Allen Hammond (b.1894): Politics & Protest

Tomorrow couldn’t be worse had tremendous focus on the interviewee more that anything else, therefore Allen doesn’t seem to have a particular affiliation politically. Neither does he specifically mention distinctly any form of leniency towards a movement during his early life. However, there are many anecdotes which almost highlight certain discrepancies in the political system and its treatment of the working-class in the early 20th century.

A Toxteth Entry

One of the oppressive parts that Allen naively talks about is the ‘nightmen’ who ‘Used to come round. Men in tall hats. […] they used to come round after midnight. You didn’t know when they where going to come. All you heard was a rat tat on the door and a demand to open the door. When you went down it was these nightmen and they used to come straight up and have a look round to see how many were sleeping in a bed.’

Allen previously talks about sharing a bed with ‘two or sometimes maybe three of us’- his answer to if he had a bed to himself is a simple ‘No,no,no.’ He insinuates, through the repetition, that the idea of someone having their own bed at the time is out of the question. Allen states ‘You didn’t have the money to buy these sort of things’. Therefore it’s examples such as this that highlight and emphasise working-class poverty in England. Simple nuances such as these can point out certain implications of struggle in Liverpool during the early 20th Century, to even have a bed to share is a luxury to the lower sector of the working-class in Liverpool. And especially to Allen.

‘I mean a lot of people used to do the same. Do a week in a house and do a moonlight flit as we used to talk. And go into the next house sort of thing. Before you’d pay rent. But it wasn’t that there wasn’t any space. It was just that people didn’t have money to.’

The houses to inhabit Liverpool’s working-class were built, but affording them was sometimes unattainable, in fact- Liverpool in 1891 was statistically the most ‘overcrowded’ (two or more to a room) per capita that the rest of England. Finding that 53.5% (1)  of people lived in ‘overcrowded’ households at the time.

The governmental system faced a turning point during these times, where ‘the council was intent on tackling wider problems of poverty in Liverpool. Linked particularly with the nature of the Labour market.’ 1 So, the political consciousness was in fact centered to assist families and individuals such as Allen’s. The promise to overcome the intense poverty he faced during his childhood became a respectable motive for England’s elite- at least in practice.

Research can show that there is a distinct separation between the political expression of the time and the day-to-day implications of being working-class at the time Allen was. Therefore, it’s especially surprising to read that the ‘nightmen’s’ responsibilities where to ‘fine’ Allen’s family when they found there where three or more to a bed. ‘Yes. They would fine you. And you didn’t have the bed or anything like it.’ Poverty was almost encouraged by placing taxes on the people that where struggling to buy sufficient beds to accommodate their families, in addition to the threat of homelessness.

Allen states that he had to hide from these men during their surprise visits: ‘people from the first place ran down the back and informed everybody else on the street so then the children used to all run out. They used to put them out in the yard in the entry’. The stark outlook of panic manifests itself inside anecdotes such as these, families forced to hide their children in order to avoid fines seems to almost further construct more implications of the working-class experience. Additionally, Allen’s story would be countering directly the statistics held in 1891, that only 53.5% of England was overcrowded. And insinuate that the statistic in Liverpool could in-fact even be much higher than that, with many children hiding from these nightmen.

Citations:

Memoir:  Hammond, Allen, Programme number:P404/4. Transmission; 26 August 1963. Granada Television. Typescript, 15 foolscap sheets, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10895Keeping

1-https://www.hslc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/143-10-Pooley.pdf

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