The Steam Biscuit Manufactory of Messrs Peek Frean & Co.
From Shops and Companies of London (1865)
Biscuits by machinery! It strikes on the ear almost as funnily, at first as chickens produced by steam; and yet, if it be possible for a duckling or gosling, “or any other bird” to have a boiler for a mother, where is the difficulty of conceiving that a certain form of steam apparatus should not turn out “Captains” and ??? or “Garibaldis” and “Alexandras” by the thousand per minute, as well as newspapers or steel pens.
But though we can imagine our stockings and ships’ blocks, and even pins and needles, to be manufactured mechanically, we repeat it does seem hard to believe how it can be possible to fabricate, out of a mass of puffy, unwieldy dough, “Ladies’ Fingers” and “Tops and Bottoms” by a series of cog wheels and cranks.
Nevertheless, biscuits by machinery-steam “Alberts” and “Victorias”, “Butter” and “Digestives”, “Pic Nics” and “Knicknacks,” are, as the French say, faits accomplis, and though we should as soon dream of flowers being engendered by mechanism, still there is no doubt that flour itself admits of being moulded automatically into no end of forms, or in the phraseology of the biscuit manufactory, no end of “fancies”.
The mechanical biscuit trade, however, is comparatively a young one – as young almost as the stitching of our trousers and our shirts by sewing machine – and yet it has developed itself to an immense extent in a few years, so that the establishment which we are now about to describe has kept on growing and growing until it has assumed the dimensions of an enormous factory. “But whereabouts is Dockhead?” the inquisitive but untravelled West End reader may ask. The precise locality may be difficult to define, it may however, be said that it forms part of the Cockney Polynesia which is made up principally of the Isle of Dogs, Jacob’s Island, and heaven knows how many other islands – including the celebrated insular resort of the lover of “eel-pies”.
But the quondam island of the aforesaid Jacob (of whom we regret to say not the faintest trace in history remains) has long since ceased to exist. We went through it from end to end during the cholera visitation of 1849, and found it the blackest plague-spot in the vicinity of the metropolis. Here we saw, in every house, some moribund soul, blue as indigo in the last stage of the Asiatic pest. And no wonder, for at that time the same islet of the obscure Jacob was a mere Venice of sewers, with the tumble-down houses of the inhabitants over-hanging the canal-like drains which traversed the whole place, and unsupplied with any water but the liquid of the cesspool stream which stagnated at their very doors.
At the request of the Registrar-General we pictured the pestiferous character of the place in the columns of the Morning Chronicle, and now it is some consolation to learn that all this has been changed – the malarious state of the island comparatively dissipated, and indeed, the peculiar islet-character itself wiped out of existence, so that it is at the present time impossible to determine whether it be an insular or a peninsular locality.
The biscuit manufactory which we are about to describe is situated at the mouth of what was called St Saviour’s Dock, and hence the term “Dockhead” constituting the main address. The facility thus afforded for water and land carriage is the main reason for such a spot being chosen; and those who wish to reach it as we did, per Hansom, have to pass through a hop-reeking and steam-engine-smelling district of the huge railway terminal clustered together at the Borough, and then make their way along roads flanked by the huge red-bricked railway arches till they reach that odd-looking edifice which Sir Christopher Wren, in his craving for eccentric originality, was pleased to perch a tapering Ionic Pillar rather than a steeple. This is St Saviour’s Church, and St Saviour’s Dock is within a few paces of it.
At the time of our reaching the spot it was but an hour or two after noon; and though we dived into many an adjacent hostelry, in the hope of obtaining a sandwich before commencing a labour which we knew would occupy us till nearly dusk, it was impossible to procure any such luxury. Sandwiches were utterly unknown in the land; such a thing a luncheon the busy and early-dining people of the district were wholly unacquainted with, and we had to wend our way to a cook-shop, which was crammed with clerks and labourers, feeding away as hard as they could during the dinner-hour, in order to obtain a few slices of ham and bread required for our pre-prandial snack.
This little incident gave us a lively sense of the industrial character of the people hereabout. Luncheon-bars and luncheon comestibles were utterly unknown to them. They dined in the middle of the day, as our kings did of old and we, who had come there with our West-end habits, were consequently, as the saying runs, like fish out of water.
At length turning down a narrow lane leading out of the main thoroughfare, we reached the works we were in quest of, and were immediately afterwards – under the guidance of Mr FREAN himself – conducted into the mysteries of biscuit making by machinery.
Passing through the engine-room (for we were always expected to admire the boilers at every factory we visit), we emerged suddenly into the steam bakery, and then, heavens! what a mingle-mangle of strange sights, and what a clatter of deafening noises confused, if not confounded, us. It seemed as if some hundred steam-presses were all going at once, and each turning out of biscuits by the thousands rather than newspapers. The printing of The Times was nothing to it, for as the wheels whirled over our head, and the straps ran as fast as whirl-pool waters before our eyes, and the thunder of machinery pealed in our ears, we could see machine after machine, in a long vista, working away in incessant restlessness, and seeming to print biscuits by the million, as though the engines were so many “eight-feeding” printing-presses, producing their quarter of a million impressions for some weekly journal within a few hours.
There was a lovely smell of the sweetest flour, moreover pervading the immense room, which was filled with a haze of the powdery white particles, till the atmosphere seemed to be as gauzy as a summer morning’s mist. The whole place was alive too, with men and boys, each in the whitest and cleanest possible garments – white linen caps, white jackets and aprons, and with even their hair and eyebrows, too, whitened with the flour, till they looked more like living plaster figures than human beings.
The bakery itself was as long, to all appearances, as the between-decks of an Indiaman, but as lofty, almost, as a railway terminus, and Heaven knows how many of these same biscuit making machines were at work in it at the same time; but they seemed endless to us, as we glanced from one extremity of the building to the other, as the file of bedsteads in some large wholesale bedding-warehouse.
But we must begin with the beginning, and pass gradually on from machine to machine (for each has a distinct office to perform), in order to have anything like a clear comprehension on the whole. first of all, there is the “mixer” of the dough; and this consists of a huge iron drum, bigger than a hogshead, with a tall black chimney rising from it and piercing the ceiling above. Down this chimney the flour pours at a mere touch of a handle connected with a cloud of white dust, that seems so much like steam, rises up – but this is the only evidence you have of its descent. Then one of the lads mounts a stage, and by means of another handle lets in exactly the proper amount of water for the kneading of the immense mass. Immediately after the arms of this gigantic barrel begin to revolve, and go on incorporating the liquid with the flour for some ten minutes duration. When the movements cease, the drum itself opens, and the great mass within it, which has been by this time converted into dough, is tossed out in huge mortar-like-looking clots, upon the iron table below.
Now we go to the “break rolls” as they are termed. These are merely two polished iron cylinders, capable of being brought closer and closer together so as to adjust the pressure, and with large metal tables before and behind them. To these break rolls the enormous clots of dough (as soon as mixed) are brought and stuffed in between the cylinders, by workmen, who push away at the pasty mass as though they were forcing a feather bed into them. Hither also the scraps of the after processes are carried and thrust backwards and forwards (for the machine has a reversing action) until the shapeless mass of paste comes out first as a soft slab as stout as a Witney blanket, and latterly of about the same thickness as felt used for roofing or carpeting. And when the dough has been produced to the required stoutness, and issues from between the rollers in an endless sheet, about as thick as wadding, then attendants seize it and cut it off into strips about a yard long, to fit it for the next process.
These square pieces are then carried immediately to what is termed the cutting-machine; and here again, after being laid on to a metal plate, they are drawn like sheets of paper at a printing-press, through the rollers adjusted exactly to the proper thickness of the biscuits intended to be made. In front of these rollers are the “cutters” which come down as a thick sheet of paste issues from between the cylinders, and not only cut it into crumpet-like discs, but perforate them all over, as well as mark them with the initials of the firm, and the date when they were baked.
Our guide explained to us the several delicate operations which it was necessary for such a machine to perform. Not only was it essential that the biscuits (and we are here referring to those intended for ships’ use) should be perforated right through – so as to ensure a free circulation of air, in order to keep them dry – without the piercer’s puncturing the endless canvas band upon which they are received; but it was requisite also that the cutters should fling the biscuits out from the moulds themselves. And as we watched the white-faced boys remove the perfect and perforated discs, as they came streaming along from under the stampers, and others seize the ragged sheets of scraps, which was like a coarse network of paste, left by the interstices in the thick sheet of dough, and which some of them were busy carrying off to be kneaded up with a fresh lot of stuff at the break-rolls – as we stood watching all these successive operations, we could not help wonder at the infinity of the crumpet-like discs that this same cutting-machine seemed to pour forth almost every minute.
“In Heaven’s name,” said we, “how many of these things do you make in the course of the hour!” For, as the cutters kept bobbing up and down as rapidly as one’s heart throbs in a state of excitement, and the endless band of canvas continued bringing along the stamped discs of dough one after the other, it seemed impossible to use that such an absolute infinite of biscuits could ever be consumed by the entire community of sailors over the whole globe itself.
We, for the sake of accuracy, timed the operations, and found not less than 100 biscuits were produced by it each minute – and this is at the rate of very nearly 10,000 and hour, or 100,000 in the course of the day of 10 hours work.
And yet these machines continue working day after day, turning out each their tens of thousands of biscuits per diem, as if there were no limit to the appetite of the sailors for whose gratification they are kept at work.
From these cutting-machines the perfect impressions are carried off by the boys, as fast as they come streaming out from under the cutters, to the mouth of the ovens, at one side of the enormous workshop; and here they are placed upon feeding-boards, and so thrust under the narrow slit or aperture to the heated chamber – the floor of which is arranged upon the principle of a long horizontal revolving shutter; and immediately some score of the stamped discs of dough have been laid upon the metal band outside the mouth of the oven, the machinery in connection with it gives another move, and the whole row is drawn under the long thin opening, to be submitted, for a certain time, to the heat of the furnaces.
These ovens we are told, are some thirty eight feet long, and hold altogether about fifty rows of biscuits – the revolving horizontal shutters moving at such a speed that they are some twenty minutes in passing from one end of the heated chamber to the other. After this they are thrown out at the other extremity of the oven at less than half-minute intervals – in a perfect cornucopia-like shower – into baskets placed to receive them.
We passed from the bakery, down a narrow passage, to the end of the long ovens, whose insatiate mouths we had but the minute before noted the white-capped and white-jacketed boys feeding with row after row of embryo biscuits, as fast and incessantly as the never flagging break-rolls turned out the sheets of paste, which the cutting-machines stamped and drilled as rapidly into their proper forms. And it was strange, before we reached the place, to hear the fitful rattle of the shower of the now-cooked biscuits falling into the baskets beneath, and to see score after score of the now brown-looking and crisp discs discharged, automatically, like a shower of small wooden platters, into the trays which were placed ready to receive them.
This part of the process struck us with the marvel of the mechanical work more forcibly than any other; for it seemed as if Nature herself were raining ship-biscuits by some subtle operation of her own.
During volcanic eruptions showers of fishes have been known to cover the earth; but here were biscuits being thrown out from the crater of the oven in as marvellous and prolific a manner. A spring of water perpetually welling up from the stony depths of the land was not more incessant or more wonderful; for, in the before mentioned kneading and stamping of the biscuits there were human hands to aid and feed the cunning machines. But here no one was to be seen but a lad, whose simple duty it was to receive the prolific produce, and it consequently seemed as though such biscuits were begotten by natural laws, and that we had to merely place a fitting receptacle to collect them, in order to gather as many of the edibles as we wished – in the same plentiful manner as we might collect (were it worth the collecting) the hot stream of lava from the mouth of a volcano.
“But,” said we to our intelligent and communicative guide, “if these be perfect biscuits, what in the name of common sense is the meaning of the French term ‘biscuit’ which signifies twice cooked, as well as the German ‘zweibach’ which, in like manner, means double baked.”
The answer was; “That you will understand bye and bye. You see this lift,” said Mr. FREAN, pointing to four tall rods that led to a square opening in the ceiling above. “The biscuits, as fast as they are baked and shot out from the mouth of the ovens, are thrown into deep wooden trays here, and so carried up to what we call the ?kiln,? on the floor above.”
Mr. FREAN then explained to us that the essential difference between biscuit-baking and the ordinary process of making bread was that whereas 380lbs of flour, produces upon an average 370lbs. weight of loaves, the same amount yields only 350lbs. of biscuits: so that while there is grain of 90lbs. in the bread, from the solidification of the water with which it is kneaded, there is a loss of 30lbs, in the same weight of flour used for biscuit-making, owing to the high temperature at which these same biscuits have, even when baked, to be afterwards dried. The object of biscuit-making, indeed is to get rid of every particle of moisture from the cooked cakes, and hence they are generally submitted to a temperature of 100 degrees Fahrenheit for two days, after they are baked: and this subsequent drying is probably the origin of the French term biscuit and the German zweibach.
Accordingly, to follow out the process, we mounted to the kiln or drying-room above; and here we found the floor strewn with thick beds or mounds of the whitey-brown discs, heaped together by the thousand, drying away at a temperature equal to the heat of the tropics. And when they have remained here until they have become almost as hard and moistureless as pantiles, they are weighed out into hundredweights, and stowed away in sacks for short voyages, and into wooden puncheons for the use of ships trading with India and China.
There are, we were informed, five distinct kinds of such ships biscuits, ranging from the best “captains,” or “first cabin” or “cuddy biscuits,” as they are called, to those intended for the consumption of ordinary seamen. Of the latter kind we were informed that the New Zealand ships take the best; and these are generally made of flour which is technically termed “fine middlings” – the cabin or cuddy biscuits, on the other hand being produced from only the finest material.
To give the reader a notion of the extensive means of Messrs PEEK, FREAN & Co for producing such articles we may cite the fact that the French Government, some time ago, gave them an order for 3,000 tons, to be ready in a month; but though the company complied with the terms, they had to avail themselves of the resources of some of the large biscuit-bakers in the kingdom.
And yet shipbiscuit-making is but a secondary portion of the trade in this house, whose wonderful works we are attempting to describe. Though their steam-presses turn out each of them their thousands of such biscuits per hour, and though the revolving-floors of their ovens never cease throughout the day to toss out score after score of the hard pantile-like discs at every half-minute, from sunrise to sunset, till we are lost in wonder as to the number of mouths they are required to feed; nevertheless this, we repeat, is but a minor portion of their business, which consists mainly of what are called “fancy biscuits,” made principally by the same marvellous means.
For the purpose of this trade, the best flour only can be used; and, in some cases, the material costs nearly twice as much as that which is required for ordinary household bread. Moreover fancy biscuits contain sugar, milk, butter arrow root, eggs, as well as either currants, almonds, ginger or other spices, according to the kind of biscuits to be produced.
For the due understanding of this part of the manufacture we were conducted first to the flour-store – a long loft, where stood a small standing army of fat-looking sacks, each with the red imprint of the miller from whom they came stamped midway upon them, and each with a nightcap-like tassel at the head, as though their very obesity naturally led to somnolency; for as we beheld the plump sacks reclining one against the other, they seemed like so many sleepy and fat Dutchmen, with their heads resting on each others’ shoulders.
From the flour-store we wend our way to what is called the “Materials-room,” – an apartment that is filled with no end of ingenious machines for mixing the several ingredients required for the production of fancy biscuits of different kinds.
Here are odd-looking engines, like squirrel-cages, whose circular sieves are perpetually whirling round, for the cleansing of currants and sugar-crushing mills, like enormous funnels, into which the chopped loaves are thrust, in order to pulverise them. Here, too, is seen another apparatus, like a mammoth coffee-mill, for grinding almonds, and another smaller machine – somewhat similar to that which is used for the cutting of Cavendish tobacco – for mincing lemon peel. Moreover there are two men, each seated at one end of an enormous egg chest, continually cracking eggs into small tin vessels, and when they have satisfied themselves of the freshness of the contents of each shell, everlastingly turning out the yellowballs and white slime into huge tin pails each of which is big enough to hold about five quarts of the albuminous material. At a small dresser at one end of the room, again, are boys picking out the stones from the cleansed and sifted currants, while the whole place is stocked almost to impassability with flat bass-bags of almonds, piles of conical sugar-loaves, and chest upon chest of eggs, as well as barrel upon barrel of currants.
Adjoining this is the milk room, filled with some two dozen monster tin churn-like cans, full of milk, which is sent from the country each day – the quantity seeming so great, that one comes away with the impression that all the cows in the world must be used dry, merely for the production of steam “fancy biscuits”.
Hence we had, in the round of our inspection, to visit what is termed the “mixing materials room,” which is a long apartment, about the size of a ship’s cuddy. Here, again, were flour sacks, flour bins, and flour barrels, loaves of sugar, and butter cans, holding about half a hundredweight each, ranged alongside of the wall, in almost overwhelming numbers and quantities.
It is in this room that the ingredients necessary for compounding the different kinds of fancy biscuits were weighed out – flour, butter, sugar, currants, almonds, lemon peel, or spices, according to the variety of biscuit – and then cast altogether into the hoppers, or enormous wooden funnels, which serve to convey them to the mixing room below; and an entire sack of some particular variety of flour being used each time. Indeed it is one of the curiosities of this fancy-biscuit trade that not less than a dozen different kinds of the very best flour are required for it – some of these being necessary merely to give “texture,” as it is called, to the articles produced; though it seems difficult to imagine any such quality as texture existing in “Pic-nics,” “Knick-knacks,” “Butters,” and “Cracknels.”
Now we are in the mixing-room itself, immediately underneath the stores last visited. Here are several of the same drum-like machines we first noted (such as we saw used for the kneading of the ship-biscuit dough), and others, like enormous tubs with horizontal arms to stir and beat the materials up with the milk into one compact homogeneous mass.
This process of mixing usually occupies from ten to twenty minutes, the work being done wholly by machinery, for which purpose endless leathern bands keep perpetually running along under the ceiling.
When the milk, the flour, the butter, the eggs, and the what-not have been sufficiently mixed, the dough is placed in large square boxes (almost as big as a seaman’s chest) that run upon wheels, and is conveyed to the machine-room – which, in proper order, is the next place we have to visit.
Now this machine-room occupies one immense floor, nearly of the same dimensions as a music-hall. And, gracious powers! as we enter it, what a multiplicity of work, and a Babel of sounds half madden the brain. A waterfall, with the everlasting roar of the liquid thunder – the continual descent of the overwhelming glassy sheet of the endless flood – the everlasting streaming of the rapids above, and the boiling and tumbling about of the foamy pool below, are comparative quietude to the whirl of wheels, the wild hurrying of leathern straps, the measured tramp of the machinery, the rattle of cogs, the shouting of boys, and, indeed, such a mingle-mangle of work on every side – such a hurry-scurry of busy trade, and hubble-bubble of moving machinery, that it takes the stranger no little time to collect sense enough to comprehend the several chaotic details of the scene. It was as if a century of steam printing-presses were all going at once, and perpetually turning out such an infinity of fancy biscuits at every movement, that it seemed as though biscuits constituted the staple article of the food of the entire human race, rather than being the mere toothsome snacks of a small portion of mankind, eaten between the usual meals.
How many of such machines there were at work it was impossible to tell, but the place seemed to swarm with them as thick as tables in a furniture warehouse; while the same white-capped and white-jacketed lads, as we have before spoken of, crowded about them as if they were so many pale imps almost as colourless as moonshine. Here were some laying on the blanket-like sheets of dough that were being handed to them by the men working at the adjacent break-rolls, and passing them through one machine where they were being stamped with hundreds of “pic-nics;” other lads were seated in front of the stampers, collecting the perforated sheets of scarps which came out drilled as full of holes as a worm-eaten cabbage leaf; and others, again, were watching that the tiny cakes, as they came streaming along the endless band of canvas, dropped regularly into the shallow iron trays which more boys were continually placing to receive them.
This one machine alone (the first to which we attended) turns out not less than 500 such biscuits a minute, which is at the rate of 30,000 an hour, or the marvellous number of more than a quarter of a million per diem. And yet it keeps on working day after day, producing its million and a half a week, from one year’s end to another.
In heaven’s name, who eats all these millions of “pic-nics”? Why, if the entire world went pic-nicking, the whole of their lives, it would seem to us utterly impossible, to devour such an amount of dry juiceless food.
Another such machine is busy showering out its thousands of “rifle-nuts” that are hardly bigger than coat-buttons. Another is pouring forth no end of what are termed “luncheons,” another hard by sending out a perpetual stream of uncooked “Alexandras” tiny dabs of dough, each stamped with the Prince of Wales’s plume. And so they, one and all, go on clattering and stamping away till it seems to rain biscuits on every side, while the busy lads keep continually hurrying along with the metal trays in their hands spotted all over with symmetrical little pats of dough, and carrying them to the “traps” in the floor, whence they are lowered to the ovens; and other boys, bringing the empty tins which have been returned from below, are wheeling them back again by the truckful to the youths at the machines.
From the machine-rooms we descend to the “ovens” which is an equally large workshop, situate on the ground-floor of the building, and honeycombed all over with furnaces. Here the trays which we saw above being filled with the infinite produce of the machines themselves, keep continually descending the “lift,” and boys as rapidly carrying them off to other little fellows stationed at the mouth of the ovens themselves, where they are laid onto the flat bar of the rotating oven-floor, to be drawn under the narrow slit at the mouth into the heated chamber within.
One lad is laying on a long row of “luncheons” that we the moment before had seen stamped and punctured by the hundreds per minute, and which the instant afterwards are carried by the continual movement of the revolving shutter-like floor, into the jaws of the hot cavern within. Here is another lad doing the same with the shoals of “rifle nuts” and then another at another of the ovens, arranging the uncooked “pic-nics,” which now have merely to pass gradually over the fire in order to be ready in a few minutes afterwards for excellent eating. At one point as we go the round of the place, we meet with some stalwart baker, shovelling out, by means of a long pole, tray after tray of what are called “Victoria drops;” and the next minute we come upon a man who is engaged in thrusting into the inmost recesses of the hot cellar-like chamber to which he has to attend, tin after tin of crumply, curly “cracknels,” all of which have been previously boiled – for this we are told is the peculiarity of such biscuits, the fine flavour of them being partly due to the boiling and subsequent baking of the paste.
In another department of this extensive business we found a bevy of men making each biscuit by hand as have not been produced by machinery. At a long table was a row of some twenty to thirty workmen, some forming “Africans,” other “Queens,” and other cutting rolls of sweet paste into long whip-like strips, and dividing these again into small square pellets for the manufacture of what are called “rice-drops.” Here, again, was another small machine for turning out macaroons by the thousand, and another equally prolific for the production of what are called “Jamaicas” and “Yorks.”
After this we make our way to the backs of the ovens, and there we find the “Rifle nuts,” the “pic-nics,” which we but a few minutes before had seen thrust into the oven’s mouth, now tumbling out in a perfect shower, ready baked, and falling by the mere automatic action of the machinery, into baskets placed there to receive them, with one continual rattle, as though Nature were hailing “rifle nuts,” and “luncheons,” on every side.
Thence the baskets, when laden, are conveyed, by the same lift, to what is called the drying-room, and after the biscuits have remained there for a certain time, they are carried to the packing department, with a description of which our labours will end.
There we lose sight of the dusty-looking baker-boys, and find the spacious floor appropriated to this purpose, at the upper part of the manufactory, filled with a crowd of decent and tidy-looking young women, and piled up with tin cases and trays full of biscuits, to such an extent that it is difficult to thread one’s way between them. along one side of this huge apartment stretch long tables, at which some score of girls are busy picking out from the trays heaped before them, all imperfect biscuits, and throwing the good ones into trays, to be borne, as fast as filled, to the packing tables. Now, these packing-tables are nearly forty feet in length, and some five feet wide, having narrow boards placed across them, so as to divide them into separate compartments, or bins, as it were, and thus giving one the impression, at first sight, that they are long troughs filled with different varieties of biscuits, each divided off from the other. Never were there seen such mounds of cakes in the world. You might as well attempt to count the sands on the sea-shore as to form a rough guess at the number contained in the several compartments. We believe it was Marie Antoinette who said that she could not understand why people should starve when there were so many cakes in existence. And, assuredly, to look at these pale-brown piles of food, one wold hardly believe there could be anything like want in the great Metropolis; for here are great mounds of “knick-knacks,” heaps of “Garibaldis,” hillocks of “pic-nics,” deep beds of “Alberts,” and indeed no end of good things to fill the stomachs of the craving.
On either side of these packing tables stand a row of young women with boxes on stools close at hand. Some are shovelling up the biscuits with wooden shovels pierced with holes to allow the dust to fall through, and ladling the contents of the scoop into paper-lined cases beside them; others are engaged in packing the “butters” and such articles as require greater care, in long rows and wedging them in just so tightly as to prevent the contents of the box shaking during transit.
There is no need to prolong this article with a description of the care with which the biscuits are afterwards weighed, or how the tin cases in which the majority of them are packed are labelled with the bright-coloured address of the firm: suffice it, the greatest possible attention is given, so that each package shall contain the exact weight and kind of biscuit with which the case is marked and a number of ingenious checks are here resorted to, in order to ascertain to whose neglect the fault, if any should occur, is to be traced.
Nor can we even yet conclude without commending the generous consideration which this firm has for its workpeople. There are altogether 500 hands employed here; some 200 boys, whose wages average 4s6d to 8s weekly; 150 girls who earn, many of them, half-a-sovereign a week; and 150 men, whose weekly gains range from £1 to 30s.
The workpeople are all visited by teachers previous to being engaged, so as to ascertain whether they are persons of good character, and the younger ones have to attend classes twice a week, instituted by the heads of the stablishment. The boys are provided with clean linen garments they have to wear at their work, which clothes are kept in order by a tailor on the premises. These lads are also expected to attend the evening school thrice weekly. Nor is this all. There is a sick fund in connection with the stablishment, and arranged on the most equitable of principles, and which finds the means of support to those who may fall ill over their labour, without the least possibility of the workmen who are discharged fancying – as is the case in many establishments – that they have contributed to a fund from which they have derived no benefit.
Further there is a savings-bank for the storing up of the smallest possible amounts that the more thrifty of the workpeople may wish to deposit in the hands of the trustees. And after this long catalogue of the care shown by these employers for their employed, we are sure, reader, you will, like ourselves, devour the “captains,” the “Alberts,” the “Victorias,” the “Alexandras,” and the “Garibaldis,” produced by this grand establishment, with a readier and more grateful smack.