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twelve years ago, the total sum lost by non-payment of rent is under £5.
In a communication made by the present writer to Mr. Roberts on this scheme, which is printed in the Transactions of the Society for 1860, it is stated that, “as a whole, the people are decidedly superior to the ordinary working classes of the district. The houses, with their plots of grass, or tastefully laid out gardens in front, are quite inviting in appearance. The tenants, as a body, are exceedingly respectable, and some of them are persons of high Christian worth. In visiting the working classes, one has often to ascend long and dark stairs, or to descend into damp cellars, where it is felt to be a misfortune do have the sense of smell. In visiting these model-houses, the sensation is quite the opposite. . . . We cherish the hope that, through the Divine blessing, these houses may become modelbuildings for the working classes in every sense of the term."
In one sense, therefore, such an association as this has been successful; but it has altogether failed in so encouraging capitalists to build houses suited for the working classes, as to secure the erection of a number corresponding to the demand. Efforts to enlarge the number of such associations have been attended with but middling success. If, therefore, the actual destitution is to be supplied, we must look in some other direction. Happily, we do not need to look in vain. The agency on which we must rely is that of the working classes themselves, aided by the building societies, which are now so common and so useful
The marvellous results of this agency in Birmingham and other English towns, have been set forth in a very clear and interesting manner by Mr. William Chambers, in one of his Social Science Tracts. It is from that tract, consisting chiefly of the report of a lecture delivered by Mr. Chambers in Edinburgh, in January 1862, that the following particulars are mainly derived.
The benefit building and benefit land societies of England were originally framed rather more than twenty years ago, for the purpose of extending the right of voting, derived from the forty shilling franchise ; but the primary object may now be said to have sunk into secondary importance, the great object of these societies now being to aid the working classes in the purchase of their own dwellings. A working man desiring to achieve this, first purchases, or arranges for purchasing a plot of ground from the land society, and if he has not ready money enough to defray the whole cost of the house, he obtains an advance for this purpose from a build
ing society, he obliging himself to pay back this advance in periodical instalments. When a workman wishes, from any cause, to dispose of his house, he usually finds no trouble in doing so; the demand is very great, and the cost of a legal title is restricted by the society to so moderate a sum, as to furnish no great obstacle to the transaction.
The houses in and around Birmingham that are built in this manner are usually of two stories ; all are self-contained, all have gardens, usually behind, and are provided with sculleries, and other conveniences. Many of the workmen have fitted up small greenhouses in their gardens, with flues, and sloping stands for rows of flowering plants. One man, a wire-worker by trade, whose wages were often not above 13s. a week, from which he had to pay instalments to the society, made a trifle by his flowers, and boasted of having had, the year before, a splendid crop of sweet-williams. The house was a picture of comfort; in the kitchen, flitches of bacon, cured by the wife, were suspended from the ceiling; a couple of loaves, baked by her, were on the table; and on the parlour-table lay a handsomely bound family bible, surrounded by other books in prose and verse. Usually the wages of the householders range from twenty to thirty shillings a week; the fortnightly instalments are from one shilling and threepence upwards, and the price of land and house is usually paid up in from ten to fourteen years.
The number of such houses in and around Birmingham alone is said to be from 8000 to 9000. The enthusiasm of the workmen in taking advantage of the facilities thus afforded them is exceedingly great. The price of the land for building is rather high, amounting often to £40 or £50 for a small plot of ground—a sum comparatively much larger than is usually paid (in the shape of annual feuduty) for building-land in Scotland.
In accordance with the practice of beginning to lay up early, which we have so strongly advocated, many commence to pay in from two shillings to three shillings a fortnight, as soon as they have completed their apprenticeship; and when the time arrives for them to be married and begin housekeeping, they can almost liquidate one-half the price of a property. Before middle life, the man is rent-free, besides having a property which he can bequeath to his wife and children. An interesting case of this kind was pointed out to Mr. Chambers. It was a new and handsome dwelling, occupied by a young tradesman, just married, and who, though only twenty-two years of age, had, by an early begun course of saving, already paid for his property, and was now rent-free for life. Thus the scheme which
we began this lecture by propounding, of getting quit of rent and landlords, is seen to be anything but Utopian, if workmen will only set their shoulder to the wheel, begin early, persevere steadily, and seek the blessing of God. The total sum of money that has been paid into the societies is eleven millions, and the sum permanently invested upwards of eight millions.
The building societies, as might readily be supposed, are great helps to the cause of temperance. They give a very tangible idea of the value of money. “ Ah, Tom," a member may be heard saying, as he sees a thirsty friend issue from a tavern, “I see you have been drinking a yard of land this morning.” Even tobacco comes in for a share of unpopularity; not a few share the surprise said to have been expressed by King James VI., who could not understand how some of his subjects should expend great sums on “so precious a stinke.”
Building societies began in Scotland; but their success there has not been at all in proportion to their success in England. They are now often called Investment Societies; most of them appear to be flourishing, and they afford to working men great facilities for the acquisition of house property. But in one important respect, their mode of operation has hitherto been different from that of the