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London and its Government  —  £ 3.99

Go to the eBook Shop A fascinating look at how London was governed in 1913, with the history that led to the creation of the London County Council; the corruption and inefficiencies that preceded it, and ideas for a better way of organising it.

The son of immigrants, Percy Arthur Harris started as an outsider, railing in this book against the ancient privileges and 'closed-shop' nature of the City's institutions. Eventually he became part of this very establishment as an M.P., Q.C., and L.C.C. councillor, being created 1st Baronet Harris of Bethnal Green in 1932 and becoming rich along the way from his import/export business. Very few of his suggested reforms have been taken forward.

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Chapter I
Historical Survey

Chapter II
The City Livery Companies

Chapter III
The Government of the City

Chapter IV
The Fight for Reform

Chapter V
London County Council

Chapter VI
The Borough Councils

Chapter VII
Poor Law

Chapter VIII
A Chapter on Finance

Chapter IX
The Public Services

Chapter X
Greater London

Chapter XI
The Port of London

Chapter XII
The Relation of the State to London

Chapter XIII
London Reform

List of Illustrations

County Hall
An old view of Cheapside
The Stationers' Hall
The Hall of the Merchant Taylors' Company
The Guildhall
London Fire Brigade Headquarters, Southwark
L.C.C. Dwellings, Bourne Estate
"They Order These Things Better In France"
Fire Float "Beta" Pumping
Shoreditch Technical Institute
The L.C.C. Central School of Arts and Crafts
Hall of the Fishmongers Company
White Hart Lane Estate
Tower Bridge
Map of Greater London


     The British people are proud of the vastness and greatness of the Empire. Books galore have been written on it, poetry inspired by it, but, wonderful as it is, I doubt if it is more remarkable than its capital city. In an island, at the mouth of a very ordinary river, with no great geographical advantage, crowd together seven millions of people.
     Till the eighteenth century, when the city walls contained its life and industry, London was comprehensible; but for 150 years it has spread its unwieldy mass over the surrounding hills and valleys till it has become more like a nation than a town, more like a province than a city. The people that compose it feel a common pride in belonging to so great a community, but are unconscious of any civic unity; they neither know nor seem to care to know, how they are governed and who is responsible for their municipal administration. An occasional election awakens them out of their civic torpor, but it wants all the force of the party machine to stir into life the great multitude that forms London.
     It has been solemnly argued that the reason of the apathy is the vastness of the community. But America with its many millions can be stirred into electoral excitement far more than any little State, while our experience in Great Britain shows that with an increase in our population interest in elections has not diminished.
     A small town means small problems; it is difficult to feel great interest in parish-pump politics. The very size of London should be its strength, giving, as it does, opportunities for big operations and scope for big men with ideals and imagination.
     Where does London fail? It is the absence of a proper civic unity. While other towns have spread out to include their suburbs, old London has stood aloof and kept to itself in splendid isolation. The City, instead of being London, is a little community contained in one square mile composed of business offices and caretakers. Careful of tradition. Parliament has built round the City a complex system of administration that is difficult to understand and expensive to administer. Responsibility is divided and powers split up. Instead of one great Council to govern the four and a half millions that make up London, there are, omitting the Metropolitan Police and the Justices, 144 local governing authorities of the Administrative County, with 4,343 members elected in various ways. No wonder Londoners are apathetic; with such a multitude of authorities they neither can understand nor take interest in their municipal life. But it was not always so: London has a fine civic history, with great traditions written down deep into the past. To understand the growth of institutions is the first step to mending them.
     In this book I have attempted to make London Government intelligible, to show how its institutions grew, what they meant in the past and what they mean now.
     I have gone beyond a mere collation of facts; I have tried to steer through the mass of statistics and the maze of authorities a path that seems to lead to Reform. If I have but created a desire amongst Londoners to have a share in their own civic life I shall have succeeded in justifying this book.
     London is a jumble of cities, a nation in a nation, a capital of an Empire, the greatest city in the world. The palace of the Mother of Parliaments is situated in the heart of the town; constitutional government grew under the guidance of its citizens. Art, literature, science of the British-speaking people found voice within its boundaries. Never has there been such a town; nowhere has a city had a finer history and greater traditions. Surely it is worth trying to understand its institutions and to make them worthy of its name.

The Public Services

Water, Gas, Electricity, Transit, Markets

     The public services provide commodities which in their nature are necessary to modern municipal life, and which, to be done properly, must be monopolies. Water, gas, electricity, markets and tramways are the most striking examples: in the provinces such services have been worked by the municipalities themselves for half a century, but the divided character of London government has meant that these necessaries have been exploited by private companies.


     The most important municipal necessity is good water. The first attempt to provide a proper public supply in London dates back to 1236, when the City got powers to make conduits to take water from Tyburn to the City "for the profit of the City and the good of the whole realm thither repairing, to wit, for the poor to drink and the rich to dress their meat."
     From time to time other conduits were constructed, but no charge was made for the use of water for ordinary household purposes. It was not till 1580 that there was any idea of turning to profit the need of the community for good water. In that year an ingenious device for utilising wheels worked by the rushing waters through the arches of London Bridge was invented by a Dutchman: he was granted the monopoly of so pumping up water to the higher levels.
     By 1606 the demands of London for water so increased that Parliament granted to the City Corporation the power of taking water from the springs in the county of Hertford. Instead of the Corporation exercising these powers themselves, they granted them, by deed, to one Hugh Myddelton, who inaugurated the system known as the New River. It was not, however, till 1723 that a series of waterworks along the banks of the River Thames was set up. From that time on, for a hundred years, charter after charter was given to various companies with powers over ill-defined and often conflicting areas. Parliament seemed to have no idea of granting monopolies, but looked rather to competition to protect the public both as to quality and price. The companies concerned, however, found competition both wasteful and unprofitable; by 1821 this one protection to the public had been eliminated by working arrangements and the division of territories between the various companies.
     So serious were the complaints that a series of commissions and committees were appointed. Ravages of cholera made the question acute, and in 1851 Sir George Grey brought in a Government measure to hand over the water companies' works to a Board, but the Bill never got beyond its second reading. In 1852 something was done to regulate the quality of the supply by the Metropolis Water Act, which prohibited drawing water below Teddington Lock. There were many other regulations in the Act, but they were not stringent enough to be effective, so a Royal Commission was appointed to report on the whole subject of a proper supply of water for London. The Commission declared "that no trading company could be permitted to levy or expend... rates, that therefore the future control over water supply should be entrusted to a responsible public body with powers conferred on them for the purchase and extension of existing works." This Commission was presided over by no less a person than the Duke of Richmond; notwithstanding, nothing serious was done to carry out its recommendations. Sir William Harcourt presided over a committee in 1880, which reported that it was "expedient that the supply of water to the Metropolis should be placed under the control of some public body"; and yet, when the London County Council came into existence in 1889, the companies still reigned supreme in London.
     So serious did the matter become, that in 1891 we actually have the County Council and the City Corporation coming together and devising a scheme for joint action; but the Bill thus promoted did not get through the Select Committee of Parliament.
     Meanwhile Lord Ridley presided over a Committee of Parliament which advised that the London County Council should become the responsible water authority, and should be empowered to promote legislation to purchase, either by themselves or in conjunction with outside persons, the company undertakings. The County Council, however, objected to some of the vital recommendations of the Committee, especially to the provision that the Council, "if constituted the water authority, should be required to purchase the undertakings of the eight water companies by agreement, or failing agreement, by arbitration." On the other hand, they endorsed the recommendations of Sir William Harcourt's Committee, that the companies should be acquired "if the same could be obtained on fair, reasonable terms." The Council further contended that the price should not depend merely "on past dividends or on Stock Exchange values, but on the true value of the undertaking, having regard to its legal position and liabilities, to the condition of the property and of its ability to supply future wants."
     For ten years the settlement of the question was delayed. Bills were promoted by the Council, conferences were held, and commissions of inquiry appointed: what was apparently a simple, straightforward problem Parliament seemed incapable of solving. Their main desire appeared to be to protect the interests of the shareholders, while London's municipal authority wanted to get a municipal supply at its market value. It was not till 1902 that legislation was placed on the Statute Book. The Bill received the strenuous opposition of the County Council: the constitution of the Board was objected to as cumbersome and independent of proper public control: the financial provisions were considered far too favourable to the companies, who had had inserted into the original Bill amendments providing that the value of the undertakings should be determined on the basis of the Land Clauses Consolidation Acts, and also for compensation to the directors for loss of office. London had to pay heavily for its water, mainly because of the senseless delay by Parliament in deciding on the method of municipalisation. When the Stock Exchange got possession of the fact that the Government did intend to create some kind of ownership, the value of the shares was enhanced, and the public had to pay accordingly. Far more was paid for the undertakings than they were worth to the community. London is saddled for all time with an expensive water system: expensive, not because of the cost of construction, but because of the high price paid for compulsory purchase.
     The Board consists of representatives of the London County Council and all the adjoining counties, representatives of all the Metropolitan Borough Councils, City Corporation, and by a joint committee representing Urban District Councils; by this means a composite body of sixty-six was created. Should the charges it is empowered to levy prove insufficient, it can levy a rate, and so large has had to be the expenditure of the Board in bringing the water system up to date, that there is every possibility of that rate having soon to be levied. The public is now inclined to speak disparagingly of this municipal undertaking, but it must be remembered that their finances were handicapped by having to take over a system at far more than it was worth. So long as it is elected by indirect methods, and represents so many varied authorities, it can in no sense pretend to be in touch with the needs and requirements of the public it caters for.


     The history of London's gas supply is very much the same as that of the rest of London's services. Starting in 1810, the present Gas Light and Coke Company was the first to receive powers, but in 1830 other companies received similar rights. As the use of gas became general some regulation was necessary, and it was proposed to define the respective areas of the different companies, in order to protect the consumer, and regulate the price. But the companies strenuously opposed Government interference with their methods of business as an infringement on the sacred rights of property. Parliament took the only other alternative, and threw open the supply to competition. For twenty years after 1830 the public obtained its gas supply at a cheap rate, but it paid dearly for this privilege. When the streets were not dug up for water they were for gas. At the same time the cut-throat competition of the various companies made a disastrous inroad into their profits. And, as experience shows is always the case when attempts are made to supply public services by concessions, by 1850 we find working agreements being made between the competing companies to confine their operations. These arrangements proved so profitable to the companies that they became general, with the natural result that prices rose. The companies divided up London between them, and by 1857 they were refusing to submit competitive prices for street lighting. Not only were the prices high, but the quality was poor. There was no central authority to speak for London, and the companies successfully resisted, with the help of their gigantic funds, every attempt to regulate their supply. A Bill was passed in 1860 introducing the principle of the price of gas varying in an inverse ratio to the dividend. But the Bill was so amended and altered in committee through the efforts of the companies, which the want of any central body to speak for the consumer made it difficult to counteract, that by the time it became law it offered little protection to the public. The new Act really helped the companies, as it recognised the working arrangement and legalised their monopolies. Dissatisfaction with the legislation of 1860 was general, and several Parliamentary Committees reported in favour of its amendment. But every attempt to amend the law was met by the strenuous opposition of the companies. Sir Stafford Northcote, as President of the Board of Trade under a Conservative Government, introduced in 1867 a moderate amending measure, but so violently was it attacked by the companies concerned that the articles written about Mr. Asquith's Licensing Bill seem colourless in comparison. Meanwhile the discontent of the consuming public was growing, and so strong was it in 1866 that the City Corporation had a Bill introduced in that year asking for powers to supply its own gas, and though nothing came of this Bill they did get an effective measure through in 1868. Its operation, however, was confined to the City area.
     The rest of London gas legislation took the form of private Acts promoted by the companies themselves; but Parliament insisted, in every concession granted them, upon the insertion of clauses making the dividend vary inversely to the price of gas, and upon proper provision being made for the testing of its quality. This is the basis of London's gas supply at present.
     The competition of electricity has meant that this monopoly has not been so dangerous as it at one time threatened to become; the regulation of dividends by price has been a protection to the public, but large profits have been distributed to shareholders which might otherwise have belonged to the municipality or been utilised to still further lower the price of gas.


     Parliament had learnt a lesson by its experience with water and gas. When the progress of invention made it necessary to initiate legislation for electricity, every provision was made to protect the public interest.
     The first Act dates back to 1882, and empowers the Board of Trade to grant a provisional order to either a local authority or a company to supply electricity, the order being conditional on the approval of Parliament. But so anxious was Parliament to prevent the repetition with electricity of what had happened with the other services, that it gave the local authorities the right of buying out a company after only twenty-one years. This period was too short to make it worthwhile for a company to initiate an undertaking, and in 1888 it was extended to forty-two years. Care was taken, however, to provide that the public is only to pay for the actual value of the plant: nor does the law allow anything to be paid to compensate the shareholders for compulsory purchase or loss of profits.
     In the provinces most of the municipalities applied for powers to run their own generating stations. But in London the old vestries were the authorities, and it was not surprising that they were generally willing to leave the work to private enterprise. With the creation of Borough Councils more municipal plants were put down: now fifteen boroughs run their own supply. Fourteen companies supply the rest of London. Most of the borough municipal works are a success, though the areas are so confined that it was inevitable that some should not plan out well. In electricity, as in so many other matters, the policy of ignoring the unity of London is likely to prove most expensive. Not that Parliament can be blamed. When the vestries were made the units, electricity was in its infancy, and Government was supported by its experts in encouraging the creation of many generating stations. But the progress of electrical science has been rapid; it has been manifestly proved that the larger the generating station and the greater the quantity of power that can be disposed of, the less the cost of production. London, therefore, offers infinite possibilities for cheap electricity. Accepting the law of diminishing costs with increasing supply, London, the largest urban area in the world, should provide unlimited scope for economic production.
     By the close of the nineteenth century electricity had become an important element in industry, but early legislation contemplated, as the titles "Electric Lighting Acts" indicate, that lighting was the main function of electricity. The needs of an industrial London has made electricity for power far more of a necessity than for illumination. But fifteen municipal and fourteen company services have their interests to be safeguarded; it is, however, possible to respect their claims and yet provide cheap power. So great are the possibilities that since 1898 a number of groups of business men have spent large sums of money in endeavouring to get parliamentary powers to supply London with a bulk supply. In 1905 the whole subject came to a head when eight Bills were before Parliament: one of them contemplated the supply of electricity in bulk to the authorities in and around London over an area of 500 square miles, and where the present suppliers would not come to terms, it proposed giving the right of competition with them. The Bill met with the strenuous opposition of the County Council and the local authorities, who saw in the scheme an attempt to create a gigantic trust. In spite of this opposition the Bill went through the House of Lords and reached a second reading in the Commons; only pressure of business prevented it going further.
     The next year, 1906, the London County Council introduced a Bill of its own for a Central Municipal Supply. That and a Company's Bill were sent before a Select Committee of the Commons. Although they did not accept the Bill of the County Council, they reported–
     "The best means of providing for the supply of electrical energy in bulk and for power motive purposes is by one large and inclusive scheme, extending not only over the entire County of London, but the adjoining boroughs and districts. For the purpose of carrying out such a scheme some central authority is required with ample statutory powers and corresponding duties.
     "In addition to the proposal of the London County Council various other proposals have been placed before the Committee. After giving full consideration to this question the Committee are of opinion that the London County Council should be the authority."
     A strenuous fight took place between the political parties. On the one hand the Moderates favoured a company under public control, being entrusted with bulk supply, and stigmatised a municipal scheme as socialism. While, on the other hand, the Progressives pointed out the danger of any one company being allowed to exploit such a large enterprise which savoured of a trust and might be used, as in America, against the interests of the general public, however stringent the State regulations. The two contending forces were strong enough to prevent a permanent settlement, but something had to be done. In 1908 Parliament endeavoured to meet the case by passing a Bill enabling suppliers in London to link up their systems, with the idea of working towards a central generating station. Only two boroughs have, as a result of the Bill, come to an arrangement, but there have been two arrangements between companies. One clause of this act is worth noting. The London County Council replaces the Borough Councils as the purchasing authority of the Company undertakings in 1931. In the meantime London is without cheap electricity.
     If Greater London be taken as the best area for a bulk supply, there are sixty-six generating stations owned by the Supply Companies and local authorities, besides the ten generating stations supplying the trams and electric railways. Thus we have seventy-six stations for an area of 451 square miles with a population of seven millions. Considering the extent of the territory supplied this may not seem excessive. But three years ago it was estimated that these seventy-six stations only delivered 433,000,000 units, while New York, with but one-third the area, had only two generating stations which delivered 796,000,000 units.
     The whole problem is one of price. And London cannot hope to have its power on a commercial basis till its oneness in the matter is recognised.


     In every large modern city cheap transit is a public necessity. As the population grows, if the people are not to be congested in the centre, travelling must be easy, cheap and rapid. And nowhere does this apply more than in London. The need for good means of transit increases at a greater ratio than the population. In most modern cities tramways have largely met the needs of the people; but the absence of a central controlling authority in London has meant that the Metropolis is far behind other cities in this respect. The Tramways Act of 1870 made the Metropolitan Board of Works the authority for London; it could have constructed the system itself, but it preferred to give the concession to a company. The system that resulted was neither efficient nor complete. Vestries had the power of veto, and a curious social prejudice against trams meant that the fashionable quarters of the town blocked their entry into the centre. The very essence of transit is that the travelling public must be able to get where it wants to; and in any town, especially London, the public wants to get to the centre. The very fact, too that Parliament limited the term of the concession to twenty-one years, as was necessary in the public interest, made a private enterprise an ineffectual method of making tramways a success; the company was too anxious to receive a rapid return for its outlay to run tramways successfully. How London suffered the last thirty years of the nineteenth century from the absence of travelling facilities is not pleasant to contemplate. The wretched steam trains of the old Underground, supplemented by the slow, uncomfortable horse bus, made the Metropolis the laughing-stock of the world.
     The County Council, at its creation, was very soon faced with the question, and in 1891 had the opportunity of buying out a short length of tramway, and after a very heated controversy decided on the purchase. The Council continued this policy, but it was not till 1896 that they obtained powers to themselves work the lines purchased. In the same year an opportunity came of a municipal enterprise, but the opposition of the Moderate party was strong enough to prevent it, and the system, that of the North Metropolitan Tramways, was lost for fourteen years. In 1898, however, the party of municipal ownership had another opportunity, and the term of the concession of the southern trams being ended, the Council purchased the undertaking and worked it itself. In 1900 powers were obtained to electrify the system. But it was not till 1906 that the County Council was able to obtain the northern system, and £121,000 had to be paid for the surrender of the lines.
     Meanwhile the traffic problem was becoming acute. A Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the whole question of London traffic, and in 1905 it reported–
     "It is imperatively necessary in the interests of public health and public convenience and for the prompt transaction of business, as well as to render decent housing possible, that the means of locomotion and transport in London and its adjacent districts should be improved: they are seriously defective, and the demands and needs of the public are annually increasing ... increased modern means of locomotion and transport are needed both to facilitate movement within the central area and to facilitate access to and from and within the suburbs, for those who work in London and live outside. Electric tramways and railways are necessary for both these purposes, tramways mostly for the former and railways mostly for the latter, with inter-connection between the two. The tramway system of London is disconnected and insufficient; it should be largely extended, and portions of the tramway system that are now isolated should be linked together, through communication being provided from east to west, from north to south."
     The absence of a proper tramway system forced forward other means of communication: the idea of sinking a tube deep down underground was initiated by one under the Thames connecting the City and south London; the want of an overground service made it a success, and this was followed by other tubes; their competition forced the old Underground, the Metropolitan and District Railways, to electrify their services.
     A new force was to come into London traffic with the appearance of the motor, and the absence of tramways in central London gave an excellent opportunity for the motor-bus. A number of companies were started, and the old companies substituted motors for horse-buses; competition between railways and these motor-buses was keen, but some clever financiers united most of the rival bus companies into one concern: the London General Omnibus Company absorbed in turn the Vanguard, the Road Car and the Great Eastern Companies; so powerful was this combination that it was able to divert traffic from the railways.
     The process of electrification had brought new men into control of the old Underground District Railway, and in their zeal to make this a paying proposition they made arrangements with the greater part of the tube railways. By an ingenious manipulation of shares the owners of the "Underground," as the new combination of electric railways is called, set to work to obtain control of the bus, their most serious rival; this has now been consummated. The greater part of London traffic is now in the hands of this great combine, and the one guarantee against high fares and reduced facilities for a great part of London is removed. Where there are tramways there is competition, and this competition cannot be removed, as it is municipally owned. The fault of the tramway system is that it is not complete. The Royal Commission, referring to that, recommended the linking-up of the services, but this still remains unfulfilled.
     The Borough Councils are the street authorities, and Parliament has given them the right to veto any lines. As far as the tramways have been allowed to develop they have been a success.
     The Council works 140 miles of tramways, the power is generated from a central station at Greenwich at a very low cost of 5d. per unit. The system has proved a financial success, but owing to the curious nature of its accounts the profits of the undertaking have been concealed; the central authority, the County Council, which works the trams, is not the street authority, and the cost, not only of making seventeen feet of roadway, but of maintaining it is debited to the trams, and the permanent way is rated as if it were a light railway. A large proportion of the cost of any improvement adjoining the tramline has been debited to the tramway account. The undertaking pays interest on the capital borrowed, provides a sinking fund to wipe out the whole capital cost in twenty-five years, yet with all these charges it shows a substantial surplus. Being a municipal undertaking, the interests of the travelling public are put first; halfpenny fares are general, workmen's fares are provided, and an all-night service is run. Invidious comparisons have been made between the tramcars and the bus, but the latter use the roads free of cost, and contribute nothing to the rates.
     The problem of London traffic still remains to be solved: the great mass of the lines that have their termini in London cater well for suburban traffic, but their systems work in little relation to general traffic and in situations where stations often add to the confusion.
     The Home Office, the Local Government Board, the Borough Councils, the County Council and the police all have a say in the management of traffic, and no one authority is responsible. The provincial city has the whole of the controlling power over its own streets, and any reform of London Government must make a central elected body responsible to co-ordinate the whole of London traffic.


     The ordinary retail market as we know it on the Continent does not exist in London. The nearest equivalent is the street market, where the peculiar London product, the costermonger, displays his wares. London markets are wholesale: this, no doubt, is partly due to the power of the Corporation, under the Charter of Edward III, to oppose the establishment of new markets within seven miles of the City. Though the Corporation has not completely succeeded in maintaining its monopolies, the markets are centralised and being centralised in a place as large as London, they are bound to become monopolies.
     The City runs and manages seven markets. Those actually inside the City boundary are – the Central Market at Smithfield, mainly meat; Billingsgate, fish; Leadenhall, general; and Smithfield, hay. Two other markets owned by the City are outside its area. One is the Metropolitan Cattle Market in North Islington. Originally it was the site of a privately owned concern, but proving unsuitable, its rights were terminated by Act of Parliament, and the Charter given to the Corporation.
     The other market owned by the City, but outside its boundary, is the Foreign Cattle at Deptford. This market is another curious instance of the jealousy of the City for its privileges. The need for a proper centre for dealing in foreign cattle became imperative when the old Board of Works traced the introduction of cattle plague to cows imported from abroad. In 1868 the Board was approached by the Government and asked to provide a proper market: the Board being willing to undertake it, the necessary legislation was promoted. But the City saw in this move an attack on its ancient privileges, and offered the most strenuous opposition. So the Contagious Diseases Animals Act of 1869 gave the City the option of acquiring the necessary land for the reception, sale and slaughter of foreign animals; if the Corporation failed to exercise them, the powers were to be transferred to the Metropolitan Board. The Deptford Foreign Market was the result. It has been a costly enterprise, and now runs at a loss; but it preserves the ancient rights of the City. In spite of deficiency at Deptford and Islington, markets prove a profitable source of revenue to the City: in 1908 the Corporation was able to utilise no less a sum than £35,000 on general purposes. Thus the City levies a toll on the general food supply of London, and devotes the surplus to the upkeep of its own wealthy corner, which needs no help.
     One market must be mentioned in connection with the City, and that is Shadwell. A market was constructed there for the sale of fish by a company under private acts, and was opened in 1885. The City Corporation opposed its establishment as an infringement of its ancient rights of monopoly but without success. But events have played into the hands of the City; the new market was not a success, and the concern being put up for sale, the Corporation bought it out at considerably more than its commercial value. The object of the purchase was to close the market and thus remove the chance of a possible competitor and at the same time reinforce the market privileges of the City.
     Shadwell market is now being turned into a public park. There are two other municipal markets: one, the Borough, a fruit and vegetable market, is in Southwark, and is held by virtue of a charter granted by Edward VI and confirmed by Charles II to the City of London; the market is now vested in trustees, and the profits go to relieve the rates in the borough of Southwark.
     Woolwich market is the other; this is more in the character of an ordinary retail market.
     The principal private market is Covent Garden, owned by the Duke of Bedford, to whom have been handed down rights acquired by Charter given to his ancestor by Charles II. In 1882 the Duke's agent offered to sell the market to the Metropolitan Board of Works: that body refused to take it over; he made a similar offer to the City Corporation, who also declined. On the establishment of the London County Council that authority was approached, but did nothing in the matter. A tremendous wholesale trade is done there, and goods are sold there not only for consumption in London, but for a great part of the country. Many of the goods come up by cart from the surrounding country. The market is without proper railway communication, which is so necessary if the streets are not to be congested, and the produce to be rapidly handled. With perishable goods speed is essential, if waste is to be prevented.
     Another interesting private market is Spitalfields, which also owes its origin to the generosity of Charles II. Mr. Horner acquired, in 1875, the lease of this market from the freeholder, and erected a considerable building for the purpose of the sale of vegetables, fruit, etc. The market has spread into the surrounding streets, and the roads have become blocked with the carts and wagons connected with it. So serious has the congestion of traffic become, that a monster petition was signed by 80,000 people in favour of its public control. In 1902 the City Corporation obtained from Parliament powers "to maintain, extend and improve" the market.
     London requires its markets to be co-ordinated and brought under proper central control. And the central elected authority should be charged with this duty.
     What London has lost from its failure to municipalise the great public services can only be realised by a study of provincial towns. The advantage of the unified administration in town government is in no way better exemplified than in the success made by the great cities in the north with their supply services. Not only do the citizens get the advantage of a cheap service, which, being under the control of their own elected representatives, they can regulate according to the needs and requirement of the town, but the profits can be utilised to relieve the rates or supply municipal luxuries. The amounts placed to the relief of rates by four great provincial towns out of the profits of municipal trading are well worthy of study. The figures given show the amount in the £ the rates in each town receive relief from the ownership by the municipality of the different public services–

     These great cities are largely Conservative in politics. London can well take heed of their example and abandon that prejudice against municipal trading which has been fostered by vested interests, and which it has paid for so dearly in the past.

The two illustrations below are reduced in size from the versions in the eBook.


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