chapter
4 Pages

Choosing to live with smoke

By the 1880s, a century's experience oflivingwith smoking chimneys had given a cultural permanence to the notion that coal smoke denoted wealth and well being. The correlation between pollution and prosperity had become so deeply embedded in the stories people told about smoke that many members of northern industrial communities did not often think to complain about the degraded environmental conditions. For example, Allen Clarke wrote of his working-class upbringing in Bolton:

Living there, I had grown familiar with its ugliness, and familiarity oftener breeds toleration than contempt; I had accepted the drab streets, the smoky skies, the foul river, the mass of mills, the sickly workers, as inevitable and usual - nay, natural, and did not notice them in any probing, critical way.216