​​​​How The Blackbur​n Poor Live​​

Below is an article taken from the Blackburn Times of June 1912.  It was done to show the work of the “Blackburn Mothers’ Nursing Aid Society”.  The article uses 5 example of families living in the town and how they managed on their meagre wages.  We are not told the professions of the bread winners within the families, but it can be supposed they did the meanest of jobs.  At this time there would be no real monetary help for these people, and if the bread winner lost their job for whatever reason the only alternative for them would be the workhouse. Today It is hard to imagine that these people managed lived as they did, making their pennies stretch, the wives must have spent hours shopping round to find the cheapest food .   Nowhere, except in example 3 is mention made of any pleasures, here 3½d was spent on tobacco and the family could sometimes save a little and this on 18s per week!
Again no mention is made of their living condition.  There is no doubt the houses would have been clean but furnishing and decoration would probably have been no existent.
How Blackburn Poor Live.
Fed On Less Than Two Pence A Day.
Remarkable Human Documents Analysed.
Established in 1907 to encourage the natural feeding of children, the Blackburn Mothers’ Nursing Aid Society is an institute that deserves every encouragement, and on humanitarian grounds merits every support.  It is doing a wonderful work for the younger generation at the restaurant in Mary Ann-street, where mothers, with their babies, attend for dinner.  Both before and after before and after the birth of a child the wife is carefully nourished, and keeps in touch with the institution for a period of 12 months during which the infant is periodically weighed.  Instruction on domestic matters is given to the mothers.  This beneficent society, performing such admirable, though unostentatious, service to the community, finds difficulty in raising the small sum—about £130 per annum—required for its operations.  Surely after the human documents we publish, containing a story that tugs at the heart-strings, that reproach will be removed.  The president is Mrs. F. T. Thomas (ex Mayoress), and the hon. Secretary Mr. Henry Schofield.  A good share of the work is done by the members of the committee, amongst whom there four hon. Medical advisers.
The society has an ardent admirer and wholehearted supporter in Miss St. Stephens, who is a health inspector in the service of the Blackburn Corporation, and an expert in regard to health and housekeeping.  Believing that “talks” on these subjects would be appreciated, she volunteered to give a series of six lectures to the mothers, who were delighted when the scheme was mentioned to them, and expressed their appreciation by regularly attending the “talks,” which took place in the evening.  In the lectures Miss St. Stephens explained how food nourishes the body and what foods are required to maintain health.  She gave a list of cheap foods which provide proper nourishment, and told the mothers how to prepare them.  Advice on shopping was followed by simple rules for cooking, and she paid particular attention to the feeding of children.  One of her objects was to demonstrate that it is not sufficient just to eat anything, but that food has to be in proper proportions, and that preference should be given to foods that form tissue.  Meat, she reminded them is very good, but it is expensive, and can be cheaply replaced by peas, beans, lentils, fish and cheese, all of which are to be highly recommended.  She recalled that too much starchy food—such as bread and potatoes—is eaten, and that no matter what quantity is consumed it is not sufficient, of itself, to build up the body. In regard to the feeding of children up to two years of age, Miss St. Stephens emphasised that where possible the baby ought to be breast-fed for the first nine months.  If it cannot be breast-fed, it ought to be given cow’s milk, but no other foods, unless recommended by the doctor.  As a child grew older it should not be allowed to partake of the food provided for the family generally, but ought to have a special diet, consisting as much as possible of milk foods.  She pointed out that a child from one to two years, in a working-class family should cost more to keep than any other member of the family, because the food it ought to receive was more expensive.  Miss St. Stephens strongly urged the mothers never to give their children tea, as she said, it is absolutely poisonous to them.  “Give them,” she advised, “Barley water, oatmeal water or hot water with sugar; but don’t on any account give them tea.”  During the “talks” special reference was made to housewifery, attention being directed to the necessity of cleanliness, the value of fresh air (to be obtained by opening the windows), and the importance of sanitary matters.  That the mothers benefited by the lectures is revealed by the fact that they are honestly endeavouring to put into practice the advice so admirably given them by Miss St. Stephens.

On the conclusion of the course the lecturer thought it would be instructive to ascertain reliable data as to the way in which the incomes of these working-class families are expended.  She placed the proposal before the mothers, five of whom readily promised to keep as accurate an account as possible of their expenditure for two consecutive weeks.  On sheets of foolscap she indicated the kind of information required.  The mothers took the papers home, and during the fortnight filled them in.  When the returns came to hand, Miss St. Stephens analysed them, and prepared a summary that will repay close examination.  It may be assumed that the house wives, to demonstrate their capability made the best possible use of their money during the test fortnight.  From the statistics it appears that in a family of eight (Example No. 4) each member was fed for less than 2d a day, the actual sum spent being 1s 0 1/8d. per head per week.  In the other four families the cost of food per head per week was 1s 8 5/8d., 2s 9 3/5d., a fraction over 2s., and a fraction over 2. 3d.  In the five families there are 32 members (excluding infants), and their total weekly income is returned at £6 3s. 1d., which is less than 4s per head.  Of the total, £2 10s. 9d. is spent on food and £3 1s. 5d. on non-foods such as rent, coal, gas, clubs, etc.  It will be noticed that rent is the heaviest item of expenditure.  In the case of the two largest families flour comes next.  In the family of seven meat and flour cost the about the same, but in the two smaller households more meat is bought than flour.  For fruit and vegetables (other than potatoes) the whole of the five families laid out only 1s. 4 1/2d.  These and other particulars can be gleaned from the following summary prepared by Miss St. Stephens:
It is extremely interesting to get the exact details  as to the way in which the housewife laid out the money at her disposal.  From Example No. 3 in the summary we give a week’s expenses for a family of four (father, mother, and two children, excluding infant) whose total income was 18s 1d.  By the exercise of rigid economy they mange to save sometimes 2d. a week and sometimes 3d. but here are the particulars of how the 18s. 1d. was spent.


s.   d.​

s.   d.
Rent,4    0
Soap0    3
Coal2    0Washing Powder0    2
0    6Tobacco0    3 ½
Club (death)1    0Matches0    1 ½
Doctor1    0Firewood0    1
10lb Flour1    2Children to Spend0    1
Barm*,0    2Meat1     2
Potatoes0    7 ½Fish0    3 ½
Sugar0   10Chops0    3
Tea0    4 ½Sausages0    3
Eggs0    6Peas0    4
Margarine1    0Rhubarb0    1 ½
Bacon0    4 ½Jam0    7
Haricot Beans0    3 ½Milk0    3

For the same week the meals partaken of by the family were:—
Breakfast: chops, sausages, tea, bread, and butter.
Dinner: Meat, potatoes, peas, water.
Tea: Bread, butter, cold meat, tea.
Supper: Bread, butter, tea.
Breakfast: Eggs and bacon for two; one egg for two children; bread butter, tea.
Dinner: Same as Sunday.
Tea: Bread, butter; poached egg for one; Jam for children and mother; tea.
Supper: Bread, butter, Tea.
Breakfast: Breakfast: Bacon egg, bread and butter for one; bread and butter for mother and two children: tea.
Dinner: Haricot beans, with meat, onion and carrots, bread and water.
Tea: Haricot beans (cold) for one; bread and butter, and jam for mother and children; tea.
Supper: None.
Breakfast: Bacon egg and bread, butter for one; bacon for three: tea.
Dinner: Meat and potato pie and Yorkshire pudding with sauce; water.
Tea:  Bread and butter, potted meat, tea.
Supper: Bread, butter, tea.
Breakfast: Bacon egg, bread and butter for one; bread and milk for children; bread and butter for mother; tea.
Dinner: Hot-Pot and tea.
Tea: Bread and butter, Jam, and tea.
Supper: None.
Breakfast:  Bacon egg for one, Jam for mother and children; bread and butter, tea.
Dinner: White salmon, (cost 3½.), bread, tea.
Tea: Bread, butter, tea.
Supper: Sweet cake, tea,
Breakfast: Bacon, bread, butter, and tea for all of family.
Dinner: Chops, sausages, bread, gravy, tea.
Tea: Bread, butter, stewed rhubarb, tea.
Supper: None.
The return for the second week states that on four nights the family had no supper.  In this household the average spent on food per week was 8s. 1¼, and on non-foods 9s. 8d.  There is no mention of cloths in the returns. 
In another family, where there are five at home and one in a blind school (Example No. 2 in the Summary), the father earns £1, the mother 5s., and a daughter 10s. per week.  In the first week for which particulars are supplied the meals cost 1s. 3½d., 10d., 10½., 10d., 9d., 10½d., and 8½d. per day, while in the second week the figures were 1s. 4½d., 1s. 3½., 1s 1d., 11d., 1s. 0½., 1s. 0½., and 1s. 6d.  In a postscript the mother observes:—“Meat, sausages, pressed beef, potted meat, and tripe bits I pay for out of what money I have left over buying all in.  I do my best to make one week correspond with the other.”
A family of seven, excluding infant (Example No. 5 in the Summary) have income of £1 7s., of which 15s. 10½d., went in food and 11s. 1½. Was spent on non-foods.  In the first week the amount was laid out as under:—
 s.    d.    s.    d.
Re​nt4    6Salt & Pepper0    1
Coal3    3Soap Soda etc.0    9 ½
Nursing1    6Lard0    3
Gas0    3Meat2    0
Wood0    3Fish1    0
Cocoa0    4 ½Jam0    9
Milk1    4 ½Rhubarb0    3
Tea0    8Rice0    3
Margarine2    0Peas0    3
Sugar0    9Matches0    1
Potatoes0    6Onions0    2
Bacon1    0Clog Irons0    4
Flour3    1 ½Eggs0    6
Barm0    5Cheese0    4

For meals the following was provided:—
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, bread, tea.
Dinner: Potato-pie, rice pudding.
Tea: Bread, butter, jam, tea. 
Supper: Bread, butter, cocoa.
Breakfast:  Bread, jam, cocoa.
Dinner: Bread, butter, and tea; father meat pie.
Tea: Remains of Sunday’s dinner, tea, bread.
Supper: Bread, butter, cocoa.
Breakfast:  Bread, stewed rhubarb, cocoa.
Dinner Bread, Jam, tea; father, bacon and egg.
Tea: Bread, butter, fish, tea.
Supper: Bread, butter, cocoa.
Breakfast: Bread, jam, cocoa.
Dinner: Bread, corned beef, rice pudding, cocoa.
Tea: Bread, fish, stewed rhubarb, tea.
Supper: Bread, butter, tea.
Breakfast: Bread, stewed Rhubarb, cocoa.
Dinner: Pea soup, potatoes.
Tea: Boiled onions, bread, tea.
Supper: Bread, jam, cocoa.
Breakfast: Bread, stewed Rhubarb, cocoa.
Dinner: Bread, butter, cheese, tea.
Tea:  Bread, bacon, tea.
Supper:  Bread, butter, cocoa.
Breakfast: Bread, butter, tea
Dinner: Steak, bread, tea.
Tea: Bread, bacon, tea.
Supper: Bread, butter, cocoa.
In the second week the menu was varied by the introduction of sausages, haricot beans, milk, toasted bread and dripping.

A prize was offered for the best paper.  It was won by Example No.1 in the Summary.  There are eight in the family, whose average weekly earnings amount to £1 3s.  Occasionally this is supplemented by 1s 6d. paid to the mother for cleaning, and now and again the children receive odd coppers for running errands.  In her remarks the mother says:—“Sometimes I get gravy given to me by a person who makes potted meat, and then if there is any bread that has gone hard I put it in the gravy and use that instead of milk.  On Saturday night if you go to the fish market about 10 o’clock you can get a big plate of fish for 3d. or 4d.  It is good, but they sell it cheap because it would be bad by Monday morning.  Then again if you go to any of the big shops where they sell bacon you will get quite 1ld., but for 2d.  Of course you don’t ask for 1ld., but for two pennyworth of pieces.  Or you can get one pennyworth of bits of cheese which are all right for toasting.  I don’t get my dripping at any of the shops, but from dining rooms and hotels, where if you take a mug and go to the back, they will almost fill you it for a penny.  At any of these places if you go about 2 o’clock for two pennyworth of broken meat you get enough to last for two good meals.  I don’t have many coppers left to buy clothes but sometimes I get things given, and there are no misfits, because if they don’t fit I set to and make them.
Sometimes when I sit and study I don’t know how I keep getting the weeks over, but I do, with God’s help, and the children keep getting bigger.  If ever I get a little better off I think I shall feel for anybody that has had to study and plan like I have to do.  In conclusion, I would like to say I am sure no mother, who is feeding her baby at the breast, need be without a good dinner when such nourishing dinners are given by the Nursing Mothers’ Aid Society.” 
During one week the £1 3s. was spent as follows:—
s.    d.
 s.    d.
Rent4    6Jell​y
0    1
Coal2    4Rice0    2 ½
Death Club1    0Onions0    2 ½
Doctor1    0Bone & Meat0    4
Milk1   10 ½Peas0    3
Light0    7Carrots & Swedes0    2 ½
Cleaning Articles0    5Jam0     6
Tea0    8Tripe0    3
Flour and Barm4    0Barley & Meat0    5
Butter1    0Cockles0    1 ½
Sugar1    6Cocoa0    4 ½
Bacon0    2Kippers and Herrings0    4 ½
Water Cress0    2Clog Irons0    2

The meals were served as under:—
Breakfast: Tea, bread, margarine, 2d. of pieces of bacon.
Dinner: Potato pie.
Tea:  Tea, bread, margarine, 1d. of jelly, 1d. of watercress.
Breakfast:  Bread, dripping, tea.
Dinner: Boiled rice, skimmed milk.
Tea: Bread, margarine, 1d. of watercress.
Breakfast: Bread, margarine, tea.
Dinner: Pint of peas, boiled with onions and 1d. bone.
Tea: Bread, margarine, tea, and 1lb of fresh herrings.
Breakfast: Boiled bread, skimmed milk.
Dinner: 3lb. swede turnips, 2lb. carrots, bread, tea.
Tea: Bread, Tea, jam.
Breakfast: Bread, jam, tea.
Dinner: 1lb. onions, mashed with flour gravy, bread, tea.
Tea:  3d. of pieces of tripe, bread, margarine, tea.
Breakfast:  Bread fried in bacon fat, cocoa.
Dinner:  1lb. barley, half neck of foreign mutton, two onions, one boiled carrot.
Tea: Bread, margarine, 1 quart of cockles.
Breakfast: Bread, dripping, cocoa.
Dinner: Potatoes and onions boiled together, with a little dripping.
Tea: Bread, margarine, tea two pairs of kippers.
throughout the return there is no mention of supper.

Of all these human documents probably the most remarkable is that detailing hoe a family of eight live on £1 a week, earned by the father.  There are six children (excluding the infant), whose ages are 11 (boy), 9 (girl), 8 (boy), 7 (girl), 4 (girl), and 2 (girl).  For a week the food of this family was purchased for 8s. 1d., and 11s 11d. was spent on non-foods. The husband does not appear to have a half penny for himself, and according to the return no milk is bought.  From the particulars supplied it will be seen that on four days of the first week they are unable to buy a bit of meat, or food that is a proper substitute for meat. 
In this instance we reproduced the details relating to the meals for the test fortnight:—

Breakfast: Egg for father, mother and children jam.
Dinner: Potato pie, containing ½lb breast of foreign mutton, and suet crust, for all.
Tea: Toast, with margarine, for all.
Super:  Mother and father, drink of tea.
Breakfast: Egg for father; mother and children, margarine and bread.
Dinner:  1lb. beans and potatoes.
Tea: Bread, and jam for all
Supper: None.
Breakfast: Egg for father; mother and children toast.
Dinner: 1Lb lentils and bacon bones.
Tea:  Bread and margarine.
Supper: None.
Breakfast: Egg for father; rest of family, bread and margarine.
Dinner: Potatoes, stewed with suet and onion.
Tea: Toast and margarine.
Supper: None.
Breakfast: One egg; rest of family, jam.
Dinner: Jam pudding.
Tea: Toast and margarine.
Supper: None.
Breakfast: Egg for father; rest of family, toast.
Dinner: Fried potatoes.
Tea: Onions, bread, and margarine.
Supper: None.
Breakfast: Jam for family.
Dinner: Boiled potatoes, with bread and margarine.
Tea: Bread and margarine.
Supper: None.

Breakfast: Father a kipper; mother and children treacle.
Dinner: Potato pie, containing ½lb breast of mutton.
Tea: Watercress, margarine, and bread.
Supper: Cup of tea.
Breakfast: Egg for father; margarine and bread for mother and children.
Dinner: Potatoes stewed with ½ld. breast of mutton.
Tea: Kipper for father, kipper for mother, bread and margarine for children.
Supper: Cup of tea.
Breakfast: Father, bacon; mother onion; children treacle.
Dinner: Barley and bones for all.
Tea: Fried onions.
Supper: Cup of tea.
Breakfast: Father, bacon; rest of family, treacle.
Dinner: 1lb. lentils and bones for all.
Tea: Barley, with bread and margarine.
Supper: Cup of tea.
Breakfast: Egg for father; treacle for rest of family.
Dinner: 1lb. codfish for all.
Tea: Watercress.
Supper: Cup of tea.
Breakfast: Egg for father; rest of family, bread and margarine.
Dinner: 1lb. white salmon for all.
Tea: Bread and Margarine, with onion.
Supper: Cup of tea.
Breakfast: Father, egg; rest of family, bread and margarine.
Dinner: ½lb. liver and onions for all. 
Tea: Bread and jam.
Supper: Cup of tea.
In the first week the £1 was spent as under:—

 s.    d.
 s.    d.
4    9Sugar0   10
Coal2   ​ 3Suet0    2
Doctor0    6Onions0    1 ½
Knocker- up & Gas0    6Lentils0    1 ½
Burial Society2    9Jam0    6
Clothing Club1    0Beans0    1 ½
Wool and Thread0    2 ½Eggs0    6
Clog Irons0    4Mutton0    2 ½
Flour & Barm3    6Soap & Soda0    6 ½
Potatoes0    8 ½Pepper & Matches0    1
Margarine0    7 ½Wood & Starch0    3
Tea0    4Bacon Bones0    3​
For the second week the expenditure was as follows:—

 s.    d s.    d.​
4    9
Bacon0    2
2    3Kippers0    3
Doctor0    6Soap & Starch0    4
Knocker- up & Gas0    6Pepper & Matches0    1
Clothing Club1    0Lentils0    1 ½
Pair Clogs2    4White Salmon0    2 ½
Flour & Barm3    6Mutton0    3
Potatoes0    4 ½Treacle0    2 ½
Margarine0    7 ½Watercress0    0 ½
Tea0    4Bones0    2
Sugar0   10Cod Fish0    2 ½
Eggs0    4Suet0    1
Barley0    2 ½Liver0    2
Onions0    2 ½  ​

In her remarks the mother states:—“I pay 2s every fortnight to the death club for the nine of us, and the week I have not to pay it I buy clothes  or household goods.”​

*Barm is the foam or scum, formed on top of beer when it is brewing.  When it is taken off it can be  used to bake bread amongst other things.

The various wages earned for the examples and converted in to today’s money would be:
                                       1912                           2012
Example 1                 £1. 3s.   0d.                 £106. 55p.
Example 2                 £1. 15s. 0d                  £162. 14p.
Example 3                 £0. 18s. 1d                  £ 83. 77p.
Example 4                 £1. 0s.   0d.                 £  92. 65p. 
Example 5                 £1. 7s.   0d                  £125. 08p.

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