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Food & Drink
Back in the early 1840s David Joy describes in his diary; "There were three of us apprentices at the works, and, being too far from home to return for meals, we fed in one of the workmen's houses close by. Breakfast, 8 to 8.30; dinner, 12 to 1; afternoon tea, 4 to 4.30; works closing at 6 and opening at 6 a.m. Catering thus together we did it for about 6s. 0d. per week. Saturday closing time was 4 p.m."
Decades later when there were thousands of workers rather than hundreds engaged in engine making and staff would still largely have provided for themselves, or more often than not wives would have made packed lunches. However in 1878 the local papers announced the opening of an interesting new facility for the local engine workers.
The cocoa-house consists of three rooms, one of which will be used as a mission and lecture room and another for different indoor amusements, smoking, &c. It is the intention of the company, in the course of a week or two, to provide dinners at low prices. This will be a great convenience to the hundreds of workmen employed in the locality, which is densely populated, and contiguous to the works of Messers. Fowler and Co., Messers. J. Kitson and Co., Messers. Manning and Wardle, the Hunslet Engine Company, and Messers. Hudswell, Clarke and Rodgers. Each room is about 30ft in length and 12ft in breadth, and the whole will afford accommodation for about 150 persons.
In later years most factories would have their own staff canteens. In the First World War when women were brought in to the works separate lunch times, or even separate canteens as shown at Braime's works below (Photo Kris Ward) would have been provided for the female staff.
At Thomas Smith's over in Rodley where Leeds' crane making industry was centred "In 1936 a new canteen was built, complete with the latest equipment. In 1940 it was enlarged by the addition of a women's section and the men's accommodation was greatly extended."
Of course many of the jobs carried out in the local works would have been thirsty work. There were plenty of pubs for the workers to call at on their way home, see how many times the initials P.H. appear on the map above.
External Website Links
Much more about daily life in the Hunslet area of Leeds can be found on the Hunslet Remembered website.
Steamindex's reproduction of extracts of David Joy's diaries
Leeds Mercury, 6th June 1890
The Basic Industries of Great Britain, Lord Aberconway, 1927 
Pease, J. (2003). The History of J&H McLaren of Leeds. Landmark Publishing, Ashbourne, UK. ISBN 1-84306-105-8.Look for this book in Amazon.co.uk
Displays in Leeds City Museum
The Leicester Chronicle, September 17th 1864
Leeds Mercury, 17th August 1850
Leeds Mercury, 7th July 1856
Leeds Mercury, 6th June 1890
Leeds Mercury, 15th October 1851
The Foundries, Machine Shops, &c. in Leeds and other Towns in the West Riding of Yorkshire. Report and Evidence published in British Parliamentary Papers, Child Employment Volume 15, 1857-8.
Leeds Mercury, 12th January 1850
Leeds Mercury, 19th June 1895
Proud Heritage, A History of Thomas Smith & Sons (Rodley) Ltd, Frederick H. Smith 1947
Leeds Mercury, 24th May 1851
With thanks to Sheila Bye for providing some of the material used in this article and pointing me in the right direction for other sources of material.
This article was produced by Andrew Johnson and Kris Ward, any feedback or contributions about the Leeds engine making industry would be greatly appreciated.
Page last modified: 09 July 2021
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