West Ham & River Lea

Urban Pigs


caution !! this is an initial draft ...

I keep these notes on my server so I don't lose them !!




BraudelFeeding for the Cities - Fernand Braudel -

The Structures of Everyday Life ... The Uban Trek grew the cities all over the world as population density increased so too did productive social interactions ... hard work, honesty & thrift.

The Wheels of Commerce ... Synergies of Specialisation & Sale grew self sustaining economic behaviour whenever & wherever communities were free from parasites & predators, tyranny & oppression and bribery & corruption ... torts, trade & technology.

First came bread & ale as grain was domesticated.

Second came cheese & the urban pig as the cow & the hog were domesticated.

Agricultural Revolutions & domestication and Industrial Revolutions & cities were interdepedent as hinterlands fed & urban conurbations.

Production specialistions & economies of scale required trust, trade exchange & transportation and hence, inevitably, the problems ... and opportunities of congestion, pollution, waste and spoilage ... the 2nd Law of Thermodynamic saw to that.

Innovations in production, processing, marketing & preservation of food ... and innovations to ease transport friction costs on oceans, canals & railways led to the relentless growth of products & services in urban areas ... 

 cheese made Cheshire 'cos of rich proteins & fat preservation!

 urban pigs made London as living manufactories & waste recyclers combined?

Cheshire cheese made the history books of conventional wisdom but the strange tale of the urban pig was banished from relevance.

As with the history of warfare, was  written by the winners ... not by the humble hog who couldn't write?

The history of West Ham and the River Lea was all done and dusted with great engineering projects of Sir Joseph Bazalgette with his Victorian sewers and Victoria embankments ... sponsored by the powers that be and their propaganda ... part of the wide spread hubris  of the grandiose schemes focused on bringing nature under control.

All devoid of any inkling of sustainability and without any recognition of the help from the humble urban hog ... but at wot cost to the poor?  

River ThamesWest Ham & the River Lea -

Old English 'hamm' means 'dry area of marshland between rivers'. The
Roman road from Aldgate in the City, to Romford, Chelmsford and Colchester, crossed the River Lea at Stratford leaving Middlesex on the west on to Essex on the east. The river and marshes were significant obstacles but the Romans knew how to build roads. Initially the river was crossed by a ford hence the place name first recorded in 1067. By 1110 Bow Bridge was built and lived until demolished in 1838. By 1135 the reclusive Cistercians had founded West Ham Abbey (Langthorne Abbey, Stratford) on the marshes.

Industrialisation in Stratford, in the early Victorian era, like bankruptcy went gradually then suddenly. A traumatic transition from an idyllic ‘Green & Pleasant Land’, a rural retreat for wealthy toffs, merchants & bankers, just a stones throw from the City ... to pandemonium & 'Dark Satanic Mills’ and their squalid, stifling, stagnant, stenches of black, foul, strewn debis & refuse, disgusting, green & slimy and filth  ... a revolution with huge economic & social change.

Industrial RevolutionChange in Stratford was rife again in 2012 as the London Olympic Games were a resounding success ... or were they? Change, wonderfully depicted by Danny Boyle in his opening pageant where the originally idyllic agricultural community, close to ready London markets was transformed as massive new structures emerged ... a new fangled industrialisation ... the most cataclystmic phase of demographic, social and economic change ever to confront mankind? How was any sense to be made of this emergent order? This was the 'age of great cities' Queen Victoria (1837-1901) and the 'great exhibition' of 1851 ... unprecedented economic growth. 

The census 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 & 1901 ... and The Times of London ... and the maps of 1885 ... detail the facts about the population and the growth of London ... but statistics don't tell real stories.

Was the real story of Stratford written by Freidrich Engles, Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskill who saw urban poverty, squalor, deprivation and degenertion everywhere ... to be imitated today in the 3rd world sprawls and filthly slums of Lagos and Guayaquil?  

Or was there anther view, seldom to the fore, but seen by Adam the Smith as early as 1776, a story about 'Moral Sentiments' and 'The Wealth of Nations' about hard work, honesty & thrift and torts, trade & technology ... a celebration of enterprise, as longevity skyrocked with the taming of infant mortality and as the uban trekkers destroyed privilege and built a middle class bulge?

Were the Stratford manufactories miraculous wealth creation machines? ... or a blight on mankind?


West Ham & the River Lea - Feeding the City 

The humble hog was delicious food for folk ... crispy bacon, succulent pork chops and sweet & sour ... people ate pigs, pigs ate all garbage which lined the streets of the London ... and even consumed human & animal wastes. 

Urban pigs were superbly efficient all purpose manufactories ... autonomous production units very easily replicated with low space requirements, close to the consumer, educational, robustly healthy, wonderfully promiscuous with high conversion rates of filth to fresh protein ... and at the same time supply ample dung for energy & dung for manure ... and there was a bonus ... after productive life the carcass turned out to be a gold mine of goodies ... endless by products, zero wastage, everything usable ... apart from eyelashes and the squeals ... providing employment, community cohesion, biodiversity, recreation, therapy ... the humble hog was a waste recycler ... even after death!

Pigs provided a scrumptious food supply, employment & security for the poor and clean streets.

But hogs had an image problem ... the fake noos abounded ... hogs attacked babies, they often got the boys into trouble for joy ridings and certainly appalled ladies who were compelled to watch copulating swine in open view ... and horror, hogs also defecated ... folk really didn't fancy roaming hogs and their filth which was a cost to health & happiness ... and some said pork was dirty meat dictated abstinence.

And the filth was getting worse. Every household now burnt coal ... Londoners spat black. As folk went about & gossiped they were pursued, haunted & immersed in infernal smoke & grime, breathing & tasting nowt but thick mists of filth, accompanied by a fuliginous strench which corrupted the lungs and knackered the entire habit of their bodies.

There was also the foul night soil from the chamber pots and stinking household waste from rotting vegetables & festering food which was continuously emptied onto streets, turning them into seething stagnant sewers of immobile muck. Inconveniently all such detritus & sh1t seemed to increase as populations grew.  

West Ham River LeaThen, after the 1844 Metropolitan Building Act, there was an increasing flow West Ham of more & more useless wastes from the excluded noxious industries ... the list seemed endless ... breweries, gasworks, chemical & mineral manufactories ... dead horses, dogs, cats, fats, offal, bloods & slimes ... street pavement crap of every variety ... straw refuse from stable dung & pig styes ... ashes, tin kettles, pots & pans … junk, broken stoneware, earthhenware, jars, pitchers, broken splinted wood, rotten mortar & brick ends, rags & relics ... dirt, dust, debris and detritus ... rubbish of all & every different kinds ... plus the abject natures of excreta, blood & corpses from slaughterhouses ...

And still to make matters worse worse well into the 18th century those wretched swines often seemed to be reared in the freedom of the streets.

There were certainly two yarns about the problems & opportunities of the agricultural & industrial revolutions. Insights into both of these 'stories' were detailed by Jim Clifford in his scholarly corrective ... and superbly by Peter J Atkins in his must read research at Durham -

Animal Wastes and Nuisances in Nineteenth Century London

Charmed Circles

Urban Blood and Guts Economy

Father forgive them for they know not what they do ... ?

Landlords of LondonAnimal Waste & Nuisance  

 Filth and health were uncomfortable bed fellows. Understanding of disease grew with science as flovours of the day were undermined by evidence ... miasma, zoonosis, entomology to germs and micro-organisms ... all to be rubbished when infectious agents and pathogens like viruses and prions didn't seem to fit?

Disease and fritness set hares running. In the 1890s germ theory emerged as typhoid & cholera killed but the miasmic mechanisms of infection had become established belief systems since The Great Stink of 1858 even though they were on a collision course with the new sciences since the work of John Snow on cholera in 1854.

John Snow's triumph led to the magnificent Victoria Embankment in 1860. The mid nineteenth-century enthusiasm for sewers and the elimination ... or hiding? ... of social pollution became the hope for the future. Human filth was eliminated to the sewers and animal filth eliminated to West Ham and rural climes. The Great Separation of foul urban and romanticised rulral persuits was established.

But hold on until the time of The Great Separation recycling was, by necessity, the norm ... with the help of urban pigs!

Sanitary zeal built up a political consensus for intervention, there was enormous pressure on the authorities to remove the 'nuisance'. Elimination of nusinace was a well loved major theme of the common law rights. The focus of well being switched from the distribution of goods to the elimination of bads ... harm to others was not cricket ... those perpetating the nuisance paid appropriate wergild compensation to the injured party ... easy ... but the poor pigs didn't have the wherewithall to pay.

The fires were stoked and slowly the collective rules emerged as the politics of ‘us’, the citizens, against ‘them’, the polluters. It was all good moral naturalism & spiritual satisfaction as bad illegitimacy was identified for removal. Socially constructed notions of noisome, noxious or offensive adversaries had no chance in the courts of the day. Noxious animal industries and trades and their by products were taboo. Wot strange inversion of reason was this where the domination of nature made a virtue out of its elimination? Nuisance regulation became an everyday practical rationality and new spaces for collective action were generated.

The moral high ground and the concept of filth, as seen through nuisance, was completely different in 1900 from what had been the case just 70 or 80 years before.

The emphasis had moved from individual responsibility to action in the public sphere, Bazalgette’s elaborate scheme to control The Great Stink of 1858 had unlocked the possibility of a comprehensive system of sewers for London and the training ... or conning? ... of urban man to abhor ‘cesspit city’ and to fund a sewered city, complex & expensive with greater centralized control of nature.

A great leap of faith which switched from a postive focus on work, wages & food on to negative filth ... employing strong emotions of disgust ... contaminated personal hygiene & body odour and the most potent of all, protecting against feared cholera ... to promote civilizing cleanliness and cleansing & purifying sparkling water, urban parks, roadside trees, zoos and companion animals ... a division culture against nature ... as if the 2nd Law itself could be controlled.

Giants like Charles Dickens & Elizabeth Gaskill entertained ... or nauseated? ... and saw clearly the 'attraction of repulsion' ... and repulsion didn't need explanation it was there for all to see ... filthy streets, cramped housing, polluted rivers & air, industrial emissions, drains, slaughter houses and the city buried in horse manure. Animal and human wastes were an increasingly obvious focus of attention.

Such was this astonishing force that the nation was persuaded to invest vast capital sums in a medico-environmental theory that frankly had little epidemiological basis but which was responsible both for the physical transformation of urban space and
the generation of a tsunami of intellectual enthusiasm with few parallels in history ... wider project of bringing nature under
control rather than the personal development of our immune systems.

The avalauch of regulations was the easy bit -

 1817 any nuisances from pigs, slaughter-houses or horse boiling must be either abated or removed ... the breeding, feeding or keeping of swine in any house, building or yard was banned

1844 defined offensive trades mainly with stink in mind ... blood boilers, bone boilers, fellmongers, slaughterers of cattle, sheep, horses or pigs ... soap boilers, tallow melters and tripe boilers

1848 Nuisances Removal and Diseases Prevention Act followed

1875 Public Health Act another landmark in the history of sanitation ... identified creating a nuisance by keeping pigs in a dwelling house ... annd blood boilers, bone boilers, fellmongers, soap boilers, tallow melters, tripe boilers ... good intentions were, of course, very different from the reality as this repetitous list illustrated ...

Economic historians have shown us the evidence that the scale of urban production continued to be quite remarkable in spite of intrusive inspections and fines ... wot was going on? 

No doubt there were vast polluted and degraded environments in and around Victorian cities but the response in the 19th century was hegemonic ideological hubris of the day and a very different mirror image of the 2021 COP26 suggestions ... working with nature, not against it, and regenerating the rain forest and growing recyling machines more powerful than the uban pig in the Saharah Desert ... rediscovery of society nature harmony.

Throughout the growing middle class sheltering in the wealthy districts of the West End and Forest Hills had the political will to carry out the spirit of all these provisions ... the capital value of their luxury pads and villas was depedent on a salubrious social environment ... although, of course, the stinks and other associated nuisances continued for decades in other parts of London where industries had been forced out of town ... or out of business?

The urban pigs fought back, they were champions of the poor, manufactories of protein and wealth, easy to keep and grow they thrived on filth and there was no shortage of filth ... The Pig Clubs were in recruitment mode.

Neat HouseCharmed Circles & Middens  

A recycling system was underway in London during the early 1800s which was undermined during the later 1800s by the Victorian aversion to stench & stink as they were hoodwinked by the miasmic fallacy and the fear of the dreaded cholera. 

The idea of life fertilized, revived & reborn from waste was an idea which sparked the opportunity for creating circuits of resources and the production of a sustainable supply of food. Recycling of waste materials from the cities into sustenance grown in the rural hinterland with the help of some sunshine ... wot an opportunity.

The recyling system ... biodegragable organic wastes were collected & accumulated in middens & pigs and value was created as manure.
Manure from the midden dumps retailed by cartfuls made a small fortune for the poor and a basis of their livelihoods.

The regions receiving London manure thrived, as did the productive livelihoods of the folk collecting and selling valuable waste ...  including all the floating junkers, sewermen, nightmen, toshers and mud larks, scullery maids, night soil men, chimney sweeps, wet nurses, laundry women and other services required by the surrounding villas. This was win win.

The great machine of recycling organic waste could circulate forever and profit as a wide range & vast quantities of organic wastes  were used up and disposed of to enhance soil chemistry. Wealth was created in the East End out of the sewage from the West End.
The East End seemed to have been more tolerant of pigs but the poor paid less tax for investment in stink removal remedies. The West End cried foul, unfair competition, as did the distant rural farmers withou access to cheap growth enhancing London manure. 

The urban pig provided not only fresh meat but also garbage collection and processing of waste and faeces ... a closed system of recycling.

Supply & demand balanced the system -    

The supply was ample as horse and folk populations grew and kept down the price. Brewers' dray horses omnibus horses draught horses 200,000 horses 325,000 tons of hay.

The demand was ample as the value of a great fertiliser and soil impover was enough to cover the transport costs. Horticultural & farming demand invited fook to bid for the removal of street waste. There was luxuriant growth of grass as fodder for the horses further out and magic choice manures to sustainable fertility in the market gardens closer in ... at almost nominal price and often for the mere cost of conveyance. Transport was the only friction to the gravy train ... in the 'charmed circle' of the von Thunen's concentric ring model ... a theory only distroted by the transport routes and associated costs. The manure region of the hinterland was identified by the 'charmed circles' of Tunberg. Further out farmers exploiting the gross benefits of manure were also exempt from that necessity which compels a systematic rotation of crops and unproductive fallows. Fruit & veg from more local market garden estates of the spade for hungry folk and hay & straw for hungry horses from further out farms of the plough was sold locally to agents who then transported it to market. Their return journey was also productive ... carting or barging from wharfage rights the ripe loads of manure. 

Manure was also made from directly from night soil, but when dried & mixed with charcoal, gypsum, ashes, earth, peat or sawdust added unacceptable costs. Even though night soil applied immediately gave a bigger boost to fertility and many active in the market gardens welcomed the use of fresh ripe manure to create hot beds. Temperature rise magically brought forward the growing season. There was compensation for any soil 'improvements' mixed with straw stored and rotted to secure the temperature rise.

The history of the Westminster estate and the weath the first Duke acquired when he married a farmers daughter's from Pimlico was the stuff of legends. Part of this fascinating history was the Neat House miracle of soil productivity, a triumph of environmental modification, as London filth built manured loams of enviable quality which regularly delivered the goods quick and quality.
The Neat House estate was sold to Thomas Cubitt in 1825 and the miracle ended. Why? The clue was in the name ...    

At a stroke the waste recycling model and sustainable living was destroyed on both the supply & demand side.    

In 1862 over one third of the total barge traffic on the Thames was manure economies of scale on the 'stackies' ... manure in London was fast becoming a nuisance rather than an asset.

The stink and noxious waste and smells from noisome factories processing animal by products became a social taboo and nature was banned from the cities as a common law nuisance ... manure became a 'bad' not a valuable 'good'.

Technology provided the means to displace the nuisance ... sewers to the oceans, chemical fertilizers, importation of cheap grain & maize ... fresh meat and milk became more difficult as the economic justifications were broken milk was highly perishable adulteration of milk with added water, bought spent grains from breweries and distilleries became a cost when the pigs were banned.

The great bricks & mortar invasion and development tide of urbanization and uneconomic green belts for leisure rather than natural economic green belts for sustsinable recycling.

The herbal medicine industry was rumbled by germ theory.

The displaced municple authorities were both unable and unwilling to abate the nuisances.

Disruptive change and competition also came from minor irritants ... 

numbers of town horses after extraordinary increase in horse numbers in the second half of the century dung disposal became a problem as customers move way out of town

railways tarrifs were reluctant to take manure

imported guano was cheaper as comparative advantage raged

greenhouses were built in the Lea Valley,

seasonal migrant labour ebbed & flowed for the local spade work

Response the change became a public cost for local authority as employment wages escalated ... crossing sweepers, scavengers, collection & disposal systems, large heaps of manure were eyesores there for all to see, poor state of turnpikes roads from heavy duty carts ...

The view current in the mid nineteenth century was that animal 'wastes' carried a creative and regenerative potential a cycle of fertilityhope that all urban faeces, both human and animal, would be used productively in agriculture and so achieve the objective of a clean and healthy city funded by a sustainable income stream was the moral foundation of the Augean Stables.

Scotched at the end of the century by The Great Separation that disturbed the 'urban symmetry', night soil was no longer
available and manure became expensive to transport over the longer distances as the city expanded and market gardening & farming was pushed further out as urban horses were replaced by motor vehicles and other waste producing animal industries were removed to where they were less likely to cause a nuisance to the rich but deprived the poor of there livelihood.

Removal of a social nusiance for the rich was won at the enormous sunk cost of the Victorian sewers ... and from once being a profitable good, the urban pig became a public bad.

Billy Gibson (1881-1975) was on the button ... there were also middens in Cheshire ... the 1960s Billy put pen to paper for his grandchildren in a particularly apposite essay - Middens, Muddle & Muck - all about the often ignored happenings in households which were always regarded as secondary to the 'real' activities of putting crumbs on the table for growing the helpless babies. Billy was a budding garbologist wrestling with the economics of waste ... effort, space, value and nusiance.      

The Great SeparationBlood & Guts  

The Weaver Refining Company at Acton Bridge and British Glues & Chemicals everywhere were slap bang in the middle of the tricky issue of animal slaughter.

The sanitary idea and its enthusiastic adoption by many in the public health movement were responsible for major changes in mind and behaviour during the growth of London in the nineteenth century -

stinks from waste products were to be removed from the social environment before they inflicted disease & woe on honest folk

grandiose public works sewerage schemes pushed stinks & associated products underground and down river out of sight, out of mind and out of town

The Great Separation of the urban consumption of delicious nutrition & the rural production of animals and their by product industries became a matter of public policy.

Urban horses were animal machines 500,000 in 1811 to a peak of about 1.5 million in 1901, this intensification of the horse domination of urban transport and the attendent problem of horsh was eloquntly solved by the manure industry and eventually by autos ... and nobody talked about humansh even the Queen had to sh1t ... liquid gold ... The Farmers Gold Mine and the Storehouse of Life ... was on the button! There existed an enormous excremental value ... and increasingly we now import much additional sewerage.

Manock Bone WorksIn 1865 The Tarporley Agricultural Society were treated to this treatise on manures by Thomas Manock of Acton, Nantwich; one of Cheshire's great cheese makers. This fascinating economics lecture confirmed that there was money to be made out of filth - 

 'There were no less than 60,000 horses in London and the value of their dung was £1,012-10s a year. At present we make large sewers and channels through our streets to get rid of this continual spring and everlasting supply of liquid gold for the farmer. We do more; and we poison millions of fish which would of themselves supply another great supply of gold. We also blot out one of the most beautiful ornaments of nature by ruining our streams and rivers. If we could only turn these mines of gold to account!

The Times of London reported on the Horse Crisis of 1894 'The Wisdom of Horse Manure' -

'In 50 years time every street in London will be buried under nine feet of horse manure'

Henry Ford claimed -

'folk didn't want faster cars, the wanted less horseshit'

 Herbert Stein had it right -

'if a thing can't go on for ever it will stop'

Urban horses were providing essential horsepower but the urban pig was pure evil ... at the end of the day the problem was The Great Stink and The Great Separation ... social constructs of the fake noos of miasmia and the fritness of cholera.  

In this way a declining proportion of waste from cows and pigs in cities and animals killed in city centre slaughter houses reduced the fat, bone, blood and sinew monster nuisance.

The casual cruelty shown to valuable animals evoked strong emotions when a large proportion of them were driven in full view down the Great North Road to death and disassembly.

The incongruity of street chaos of the shambles and the degradation of meat quality from beating, goading and the sheer terror cattle all focused 'blame' on salesmen, drovers, slaughterers and butchers - but pushed out of town the queasiness and guilt about the killing of animals could be mitigated because it was out of sight and out of mind and the graphic descriptions of death were less of a constant source of complaint and threat to social order.

Regulation of Covent Garden (1830) Smithfield Meat Market (1868), Billingsgate Fish Market (1877) and Leadenhall Market (1882) ensured that they measured up to the new science of hygiene and became smelless.

But the opportunity cost of the Victorian solution was enormous and the poor paid the bill.

Noxious industries were chased out of town ... East across the Lea to West Ham and south across the Thames to Bermondsey ...

Bermondsey - 'Land of Leather'

East & South clusters of 'noxious' industries became locationally concentrated ... soap makers in West Ham, tanners in Bermondsey.
It seemed that they gained an economic advantage by association maybe from shared services and trained specialised local labour.

Cleanliness was next to godlines but leather was absolutely central to the British economy. In Bermodsey there was a thick profusion, tanners, curriers, bark dealers, peelers & shavers, dressers, morocco & roan manufacturers, warehousemen, factors, dyers, enamellers, sellers and cutters, hide salesmen, skin dealers & salesmen, fellmongers, tawers, parchment makers, wool factors, woolstaplers, wool warehousemen, wool dealers, wool dyers, hair & flock manufacturers, dealers in horns and hoofs, workers in hom, glue makers, size makers, neat's foot oil makers, cumers ... all worked in the Bermondsey cluster in series and in parallel ... horizontal and vertical linkages, along with less tangible social processes like easy communication and the conventions of trust ... together they ensured that the whole was more than the sum of its parts.

In addition, end users of leather were numerous locally ... shoe makers, leather enamellers, gilders, stampers & stainers, saddle & harness trades, glovers,pipes makers, buckets, jackets, hats & caps, luggage, pocket books, bookbinders & upholsterers ... the variety was almost endless. Then there were the users of by products and waste, such as wool staplers, flock mattress, glue, size makers and there were also parchment makers and the various hair trades that sourced their raw materials here ... thicker hides of cattle and horses, were used for soles & harness, whereas the fellmongers and others speclalised in the suppler skins of other species. It was the thinner sheep and goat skins processed by the fellmonger that became 'Morocco' leather for coach and book-binding, linings, chair covers and ladies shoes, 'roan' for shoes, slippers and common book binding and an inferior leather, for hat linings, pocket books, work boxes and kid and lamb skins went for gloves & shoes and sheep & deer skins became chamois wash leathers.

Bermondsey was also home to most of the glue making in London as the raw materials were readily at hand in the tan yards. Tanning, of course, had a reputation for being amongst the dirtiest and most malodorous of trades in the profane world of dead animals. Poverty and pollution went hand in hand and this became one of the worst of London's many slums.

The ancient common law of nuisance did not operate in Bermondsey all the employment opportunities were there!

Pearce & DuffAde Finn April 16, 2020 liked to dig deep about Bermondsey 
Pearce Duff Blancmange Factory - Rouel Road- When people talk of regeneration we often hear the expression 'it’s all changed round here, it’s unrecognisable'. I’m not a nostalgic man, however interested in history I am. I see change as inevitable and often a positive thing. For example, if we look at the Isle of Dogs, yes it was one of the UK’s most important places especially during Empire, bringing in foods from around the world, and feeding a huge portion of the nation. But, as we know technology had evolved that meant containerisation was going to be the death of the docks.
When the last of the docks closed in ‘81, the Island slipped into a deep state of decline. I remember what it was like before the LDDC came in, and yes, I miss it, as it was just simply very interesting, but there was no infrastructure, schools, transport, jobs. The same happened over here in Bermondsey & Rotherhithe. In fact the Surrey Docks were first to start the 'regeneration' programme, and it was needed. Bermondsey had become a byword for inner city meltdown. Thatcher didn’t care, businesses had moved out, crime was rife, and all this in a place just across the river from the thriving 'yuppie' world of the City. The water divided an extreme of social difference that can’t be explained in words. It’s 'all changed round here' now of course, and the Isle of Dogs, Deptford, Rotherhithe have become very fashionable places to live. I’m glad to say there is a real buzz about Bermondsey today, but to be honest, if you had once been a resident, you’d have said there always was!
One of things people talk about in places like Bermondsey & The East End is the community that once existed, and this was simply true. You worked with your family, or mates in 'gangs' in the docks or on the wharves, and down in Bermondsey, you would have probably worked in tanning and then later, food production, and it is the latter that I will briefly touch on here, because quite simply, food factories were absolutely everywhere down here up the 1970’s/80’s.
As mentioned before, up until the late 19th century, tanning was the main business practice of the area. Tanning had been turfed out of the City centuries earlier, but with its proximity to the City and abundant supply of water, Bermondesy was an obvious choice. Centuries later tanning declined for various reasons, and the food industry moved in. This area was home to Sarson’s, Courage, Peek Frean, Lipton’s, Crosse & Blackwell, Hartley’s, to name just a handful, as the list is endless, and they made literally everything around here!
Pearce Duff, was once one of Bermondsey's great food processing plants and stood on the corner of Rouel Road and Spa Road until its closure in 1974. If you lived in Bermondsey, you knew someone who worked there. Started back in 1847 by William Pearce & William Duff, the business started from a private house, and their profession was named 'drysalters, up to WW1. This term is rarely used these days but basically meant a company that used chemicals and glue in production.
Rebuilt in 1890 on the grounds of what was once a large glue factory / tannery, and pub, as one mainstay of Bermondsey's employment gave way to another. There were many companies in the area that relied on discarded animal parts. B Young & Co, the previous company on these grounds produced 'edible glue' (geletine), which was commonplace in much of the food production of Bermondsey. The process included boiling animal bones, adding baking powder, potash and jelly. These were all ingredients in one of P&D's most famous products, blancmange. A booklet was released by Young’s entitled 'The Romance of Bermondsey'. Ironic humour at play perhaps!
Just down Rouel Road stood another large factory and stalwart of Bermondsey, Lipton's. Very similar products were produced by other local companies, Lipton's however had numerous retail outlets from which to sell their own goods. Directly opposite Pearce Duff once stood the Richmond sausage factory, so it’s easy to get an idea of the aromatic winds that must have prevailed here. Pearce Duff employed over 500 people here at its peak, and the building itself stood over five floors in what was once the extensive tannery of B Young & Co.
The factory was quite unusual in that it was very light and airy. This was due to the fact tanneries needed to be like so because of the noxious fumes and drying of hides. The large windows rotated and when custard powder was being made, some of the powder would gather on the base. When opened, it disturbed the powder, making it fall to the ground. During this period in time, literally everyone wore a hat, and many of the local population walked around, with hats covered in white or yellow custard powder unbeknown to them (local tale?).
By 1914 the company was still proudly in family hands. It was also rightly proud of the way it treated it's employees. It gave training so that workers could learn more about the business, better themselves, and hopefully progress through the company, although of course this benefited the employers also. It appears that many companies in Bermondsey recognised the value of treating staff well.
Fred Hill, an employee at P&D's in the 1930's wrote about his experience as an office boy. Daniel Duff was director as was Mr Cockshead. Hill remembers Duff being similar to a sergeant major in the army, with a voice to match. After working at P&D's for only a few days, he recalls answering the phone with 'Hello, Pearce Duff'. When the conversation ended and the receiver was replaced, the commanding cry of 'boy, don't waste my time and money. Don't say hello, just say Pearce Duff!' came from Duff. Mr Cockshead, the other director, apparently only ever answered to his name pronounced Mr Cohead. A bit like 'Bucket' being pronounced 'Bouquet'?
In the 1950's and with the company still in family hands, P&D were exporting goods to 77 countries, with custard and blancmange being firm favourites. In the 60's, 30% of output was destined for foreign markets, although at home, it would have been extremely rare for a housewife to not have P&D products in her kitchen.
Even though very much a Bermondsey company, they tried to move into the American market in the early 70's and purchased Marela Ltd of New York. Hoping to cash in, they had to concede 40% of the business to Bearings Bank, and at this point the company had a turnover of £5 million. The venture was a failure and resulted in the loss of 300 jobs, and with this, the company soon relocated to Dunstable, Beds. This actually proved to be financially beneficial to the firm, and by the early 80's turnover had increased to £16 million. After continued mergers the name of Pearce Duff's lives on the world of blancmange, especially in Western Africa and Saudi!
I could write extensively on literally hundreds of companies similar to Pearce & Duff of Bermondsey. It's not what they sold, it's about what they meant to Bermondsey. For the families that live on the corner of Rouel and Spa Roads, it's probable they know nothing of what their mundane glass and steel structure used to stand on. The 'newbies' of Bermondsey should dig down and find out, because this area has a historical heritage that even in London would be hard pushed to beat!
My random ramblings are designed to give insightful information on parts of London & events that many Londoners know little about. Please share with friends. ‘My London, Your London, our London’, to find out more. I like to ‘dig deep’!

Iremonger TrilogyEdward Carey The Iremonger Trilogy - wrote about the shambles, the struggle and the scramble for a living, the hidden undiscovered happenings of poor folk who had unbelievable yarns to tell, a raw oral history of the crossing-sweepers, Punch & Judy entertainers, sandwich sellers, rag gatherers, rat killers, doll's eye makers, toshers, thieves, prostitutes, beggars, bone grubbers and mudlarks ... and all the other pieces of human flotsam & jetsam that had been washed up in the capital, a whole bizarre, fascinating, cruel, downtrodden world was there, ingenious people lost in history ... all the Victorian children in slums across London & beyond, crushed by poverty and the might & heartlessness of vast industrial juggernaughts, lost in the filth & horrors and the sheer strangeness the all folk caught up in this ginormous maelstrom of happenings as up stairs love of the downstairs maids still terrifyingly survived as the protagonists coped ... an fascinating change from the staple of the 'attraction of repulsion' so successfully exploited by Charles Dickens and Elizabeth Gaskell et al ...


Taming Manhattan1842 Charles Dickens ‘American Notes’ - ‘Taming Manhattan: Environmental Battles in the Antebellum City’

Take care of the pigs. Two portly sows are trotting up behind this carriage, and a select party of half-a-dozen gentlemen hogs have just now turned the corner.
Here is a solitary swine lounging homeward by himself. He has only one ear; having parted with the other to vagrant-dogs in the course of his city rambles. But he gets on very well without it; and leads a roving, gentlemanly, vagabond kind of life, somewhat answering to that of our club-men at home. He leaves his lodgings every morning at a certain hour, throws himself upon the town, gets through his day in some manner quite satisfactory to himself, and regularly appears at the door of his own house again at night. He is a free-and-easy, careless, indifferent kind of pig, having a very large acquaintance among other pigs of the same character, whom he rather knows by sight than conversation, as he seldom troubles himself to stop and exchange civilities, but goes grunting down the kennel, turning up the news and small talk of the city in the shape of cabbage stalks and offal, and bearing no tails but his own: which is a very short one, for his old enemies, the dogs, have been at that too, and have left him hardly enough to swear by. He is in every respect a republican pig, going wherever he pleases, and mingling with the best society, on an equal, if not superior footing, for everyone makes way when he appears, and the haughtiest give him the wall, if he prefer it. He is a great philosopher, and seldom moved, unless by the dogs before mentioned. Sometimes, indeed, you may see his small eye twinkling on a slaughtered friend, whose carcase garnishes a butcher’s door post, but he grunts out ‘such is life: all flesh is pork’ buries his nose in the mire again, and waddles down the gutter: comforting himself with the reflection that there is one snout the less to anticipate stray cabbage stalks, at any rate.
Dickens found plenty to ridicule … obsession with money, manners, tobacco chewing. But the biggest target of Dickens’ humor was New Yorkers and their pigs.
Even more than this strange sight of pigs roaming the streets, Dickens was captivated by the free and easy swine lifestyle … a roving, gentlemanly, vagabond kind of life. Scavenging curbside trash in droves, the wandering pigs were on an equal, if not superior footing with humans … a model of self sufficiency.
They are never attended upon, or fed, or driven, or caught, but are thrown upon their own resources in early life, and become preternaturally knowing in consequence. Every pig knows where he lives, much better than anybody could tell him. At this hour, just as evening is closing in, you will see them roaming towards bed by scores, eating their way to the last.
Though it’s hard to know exact numbers because no one was counting, during pig ownership’s peak years, in the early 1820s, some 20,000 hogs may have roamed the streets of Manhattan. That works out to one hog per every five humans … slightly higher than the ratio of cars owned by residents today.
This problem that so amused Dickens rankled New York’s leaders, real estate developers, and wealthier residents, who feared that parading pigs deterred tourists and investors. Pigs weren’t just dirty; they were also dangerous, disrupting traffic and occasionally threatening children, and were thought to spread disease. Well heeled Manhattanites were fleeing across the bay to Brooklyn … grim tidings for a city that funded itself primarily through property taxes.
So why did pigs rule Manhattan for the first half of the 19th century, and what finally led the city to shed its swine?
The answers have to do with the alignment of interests of the city’s government and wealthier New Yorkers in strengthening bureaucracy and driving up property values, at the expense of poorer residents who owned the pigs. In this seemingly obscure history of New York’s pig woes lies the beginnings of conflicts America still grapples with today, such as gentrification, the extent of the government’s responsibility to its citizens, and the tenuous economic security of poor and working class.

Social Safety Net made of Bacon

More than America’s other major trade hubs, New York was a city in seismic transition. People from all over America and Europe swarmed into Manhattan, turning farmland and field into shop houses, tenements, and factories. Despite this urbanization,  non wealthy New Yorkers continued to raise hogs. In fact hogs were a crucial commodity in this teeming metropolis, reflecting the turbulent economic and social upheaval that accompanied this change.
As land to raise hogs disappeared, New York’s working folk came upon a simple solution: let the pigs loose on the city’s streets. There was good reason to do this.
Unlike chickens, cows, or sheep, pigs fit seamlessly into New York’s fast urbanizing ecosystem. Hogs in general convert feed into meat more efficiently than other common livestock. And the city provided plenty of it; for much of the 19th century, even in wealthier neighborhoods, trash collection was virtually nonexistent. Piled with spoiled food, offal, and vegetal refuse, the streets of New York were one giant trough. Their detractors called pigs walking sewers. More accurately, they were self sufficient protein machines that cost next to nothing to raise.
The city’s new and growing wealth was spread unevenly, and even in good times, laborers and artisans struggled to find regular work and decent wages, leaving them forever teetering on the brink of poverty.
For these families, pigs were a crucial social safety net, an insurance policy that paid out in bacon. A family short on food could always slaughter one of its hogs; preserved by curing or smoking, the meat could feed a household for a long time. Pigs were a source of instant liquidity for a cash poor populace. Since pork was a staple of the American diet, butchers were always eager to buy hogs. 

Case against Hogs

For their owners, hogs offered economic security, but there were plenty of reasons to oppose the free running pig custom. Wandering hogs spooked horses, caused carriage accidents, tripped pedestrians, and blocked traffic. Constant rooting destroyed street pavement. In a major anti hog court case of the time, the prosecution charged pigs with attacking children, defecating on people, and compelling ladies to view swine copulating in public view. Pigs made the streets seem dirty, of course, but also diseased, catching the blame for the city’s frequent and lethal spates of cholera. More banal maladies like headaches were pinned on pigs too.
Pigs stained New York’s image. Dickens ridiculed New York’s porkers. Tour guide books of the time offered tips to would be visitors of where to avoid the pigs. Even other Americans looked down on New York since, thanks to tougher enforcement, cleaner streets, and dramatically smaller and slower growing populations, other American cities were pretty pig free.
Wealthier folk were increasingly outraged about sharing their streets with pigs that sullied their city’s good name. Part of the issue was that crowding and disease were driving wealthier residents into more peripheral neighborhoods where pigs abounded. As class division sharpened, elite criticisms of pigs sometimes were barely veiled slurs against their owners and their supposed filthiness. A New York Times article described ‘shanties in which the pigs and the Patricks lie down together while little ones of Celtic and swinish origin lie miscellaneously, with bill -goats here and there interspersed.
But notions of the purpose of public space were changing too. While pig owners likely saw the urban commons as fair game for private gain … if they thought much about it at all, wealthier folks and city leaders were developing a different vision.

Pork or Parks

In the 1820s, the city of New York bought a potter’s field on the western edge of Manhattan, turning it into a military parade ground (that these days is known as Washington Square Park), a public space where volunteer militia could train. Suddenly, property values around the square shot up. Developers, speculators, and wealthy residents began spiffing up neighborhoods by chiseling tiny parks into the street grid. Home prices climbed.
The park craze was motivated by health as well as wealth. The medical experts of the day believed disease to come from miasmas, as the dank, stinky air was known. Clearing parks and gentrifying neighborhoods helped cleanse the air of pig stench. The city split between pro pork and pro park.
The pig fan masses had less political clout than their richer opponents. As a result, over the first half of the 1800s, the city banned pigs repeatedly. But though the city’s leaders agreed with the upper class New Yorkers, the government itself was too poorly funded and organized to do much about it. What pig owners lacked in political representation, they made up for in numbers. Every time the city sent hog catchers into poor neighborhoods, riots erupted, and assault of fists and spoiled vegetables that followed sent them fleeing empty handed.
Unfortunately for the pro pig masses, the drive to make a modern metropolis was already gathering steam. Turning on notions of a market economy and strong government bureaucracy, this vision left no room  for porcine self sufficiency.

 Pigless Metropolis

One critical step was empowering the government to enforce laws. In 1845, the city finally established a professional police force. So when a nasty cholera epidemic swept the island in 1849 … whipping up fears that the pigs were spreading the sickness … the police rounded up thousands of hogs and drove them north of the city. The construction of Central Park in 1857 … a beacon of healthfulness hailed as ‘the lungs of the city’ … forced a lot of pigs even further north. By 1860, pigs were banished to the shantytowns and sleepy hamlets of the north.
Climbing real estate values was a crucial part of the equation. In order to provide services, the city needed better funding … and property prices buoyed that effort. While the elimination of pigs in the lower parts helped improve home values, the building of Central Park pushed gentrification into the city’s northern reaches. With piggeries driven out and the stink lifted, real estate around Central Park’s perimeter soared in value, boosting property tax revenues for the city.
An early and enduring feature of the hog debate was the idea that instead of hogs cleaning the streets, people should be doing the job … and the government should pay them. Implicit in this was the belief in government’s responsibility to protect public health by keeping the city clean. This vision came to fruition during the latter half of the 19th century, as the city invested taxpayer dollars in large scale projects to clean water and curb epidemics. These efforts, which wouldn’t have been possible without government initiative, dramatically improved people’s health and quality of life.
This ‘jobs not hogs’ vision also signaled a shift in how the city’s leaders viewed residents’ relationship to the market. The theme reflected a vision of a city whose workers will be entirely dependent on a cash economy for their subsistence. Having long lost access to land to grow crops and vegetables, the poor now lost their last source of food … and cash … that was not dependent on their labor. So how would they feed themselves? The city’s leaders probably assumed that economic growth would generate the jobs and wages necessary to buy food. However, a working class without its pigs would be that much more dependent on the market and employers.
Hog ownership was the last vestige of economic self sufficiency … a way of living that protected families from the market economy’s violent swings. It gave them a modicum of control over the value of their work by providing an alternative or supplement to wage labor. As urban pigs vanished, a vast stratum of people emerged whose daily meals were dependent on what government and private companies chose to pay them. New York’s leaders might have thought they were kicking cholera, boosting tax revenues, and dodging more bad PR. But by getting rid of the city’s pigs, they also happened to make New York the home of America’s first urban working class. They suddenly had to make ends meet or move to New Jersey.

Piggeries Waste Management & Disease

Disentangling pigs from the urban environment proved challenging. Regulation of animal driving & slaughter erected new barriers to innovations and reduced the investment risk to big businesses ... piggeries, abattoirs, sanitary engineering, infrastructure & railways ... but such an assault on urban pigs knackered the poor and threatened their smaller business interests ... piggeries, slaughterhouses, distilleries, breweries, renderers & bone works ... such now had a new horrendous waste disposal problems. These businesses had created a system for the collection and processing of each other's waste ... distilleries fed pigs their spent grains, limiting disposal and feed costs while adding to profits. When grain prices were high or liquor prices low, the added trade helped keep the wheels turning.

City by laws discriminated against the urban poor who depended on their pigs for income and security.

The consequences of the pig removal extended beyond the local food and neighborhood economy, municipal budgets escalated and were never able shoulder the burden of investment in waste services. Public sanitary investments seldom materialised; nobody found the wherewithall to fund such grandiose projectes.

Pigs in the city were a necessity for the workers.

The poor neighborhoods and small proprietors who supported the urban pig were overwhelmed. The upper middle class reformers charged the humble hog with causing disease, noxious smells and devaluing their new posh properties. Fears of cholera was largely effective in droving the by laws against the swine. Classical Swine Fever, unfortunately dubbed 'Hog Cholera', swept through North America around at the same time in the 1840s. Though Hog Cholera could not be transmitted to humans, the extreme swine fatalities and coincidence with human cholera caused panic. The reforming hysteria and the press repeatedly linked human cholera outbreaks to neighborhood piggeries and thus compounded the unfortunate travesty.

The districts near the pig styes, the bone boilers and the exposed offal of slaughterhouses suffered most as throughout the nineteenth century, newspaper articles wrongly accused the piggeries of spreading feared human diseases. The metropolis kicked out the 'noxious industries and the urban pigs in 1844. Yet John Snow in 1854 was proving that the poor state of the general sanitation and clean water in the metropolis was the real reason for the spread of human cholera ... and The Great Stink and the Thames embankment sewers were constructed in 1860 ... leaving West Ham with all the filth, sh1t and waste ... and no funds.

The vitriolic rhetoric of the reformers and media spread from the hogs to their wretched owners and their businesses ... the poor folk themselves were identified as squalid animals and nuisances ... the huts where they live were little superior to the styes of the foul swines. In front of each delapidated shanty hut a cauldron was stationed, which received the garbage obtained from the gutters and swill pails, and this reeking mass was kept boiling for hours daily.

Defenders of the piggeries claimed that the neighborhood with the hogs was one of the most healthful wards in the city because pigs promptly removed and processed the garbage. It didn't wash. Complaints poured into the city council alleging that piggeries had driven residents out of the city and depreciated house values in Forest Hill.

In this way the regulations against the piggeries were often aimed just as much at removing the proprietors as the pigs ... perhaps this was no surprise as most were Irish left footers and deemed easy targets by the toffs?

The regulations and the inspectors and the enforcement officers came in seemingly endless waves ... as did the taxes ... but the necessary public investment never seemed to come at all.

As debates persisted into the latter half of the 19th century, the piggeries found allies among some scientists and doctors, who argued to legitimize the piggeries to help process the garbage. They pointed to the merits of supporting the poor who economically removed waste, and the environmental benefits of not throwing garbage in the sea, and noted that pigs everywher eat refuse.

Instead, the closing of city piggeries and their eventual replacement with largely mechanized systems of garbage collection and processing marked the end of traditional waste management. It also cleared the way for neighborhood redevelopment as the pigs, their manure and smells, were transferred to the periphery. Yet the departure of swine from the city removed another element of local food production from the urban poor, further diminishing their control over sources of food and economic power in the city. And these multiple layers of ecological, economic, and spatial displacement were compounded by roughly contemporaneous campaigns against other core activities of animal agriculture.


Black SwinesThe Legend of the Black Swine

London has been the capital of England, more or less, for almost a thousand years. Much of the capital’s history is either hidden or forgotten, and this is especially true of the London beneath the feet of its residents. London’s sewers, tunnels and underground network stretch for uncounted miles deep below the bustling city, home to millions, which exists on the surface. Within those hidden depths lurk all manner of mysteries – the source of rumours, legends and nightmares down the centuries. There was a sensation in the 1860s, when it was feared, following the death of a well-known politician, that a band of criminals were stalking the capital, garroting anyone unfortunate enough to come into their path, then disappearing below ground. Then there was a string of news stories around the turn of the twentieth century, concerning reports of archaeological discoveries of hidden subterranean habitats and strangely large human remains found in the city’s sewers. But there is perhaps no story more terrifying than the persistent rumours over the years that the sewers of London are full of monstrous pigs that will one day free themselves from their foetid home and run riot through the city. The Black Swine in the sewers of Hampstead is one Victorian urban legend that has proved to be horrifyingly resilient.

So immense is London and so innumerable are its thoroughfares that it is no great surprise that, like any wilderness, rural or urban, wild tales are told of its most distant reaches. Considered by some to be a mass of chaos, pollution and overpopulation, and by others to be a buzzing multicultural, cosmopolitan experience, there is no escaping the fact that London can create a strong emotive response in almost all who visit. Exaggeration and ridicule often attach to the vastness of London. It is said that there are more Londoners over 75 years of age than Manchester has residents; that more people shop in Selfridges annually than live in Australia; and that London has more Scots than in Edinburgh, more Irish than in Dublin and more than half of Britain’s homeless. London is an amalgam of worlds within worlds, each of which has its special mysteries and its generic crimes. Thus it is also said that great beasts still roam in the verdant fastnesses of Grosvenor Square, that there are undiscovered patches of primeval forest in Hyde Park and that the Hampstead sewers shelter a monstrous breed of black pigs, which have propagated and run wild among the slimy depths, and whose ferocious snouts will one day uproot Highgate Archway.

How the legend of the Black Swine originated is hard to say. In one sense it was just a classic urban legend – someone had put it about that a sow had somehow got into the sewer, littered some offspring and fed them on the rubbish being washed into it continually. Pollution was a major problem for the rapidly expanding city of London in the 19th century. The Thames was essentially one large open sewer, and cholera was prevalent. It was only after engineer Joseph Bazalgette constructed miles upon miles of underground brick main sewers to intercept sewage outflows, and 1,100 miles of street sewers, that sewerage stopped flowing freely through the streets and thoroughfares of London. Until then, rumours of awful things like Black Swine lurking in the bowels of London were horrifyingly plausible. In another sense, the Black Swine may just have been a metaphor for the irrational elements that so terrified Victorian society at the time, and which found its expression in other similar urban legends, such as that of Sweeney Todd, Spring-heeled Jack, the Highgate Vampire and the grotesque Rat King. For whatever reason, Chinese whispers ensued and the legend of the Black Swine grew in the telling, even being mentioned in a Daily Telegraph editorial in 1859. Although to this day the truth or otherwise concerning the Black Swine has never been uncovered, no one has quite been inspired to venture deep below the streets of London to investigate for themselves whether these porcine interlopers actually exist or not.


Urban PigsEmma - Pig Lover, Smallholder farmer and Veterinarian

I wake up every morning at 4 am to hold a board meeting with my pigs. They say to me, if you take care of us we shall take care of you all the way to the barn. This I do diligently and I pass on the same message to the rest of my community and thousands of farmers around Uganda, who struggle to make a living from the small pieces of land that they own. My farm encompasses the heart and the concept of utilizing small pieces of land to make maximum use and gain income. This I do by curbing erosion and sustainably looking after the environment. At the heart and success of this farm is my favourite animal, the pig. A pig can actually have qualities to get someone out of poverty if properly looked after. Number one, they are very prolifetive, fast growing, let alone being delicious. At the same time, if comparing them to the rest of the livestock, they need very little space for production. Take, for example, cattle – did you know that to produce milk a cow needs 1 acre of land in two years to produce milk while a pig needs only a maximum of 9m2 to produce 30 piglets in the same time. Let alone, this pig has a high carcass yield, 70 per cent. If you compare it to cow, it needs 50-55 per cent. Its meat is not only delicious but tender and has high curing abilities to make processed products for value addition. And the products are not only processed meat but also making brushes from the hair, soap and lard from the fat, buttons from the hoofs and leather from the skin.
Before I embarked on piggery farming, I worked as a vet and in my region I noticed that there was a lot of inbreeding and farmers were not getting what they should get because of the inbreeding. So I decided that I wanted to keep pigs and I needed good genetics, but alas, there were no good genetics in the country. The nearest was in South Africa. My husband and I sold a truck that used to earn us $100 a week to purchase a pig worth $4,000 from South Africa. Everybody laughed at us when they saw that we were selling a truck for a pig. I remember the bank manager raising her eyebrows when I told her the reason as to why I was wiring the money to South Africa.
But anyway, one year down the road, I earned $12,000 from piglets that had been sired by this one board. I used this money to expand my farm from 12 sows to 30 sows. To date, I produce 600-720 piglets a year. I sell each piglet for $100, so I earn $60,000 from just a quarter an acre of land.
This money I used to pay for my Masters tuition, which was worth $4,000 a semester, for two years. Now, I can afford a comfortable home, look after my children and also take them to school. I have not seen an animal as wonderful as a pig in this world. I am what I am because of pigs and my passion for pigs has earned me a name, Mama Pig.
I spend part of my time teaching smallholder farmers how to maximize yields and use the little space they have because many times we think because we have little space, we cannot work, we cannot produce, but we can. So I teach them how to make money out of the small pieces they have and it is not how much land you have but you utilize this piece of land.
My farm has become a demonstration farm for many people, the youth, children, women, name it, teaching people how to do different types of farming, crop and livestock. I was surprised one day when I received a call from someone in Tanzania who wanted to enrol in a programme I offered, a one week's programme on piggery management. One of the farmers I have taught is a lady, an old lady, called Nakanwa Jezazeri from Matuga, an area in Uganda. This lady received three piglets from a Government initiative to look after for old people because she is old. Now, right now, she earns $200 in two months. It may seem little but she can afford to live on $4 a day compared to the uncertainty of living on less than $1 a day, that she had before. She can buy medicines; look after herself without being a burden to her children; once in a while look after her grandchildren when they come to visit her, all the joy of receiving a present from your grandmother.
Another lady called Nabanja, a widow, may her soul rest in peace, kept pigs when her husband died. She was able to take her six children through school up to university, look after her home and pay for my expensive vet services.
I not only teach farmers how to look after their pigs but I also teach them how to utilize the dung that comes from the pigs. This I call green gold because many times we buy pesticides, fertilizers to look after our crops, to spread on our costs. They are not only costly, they are detrimental to our health and then in the rural areas these products are of poor quality. Imagine someone using humdinger servings to buy products that do not work. This is what I do. I teach them how to make pesticides from pig dung by using earth worms, a technology called vermiculture. Now, they only save money, but their crops are organic so they can actually sell them expensively if they so wish and then in Uganda and the rest of the country, many people in the rural areas use firewood to cook. If it rains and they have not fetched firewood the previous day, they will go hungry even when they have food in their granaries. Reason being, they do not have firewood. Yet, at the back of their houses, they have piles and piles of dung, so I teach them how to make energy, biogas, from this dung. This, again, helps them cook and also saves them from the detrimental carbon fumes that come from firewood and the soot. I also teach them, they can also have light if they still have biogas so they stop sleeping in darkness. The slurry that comes from the dung or the biogas goes back to the garden so they do not have to buy fertilizers. This is very interesting.
So farming, or pig farming, is not only important for the pig farmer but to the environment and the world at large. This is because, again in Uganda and most African countries, every household uses charcoal to cook. What does it mean? Cutting down trees. Cutting down trees brings drought and no rain, but if we use the biogas or the dung from animals to cook, then we will not cut down trees. What happens then? You have rain and then we shall have developed the environment, made it better.
In 2014 there was a best farmer's competition where I emerged as the fourth in the country. People are inspired by my story. The young and the old, who thought a pig farming and farming generally was dirty and was not payable, started farming because they know they can make it.
I belong to a pig farmers' association where 90 per cent of these people are less than 40 years old, so what does it mean that we will not worry about the facing ages of the farmer because the average age of a farmer in Uganda is 55 years old.
My husband and I are starting a school. It will actually start next year if God wills. We are building a school that is going to teach sons and daughters of African farmers. There are three things that Africans are failing to teach their children: time management, the value of money and the culture of saving through farming, because we believe that farming is the greatest time keeper. In this generation children think milk, poultry, vegetables and fruit grow in refrigerators, so we need to teach these children at a tender age. Catholics have a saying that, if you give me your child at age ten and he will die a Catholic. Same to us, if we teach these children at a tender age, they know that farming is not dirty but is a business, then Uganda and the world will be a better place.



Any corrections and additional information gratefully received contact john p birchall

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