Day Return, Labyrinth of filth – video analysis

In this essay I intend to show that the video, ‘Day Return, Labyrinth of filth’, portrays an accurate picture of what the living and working conditions were like during The Nineteenth Century.

In the ‘Day Return, Labyrinth of filth’ living conditions are presented as very poor, dirty, over crowded and very unhealthy. The video shows children living on the streets begging for to money to pay for their next meal. The video portrays that millions of people lived in filth and dirt, but sources show that this is not entirely true. There were many thousands living in very dirty living conditions but not millions. A population report shows that between 1801-1851 the population grew to just 46,382 people (of all ages). Below is the official report produced by the government during this period.

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Merthyr’s Population

Glamorgan’s Population

1801 7,705

1801 71,525

1811 11,101

1851 231,849

1821 17,404

1831 22,083

Monmouthshire’s Population

1841 36,977

1801 45,582

1851 46,382

1851 157,418

Other evidence also shows the living conditions were bad during The Nineteenth Century. A Report to The General Board of Health said that,

“The houses have been built without any

system… having very bad ventilation and

no regard whatsoever to drainage… only

two rooms… occupied by up to 5 or 6 persons.”

We know this is a reliable source because the government issued it.

Another report from The General Board of Health shows that many diseases broke out from dirt and filth. During the month of May in 1849 three epidemics of cholera broke out almost simultaneously,

“In Pont-y-storehouse on the 26th May;

In Padwran-fach on the 27th May;

At River-side on the 28th May.

These places are about the dirtiest in the town.”

This is another reliable source that shows us how dirty the living conditions were in Merthyr.

Many people died from cholera. Below is a table showing how many people died from cholera.

Year

Cholera deaths in Merthyr

1832

160

1849

1,467

1854

455

1866

229

Total No. of people killed from cholera

2,311

The houses above are third class houses. Any third class house would have three families living in it at any one time. One family would live upstairs, one downstairs and one in the basement/cellar.

Second class houses are only different in terms of size and space but they were still dirty, unhealthy and had no running water. Only one family occupied second-class houses.

Even first class houses were very unclean and had no strip of garden, no backdoor or outlet, no toilet, no drain to carry away house refuse and no pump or pipe for the supply of water.

When renting these houses there are three different categories. The most skilled craftsmen and ironworkers rented the best houses. They could afford to pay in the region of 10-13 shillings a week. The semi-skilled labourers occupied the second category and would pay in the region of 4-10 shillings. The third category was occupied by the unskilled labourers and lived in the worst accommodation available. They would pay in the region of about 1/6-10 shillings an month and in some cases more.

Working conditions were as bad if not worse than living conditions. During the Nineteenth century many people moved into Merthyr because of the jobs available. There was call for skilled and unskilled, young and old.

Children as young as 7yrs old worked in the iron works in dangerous jobs that could leave them injured and scarred for life or even killed on some occasions. Some of the jobs that children would have to do were; Trappers, Ironworkers, Miners, Drawers, Stroking, Puddling, Shingling & Rolling and Shops.

In the Ironworks most people worked a week of nights and a weeks of days, both 12-hour shifts. The working conditions were very cramped, dim, dirty, cold and extremely dangerous. There were many dangers involved in jobs in the ironworks, some more serious than others. Some of the dangers were burning, suffocation and being crushed on the rolling machines or if the roof collapsed in with the earth shattering explosions to free the iron.

Below is a record of the total number of people working in the Plymouth works in 1842

Total Workforce

2,225

Number of workers under 18 years:

Aged between 13-18 years:

470

Aged under 13 years

265

Total Aged under 18 years

735

From the evidence that I have studied I conclude that the video ‘Day Return, Labyrinth of Filth’ does not present an accurate picture of Merthyr during the Nineteenth Century. Some of the information portrayed in the film is correct but a lot is over exaggerated and added on to make the film more interesting.

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