EAST AND WEST LONDON By the Rev. Harry Jones. Published by Smith, Elder & Co., 1875 (an extract)
I must say a word about this, as it is indeed in some measure characteristic of the business that goes on at this end of London. Not only are we in contact with the uttermost parts of the earth by means of the merchandise which we receive from thence, but this depot is our door of departure for New Zealand. I have frequently to sign the papers of those who sail hence. The first day I visited it the dining-room was filled with a crowd of hungry emigrants waiting for dinner, and the air with the odour of its advent. They sat in messes of eight or ten, to each of which was a captain, who kept his nose steadily pointed towards the door through which the smell came. Presently a signal was given, and each disappeared, receiving a ticket as he passed out. With this he descended to the kitchen, returning in a minute or two, mostly grinning, and bearing a large brown oval dish, divided in the middle. One half was filled with roast-beef and the other with potatoes. There was enough and to spare for all. 'They waste a lot,' said one of the officials. But I don't know; it seemed to be appreciated. 'Ah,' remarked a country-looking fellow to me, with his cheek bulged with a huge bite, and a twinkle in his eye, 'I wish, sir, they would let me stay here for a month.' 'Rare good victuals,' said another. 'I believe you,' added a third; 'Tain't allus we've had a bellyful of cooked meat every day.' The emigrants are fed and taken to New Zealand free of charge, excepting 1 each for 'bedding-money' for those over twelve, and 10s. each for those under that age. I was struck with the air of confidence displayed by most. They were leaving the old country with less regret than I liked to see, though some of the elders looked sad. The majority were labourers. The officials told me that on the arrival of the ship at its destination they were for some time lodged in a depot free of expense, but that they were generally engaged at once, or soon fetched away by friends. The sleeping arrangements at the depot prepare the emigrants for their inevitable crowding on board-ship. The married couples have each a berth to themselves, but dozens of these sleep in what would be called, on shore, the same apartment. Their discomfort, to use the mildest word, especially during the first week of the voyage, must be extreme. The single men and women are of course kept scrupulously apart, and their berths, especially those of the former - which were 22 inches wide, and separated by a wooden division some 6 inches high - looked unpleasant enough. However, free carriage and food can hardly be expected to be luxurious. Some of the men wore red-carpet slippers, which were an odd finish to an earth-stained suit of fustian or corduroy. Divers, however, had on their 'Sunday' clothes. The vessels are fine-looking and roomy. But the 'roominess' of a ship, like that of any other place, is comparative, being determined by the number it is made to hold. Several of them were waiting their turn in the Docks hard by, and sticking their bowsprits over the quays in that long masted line which fringes the land in these parts, and to which the dirty Blackwall Railway ministers with incessant trains. The depot associated with this at Plymouth sends emigrants to Sydney, Adelaide, and New Zealand. This at Blackwall is a point of embarkation for New Zealand alone, and has seen the departure of seventeen thousand emigrants from May 11th, 1874, to August 7th in this year, which gives an average of more than a thousand a month. I found divers Scotch and German families awaiting the next ship. It looks as if New Zealand were filling up fast, since this is only part of the human stream which is incessantly being poured into it from Europe. Provided by L.R. Mills