Population: at time of census (1931) 511,742. In 1934, 520,950. Increase of 9208 in 3 years. Excess of births over deaths is between 2 and 3, therefore normal increase would be something under 5000. So there has been a little immigration.
Health: See attached but am trying to get further figures. It is claimed (no figures available) that Sheffield has highest abortion rate of any city in England. W. Asbury (Councillor) states: “In the 7 years from 1927-1934, abortion accounted for 22.4% of deaths from puerperal sepsis. In 1934 it accounted for 59.4% of deaths from puerperal sepsis. Number of abortions treated in the City General Hospital have˚ increased from 6 per annum in 1912 to 337 in 1934.” Making all allowance for abortions now being less often concealed, the last figure points to great increase in abortion. It is also said (no figures available) that there are 20,000 couples living together unmarried in Sheffield. At the same time sexual starvation owing to unemployment is said to be rife and both insanity and suicide very common. Suicide rate is not published but trying to get from M.O.
The commonest industrial disease, tuberculosis, especially in those engaged in knife-grinding (breathing dust all the while.)
Employment: Trade brisk at present owing to the war in Abyssinia. The peak figure for unemployment was in 1930, when it touched 60,000. This is statutory benefit only and does not include those on poor relief, but at that time (I presume) there would have been comparatively few on poor relief. By 1932 this had dropped to 54,000. To each of these one has got to add those on poor relief, bringing the totals up to (say) 80,000. The figures on 20th May 1935 (published by Corporation) were:
Total……………………….35,795. (This total corresponds to the 60,000 and the 54,000.)
Grand total: 73,709. This was the total on 20th May 1935. Now, owing to increased trade in armaments, may be presumed to be less. A round figure might be 60,000. Multiplying by 3 as usual, this makes 180,000, ie. a little over 1 person in 3 either drawing or living on the dole.
Housing: Rehousing is going on at vast speed. Practically the entire central area of Sheffield, barring a few main streets, is slum, and this is all condemned and being replaced as fast as possible. There are bare patches everywhere where houses have been demolished. The new housing estates are at present all on the outskirts. A few blocks of Corporation flats have been built in the centre of the town, and more will be built when this portion has been further demolished. It is estimated that in all 100,000 houses will be built, spread over a number of years, of course. With a town of 500,000 population, this practically means rehousing the whole town. It also means complete redistribution of population and difficulties arising from this because of people finding difficulty in living near their work. It is said that there are still 30,000 back to back houses in Sheffield, and that 65% of the old type houses have neither bath room nor hot water laid on. (No accurate figures here. Have applied to M.O. for number of back to back houses and rate at which Corporation houses are being built.) See attached for account of Corporation houses and back to back house.
TYPICAL SHEFFIELD BACK TO BACK HOUSE.
13/2 Thomas St. Sheffield.
2 up 1 down. ie. it is a 3-storey house with 1 room on each floor. Living room about 12’ or 14’ by 10’. Cellar below. Sink in living room. Kitchener and gas-ring (no gas stove.) Electric light, penny in the slot, electricity working out at 5d a unit. Owing to its situation this is a dark house and the inmates claim that they spend 6d a day on electricity. This I think must be exaggeration.
First floor bedroom about 15’ by 12’ and the top one the same. Top one has no door but gives on open stairs. Walls in top rooms are simply coming to bits and oozing damp on all sides. Also to less extent in living room.
Rent 6/6 all in.
There are 6 in family, parents and 4 kids. Husband, by trade a knife-grinder, is T.B. One child in hospital, the others look healthy enough. Total present income is 38/- per week. The threatened reduction to 32/6 (see attached U.A.B. sheet) is arrived at thus: Statutory benefit for this sized family is 39/-. 3/- is deducted for meal allowance to children at school. (4 children, and they are given 2 meals a day, ie. 48 meals @ 1d a meal-query why not 4/-?) and 3/6 off for rent because on P.A.C. rent should be one quarter of allowance. Binns’s rent is therefore assessed at 10/- and he is only paying 6/6. That is, total deduction 6/6, leaving 32/6. At present only 1/- is deducted, but the full cut is liable to be restored.
The Binns have been 7 years in this house. Would move, but no house available. Do not want Corporation house because of the enormously greater rent (10/- or 12/-.)
Wybourn Estate new (experimental) type of Corporation houses.
4 up 2 down plus bathroom and WC.
Downstairs: Living room about 19’ by 13’, kitchen somewhat smaller. Large cupboard in kitchen. Gas stove. Boiler behind living room fire. Bathroom. WC. separate. Gas lighting (NB. all other estates have electricity.)
Upstairs: largest bedroom 14 by 12, two others slightly smaller, smallest only 8’ by 7’. Two bedrooms have fireplaces.
Garden about size of allotment. Top soils had been shaved off and cinders etc susbstituted. Tenant had had to make soil.
These houses are about 3½ years old. Walls are good and Corporation good about repairs. Regulations as usual but I gather are less firmly enforced on these very large housing estates. This particular house 20 minutes walk from town or 1d bus ride. Tenant (keen Socialist but non-smoker, teetotaller and model husband whose boast is that he has always 1d in pocket and hands the rest over to wife) very satisfied. Those on further parts of estate said to be less satisfied because of expense of getting to town.
Number living in this house, 9 (parents and 7 children.) Two of the children are working, the father out of work.
Rent 10/7 inclusive, recently reduced from 11/10.
Gas runs on penny in slot meter. Tenant estimates that about 3d a day is spent on gas. Coal is at 1/4 a cwt.
(NB. that there appears to be great difference in expense at any rate with electricity between penny in slot and “rateable” – in the latter case the meter etc. has to be installed at the tenant’s own expense and costs about £4. With a penny in slot meter it is said that one woman spent 32/6 in 6 weeks – ie. over 5/- a week on lighting alone. With “rateable” electricity cost said to be about 4½d a week. Figures presumably exaggerated but there is no doubt it costs much more with penny in slot meter. Cf. the people in Thomas Street.)
3 up 2 down plus bathroom and WC.
Downstairs: Living room about 16 by 14. Kitchen smaller. Bathroom.
Upstairs: 3 bedrooms all fair size. Largest only has fireplace. Walls good. Hot water supply good.
Electric lighting (rateable.) Penny in slot for gas. Electricity bill estimated at 12/- or 14/- a quarter. (about 1/- a week.)
Rent 12/4 inclusive.
Garden small and poor soil.
These are considered superior type of Corporation houses and are rather more ornate than most. Tenant is postman. No one is allowed into these houses whose income is less than £3 a week. People on dole not allowed in but not turned out if they become out of work after coming here.
Tenant very satisfied.
Car ride into town 1 1/2d.
NB. that the drastic rehousing going on in Sheffield, and presumably in some other towns, causes great injustice with regard to shops. In the first place comparatively few shops and practically no pubs are alloswed in the housing estates. When a complete area is condemned, as in various parts of the centre of Sheffield, it means that a small shopkeeper’s whole clientele is taken away from him and dumped down at the other end of the town. Probably his own premises are condemned too, but in any case he gets no compensation for loss of business. Difficulties are put in the way of his going and setting up in the estate to which his clientele has moved, because, as mentioned above, the number of shops is strictly limited, secondly there are regulations as to what the shops are allowed to sell, thirdly rents are higher, which affects both the shopkeeper himself and his customers, who have less money to spend with him. It is also inconvenient for the householders in Corporation estates, who have less shops to choose from unless they spend money on bus fare[s] into town. It is also alleged that the Corporation gives special facilities to chain stores to set up branches in housing estates. See attached cutting.
Orwell’s notes on Sheffield. From the Complete Works, X, 350, p. 567