Building A Community
From start to finish, it took 9 years for us to complete the model village.
Originally just called the village, it took it;s name from the mill (Thornton's) and became Thornton Village.
The mill was of course, the heart of the village, it's whole reason for being. It was completed almost two months before the first stage of housing.
The first houses were small and functional, as our priority was to get the village operating and decent conditions for our workers to live in. As more housing was built, we began to add some grander houses, for those in management positions who could afford it. In the centre of the village we left space for the community buildings, such as the school, the hospital, the church and Sunday school, so that they could be built as the need for them arose. The purpose built school was completed in between phases three and four.
|The first housing phase is completed|
Each house had a small yard at the rear with it's own outdoor lavatory. Sanitation in towns was and remains a real problem, which we wanted to do our best to solve. I believe we were at least partly successful, as serious illness was greatly reduced in the village, compared to the slums of Milton.
The dining hall was technically in the mill grounds but just at the entrance, so it was accessible to everyone, not just workers. A bowl of porridge and milk was one pence, a helping of meat and potato pie was two pence, and a pot of tea was a penny. Meals were available to take home should villagers wish to.
|The Dining Hall|
It could seat up to 800 at one time and as the mill grew to employ more than this, lunch times were staggered, to allow everyone the opportunity to use the dining hall.
As well as subsidising the food, we also bought far more coal than was necessary to power the mill's steam engine, and we sold the excess onto our workers at cost price, enabling them to keep their houses warm during even the coldest of months of the year. Once a week the mill's horse would pull the coal cart around the village, filling up peoples coal bins for the week ahead. Obviously coal could be purchased at other times, but the workers would have to carry it home themselves.
One of the greatest hazards in a mill is fire and the new mill was built with this in mind. Recesses for buckets of water and sand were placed throughout the building, exits and staircases were wide to enable workers to exit quickly and fire drills were held once a year. The fire bell and drills had been the idea of Nicholas Higgins and while thankfully we have never had such an emergency at the new mill, we were hit by disaster a few years ago at a mill we still owned in Milton (a long story and one I am not inclined to relive, since my dearest Margaret was involved and still suffers the after effects to this day).
Until the purpose built school was ready, the teacher worked out of the main room in the community hall. The elder children, up to twelve years of age, were taught by Miss Tate while, the younger children were kept entertained in the smaller side rooms and looked after by some of the village women, who were unable to work or who had small children themselves.
Initially most of the children went to work in the mill once they reached 9 years of age but once the school was built and we had the means, the brightest were allowed to continue their schooling until age sixteen, and the brightest of those then admitted to the technical school, where they might learn a profession. As our workers lives improved and they were no longer as reliant on their children earning a wage, we upped the working age from nine to twelve.
Miss Tate (later Mrs Sumner) became headmistress of the school an her husband ran the technical school.
The parents paid a few pence a week to send their children to school, most of this money going in wages to the mothers, who were employed there. The teachers salaries were funded in full by us.
Not every villager sent their children to school in the beginning but since children were not allowed to work until they were nine, for many the school was a cheap and easy way to have their children cared for and out of mischief while they worked. The children were given half a pint of milk every morning to aid their growth and they were fed from the dining hall.
One day a week a doctor took over the small we rooms in the hall and treated our workers for a small donation, while we covered the cost of their medicine. The first doctor we worked with took a shone to Margaret and things did not work out well. The next doctor however, Dr Albert Townsend, proved to be a godsend. He treated our patients for free in return for us donating money to his free clinic in Milton. The clinic was his passion and first love but even today, he is on the board at the hospital and continues to be actively involved in our workers welfare.
It was Margaret's idea to document the building of the village in photographs, a tradition that has continued over the years. Some more pictures of our village are below.
|Looking out over the Darkshire hills|
|One of the larger houses, occupied by Mr and Mrs Sumner|
|The larger overlookers house on the right|
|Some of the smaller houses|
|Looking along Albert Terrace|
[All pictures are of Saltaire, the model village in Lancashire built by Sit Titus Salt]