I love this photo. A first online, this is Shuttle Row, Blantyre Works in 1897. If you had family living there, perhaps, this is some of them? 14 people line up outside one of the entrances, most of them children, barefoot. An everyday seen, the matriarch sits outside casting a watchful eye on the playtime. There’s even enough detail to make out a family pet cat.
Conditions were hard in this time. This is some 30 years before the houses were converted into the museum. The sanitary conditions especially are difficult. A few years later in 1910 a report of The Royal Commission of Mines was established to comment on the conditions of local homes. Acting almost like a union, the reports told the vivid truth of the deplorable conditions people had to make to with.
Needless to say, the local County Medical officer had a right old job defending the conditions. In 1910, John. T Wilson took a report which condemned the Shuttle Row building, and put his own “spin” on it to try to show it was within expectations and could be put up with. What followed, was an extremely biased report in favour that the county were doing a “good job”. He wrote describing a privy midden (dry toilet) situated to the rear of Shuttle Row, “The elevation shows a stone structure that would do credit to any builder of a modern dwelling house. The midden occupies a central position and the household refuse can be thrown into it via two openings. There are 4 groups of privy sets.The detailed drawing of seats show a great deal of ingenuity to avoid soiling the person. There is a seat for adults and a seat for children, so designed that the only part of the seat to touch the body is a portion of about 3 inches square on either side of a semi circular front. (A toilet seat). The whole seating arrangement is formed of iron, except two rests for the buttocks which are covered in wood. No doubt when these structures were erected about 100 years ago (1790’s), they would be considered models of perfection and if properly used, no serious nuisance might arise. At the present day however, the midden is not only a receptacle for dry household rubbish, but for liquid slops of various kinds.The result is that instead of the excrement refuse being covered with dry ashes from the fireplace, it mingles with other liquid refuse and becomes a fermenting , offensive mass.”
When reading this, its easy to see how many weavers and miners of the era, went to an early grave. John T Wilson was notorious at the time for trying to say properties would be ok as they were. This is the man who wrote “The internal walls and ceilings may be defective and even damp, but the walls are covered with paper twice or three times a year and the ceiling is lime washed often if and when it falls in. The floor may be defective but it is covered in a fine linoleum.”
Thank you to Elizabeth Beckett for sharing this photo and several other Shuttle Row photos, to appear here soon. I hope i have not painted too bad a picture of her ancestors home.