the Local Authority. This case is a very important administrative precedent. The grounds adduced by the Local Authority for closure were want of repair, dampness, want of proper sanitary conveniences. On these grounds the Sheriff granted the petition of the Local Authority. This decision constitutes an important interpretation of section 16 (1) of the Public Health (Scotland) Act, viz. : "And premises or part thereof of such construction or in such a state as to be a nuisance or injurious or dangerous to health." What has been done with these rows may, on the same grounds, be done with many other rows in the county. But we were informed that, although the tenants at West Benhar Rows were then under notice to quit, they would probably be left in the houses for some time longer, because there were no other houses available for them. Meanwhile the Local Authority were promoting building schemes with the object of providing houses in the near neighbourhood.
County of Ayr. (Visited 17th and 18th March
Drongan Rows (Old Taig Burn). - Here there was only one set of closets for fifteen houses. But these houses were all being dealt with by the Local Authority. The water-supply was good. In one house visited there was no lath and plaster; the floor was laid with tiles. In another house the floor was damp and the walls very damp. No washhouses. In a one-room house there were two beds. The coals were kept under the bed. There were five inmates. Rent 1s. 5d. per week. Under the bed there were no tiles, but simply the damp earth.
At another part of these rows there was the same primitive type of closet, badly constructed and filthy. There is one closet for six houses. In one of the houses in this area the " room " of a two-room house was very damp. One house was so dark that lamplight was necessary for half the day. In another house the floor was very damp, but the house itself was very prettily kept. In yet another house the bedroom was very damp. The paper came off the wall in masses.
Connel Park. - Here, outside filthy privy-middens, the same as elsewhere. In one case two such structures serve twenty-three houses. Practically, these structures are not capable of being properly cleansed, and, in the great mass of cases visited, were found to be in a state of gross nuisance.
Mossblown. - This is a more recently-built village. The ashpit is of the new pattern, in which pit and closet are separated. This certainly is an improvement on the usual structure. A two-room house is let at 2s. 6d. per week (including rates). The kitchen is a large room. There is one water-closet for three houses. The ashpits were found fairly clean.
New Row. - Here there was a good pavement in front of the houses. One washhouse for six tenants. There were also small gardens, which were well kept. Some of the rows are built in blocks of six houses, well disposed. These houses form a somewhat favourable specimen of the type; but it would have been much better if the houses had been provided with scullery, water, and water-closets inside. Some of the new houses of two rooms and kitchen are provided with water in the house. Rent 5s. a week.
Common Loch Row. - Here there was an attempted septic tank system; but at the time of visit the tank was flooded by stream water. There are about ninety-six houses, with a population of over 500. In several of the houses there were many signs of dampness. In one of these houses, rented at 1s. 7d. per week, the woman of the house stated that they could not afford to pay 5s. except where there is a worker or two. The walls were very damp. New windows were to be put in. The woman complained also of the want of room for work. " In the afternoon," she said, "the whole kitchen is in an uproar, and it is night afore you get it right again." Another woman, commenting on the filthy privy-middens in front of the houses, wanted to know what was the use of putting doors on to places where the water came in by the roof? "They objects should be oot o' there." These "objects" were the only important outlook for the people at their front doors. There was a general expression of opinion that the closets should be at the head of the garden, one for each house.
This row is about 500 yards long. The filthy privy-middens, placed at intervals along the row, stand out only a few feet in front of the houses. They were all in a state of greater or less nuisance. All the privy-middens, and some of the houses, could legitimately have been certified under the Public Health Act.
At one of the mining villages in Dreghorn Parish the access roads were not properly made, and, at the time of visit, were covered with about a foot of mud.
The result was obvious on the floors of the houses, which in other respects were very good and well kept.
County of Linlithgow. (Visited 8th April 1914.)
Armadale - Russell's Row. - This row illustrates a not uncommon occurrence. The houses had belonged to a company now extinct. They had been built for a small sum. They had been acquired cheaply. Probably the income from the subjects has already exceeded several times over their capital value. In many mining districts this occurrence is repeated. Houses built at the opening of a colliery may out-last by many years the productivity of the colliery itself. Consequently, the houses, being no longer of any functional value for colliery purposes, are disposed of for trifling sums, but they may be kept in occupation for a generation or two. Several times, in the course of their visitations, the Commissioners were informed that action by Local Authorities had been delayed on the ground that the pits concerned were nearing exhaustion.
Of the houses visited in Armadale, one had two rooms, with the usual two beds in the kitchen. Very clean; one outside water-closet for four tenants. The former offensive privy-middens had been converted into water-closets. The Commissioners were informed that every house in the burgh was now provided with water-closet accommodation. In this particular house there was no coal storage. The floor was below the level of the ground. One well hydrant for every twelve houses; rent of two-room house £7 per annum, exclusive of rates.
Another house contained a single room with a small closet. No coal storage. No washhouse. Two beds in kitchen. Bed also in closet. Eight occupants - eldest aged 19. There is a daily collection of refuse.
Bents - United Colliery West Lothian Housing Company. - This is a new group of houses, built on the garden city model. Each house has two rooms, scullery, and bath. Rent 5s. a week. The houses are spaced at about sixteen houses to the acre. This Company has built about 160 houses. They are worked by the Public Utility Society, with loans from the Public Works Loan Commissioners to the amount of £40,000.
A house of kitchen, two rooms, bath, scullery, coalhouse, washhouse, is rented at 5s. 6d. per week.
Stoneyburn. - A new house contained kitchen, two rooms, scullery, with garden. Rent 4s. 9d. per week, including rates. Water-closet for each house. Daily removal of refuse. In the old rows of this group the houses contained three rooms, but no scullery. They were rented at 4s. 3d. per week, including rates.
From the areas visited in Linlithgow, it was apparent that there had been a steady and considerable movement both in the reconstructing of old houses and in the provision of new houses. Relatively, the amount of active improvement was very striking. There are still many unsatisfactory groups of houses ; but there was evidence of a general desire on the part of the tenants and a general wish on the part of the owners to secure all practicable improvements.
County of Stirling. (Visited 9th April 1914.)
Lauriston-Redding Square. - In these rows there were some six two-room houses and fourteen one-room houses. The usual filthy privy-middens still exist. Some years ago walls had been lathed and plastered. Opening windows had been put in the back walls. Ventilation had been improved. The walls had been pointed. Refuse removed three times a week. The village is a scavenging district. In one of the one-room houses there were two parents and four children. The visit coincided with washing day; there were two tubs in the kitchen, which was in the usual disagreeable state incident to washing day.
In another one-room house there were also six inmates.
There were only three closets for nineteen houses. In the one-room houses the rent was 1s. 9d. per week. There was a complaint of want of room. The houses were, on the whole, very clean.
California Rows. - These were repaired in 1900. Ventilation put under floors. Slate roof put on. Rones provided. Some of the houses lathed and plastered. No washhouse. There were six dry closets and one street well for twenty-four families. There were signs here of recent cleaning, probably in view of our visit. The ashpits and dry closets were not very clean. We were informed that this colliery will soon be exhausted. This fact has apparently, here as elsewhere, restrained the owners from carrying out necessary repairs; nevertheless, the houses have been somewhat improved, but very little. Refuse removed twice a week. Drain at back and front.
Standburn Rows. - Daily removal of refuse established two years before date of visit. General improvement was manifest. The ashpits, though not now used, have still been left. They are still associated with the closets. It is difficult to understand why the owners should have left ashpits that are not now necessary. They are apt to become a source of nuisance. The type of privy, except for the empty ashpit, is the same as elsewhere. Very foul-smelling. A washhouse at this village was in somewhat poor repair. It is said that the colliery here will be exhausted in some seven or eight years. For some of the houses there are no washhouses.
Canon View Terrace. - This terrace had been newly built. The houses are of a new pattern, each containing two rooms, with scullery, water-closet, and coal storage. Daily removal of refuse. Rent 4s. a week. The keeping of the houses was manifestly superior to the keeping of those with the usual filthy ashpits. Over and over again this has been illustrated in the mining counties. The difference between the villages with a system of daily removal, and the villages with ashpits, is so great that, apart altogether from the question of disease, the formation of scavenging districts is abundantly justified. The accommodation, even in the fairly good two-room houses, is so poor in relation to the large families, that no village can be kept in a satisfactory state of sanitation so long as the combination privy-ashpit survives.
These notes are sufficient to show that the county
of Stirling has, in considerable proportion, much the same types of miners'
houses as in the other mining counties. There have been many improvements, but
the state of sanitation is still very primitive in a considerable number of
places. There is evidence of an increasing demand for larger houses and for
better accessories in the smaller houses.