Architecture is always a set of actual monuments, not a vague corpus of theory.
The physical and social provisions of the early factory and its workforce were all too often rough and ready, the poor conditions in late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century mills and workplaces being mirrored by atrocious housing and negligible amenities. Such crude arrangements ignored the higher standards set in the first model industrial enterprises, while its own brutal excesses would point to new patterns for the future.
In Britain the first enlightened industrialists, engineers, entrepreneurs and inventors, such as Richard Arkwright, the Strutts and the Wedgwoods, set the pace, but in mainland Europe factory communities were the province of the ruling autocrat. Thus in architectural form, as in economic and social respects, they had much in common with the predetermined, hierarchical organization of the landed estate. Emphasizing the point, many of the first generation of manufactories in the Low Countries were housed in the castles, churches and monasteries that had been seized or expropriated during the French Revolution or under Austrian rule. The enclosed microcosm of factory and labour force soon attracted the attention of social and political theorists; for here was a society in miniature upon which larger, improved worlds could be founded. Architecture and plan provided an image and a structure, within which intriguing and important adjustments might be made.
Unsurprisingly enough, the plan chosen in 1781 for Louis XVI's royal iron-foundry, at Le Creusot in Burgundy, was that of a late seventeenth-century nobleman's estate. The realities and essentials of heavy industry, foundries, smelting sheds, furnaces and waste were resolutely shoehorned into a demesne in a curious simulacrum of the established order.
A substantial house for the Director, a 'proto-château', set in gardens and among allées of trees, lay at the apex of the horseshoe plan, at the furthest point from the heat, noise and smoke of the foundry and workshops.1 The blocks that would have traditionally accommodated the farm and domestic servants were transformed into living quarters for the workers, surrounded by vegetable gardens for their own use. Thus the grander avant-cour was, just as in the usual château plan, succeeded by a more utilitarian basse-cour. Enclosed within an ordered system, overseen by the Director in the big house, the long working hours of each day were resolutely measured out by a large clock, a prominent feature over the entrance to the main foundry block.
At Le Creusot, the heavy responsibility for transforming iron production by coke-smelting fell to William Wilkinson, one of a family of English ironmasters from Broseley, near Coalbrookdale, who had been invited to France initially to advise at another royal foundry near Nantes. When Arthur Young visited the works at Le Creusot in the tense weeks of August 1789 he reported the gossip: since Wilkinson was Joseph Priestley's brother-in-law 'and therefore a friend of mankind ... he taught them to bore cannon, in order to give liberty to America'.2 New technology has always tended to give rise to lively suspicion, if not fully formed conspiracy theories.
Wilkinson's worries were not, however, primarily political but practical, since there were great difficulties in applying the new
English system of coke smelting and puddling successfully in France. Nevertheless, the introduction of solid casting and boring along with steam power - Young counted five steam engines and another under construction - had given rise to a sizeable plant, designed and supervised by Pierre Toufaire, the leading French naval architect-engineer from Rochefort, whose experience of the scale and labour organization in the royal shipyard well equipped him to translate efficient working practices and living conditions into a plan that combined innovation and tradition.
Nearby, looking down from a small hill, was the Cristallerie de la Reine, built in 1786 in the form of a collegiate quadrangle, with the attics used for the workers' dormitories and the kilns, like vast table ornaments, placed on two outer corners.3 The Cristallerie was an important planet in the orbit of the Le Creusot ironworks, as the queen was to the king.
The network of industries under royal protection, provided through subsidies, legal adjustments and tax breaks, had been modernized by Louis XlV's minister Colbert into a two-tiered system: the Manufactures Royales were encouraged by a range of
preferential arrangements, while above them the Manufactures d'Etat - which included the Gobelins (according to Arthur Young 'such an one as could be supported only by a crowned head'), Sèvres and Saint-Gobain factories - benefited from the direct patronage of the king and court.
Across Europe, east from Prussia into Poland and Russia, south around the Mediterranean, the absolute rulers led a hectic programme of manufacturing expansion. The emphasis on luxury items - tapestries, porcelain, crystal and silk - is a reminder that the production of these factories was destined for a privileged inner circle, to clothe themselves and furnish their palaces, villas and residences in appropriate style. Much of the workforce consisted of highly skilled craftsmen. Near his summer palace at Caserta, the
Ornamental detail alluding to the activities within. Former royal tobacco factory (now university), Seville, 1766, architect Sebastian van der Vorcht. 43
King of Naples rewarded his silk workers with well-built housing alongside the elegant Baroque factories of San Leucio. In Seville, the royal tobacco monopoly was housed in a factory complex that was second only to the Escorial in size and complexity. In all these industries, profits were either garnered directly by the royal sponsors or were raised through licensing, hence 'royalties'.
Other factories were also founded by royal or imperial edict to produce and process the raw materials and necessities for the state, whether in peace or wartime, essentials such as paper currency and coins, heavy engineering, ship building, plate glass and munitions among them. These factories reflected a rigid social and political reality, but also pointed the way to what might follow, as traditional, craft-based skills gave way, very unevenly, to new machinery, systems and organization of labour. The built form could act as an element of control, potentially replicable, within the overall bureaucracy.
So efficient and successful were some of these enterprises that they endured long beyond the dynasties of their founders; Napoleon III and Empress Eugénie were pictured visiting Louis XlV's Saint-Gobain plate-glass factory almost 200 years after its foundation, and the name lives on as a world-leading glass manufacturer. Equally, after the Revolution, Le Creusot would regain its position as France's leading ironworks - first under the brief ownership of another generation of English iron masters, Aaron Manby and David Wilson (who, as usual, imported an English workforce), and then, in a spectacular expansion, under the ownership of the Schneider family.
In architectural terms, the boldest project of all was ClaudeNicolas Ledoux's royal saltworks in eastern France at Arc-et-Senans, near Besançon. During his later chequered professional career, Ledoux would toy with innumerable exercises in pure geometry, absolute symmetry and architectural reason, never to be realized, but his youthful project, the building of the Saline de Chaux, would allow him to claim with justification that he had joined 'the interests of art with those of government'.4
Heavily salinated springs under the eastern range of the Jura mountains had long provided a valuable source of salt, from which could be extracted the recently imposed and highly lucrative salt tax, the gabelle, which with the tobacco tax was a major source of royal revenue and as such a loathed imposition on all but the exempted aristocracy. The powerful tax collectors, the Farmers-General, wanted to found a Royal Factory closer to the forest of Chaux, from which they could obtain virtually limitless fuel. At the same time the process, little changed for many centuries, needed modernization. Ledoux's ideas ranged further still; in Anthony Vidler's words, he was determined to design 'a far-from-commonplace factory, one that from the outset he conceived as taking its place as a productive centre, a rapidly expanding "natural city" in the fertile but barely exploited territory of the Jura and Franche-Comté'.
Ledoux, in post as a Commissioner for the saltworks of the region from 1771, was from his own observations well aware of the need for urgent improvements both to product and process. He drew up a first project for an immense, but conventional, rectilinear scheme for a saltworks and workers' village, finalized well before the death of Louis XV in early 1774. A few months later he altered tack and submitted a completely new semicircular version, the Classical model for which was the perfection of the plan of the archetypal Roman theatre as described by Vitruvius in De Architectura.
In early 1775 the foundation stone was laid and four years later the job was finished. On a purely aesthetic level, Ledoux would
describe the idealized scheme (which he later expanded, on paper, into an ellipse) as being 'as pure as the trajectory described by the sun', but he also claimed a practical justification for the rearrangement from quadrangle to semicircle, considering that it separated the various noxious and inflammable operations of the Saline more effectively from the workers' housing.
Ledoux's neo-Classical scheme, detailed in a heavy Mannerist fashion, consists of an open crescent of ten major buildings, built of stone and brick, of varying heights and dimensions, roof lines and fenestration. At the hub sits the Director's house, almost dwarfed by the imposing scale and nature of its dependencies. Entry is through the imposing gatehouse, a propylaeum that was ornamented as a grotto, the stone tortuously carved into encrustation, as if water is solidifying into salt before your eyes. Elsewhere the architectural orders and heavy rustication are used to limited but impressive effect; early visitors were surprised to find such grandeur ('columns in a factory!', exclaimed one).
Perspective View of the Town of Chaux, Claude-Nicolas Ledoux's planned community in the Franche-Comté of 1804, which he envisaged as an expanded version of the royal saltworks, completed many years earlier.
Heavily rusticated columns mark the entrance to the Director's house at the Saline de Chaux, with a wing of the saltworks beyond. 1775-8, architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux.
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The Director's 'house' formed the keystone to the arc of Ledoux's ground plan. It was the control point of the works, housing the administration and the supervisors, who were lodged in attics behind the pediment. Ledoux called it the 'temple de surveillance'. On the general plan, the sight lines from the Director's house to the rest of the complex were marked in. Every vestige of authority at the Saline de Chaux emanated from here, including the spiritual, for there was a chapel, and the temporal, in the form of a courtroom.
Each of the workers' pavilions in the crescent had a double-height core around a central chimney, with dormitories for the workers to either side. Evaporation of the brine, over great charcoal-fired furnaces, took place in two low, heavily roofed wings. The plan reflected the rigid ordering of men, materials, time and end product.
The main entrance to the Saline, through a triumphal gateway and grotto. The Director's house can be seen in the distance.
The royal saltworks was never to reach its hoped-for output level, faulty wooden pipes being a major problem from the beginning of production, in October 1778. Its fate became uncertain during the Revolution and following the abolition of the loathed salt tax. At one point, conversion to another use, such as textile printing, was considered, but in 1795 an official report found good organization and efficiency at the works. Commercial production continued until the 1890s.
At the Saline de Chaux the rigorous requirements of the royal manufacture were subsumed within a living architectural model of perfect order, control and schematic design. After the Revolution and his fall from favour, Ledoux amused himself by elaborating the plan into an extended ideal town, simply by completing the circle and adding outlying buildings beyond. Around the periphery of Chaux would be a ring of heavy industry, ironworks, glass kilns,
The saltworks, ornamented by stone water-spouts that graphically express the process, appearing to solidify into salt.
porcelain factories and textile mills. The engraving of the cannon factory with its belching kilns owes much to models such as the Cristallerie at Le Creusot and the earlier widely admired Wedgwood works at Etruria. 'The cross axis of the Saline joins the routes to Arc and Senans, the forges of Roche, the paper mills, the polishing mills; what activity! Some polish the steel, chase the brass, blow the crystal, others cast the molten metal that sustains the rights of nations.'5 By temperament Ledoux was a believer in considered institutional change, and his published scheme represented his ideas of the reordering of economic power rather than of political revolution.
At its heart, the diagrammatic scheme for Chaux was driven by the notion of social order and economic efficiency. As at Le Creusot, the Director's house was all-seeing at the hub of the working wheel, a dynamic (if largely symbolic) inducement to time-keeping, productivity and moral rectitude.
The notion of a rational form of organization for industry was tempting. If working practices and processes were properly under-
The rational approach to industry. Claude-Nicolas Ledoux's schematic plan for a proposed cannon foundry for the town of Chaux, published in 1804.
stood, it was necessary, wrote Ledoux with an apparent early grasp of scientific management, 'to conform to the needs and conveniences of a productive factory where the utilization of time offers a first economy'. Both ground plans and architectural forms might be excellent signals of intent.
Much has been made, by Michel Foucault and others, of the importance of surveillance in the design of late eighteenth-century institutions. To enforce efficiency in an unskilled, possibly casual, workforce was no mean task, and a logical geometry evolved to ensure a high quality, mass-produced commodity. The physical and moral well-being of the workforce was essential to the process, translated at the saltworks at Chaux into workers' accommodation and vegetable gardens. In reality, the 200 workers found themselves in a highly circumscribed society, cut off from the outside world by a massive wall topped with thorn branches and a dry moat, behind a forbidding entrance lodge, the gates of which were rarely open and were attended by liveried guards, initially wearing the uniform of the king.
At much the same time, in Russia, Catherine the Great's favourite, Prince Potemkin, was developing ambitious plans to turn the Krichev estate - annexed from Poland in 1772 and granted to him by the empress in 1776 - into a major industrial centre, river port and trading area. The empress was keen to promote Russian manufacturing industry by granting serfs to important enterprises, such as Sir Charles Baird's iron and sugar works in St Petersburg, and, in so doing, building up a skilled workforce.6
In 1784 Potemkin handed over responsibility for Krichev to a young English engineer named Samuel Bentham. On arrival he found the site in an extremely poor state, but within two years he had made such progress in modernizing and organizing the mills, distilleries and factories that he offered personally to take over the running of the least successful ventures for a ten-year period, asking Potemkin only for a £5,000 loan, to be repaid over the years.7 The problem that Bentham faced was the management of a large polyglot and unskilled serf labour force. The difficulties of organizing them, making them answerable to discipline and supervision while reaching even minimal levels of output, were daunting. The problem quickly sparked a solution in Bentham's mind that took a physical form. If supervision could be established in the centre of a common space, from a higher vantage point, then the task became feasible. From there, a single individual might oversee large numbers of workers. At the same time, Jeremy Bentham, Samuel's brother, had been involved in recruiting labour for the enterprise in England and became increasingly eager to join his brother in Russia. Even from a distance, Jeremy Bentham saw Russia as the ideal test-bed for his own theories of social organization. The degraded serf was a more malleable creature than an independent Englishman, however impoverished. In early 1786 Bentham arrived in Krichev.8
Once there, Jeremy Bentham did little to help his brother, burying himself in his theoretical work, developing the theory of 'central observation', which would, he believed, be applicable to a range of building types, schools, prisons and hospitals as well as factories. With the help of Samuel's engineering knowledge and skills as a draughtsman, together with the practical and structural experience of an English master bricklayer, the plans were worked up in detail. The Ukraine might well have seen the prototype industrial Panopticon (literally, an all-seeing eye), had it not been for Potemkin's impulsive sale of the entire estate in 1787.
In the event the developed structure, presented as a model penitentiary with possibilities as a workhouse, factory or even poultry
house, was offered to a far wider public through the pages of Bentham's published account - Panopticon, or The Inspection House (1791) - after his return to London. He pointed out that while those who worked on a piecework system needed no coercion, those working on fixed hours required overseeing. The new building type, he claimed, would send a current of clean air through society. 'Morals reformed - health preserved - industry
Jeremy Bentham's design, made in 1791, for the multi-purpose Panopticon.
invigorated - instruction diffused ... all by a simple idea in Architecture!'
Brigadier-General Sir Samuel Bentham, who in later life became Inspector-General of Naval Works, held fast to the idea; in 1807 a Panopticon was built at Ochta, near St Petersburg, as a training centre for naval manufactures; and back home in 1812 he unsuccessfully tried to persuade the Admiralty to plan a new naval arsenal at Sheerness in Kent on the lines of the Panopticon. As a factory, an inflexible, centrally planned building proved wholly unsuitable for changing manufacturing processes and machinery. For all the hopes and rhetoric vested in the form, the Panopticon never proved itself to be a replicable physical model for industry, although it fared rather better as a prison.9
A far more promising way to reorganize society was to take an existing factory or mill along with its workers and transform the conditions of their work and lives. A physically enclosed world offered intriguing possibilities for different versions of organizational reform, an ideal structural and political canvas for social experiment. When Robert Owen moved from the cotton mills of
The 'round building', or Panopticon, Belper, Derbyshire, built by the pioneering Strutts in 1811-13. This variant of the form was a rare industrial version, which quickly proved inflexible and impractical. It was demolished in 1959.
Manchester and became David Dale's son-in-law and business partner in New Lanark (in which the ubiquitous Richard Arkwright had been briefly involved), he immediately saw the potential for a reorganization that went far beyond matters of daily working practice, although his own intellectual journey towards a socialism that freed men from concerns of property or profit would take much longer.
The New Lanark Twist Company was sited in a valley in Strathclyde next to a spectacular waterfall and consisted of four cotton mills, a number of workshops and some tenement housing. From the time of his arrival in 1799, Owen began to apply his progressive ideas about factory management: the cooperation he gained by showing respect for his workers and managers ensured a high quality product and, hence, a profitable enterprise, which enabled him to finance his idealistic ventures.10 That these, in turn, were rooted in such a patently orderly and successful venture helped to give credibility to his model community.
In 1812 Owen dissolved his former partnership and quickly brought in new partners, fellow idealists, the Quaker William
The clean and orderly premises at the Shaker Center Family Medicine Factory, Mount Lebanon, New York, photographed in 1931, where the Shakers prepared herbs for distribution and sale.
Allen, who later set up his own Sussex land settlement, and Jeremy Bentham. The timing was unfortunate, since the wars with America had lowered cotton prices dramatically, but Owen was not deterred from his notion that the rural mill town offered a perfect test-bed for his theories of 'social psychology and economic philosophy'.11 He envisaged that New Lanark, then merely one of many water-powered textile mills in the countryside beyond Glasgow, would eventually stand apart, the working exemplar of his utopian 'New System of Society', as laid out in his A New View of Society (1813).
Owen's views on the iniquities of the Factory System, in particular on the use of child labour, guided the way in which he ran New Lanark, a canny mixture of the carrot and the stick. He quickly outlawed the employment of pauper children and insisted that education be the central plank within his raft of ideas. The Institute for the Formation of Character (the lofty name he had chosen for his school) opened on New Year's Day in 1816, and was
organized to follow the educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi's guiding principles of kindness and common sense. Children were offered full-time education until the age of 10, before beginning work in the mills, but were encouraged to continue their schooling with evening classes thereafter. For their parents' benefit, he reduced working hours while closely evaluating output with the use of a 'silent monitor', recording each worker's efforts according to a system of colour markers. There were curfews and fines for drunkenness, yet during the American embargo on cotton exports he continued to pay his workforce and instituted a sick fund and communal kitchens and dining rooms.
Owen's dealings with government, which included giving evidence on the Poor Laws and the proposed Factory Acts based on his own wide experience, radicalized him further. In 1817 he published a letter to London newspapers in which he contrasted life in manufacturing towns against his proposed Villages of Co-operation, a scheme drawn up to counter 'the depreciation of human labour . . . occasioned by the general introduction of mechanism into the manufactures of Europe and America, but principally into those of Britain, where the change was greatly accelerated by the inventions of Arkwright and Watt'.12 In his villages mechanization would be limited and the factory balanced with the farm.
Sir Robert Peel's Factory Act, which was passed in 1819, introduced the notion of government intervention in private industry and was followed, at lengthy intervals, by further measures. The Act, becoming law under a Tory prime minister who was himself a mill owner's son, had been weakened from the original, wideranging draft for which Robert Owen had fought so tenaciously. As passed, it applied only to children working in cotton mills (acknowledged to be the toughest sector of the textile industry), outlawed the employment of children under 9 years of age and
limited the hours worked by older children to no more than twelve hours in twenty-four. The operation of Owen's own system at New Lanark had been, in essence, his plea for a far more radical Factory Act. An authoritarian regime based upon temperance, economy and strict discipline, it also offered a humane version of employment standards in factories.
In that year of the first Factory Act, visitors flocked to New Lanark; one American observer was highly impressed by Owen's achievement, noticing that the mills closed at 6.30 p.m. so that workers could benefit from further education, music and dancing, the last in Owen's view a particularly relaxing and suitable diversion. The visitor reported that 'there is not ... to be found in any part of the world, a manufacturing village .. . composed of persons indiscriminately brought together, without any peculiar bond of
The frontispiece to The Crisis (London, 1833), in which Owen adds his name to those of Plato, Bacon and More, and an architectural vision of Utopia.
fraternity, in which so much order, good government, tranquillity and rational happiness prevail'.13 Robert Southey, the poet, thought the mills 'perfect of their kind, according to the present state of mechanical science', being clean, well ventilated and not unpleasant smelling. But when the schoolchildren were asked to perform for him he was uncomfortably reminded of a line of Dutch cows, their tails wagging in unison.14
The one element that disturbed even the most admiring of visitors - and which had contributed to the breakup of Owen's partnership with Allen and Bentham - was the complete lack of religious observance. Robert Owen's dismissal of religious-based communities, on principle, blinded him (or perhaps simply made him unwilling to admit) to the important lessons in social and spatial organization offered by both the Moravian and the Shaker communities. By giving formal expression to self-imposed individual regulatory limits, familial and sexual, as their collective aspirations - those of economic self-sufficiency based upon skilled trades and agriculture - they were models that could have served Owen well. The plan of Fairfield, the Moravian village outside Manchester, with its square within a square, drawn up by a very young Benjamin Henry Latrobe - long before he turned his attention to the public buildings of Washington, DC -and the subtle, mirror-image Shaker buildings in which the sexes never met, are superbly contrived, communally agreed, determinist devices.15 Self sufficiency was a major objective for the Shakers, and the large community at Mount (New) Lebanon, in New York state, boasted industrial-scale premises by the early years of the nineteenth century. The men ('brothers') made brooms and packaged garden seeds as well as following heavier occupations, such as light engineering and milling. The women ('sisters') had their own substantial three-storey workshop where, among many other activities, they bottled and packed herbs and essences.
Over the years, Owen had travelled widely to present his ideas and blueprints for an improved society, visiting figures such as Napoleon on Elba, Tsar Alexander I and President John Quincy Adams. But New Lanark, and his voluminous writings, would prove to be the only enduring testament to his theories. In 1824 he left Scotland for America, aiming to revolutionize a wider world with multiplying Villages of Co-operation: in the event only the limping New Harmony in Indiana justified his journey west.
Robert Owen's ideas had initially fallen on very fertile ground, for the urgent dilemma in North America was how to retain an agrarian society that remained in step with the march of urbanization. In 1816 Thomas Jefferson had written: 'while we have land to labour ... for the general operation of manufacture, let our workshops remain in Europe'.16 Jefferson, who had set up a nail factory in the 1790s on his own plantation at Monticello, Virginia, envisaged a closed circle in which manufacture would supply the immediate needs of the Republic, avoiding the pitfalls of the industrial city and maintaining the agricultural economy. Humphreysville, Connecticut, illustrated the Jeffersonian idea of 'factories in the fields'; the eponymous founder, David Humphreys, had returned from his post as American minister to Spain and Portugal to set up a factory village around a textile mill from 1806. His workers were largely orphans and New England farmers' daughters, who were housed in lodging houses with gardens. They were carefully superintended, in all matters relating to 'education, manners, discipline, morals, and religion'.
Everything across the Atlantic was measured against the British experience. A vile picture of fouled landscapes and formless industrial cities, of degraded labour and negligible amenities was
quickly emerging. Francis Cabot Lowell visited Britain in 1810-11 and took particular interest in Manchester. On his return he set about inventing a power loom, found business partners (from his New England peer group) and a site on the Charles River at Waltham, Massachusetts, where the first mechanized cotton mill in America was built. The Boston Manufacturing Company, as the partnership was named, perfected what became known as the Lowell system, in which the corporation bought and developed a site and then leased the land off to individual companies. Lowell's venture was to prove immensely profitable for its promoters. By 1821 the company needed to expand and a new site was chosen, East Chelmsford on the Merrimack River, which benefited from a canalized system to provide water power.
Lowell had died in 1817, but his two business partners carried on, with a third associate, and gave their new city his name. By the end of 1823 the first mill was in production; in 1835 the railway came; and by 1848 Lowell had a population of 33,000. The careful pacing and diminutive scale of manufacturing industry in America had suddenly been exploded to massive proportions, but the fate of Lowell, with its Massachusetts sister towns Lawrence and Manchester, remained the litmus test of whether 'the
Terraced workers' boarding houses, Booth cotton mills, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1836.
Manufacturing system is compatible with the social virtues', as one observer wondered.
Watching Britain, struggling to contain the monster it had created, the Americans were taking stock. In New England there was a concerted policy to keep factories out of cities, and the American Society for the Encouragement of Domestic Manufactures pictured them 'on chosen sites, by the fall of waters and the running stream, the seats of health and cheerfulness, where good instruction will secure the morals of the young and good regulations will promote, in all, order, cleanliness, and the exercise of civil duties'.17 Optimism remained the norm and few voices echoed Herman Melville when he wrote about his fear of the machine, 'this inflexible iron animal'.
With high hopes vested in it, Lowell became an object of intense curiosity - just like Coalbrookdale or New Lanark before it, or the Ford works in Detroit after it - but here with the emphasis strongly on the quality of working and living conditions. Could a starry-eyed American experiment marry capitalistic endeavour with moral idealism? Perceptive and well-informed visitors came, including Harriet Martineau and Charles Dickens, who were well placed to compare the American venture against the unhappy English experience.
A small guidebook was produced in 1848, advising 'the stranger' to obtain a note of introduction to the agent of each company in order to tour the various establishments, which numbered ten huge works and many smaller enterprises. The early mills had spawned printworks, carpet companies, bleach and dye works, as well as engineering and machine factories. By now many mills were rebuilding, expanding and converting to steam power. The Merrimack Manufacturing Company, oldest and largest of the companies, had recently built a mill 350 feet (106.68 m)
Cotton mills on the water, Hamilton Mills, Lowell, Massachusetts, 1840s, now a museum complex.
long powered by two turbine wheels and a new 'picker house' divided into two as a fire precaution. The completion of a top-lit carpet factory was celebrated with a picnic for 5,000, with music and '100 sets of cotillons' on the floor. 'Every one in this vast assemblage, clad with extreme neatness, and conducting themselves with good breeding and decorum, afforded by another proof of the superiority and refinement of the class of operatives in Lowell'. If the booklet was to be believed, Lowell was a model community - at play as at work.
When Charles Dickens paid his visit to Lowell in 1842 he was struck by the cleanliness of it all, both the people and the town, with its crisp red and white buildings, neat streets and trees. He noticed the factory windows carefully shaded from the sun by leafy green house plants, the salubrious boarding houses in which the largely female workforce was lodged and amenities such as the hospital and savings bank. Dickens realized that the workers had a long, hard day - twelve hours - and that there were a few children employed in the mills, but he still felt that there was no comparison to be made with conditions at home.
Some twenty years later, Anthony Trollope arrived, just as cotton supplies from the Southern states had been interrupted by the Civil War. Some mills were closed and short-time working had been introduced in many more. Even then he declared: 'It is Utopia'. But Utopia had its limitations; 'Lowell is a very wonderful place and shows what philanthropy can do; but I fear it also shows what philanthropy cannot do.' How, he mused, could Chicago with its population of 120,000 learn from this 'closed' system? Starting from scratch, the States have 'resolved ... to avoid the evils' of industrialized England. Trollope was impressed that 'Good and thoughtful men have been active to spread education, to maintain health, to make work compatible with comfort and personal dignity', but concluded that when 'New England employs millions in her factories, instead of thousands . . . she must cease to provide for them their beds and meals, their church-going proprieties and orderly modes of life'.18
Titus Salt in England had more modest aims than the founders of Lowell but agreed with John Ruskin that it was the manufacturer's duty 'to make the various employments involved in the production, or transference of it, most beneficial to the men employed'. Salt had witnessed the unchecked development of the textile industry across the Pennines and wanted to break the mould. At the same time, he fully recognized that working families living in decent houses and benefiting from amenities that ranged from public baths to savings banks would also form a more stable workforce, to the great benefit of the productivity of the business. It was this realization, in which the paternalism of an enlightened industrialist met the pragmatism of the experienced manufacturer, that drove the progressive experiments in industrial settlements in Britain and elsewhere in the second half of the nineteenth century.
In 1851 Salt turned to the engineer and manufacturer William Fairbairn for expertise and experience, and together they planned and built a model industrial settlement around a vast mill, sited well away from Bradford in open countryside. Over it all towered the factory chimney, modelled on an Italian campanile. The housing in Saltaire carefully reflected the hierarchies of the workplace, with the ends of the terraces marked by larger houses for the foremen and a dignified terrace of almshouses for the elderly. There were places of worship, schools, a library and adult institute, all sited well upwind of the factory. Railway transport was provided so that the workers and their families could get to the nearby moors,
A contemporary print of Saltaire, near Bradford, West Yorkshire. The Italian-style alpaca mill towers over the model village, built from 1851 onwards by Titus Salt.
Saltaire. The mill and chimney designed by the engineer William Fairbairn are an impressive 66 backdrop to the stone-built workers' housing, built on a neat grid.
but such paternalism had its downside too: washing lines were forbidden and people had to pay to use the communal laundry.
Gazing at the finished product, the editor of the Birmingham Post mused that this realisation of a great idea . . . has . . . shown what can be done towards breaking down the barrier which has existed between the sympathies of the labourer and the employer ... No finer picture could be imagined by the dreamer . . . than that of a city where education is open to every child, - where labour is respected, - where intemperance is banished -where the graces of life and the higher intellectual pleasures are open to the enjoyment of all. . .19
Salt's enterprise was a model for the times, of interest as much abroad as at home.
Across Europe different variants upon the industrial settlement emerged. Jean-Baptiste Godin had become a follower of the utopian socialism of Charles Fourier in 1843 and continued to pursue his ideas while developing his iron-foundry and metalworks. In 1858 he began to build an industrial community around his domestic stove factory at Guise, in north-east France, calling it the familistère. He thus implied both links to Fourier's theoretical communal building, the phalanstère, and differences, in particular, his disagreement with Fourier's contempt for traditional family structures. At Guise, Godin built three linked residential blocks with internal balconies ranged around glass-roofed central courtyards, social spaces that would draw together the village-sized population. Thoughtful planning and high quality services (ventilation, running water and toilets on every floor) all helped to raise 'the moral and intellectual standards of the population',20 which
Glazed internal court at communal workers' housing, seen in the mid-1970s. Built, following the ideas of the utopian Charles Fourier, for the Godin domestic stove factory at Guise, Picardy, c. 1858.
were underlined by profit-sharing and voting rights. By the early 1880s there were four blocks of housing and a wide range of amenities, including baths, nursery and primary school, dining hall, theatre and gymnasium.
Enlightened industrialists throughout Europe and North America organized their own piecemeal variants upon the model factory settlement and the social experiment. Each laid particular emphasis upon health and well being, sobriety and literacy. Housing was almost always tied to the job, just as on the landed estate, but the more progressive also allowed non-employees to rent their cottages. This was the case at Bournville near Birmingham, where Cadbury provided new housing with generous gardens, and at New Earswick outside York, built by Rowntree. Both chocolate-makers were Quakers - religious non-
The chocolate-makers Bournville called their works 'the factory in a garden', one of many efforts by enlightened industrialists to improve the face of late 19th-century working life.
conformity was the norm in the circles of nineteenth-century philanthropic industrialists.
At Bournville, the works carried the epithet 'the factory in a garden', and the workers could practice callisthenics on the lawns or while away their rest periods lounging by the ornamental ponds. Far away in the cigar-making city of Ybor in southern Florida, immigrant employees at one establishment had the benefit of a 'lector', who read selected stories from the daily trilingual newspaper from a central lectern as the Cuban workers below wrapped the cigars. In an era predating any state welfare provision, each company stood over its employees in a position of great power and responsibility.
Port Sunlight, as William Hesketh Lever, the future 1st Viscount Leverhulme, must have admitted to himself, was an absurd name to choose for the bleak tract of marshland that he bought in 1887, close to the Mersey estuary, some distance from Birkenhead. On moving from overcrowded, inadequate premises in Warrington, where the success of Lever's business had quickly forced him to extend the original factory building into a ramshackle collection of wooden sheds alongside, he dignified his intentions and his 20 hectares with the new name of his product. Sunlight soap was his choice, after recent legislation tightening up on trade descriptions had forced the energetic wholesale grocer to abandon the epithet 'pure honey' for his individually packed yellow soap bars.
The factory, as extensive as Warrington had been cramped, was the first building on the waterside site, with a wharf running alongside. While the design work was going on, Lever was continuously at the side of his architect, William Owen, ensuring that his personal contributions to the scheme were carried through. Eventually, his own office was to be perched high above the general administration block, its walls glazed so that he could keep a
An aerial view of Bournville, outside Birmingham, showing generous gardens and comfortable houses built in the late 1880s around the factory, for workers and others.
An aerial view of W. H. Lever's Port Sunlight, Merseyside. The soap factory is in the distance, the art gallery an unlikely focus for a model industrial village.
close eye on everything that occurred below. The workforce was well provided for, but never far from his sight.21
Nearby, Port Sunlight village was built in an eclectic mixture of English domestic styles and materials, its terraces ranged picturesquely over the large site. The houses were the antithesis of the industrial terraces of the North-West: colourful, architecturally varied, with modern conveniences and set in acres of grass and trees, the strongest possible contrast to the sooty back-to-backs of Birkenhead or Liverpool.
Yet after a long day at work, as Lever's (largely female) employees returned to their salubrious and well-appointed cottages, most of them half-timbered or tile-hung and seemingly taken from the pages of some book on the charms of Olde England, they still could not easily forget that the factory lay just beside the village. Its huge chimneys overshadowed their own and a pervasive smell of soap was carried everywhere on the breeze. Port Sunlight was there to make a wider point: its name, like its image, reinforcing a vision of apple-cheeked good housekeeping. There was no escaping the obligation towards domestic and personal propriety conveyed by the well-kept grounds and the public amenities, which included the Institute and Art Gallery but excluded a public house.
At Port Sunlight, as elsewhere, the housing was a variant on profit-sharing, in which the employees' dues were converted into low rents. The all-embracing paternalism of the firm and the dependency exacted from the workforce still chafed in the 1970s, long after Lever's death.22 Unilever still operates at Port Sunlight, but under transformed conditions.
Port Sunlight was one of a pair with Lever's Thornton Hough, his estate village near the family mansion on the Wirral in Cheshire, and was designed by the same architects. There, in the countryside, the new cottages in their vocabulary of revivalist
styles looked on to the village green, with the church tower replacing the smokestacks of the works. Here, agricultural activities replaced industrial ones, but the imagery was much the same. Back at Port Sunlight, in the shadow of the works, the little garden suburb, with its beautifully tended open spaces and dignified public buildings, was a clear celebration of the domestic virtues and traditional values.
Lord Leverhulme's employees may have been unwitting participants in his empire of cleaning materials, but the village quickly became an international model for those considering how to realign industry, the countryside and the city at the end of the nineteenth century. This was the essential paradox with which the promoters of the late nineteenth-century model factory, the planners of the Garden Cities and New Towns, as well as men with such differing visions as Henry Ford and Tomás Bata, would wrestle in the early years of the next century.
Housing at Port Sunlight, Merseyside, seen shortly after its completion in the 1890s. The contrived allusion to traditional rural architecture served Lever well, serving both a moral and commercial purpose.
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