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I'm trying to research the incomes and expenditures of a small village in medieval England.
The village occupies a formerly abandoned settlement situated against an abandoned castle. The village is a farming community, with not much beyond a smith. The village also has a church and a mayor.
I've already calculated the settlement's possible incomes, now I'm just trying to figure out how and what that money could be spent on.
None. Villages didn't have incomes or expenses. They didn't have mayors either.
The mayor means that this is a city with ancient rights, for such a city see my answer: How did cities operate in medieval times?
Let's assume you just meant that the peasant with the largest share right to strip farming is willing to die to suggest something to the lord of the manor?
The village has no income. The common fields of the village are allocated in shares of land divided up as strips. The strips are distributed by ballot and someone with two strips worth of shares might be allocated strips for that year at the opposite sides of the village's surrounding arable land. Each strip is owned but with the open fields and limited tools people work side by side in major tasks.
Peasants with little or no land hire themselves as labour to their neighbours for beer, food and account. The account money is generally for paying extractions, or taxes. (Cf Dave Graeber here). Serfs with no land are either supplied food and beer, or have to steal time from their owner to work their right or partial right to the commons. Slaves don't even have access to this common right (yes there were slaves in England.). The excess product of the village is converted into beer, stores, or meat by feeding. A significant amount is extracted directly as rent, tax or tithe (Church tax). A very small number of people will be free alloders who own their land outright and are full free men not required to supply labour to a lord and master.
The lord of the manor will either rent his land, or use his rights to demand free labour from his peasants, or he shall do both. This is how he extracts surplus product: as crops by rent or labour. He may also use invented rights to make onerous taxes such as destroying all hand mills and ovens and forcing his peasant and serfs to use his mill and his oven. This also extracts account money from the villagers.
Where the village lays on the scale of alloders to slaves, where the rent taxes and tithes lay of the scale of nominal to crushing, these depend on the local history of class conflict. Whether surplus is extracted in kind, or through account money and forced “sales” of animals or other moveable goods depends on economic density.
Given that your village is on reclaimed “desert” (forest / waste) it may be an illegal settlement on Kings land and has no lord and a very equalitarian land distribution (all men equally free and equally outlaw). Then the men on horses with ropes will come and hang a significant number of leading men, rape the women, and enslave or enserf the remainder. Or the village could try to buy its way out, but this is unlikely as they don't have luxury goods to bring to an irregular (quarterly) market. And as outlaws they're not going to show up to a quarterly market with its courts. This is the case in an overpopulated country where most villages are full and there is great land hunger.
Or the village could be a colony, a settlement established. This is the case where there is a population lower than the arable required for working. Given the abandoned settlement this is more likely your case. The local lord has tried to get families here by boasting of low taxes and little corvee labour. (With too few peasants in general, rent won't be an option as the economy will lack specialisation and even money of account won't be in use.). This involves mostly middling peasants, everyone has a common right and enough strips to feed their household, nobody sells labour.
The village has no income, it consumes, stored or has its product extracted by King lord or church.
Correspondingly the village has no expenses. With small and irregular markets not only can they not market their crops, there is no marketing of goods back. Cloth and tools are hideously expensive, and probably produced from local wool hides and flax. Iron slowly percolates in as existing limited supplies wear out and locally made tools become unrepairable or unreworkable. The slow and slight leakage of crops not seized by the lord, usually as meat for the quarterly market, allows the counter flow of iron or lordly luxuries.
No money circulates in the village. Villagers use account money (remembered debts) when required and settle irregularly and after long debt exchange. The village doesn't keep a book of accounts of collective work. The Lord demanded corvee to drain the water meadow common. The tithe includes wood hewing and timber getting and roof repair.
The only money in the village is in the pathetic church treasury for conversion to more resplendent vestiments, and in the lords strongbox from when he sold a horse to a knacker to buy a new one at a later date. He spent the cattle money on beautifully dyed tapestry thread so his women can commemorate the family name in fabric.
For sources start with the historiography section of https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_England_in_the_Middle_Ages
How Much things cost in 1972
Yearly Inflation Rate USA 3.27%
Yearly Inflation Rate UK 6.4%
Year End Close Dow Jones Industrial Average 1020
Average Cost of new house $27,550.00
Average Income per year $11,800.00
Average Monthly Rent $165.00
Cost of a gallon of Gas 55 cents
Roxanne Ladies Swimsuit $30.00
Wrangler Jeans $12.00
ladies Timex Watch From $30.00
--Below are some Prices for UK guides in Pounds Sterling
Average House Price 7,374
Gallon of Petrol 0.35
A few More Examples
Ford Pinto $2,078
Barbie Doll Designer Collection From $2.85
Frisbee 94 cents
Ladies Stylish Over the Knee Boot $22.97
Ladies Deirdra Wig $20.00
Ladies Front Slit Dress $18.00
Classic Cook Center $474.95
White Contemporary Dinette Set $282.95
Hellmanns Mayonnaise $1.39
Fresh Strawberries Lb 31 cents
Ground Beef Lb 98 cents
Fruit Cocktail Can 20 cents
Split Level Home on Hill Top living room , dining room , 3 bedrooms , cathedral ceilings , 3 baths central air and double garage Iowa City
1972 This year is marked as a black year in history due to the use of terrorism entering sport with the massacre of 11 Israel Athletes by Arab Gunman. Also this is the beginning of the biggest political scandal in modern times and the start of the Watergate Scandal. On the other side of the Atlantic a worsening of the problems between the IRA and the British government see wrongs from both sides and innocent lives are lost.
Understanding Common Business Startup Costs
The Business Plan
Essential to the startup effort is creating a business plan—a detailed map of the new business. A business plan forces consideration of the different startup costs. Underestimating expenses falsely increases expected net profit, a situation that does not bode well for any small business owner.
Careful research of the industry and consumer makeup must be conducted before starting a business. Some business owners choose to hire market research firms to aid them in the assessment process.
For business owners who choose to follow this route, the expense of hiring these experts must be included in the business plan.
Starting up any kind of business requires an infusion of capital. There are two ways to acquire capital for a business: equity financing and debt financing. Usually, equity financing entails the issuance of stock, but this does not apply to most small businesses, which are proprietorships.
For small business owners, the most likely source of financing is debt in the form of a small business loan. Business owners can often get loans from banks, savings institutions, and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Like any other loan, business loans are accompanied by interest payments. These payments must be planned for when starting a business, as the cost of default is very high.
Insurance, License, and Permit Fees
Many businesses are expected to submit to health inspections and authorizations to obtain certain business licenses and permits. Some businesses might require basic licenses while others need industry-specific permits.
Carrying insurance to cover your employees, customers, business assets, and yourself can help protect your personal assets from any liabilities that may arise.
Technological expenses include the cost of a website, information systems, and software, including accounting and payroll software, for a business. Some small business owners choose to outsource these functions to other companies to save on payroll and benefits.
Equipment and Supplies
Every business requires some form of equipment and basic supplies. Before adding equipment expenses to the list of startup costs, a decision has to be made to lease or buy.
The state of your finances will play a major part in this decision. Even if you have enough money to buy equipment, unavoidable expenses may make leasing, with the intention to buy at a later date, a viable option. However, it is important to remember that, regardless of the cash position, a lease may not always be best, depending upon the type of equipment and terms of the lease.
Advertising and Promotion
A new company or startup business is unlikely to succeed without promoting itself. However, promoting a business entails much more than placing ads in a local newspaper.
It also includes marketing—everything a company does to attract clients to the business. Marketing has become such a science that any advantage is beneficial, so external dedicated marketing companies are most often hired.
Businesses planning to hire employees must plan for wages, salaries, and benefits, also known as the cost of labor.
Failure to compensate employees adequately can end in low morale, mutiny, and bad publicity, all of which can be disastrous to a company.
Lifestyle's hidden costs
Changes to legislation covering retirement villages haven't stopped the flow of complaints from residents about contracts that often block their way to any return from what is likely to be their final property transaction.
Australians are fond of bricks and mortar and they're used to making money from real estate but buyer's advocate Richard Andrews, who specialises in finding retirement units, says it's a ''good outcome and I think a fair one'' if he can get a client in and out of a village within 10 years with their original capital intact.
Non-negotiable. John and Graham Ellis. Credit: Eddie Jim
Many retirees get back less than they put in once a village operator has collected various fees and charges and perhaps a cut of the increased value of a unit - and that can be after years of capital gains in the surrounding suburb.
What's left when they move out - on average, 10 years later - depends on the parameters of any departure fee charged, whether the operator receives a share of any capital gain and what the contract stipulates, among other things, about having to refurbish the unit before resale.
The bottom line is you need to consider the overall cost of the lease or purchase when assessing a village.
''You certainly don't buy into a retirement village to make money,'' says Andrews, the chief executive of the Find My Retirement Home service. ''It's a lifestyle choice and retirees need to keep that in mind.''
Residents' advocates say villages can be great for downsizing, security and companionship and they welcome changes to state legislation covering villages in NSW and Victoria that have improved residents' rights.
However, they remain concerned about ownership structures that are difficult to compare the dominance of long-term lease agreements that they say favour for-profit operators thick contracts that are hard to understand and the transparency of ongoing fees.
They're also disappointed the Productivity Commission draft report on aged care didn't take up a suggestion that retirement-village legislation become a federal government responsibility. The report did, however, recommend state and territory governments pursue nationally consistent laws.
''It is an excellent model of living - I would be the first to say that,'' says the president of the Retirement Village Residents' Association, Malcolm McKenzie. Now 80, he has lived in a NSW village for 15 years.
''The reason I'm involved [in the association] is not because I don't like living in a retirement village, it's because of a list of things that operators do because it's basically a for-profit environment … because they feel they have a captive market.''
CONTRACTS AND COMPLEXITY
The chief executive of the Retirement Village Association (RVA), Andrew Giles, says the entry of big corporate groups in recent years ''provides a good economic diversity that reflects an industry reaching maturity'' and permits savings from economies of scale.
Whatever side of the picket fence they're on - resident or operator - all agree buyers must examine village contracts and disclosure statements carefully, with the help of a specialist lawyer, to ensure they know exactly how much they'll be paying and what they'll be paying for.
Andrews says that while buying into a village is not an investment decision, ''you've got to undertake a good investigation of the facility and its arrangements so you understand what you're signing and you know what your financial outcome is going to look like when you leave''. ''Some people don't really understand what they're signing when they buy and it doesn't bite them on the bum until they leave.''
Giles defends the departure fee as ''the only avenue for an operator to make a return on their investment in a village''. He says monthly service fees are set on a cost-recovery basis only and don't cover the initial cost of building shared facilities such as swimming pools and emergency-call systems.
There are some key questions you can ask to find your way through the maze that is a village contract. For example, what's the ownership structure? The biggest problem people face, Andrews says, is comparing apples with apples.
''There are five main ways they can occupy [a unit],'' he says. ''There are new villages, there are old villages, there are ones with aged care attached. You can have two villages right next to each other and they'll have different pricing and different fee structures and it's quite difficult to compare them.''
The main structures are: freehold leasehold (you buy the unit but lease the land) deferred management fee (or DMF, whereby you buy the right to occupy, then pay annual fees and an exit charge) company title and strata title. Rental is another option.
Andrews estimates that in Australia about 90 per cent of village units are now occupied on long-term leases using a DMF structure.
COST TO MOVE IN
Andrews says the DMF structure was designed by non-profit operators so they could keep the upfront cost low to help people into units. That meant youɽ pay, say, 70 per cent of the market value initially and the operator would recoup the difference once the unit was resold.
Today you'll pay the equivalent of the full market value while operators (now including big property companies such as Lend Lease and Stockland) still collect a DMF, Andrews says.
The chief executive of Australian Unity Retirement Living, Derek McMillan, who's also a director of the RVA, says retirement village units are usually cheaper than a similar, privately owned unit in the same suburb.
''Retirement village operators generally price units at a bit less, particularly if you take into consideration the community facilities that will be available to them,'' he says. ''We find as a general rule it's about 85 per cent of the median house price.
''Residents get to keep a bit more in their pockets but it also means that operators tend to charge a DMF to recover some of that difference at the end.'' (More on this later.)
Once you've paid the entry price, you need to be able to meet what are variously called ongoing, maintenance or recurrent fees. McMillan says a rule of thumb is that you'll contribute $10 a day towards village running costs but the more facilities a village provides, the higher the ongoing fees.
Andrews warns that some operators may charge lower recurrent fees but offset this with a higher departure fee.
McKenzie cautions prospective residents against being lured by the window dressing of fancy facilities that they'll pay for via the recurrent charge but perhaps not use. Recurrent fees can be a source of rancour between residents and operators.
''The money is the residents' money it's not the operator's money - they are there to manage it,'' McKenzie says. ''[But] they don't all necessarily agree with that and they don't like giving you all the information, so we have battles about lack of transparency.''
State laws say residents are entitled to a clear understanding of how recurrent charges are determined - but residents and operators sometimes disagree about the level of detail required.
Residents of one village in Laurieton, on the mid-north coast of NSW, for instance, have challenged the insurance charge in their budget, saying they want to know in detail what sort of cover they're paying for and whether it extends to items that ought to be covered by head office, not residents.
Even where head office costs legally can be allocated to residents, there are disagreements over how a large operator assigns costs to individual villages. And in NSW, amendments to the law last year haven't stopped arguments over what constitutes maintenance (a residents' expense) and what's a capital improvement (to be funded by the village owner).
HOW MUCH TO LEAVE?
Eventually the time will come for the unit to be sold and your payout to be calculated. This is when departure fees kick in. McMillan says you should ascertain at the outset how any DMF will be charged - at what rate and over what period. Generally, DMFs accumulate at 2 per cent to 2.5 per cent of the purchase price each year for perhaps 10 years, he says.
But he describes DMFs as a ''moving target''. He says some contracts specify a DMF of 3.5 per cent a year and on the selling price, not the ingoing price. Some are levied over 20 years.
Andrews says some villages 'ɿront-load'' the fee into the first few years of occupation, so they get the bulk of the money even if a person's stay is relatively short.
Then there's the question of capital gains. Under some contracts, part or all of the appreciation in a unit's value goes to the operator, which means even more money is deducted from the final selling price before the proceeds go to the resident or his or her estate.
On top of that, residents may be required to refurbish the unit to a certain standard for sale, at their cost.
Under one contract, that might mean new carpet and some fresh paint under another it could mean the much more expensive option of installing a new kitchen and bathroom.
'ɼontracts are really general and open to interpretation around this - I try to tighten it up for clients,'' buyer's advocate Andrews says.
All this can make it difficult for ordinary people to work out where they'll end up in the long run.
Andrews puts contracts through a mathematical model so he can illustrate where they might end up financially when they leave. ''We can tell them, 'If you leave in year seven, this is what your costs are' - it brings it down to one number so that more than one village can be easily compared,'' he says.
An accountant or financial adviser experienced with retirement village contracts may also be able to provide such a forecast.
SALE OF THE UNIT
Residents sometimes complain of the time it takes to sell a unit and the price achieved. The contract may specify that the village operator will be in charge of the selling process.
Andrews, who negotiates with village agents, is critical. ''The standard of sales and marketing in retirement villages is woeful,'' he says.
Check the rules in your state as to whether you must be allowed to choose your own agent and whether village agents have to be registered real estate agents. Also ask the village operators about the average time it takes them to resell units.
Giles, of the RVA, says: ''It's in everybody's interests - the operator, outgoing resident and their family - that the property is sold as soon as possible''.
McMillan suggests seeing whether there's a guaranteed payout period - a maximum time a unit can sit unsold before the resident receives some sort of payment.
Also check how long you'll be liable for maintenance fees if the unit sits empty - do they cut out after months or could they go on for years? In NSW, for example, if you're entitled to at least half of the capital gain upon resale, then you may be required to contribute the same proportion of the recurrent fees beyond a 42-day cut-off that would apply otherwise.
Ultimately, if you're concerned about the way the terms of a contract are being applied, you can talk to your state consumer protection body.
NSW Fair Trading says it handled nearly 2800 inquiries and received 114 official complaints about retirement villages last year. Consumer Affairs Victoria logged about 500 inquiries and about 470 complaints.
Deferred management fee and lengthy sale period prove costly
When Graham and John Ellis's mother needed to move from her retirement village unit to an aged-care facility on the same site, the brothers were shocked to discover a big gap between what sheɽ get from the sale of her apartment and the bond sheɽ have to hand over to the same operator.
The unit that cost $146,950 in November 2001 - and which finally resold for $240,000 in May 2010 - left just $136,173 in their hands.
It was well short of the accommodation bond of $210,000 the hostel would have required if the health of their mother, Vi, hadn't deteriorated in the meantime.
She passed away in June 2009, in a high-care facility where no bond was required, with her apartment still on the market.
Graham Ellis says the unit's keys were returned to the village operator in November 2008 as their mother went into care but a sale wasn't settled until August last year.
The deferred management fee (DMF) came to $48,381 and the 'ɼomprehensive upgrade'' they agreed to after the unit lingered on the market cost $49,422.
The family's lawyer acknowledged the fee was in accordance with the contract signed for the unit at Lexington Gardens, in Springvale, Victoria, but argued the DMF was 'ɾxcessive'' considering the time that elapsed between handing in the keys and final settlement - and with the family having no control over the process.
Lend Lease Primelife wouldn't negotiate, Graham Ellis says.
''They had no intention of doing anything other than sticking strictly to the conditions of the contract,'' he says.
Under the contract, the DMF was set at 3 per cent of the original licence fee (in effect, the purchase price) or 3 per cent of the new licence fee (the selling price), whichever was greater, for every year of occupancy up to 12 years.
If the unit had been occupied for three years or less, the fee would have been 10 per cent of the ingoing price or the resale price, whichever was greater.
The Villages. why did you leave ? (Tampa, Plantation: HOA fees, buying a house, buying)
Well, first let me say that The Villages is a one of a kind place. and with a population approaching 100,000 people, obviously there are many folks who love it.
But there is good and bad about everyplace. You are asking for some cons, so here are a few.
1) Higher then average HOA fees and CDD fees. In addition to paying your HOA fees, new lots have a development fee which I believe is about 10-15k. This is known there as your bond fee. It is supposed to pay for the future amenities and infrastructure, etc.
2) The homes they build there have limited options.
3) Most homes have a smaller lot size. Some like that.
4) I find it very busy in the winter months.
You may want to read the book, Leisureville. It is a controversial review of The Villages. I read it and did not agree with some of it, but it was interesting.
I own a place about 13 miles south of there. We visit up there every so often. Folks there seem very happy there. The bottom line is that when you buy there you are not just buying a house, you are buying a lifestyle. That lifestyle has a cost and a value. Many think it is well worth it. Some may not.
Like it or not, it is an amazing place. You can also check out their forum, Talk of The Villages - The Villages, Florida
jimcat, I'll send you a PM. As a Mod, I try to be a bit less "out there". We sometimes take some abuse from some real wackjobs.
I'll say that where I am our HOA fees are only $85.00 a month. Our community is owned by US, not the developer, and the association is very solid financially. Those are important points to consider when you are looking.
There are many nice 55+ communities around. Hardly a bad one in the bunch. most all look good, but one will just "click" or feel just right. Best way to check is to stay in the area awhile and look everywhere.
Yes, you are right. But some upgrades are just easier and cheaper to do when building. sad that they are not offered. Like central vac for instance. As a person who has designed and built my own home, I understand the value of doing things the way you want the first time.
Yes, you are right. But some upgrades are just easier and cheaper to do when building. sad that they are not offered. Like central vac for instance. As a person who has designed and built my own home, I understand the value of doing things the way you want the first time.
Yes, there are many very nice gated communities in the area. One would do well to visit the area and take a look at a lot of them. Most all are nice, one will just "feel right".
My community is about 13 miles south of The Villages. Around us are The Plantation, Legacy, Arlington Ridge, Hawthorne, Lakes of Mt Dora, Highland lakes, etc,etc,etc. many more.
Our Place is already built out and wholly owned by the owners, not the developers. Our HOA fees are only $85.00 a month. Our Activity centers are beautiful and our golf courses are nice, and are in the black. Our HOA has a good amount in the bank, and there is a lot to do. We have no bond fees.
If you have the time, visit the area and check all the area out. prices are quite good right now.
I'm not selling anything. just trying to answer your questions. we love it down there and can't wait to sell our NY home and become full time Floridians.
Why we are leaving the Villages.
1) Too crowded - especially Jan-Mar when you can't hardly move around here. The resturants are packed to the gills starting at 4:00 and packed until about 9:00 which is when they roll up the streets here -see #2. Tee times and activities are packed and many times you can't get in the activities at the centers, they are FULL. If you are a half-hour early - you're LATE. Lots of standing around.
Never buy a house at the Villages until you have experienced snow bird season. If you can stand it, this is the place for you.
2) This place closes at 9:00 except for a few bars. If you are still eating at nine, since you couldn't get in earlier, your server will stand behind you for every bite. Once the town square close the streets are empty. We call 9:00 Villages Midnight.
3) The entertainment and the events are all exactly the same. Every holiday is like every other holiday. Same parade participants, same entertainment, cloggers, cheerleaders, baton twirlers. When you 've seen it, you've seen it. They don't even bother to make a change. The songs that are played by every band are played by EVERY band. If I hear Mustang Sally one more time I'll puke. Line dancing is a sport here. The entertainment at Savannah Center is all tribute or lookalike bands.
4) I'm tired of waking up to ambulances. Senior community, do the math.
5) Politics are tough here. You had better be a tea party Republican or you are not welcome. All the tea party favorite are treated like royalty here, Dems barely get a small room anywhere. Dissenters were actually kicked out of the public square for having signs that stated their opinion. I can't stand the public pools because it's a bombardment of political discussions with high tempers and only conservative views, like the newspaper. If you read the letters to the editor the vitupritve rhetoric is frightening, encouraging gov't overthrow. My goodness people, turn off Fox News and get out in the sun. See #6
6) Fox News is everywhere, you can't escape it unless you stay home.
7) We spent $48,000 in improvements on our brand new home, lost $25,000 when we sell because I want out.
8) The lots are so small, youarethisclose to your neighbors. We bought a $290,000 designer home only to have $160,000 cottages within 20 feet behind us. Our neighbors are great, but home many homes do you need to cram in a small space?
9) I think it's ridiculous that "The Developer" is the man who is never mentioned by name, or in hushed tones like he's some deity that you have to bow your head if you say GARY MORSE. Seriously people. I know this place pratically prints in own money, but he's not God for heavens sake. BTW - don't ever try and find him, he lives like Elvis did.
The Villages is not for everybody. Yes you can golf, in the summer when it's 90 degrees, there are activities if you get there early enough, you can drive your golf cart to the store if some elderly person or landscaper doesn't run you down, and they have activities at the squares, if you are a little senile maybe you won't remember that you've seen in 8 tmes a year for the last 3 years.
We are moving to a mixed community near a big city Tampa for more things to do, a little culture and a little room to breath. Thanks for letting me vent.
Company Towns: 1880s to 1935
Introduction: In the 1890s, in remote locations such as railroad construction sites, lumber camps, turpentine camps, or coal mines, jobs often existed far from established towns. As a pragmatic solution, the employer sometimes developed a company town, where an individual company owned all the buildings and businesses.
In some situations, company towns developed out of a paternalistic effort to create a utopian worker’s village. Churches, schools, libraries, and other amenities were constructed in order to encourage healthy communities and productive workers. Saloons or other places or services believed to be negative influences were prohibited.
In other cases, the company’s motivations were less ideal. The remoteness and lack of transportation prevented workers from leaving for other jobs or to buy from other, independent merchants. In some cases, companies paid employees with a scrip that was only good at company stores. Without external competition, housing costs and groceries in company towns could become exorbitant, and the workers built up large debts that they were required to pay off before leaving. Company towns often housed laborers in fenced-in or guarded areas, with the excuse that they were “protecting” laborers from unscrupulous traveling salesmen. In the South, free laborers and convict laborers were often housed in the same spaces, and suffered equally terrible mistreatment.
Origins: Traditional settings for company towns were for the most part where extractive industries existed– coal, metal mines, lumber — and had established a monopoly franchise. Dam sites and war-industry camps founded other company towns. Since company stores often had a monopoly in company towns, it was possible to pay in scrip (a term for any substitute for legal tender). Typically, a company town is isolated from neighbors and centered on a large production factory, such as a lumber or steel mill or an automobile plant and the citizens of the town either work in the factory, work in one of the smaller businesses, or is a family member of someone who does. The company may also donate a church building to a local congregation, operate parks, host cultural events such as concerts, and so on. If the owning company cuts back or goes out of business, the economic effect on the company town is devastating, as people move to jobs elsewhere.
Company towns often become regular public cities and towns as they grew and attracted other business enterprises, pool transportation and services infrastructure. Other times, a town may not officially be a company town, but it may be a town where the majority of citizens are employed by a single company, thus creating a similar situation to a company town (especially in regard to the town’s economy).
The Pullman Lesson
Although economically successful, company towns sometimes failed politically due to a lack of elected officials and municipally owned services. Accordingly, workers often had no say in local affairs and therefore, felt dictated. Ultimately, this political climate caused resentment amongst workers and resulted in many residents eventually losing long-term affection for their towns such was the case at Pullman, Chicago.
Pullman Palace Car Company was famed for its sleeper and luxury rail cars that it manufactured. One of these manufacturing locations was in Pullman, Illinois. George M. Pullman founded the town of Pullman as a place where his workers could live. This town was conceived and designed on the premise of being a model town for his workers, with every aspect complete including parks and a library. The problem arose when after the panic of 1893 the workers of Pullman received several wage cuts that on the average added up to twenty-five percent. These cuts were bad in themselves, but when coupled with Pullman’s actions of not lowering the rents for his company owned homes in Pullman, the laborers began to unite. From the outside, Pullman appeared to be a model town, and guided tours were given to impress outsiders. The town however was not a model the homes on the outskirts of town were shabbily built — some without any kind of plumbing. The rent for these houses was also about twenty-five percent higher than normal for the area. In addition, in order to work for Pullman, one had to live in his houses. The workers formed a committee and on May 7 went to Pullman to ask to have the rent lowered. On May 7 and 9, they were flatly refused. Three of the committee members were then terminated. This caused the workers to declare that they were going to strike, and on May 10, 1894 they walked off of their jobs. Then on May 11, 1894 the Pullman Plant closed.
The Pullman Strike was the first national strike in United States history. Before coming to an end, it involved over 150,000 persons and twenty-seven states and territories. The Pullman Strike of 1894 was a milestone in American labor history, as the widespread strike by workers was put down by the federal government. President Grover Cleveland ordered federal troops to crush the strike and dozens were killed in violent clashes.
A national commission formed to investigate the causes of the strikes found that Pullman’s paternalism was partly to blame and labelled it “un-American.”
Note: Paternalism, a subtle form of social engineering, refers to the control of workers by their employers who sought to force middle-class ideals upon their working-class employees. Paternalism was considered by many nineteenth-century businessmen as a moral responsibility, or often a religious obligation, which would advance society whilst furthering their own business interests. Accordingly, the company town offered a unique opportunity to achieve such ends. However, government observers maintained that Pullman’s principles were accurate, in that he provided his employees with a quality of life otherwise unattainable to them, but recognized that his excessive paternalism was inappropriate for a large-scale corporate economy and thus caused the town’s downfall. In 1898, the Illinois Supreme Court required Pullman to dissolve their ownership of the town.
Thus, the Pullman Strike did not kill the concept of a company town but rather initiated a new chapter in their existence. Over the next thirty years, the old model of paternalism was abandoned in favor of new professionally designed company towns with architects, landscape architects, and planners translating “new concepts of industrial relations and social welfare into new physical forms.” This suited capitalists of the day who were obviously keen to avoid the experiences of Pullman.
Decline of American Company Towns
By the 1920s the need for company towns had declined significantly due to increased national affluence. Despite income inequalities and a relatively low standard of living conditions amongst factory laborers, the prosperity of the 1920s saw workers’ material well-being improve significantly. A strong post-war American economy meant installment buying was accessible to low-wage earners who could now purchase previously unattainable goods like automobiles and radios. Moreover, workers were no longer dependent on employers for healthcare and education.
By the 1920s the widespread nature of the automobile meant workers no longer needed to live near their work places and now had access to more employment opportunities. A combination of the freedom that came with private transport and the mass communication of radio saw the isolation of company towns lessen and the social basis of the company town become less necessary.
Furthermore, the accessibility of the working class to private transport also marked a step of equality as they had previously only been accessible to the wealthy. As access to surrounding municipalities increased, residents of company towns gained access to an increasing amount of government-funded public resources such as schools, libraries, and parks.
Modernization and the increase in material well-being had also lessened the perceived need for paternalism and moral reform. Accordingly, the economic downturn of the early 1930s saw some businesses do away with employee welfare schemes to reduce costs. However, the Roosevelt Administration’s New Deal dealt the final blow to end American company towns by raising minimum wages, encouraging industrial self-governance, and pushing for the owners of company towns to “consider the question of plans for eventual employee ownership of homes”. To a lesser extent the New Deal also reduced the need for employee housing by transforming housing finance to a lower-interest, lower-deposit system making home ownership more accessible to the working class.
Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Company_town (Accessed: August 11, 2015)
Coal Towns in Virginia
Characteristic of coal towns was the influence of the company. Companies built hospitals, hotels, recreation halls, schools, and stores for miners and their families. They paid for medical personnel and teachers. The companies sponsored garden awards and gave chocolate and fruit to children at Christmas. Coal companies encouraged sports, and camp rivalries were intense. Miners at Roda (built in 1902) formed a band, and Stonega Coke & Coal Company sponsored an African American quartet. Coal companies also made land available for both Catholic and Protestant church structures. Company commissaries carried necessities and amenities such as washing machines, radios, and refrigerators, available for purchase on credit. To make ends meet, families often tended gardens in order to can goods and women sold butter and eggs. Miners and their families enjoyed their leisure times by visiting neighbors, going to the movies, having card parties, and picnicking.
The earliest coal camps often consisted of boarding houses for the mostly unmarried male miners duplexes and single-family houses were more common after the 1910s when companies actively recruited a more stable workforce of married men with families. Squeezed between mountains and stretched out along creeks, the camps often were divided along class, ethnic, and racial lines. Mining town sections carried names such as “Pink Town” (native white), Colored Hill” (African American), Hunk Town” (Eastern European), and Quality Hill” (company officials). Even after the establishment of permanent housing, coal towns often lacked adequate sewerage and water facilities.
Source: www.lva.virginia.gov/exhibits/coaltown/towns/ (Accessed: 8/11/2015
Company Towns in West Virginia
To accommodate workers, coal companies built towns from scratch, often in a matter of weeks.
Company towns exist across the country however, the southern coalfield company towns are distinctly West Virginian. When the railroads arrived, southern West Virginia primarily was a mountain wilderness, with a smattering of small towns such as Beckley, Madison and Aracoma (later renamed Logan). Coal companies had to build towns and houses for their miners in some of the most isolated areas of the region. By 1922, nearly 80 percent of West Virginia miners lived in company houses.
Coal companies stripped down the forests to erect simply designed houses, schools and churches, all within close proximity of the mines. The towns followed the branch lines of the C&O, N&W and Virginian railroads. To cut costs, almost all miners’ houses were built identically, often of cheap materials. Since most towns, such as Mohegan, were built in isolated areas, miners and their families were totally dependent on the companies for all services. Some companies took much better care of miners and their families by building swimming pools, movie theaters and parks. Houses in these model towns included indoor plumbing, electricity and sewer systems.
All life in company towns revolved around the company-owned store. Since these towns were located in isolated areas, the company store offered the only option for buying groceries, mining tools and other goods. Most company stores also contained the local post office and payroll office. As the only store in town, companies were not threatened by competition. They often charged exorbitant prices compared to what people in cities paid for the same items. Company stores could provide anything a miner and his family might need, ranging from washing machines to shoes to medicine. Most miners eventually earned enough to buy cars, which allowed them to visit local service towns such as Welch, Beckley, Bluefield, Logan, Madison, Mullens or Williamson.
African Americans and various immigrant groups typically were forced to live in separate sections of company towns. For African Americans and European immigrants, the company towns were a culture shock. Racial and ethnic violence occurred in a number of communities. To maximize productivity while maintaining peace, coal companies tried to keep a balance in numbers among native whites, blacks and immigrants—a “judicious mixture,” as dubbed by operator Justus Collins. Blacks attended different churches and schools. In addition, blacks and immigrant groups formed their own cultural institutions and fraternal orders.
Source: National Coal Heritage Area and Coal Heritage Trail – www.coalheritage.wv.gov/coal_history/Pages/Company-Towns.aspx (accessed: 8/11/15)
2 Replies to &ldquoCompany Towns: 1880s to 1935&rdquo
Housing for homeless: After reading about the rise and eventual decline of company towns for mining businesses in the 20s and 30s I wondered why companies like Amazon hasn’t offered its warehouse workers this option? I presume many people who live in trailers, motorhomes and camper vans are temp employees, but what about homeless in tents and less who can’t afford the luxury of a home on wheels? Would living in company owned stick built tiny homes be a solution to a growing problem across the country? With real estate rising costs many of the elderly living on small pensions and small social security checks will be increasingly falling through the cracks.
You have a thumbnail photo of houses on a street in Johnstown PA, but do not mention Johnstown in your article.
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Last updated: 26 June 2017
Entering into a retirement village contract in Australia can be a risky financial move unless you understand what's in the contract &ndash and chances are you won't.
In this investigation we take a look at:
The lease agreements CHOICE reviewed from major village developers such as Australian Unity and Lend Lease were long, complicated, and confusing, and appeared to contain terms that weighed heavily in favour of the village operators.
It doesn't help that every state has different retirement village regulations, with different rules about disclosing the true costs of living in, or trying to leave, the village.
And it's not just retirees who stand to lose out. Depending on how long you stay, the ongoing management fees and exit costs allowed by the contracts can do as much damage to your children's (or other beneficiaries') financial future as your own &ndash especially if you move out within the first five years. A big chunk of whatever inheritance might have come their way could end up in the village operator's pocket.
Why can't you know the full costs beforehand? Well, in Victoria especially, that's the whole issue. The Victorian Retirement Villages Act 1986 has allowed village contracts to have complicated and confusing fee rates and payment schedules, making cost comparisons between villages all but impossible.
Despite a number of inquiries and strident criticism from consumer advocates over the years, these types of contracts are allowed by retirement village regulations nationwide, affecting about 80% of Australia's nearly 200,000 village residents.
The model stands in stark contrast to retirement village arrangements in markets like Europe and the US, where simple, pay-as-you-go lease contracts are the norm and price comparisons between village units are consequently much easier.
. and it's costly
The upshot is that it's very hard to know how bad the deal is until you decide to leave the village, whether because the operator exaggerated its charms or because you just need to move out.
At that point you might find out the undisclosed and unexpected exit costs have made your village unit a very poor investment indeed. And to rub salt in the wound, the village operators often don't have to pay you back what's left of your loan until months after you've left, and sometimes even longer.
Even worse, village residents (or their children) generally have to keep paying for the units after they're vacated, until the operator finds a new tenant. And in Victoria some residents have to pay extra every time an agent shows the unit, even if the prospective tenants don't move in.
Trapped in the contract
Colin (not his real name) is a longtime CHOICE member and an advocate for reform in the retirement village industry. As he tells it, many retirees find they can't afford to leave in the early years of the contract. After the high early management fees and other exit costs and commissions are deducted, retirees may not have enough money left to pay for other comparable living arrangements.
"Once you're in the contract, there's nothing you can do. I know of quite a number of cases where people trying to leave have been very disappointed," Colin told us. "And I've heard children of residents say, 'Why did you sign this contract? It's a rip-off'."
Colin and his wife moved to a retirement village in the suburbs of Melbourne 15 years ago. "The service fees in the village we ended up choosing were towards the high end, but the village suited our needs and the locality suited."
"However, the village was only half finished, and it was clear that if we did not find it suitable down the road, the scheduling of the management fees &ndash 8% the first year and 3% per year for the next eight years &ndash was a rip-off that would make it prohibitively expensive if we wanted to terminate."
In a move that's not uncommon in the industry, the village operator ended up raising the management fees significantly to balance the operating budget "with the implied threat that if we did not agree services would be cut", Colin said.
He's convinced that moving into the village was a "bad financial decision" due to the nature of the contract and because it would have been much cheaper to rent a non-retirement village residence. But Colin acknowledges that the place is "satisfactory physically and socially".
New safeguards have come into play in some states (including WA and SA) in recent years that mandate better cost disclosure for retirement village contracts, but there's still plenty of opportunity to be caught unawares.
How it works: Funding the property developers
Retirement village residents pay what's euphemistically called an 'ingoing contribution' or 'ingoing loan' (also known as a 'loan lease') &ndash anywhere from $300,000 to $900,000 or more depending on the village location &ndash in order to be able to sign a contract and move into a village.
In effect, it's an interest-free loan that reimburses the property developer's capital costs. While parts of retirement village regulations vary from state to state, the handing over of retirees' nest eggs in a lump sum, and the surrendering of the money's earning power, is the norm throughout Australia.
The village operator can do whatever they want with your ingoing contribution, which usually comes from selling the family home. You lose the earning power of that money, and whatever you end up getting back will be devalued by inflation (though with many contracts a portion of the capital gains is returned to the resident).
The bill for checking out
If you decide to move on, the operator puts your life savings through a complicated series of fee calculations that you're unlikely to anticipate or understand &ndash especially the hefty 'deferred management fee' &ndash and hands you back what's left over. (The deferred management fee is based on the per-year value of your unit. If it's calculated at 3% a year, you'll give up 15% of the sale price if you move out after five years.)
What you end up with can be a lot less than you bargained on, not least because the ongoing management fees are generally highest during the early years of your tenancy.
Government opts to inform, not reform
In May 2015 Consumer Affairs Victoria (CAV) launched a campaign "to help Victorians make informed decisions about retirement villages". In 2013&ndash14, CAV was contacted roughly 690 times for advice on retirement villages and received 71 complaints.
The campaign includes video testimony from two retirees, Helen Vallack and Daisy Ellery, who say they suffered both financial and emotional hardship as a result of signing retirement village contracts they didn't understand. According to CAV, Vallack lost more than $30,000 of her life savings.
Then Victorian Minister for Consumer Affairs Jane Garrett said in a statement accompanying the campaign launch that Victorians "can avoid unnecessary financial and emotional hardship by doing some research, and seeking independent financial and legal advice before buying into a retirement village" she urged consumers to "clarify specific terms and conditions" in contracts.
Is the law protecting consumers?
CHOICE asked Ms Garrett's office at the time if an overhaul of the Retirement Village Act was in order &ndash such as moving to a simple pay-as-you-go system in line with the US and European models.
A CAV spokesperson told us the Retirement Villages Act 1986 "recognises that the ingoing contribution and deferred management fee contract model is the most popular retirement village business model in Victoria and Australia. In recognition that this model contains some problematic features, the Act sets out a range of protections for residents living in such villages."
The spokesperson also pointed out that the Act "does not prevent the pay-as-you-go retirement village payment model" and that some villages in Victoria are regulated under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997.
(About 20% of Australia's approximately 2300 retirement villages are standard residential tenancies according to the Retirement Living Council, an industry body that represents the interests of property developers and is part of the Property Council of Australia.)
CAV says there are two main ways the Victorian Retirement Villages Act protects consumers:
- By mandating that retirement village operators provide prospective residents with a standardised fact sheet that enables them to see what sort of ingoing contribution and deferred management fees will be required for the various types of units.
- By requiring that operators provide a disclosure statement prior to residents signing a contract that sets out the exact costs of entering, living in and leaving the village, including an estimate of their refunds after one, two, five and 10 years of residence.
Not enough protection
But consumer advocates like Colin and Melbourne's Consumer Action Law Centre (CALC) say such measures don't do much to prevent financial damage to village residents who want to move on.
CALC has called for such estimates to be provided as per-month figures so residents can get a clearer picture and make cost comparisons with other villages.
"The current system used by retirement village operators to collect fees (comprising ingoing, ongoing and exit fees) conceals the true cost of moving into a retirement village. For many, deferred management fees (or exit fees), shares of capital gains and renovation costs are particularly unclear," CALC said in a submission to CAV.
CALC has also argued that the deferred management fee structure is an unfair contract term and has pushed that point with the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal on behalf of residents of a Willow Lodge &ndash part of a chain of Victorian villages.
How the village operators see it
Former Retirement Living Council (RLC) executive director Mary Wood told us in 2015 that the ingoing contribution model was originally set up in the interest of retirees by public-minded people: "One reason it exists is so people without a lot of money can live in a higher quality, age-adaptive environment with amenities that wouldn't be affordable to them otherwise. Most people who live in retirement villages are pensioners on low incomes."
Without access to the funds upfront, most retirement villages would not be built, Wood argued. It's a view that's shared by others in the industry, who say retirement villages are generally not attractive investment prospects. "The exit fees represent the profit margins for developers," Wood said.
Around the time Wood made such statements, major retirement village developer Stockland announced the purchase of eight villages in South Australia, comprising 980 units, in what analysts saw as a further move toward the corporatisation of the industry. And some investors do see a profitable future in retirement villages.
Some contracts are better than others.
Wood acknowledged that signing on to a retirement village can be confusing. "There are a lot of misconceptions, and I can see why they arise. Like any property purchase, you need to read the contract and get independent legal advice. Some contracts are certainly better than others, and good operators have nothing to hide. Exit fees, for instance, are tremendously variable, but people who live in villages for more than a few years tend to get good value for money."
Wood said the RLC was developing a model contract "with some standardisation and simplification of terms" that it would hold up as a best-practice example for village operators, though operators won't be obligated to use it. And Wood admits qualified legal advice can be hard to come by.
The legal view
In 2015 CHOICE contacted the law firm Russell Kennedy, an RLC partner, to get a lawyer's view on retirement village contracts.
"I agree that historically there has been limited pre-contract disclosure required by retirement village operators," Rosemary Southgate, who heads up the firm's property and development team, told us. "Although many operators provide useful plain-English summaries of their village documents, this was not a legal requirement."
But Southgate said things are improving, especially in eastern states. "The operator must now complete a disclosure form which clearly sets out the financial obligations of the resident, the services they will receive, the type of accommodation they will occupy and the procedure for vacating the village when they wish to move."
And Southgate made the point that retirement village living entails an ongoing financial relationship with the operator. "Where the financial structure provides for the resident and the operator to receive a share in the capital gain &ndash and for the operator this may form part of the exit fee &ndash this ensures that the resident and the operator are equally invested in the upkeep of the village assets." She also recommended getting independent legal advice before signing a contract, and says most operators do as well.
But Southgate declined to address our question about the availability of qualified legal help. Colin, who's been researching and documenting the issue for years, says most lawyers "just don't understand all of the implications".
Thinking about signing a retirement village contract?
If you or someone you know is considering moving into a retirement village, due diligence is critical. Here's our checklist:
- Have a lawyer who understands retirement village issues review the contract and make sure you understand all fees and how they'll be applied. In particular, ask about the deferred management fee schedule and how it will affect you if you choose to leave the village earlier than planned.
- Instead of an upfront lump sum, is there an option to pay by the week or month?
- If you pay a lump sum, how much will you get back when you leave and how is this calculated? Ask what the total cost would be if the village didn't meet your expectations and you left after eight months or two years, for instance.
- What ongoing fees will you have to pay and what exactly do these fees cover?
- Can fees increase during the term of the contract? If so, can you dispute them?The alternative to fee increases may be to cut services.
- What are all exit fees &ndash including a deferred management fee &ndash and how are they calculated? This will likely require a spreadsheet and some careful calculations, since exit fees decrease the longer you're in the contract.
- Who's responsible for selling your unit if you leave, and who receives any capital gain on the sale price? Will the village operator receive a commission if it sells the unit, and if so what is the rate?
- How are refurbishment or infrastructure updating costs established?
- Are you still liable for weekly fees after you move out &ndash especially if the unit takes a while to sell? If so, how long will you be liable for these fees?
- Do you have to pay recurring fees if you leave the village for extended periods due to travel or hospitalisation?
- Does the company that owns the village operate the village? If not, who's the operator? What is the operator's legal name in case it's needed for a tribunal or court proceeding?
- Always get two or three quotes for units in different villages in the same area.
Have you &ndash or someone you know &ndash felt the sting of a retirement village contract?
Please share your story via the comments section so CHOICE and other readers can gain further insights into this problematic issue.
Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.
Streetcar, also called tram or trolley, vehicle that runs on track laid in the streets, operated usually in single units and usually driven by electric motor.
Early streetcars were either horse-drawn or depended for power on storage batteries that were expensive and inefficient. In 1834 Thomas Davenport, a blacksmith from Brandon, Vermont, U.S., built a small battery-powered electric motor and used it to operate a small car on a short section of track. In 1860 an American, G.F. Train, opened three lines in London and one line in Birkenhead. The system was called tramways in Britain and was established at Salford in 1862 and Liverpool in 1865. The invention of the dynamo (generator) led to the application of transmitted power by means of overhead electrified wires to streetcar lines, which subsequently proliferated in Britain, Europe, and the United States.
The cable car, the invention of Andrew Hallidie, was introduced in San Francisco on Sacramento and Clay streets in 1873. The cars were drawn by an endless cable running in a slot between the rails and passing over a steam-driven shaft in the powerhouse. The system was well-adapted for operation on steep hills and reached its most extensive use in San Francisco and Seattle. The cars operated more smoothly than did early electric cars, but they could run only at a constant speed breaking or jamming of the cable tied up all the cars on the line. Beginning about 1900, most cable trackage was replaced by electric cars but the Seattle lines lasted until the 1930s, and a portion of the San Francisco system continued in operation in the 21st century.
During the 1890s and the first two decades of the 1900s, conventional electric tramlines replaced horsecar lines in Europe and the United States and made their appearance in the larger cities of Asia, Africa, and South America. In the United States, electric streetcars replaced horse-drawn cars at a particularly rapid rate from 1902 to 1917. The motors and cars were gradually improved: the tiny four-wheeled cars were replaced by heavy eight-wheeled cars that had much greater carrying capacity, and wooden car bodies were replaced by steel ones. The possession of a streetcar line became essential for a growing town or small city, and the larger city streetcar systems extended their lines farther and farther out into the suburbs. The development of streetcars in Europe was equally rapid and continued over a longer period. Many European cities constructed highly efficient streetcar systems, and the electric car became the chief means of urban transport.
British trams usually were double-deck cars operated by two men, one of whom collected the fare rates were charged according to a zone system. European streetcars were similar to the British, but single-deck cars were common. Power was supplied from overhead wires through a bent piece called a bow or by a collapsible and adjustable frame called a pantograph, in contrast to the universal use of the single trolley pole in the United States. In Britain a conduit system was sometimes used in place of the overhead wires. It consisted of an underground conduit with a continuous slot that contained two conductor rails from which the tram’s contacts collected power.
During the World War I period, streetcar enterprises encountered financial difficulties as wage and materials costs rose, the companies were squeezed by the fixed fares set almost universally by the municipal franchises. Finally, government action permitted fare raises but by then the use of automobiles had spread, and many cities shifted to motor- bus systems of public transportation. The direct operating expenses of the bus, per mile, were greater than those of streetcars, but the heavy expenses of track construction and maintenance ultimately rendered streetcars uneconomical. In the United States streetcars began to be supplanted by automobiles and buses in the 1930s, and this trend accelerated during the ’40s and ’50s. In Britain the substitution of buses for trams was hastened during the 1930s by the development of improved double-deck buses, and by the early ’50s there were no trams left running in London. The last major British tram system was that of Glasgow, which employed relatively modern double-deck cars. Paris closed the last of its streetcar lines in the 1930s, and in other parts of France and in Italy many cities shifted to bus operation.
Nevertheless, there are still many major streetcar systems in operation, with many cities building new systems beginning in the late 20th century. Streetcar systems are largely municipal, with private bus competition not permitted. In the 1980s some cities in the United States began adopting light rail transit the trackage for this modern electric trolley system was less expensive to construct than that for elevated or underground metropolitan train systems. Light rail systems were constructed in such American cities as San Diego, Sacramento, and San Jose, California Portland, Oregon and Buffalo, New York. In the early 21st century, increased traffic congestion and the need to revive downtown areas led to increased interest in the streetcar, with new systems being built in some American cities, such as Houston, Texas Tampa, Florida and Washington, D.C.
The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Michael Ray, Editor.
How the 1966 Aberfan Mine Disaster Became Elizabeth II's Biggest Regret
The avalanche raced down a steep hill in Aberfan, Wales, sucking everything in its path into the chaos: landscape, buildings, an entire schoolhouse. When David Evans, the owner of a local pub, heard about it from a neighbor, he ran into the street. 𠇎verything was so quiet, so quiet,” he told historian Gaynor Madgewick. 𠇊ll I could see was the apex of the roofs.”
The avalanche wasn’t snow—it was coal waste that had slid down a rain-saturated mountainside. On October 21, 1966, nearly 140,000 cubic yards of black slurry cascaded down the hill above Aberfan. It destroyed everything it touched, eventually killing 144 people, most of them children sitting in their school classrooms.
The tragedy in Aberfan would become one of the United Kingdom’s worst mining disasters𠅊nd it was completely avoidable.
Despite the magnitude of the calamity, Queen Elizabeth II at first refused to visit the village, sparking criticism in the press and questions about why she wouldn’t go. Finally, after sending her husband, Prince Philip, in her place for a formal visit, she came to Aberfan eight days after the disaster to survey the damage and speak with survivors. Nearly four decades later, in 2002, the queen said that not visiting Aberfan immediately after the disaster was “her biggest regret.”
Queen Elizabeth II laying a wreath to commemorate the victims of the Aberfan disaster of 1966, years later in September of 1973.
The foundation of the disaster was laid nearly a century before, when the Merthyr Vale Colliery, a coal mine, was opened in the area. Wales had become famous for coal mining during the Industrial Revolution, and at its peak in 1920, 271,000 workers labored in the country’s coal pits. By the 1960s, coal mining was in decline, but was still a lifeline for some 8,000 miners and their families around Aberfan.
Coal mining creates waste, and the waste rock was dumped in an area called a tip. Merthyr Vale had seven tips. By 1966, the seventh tip, which was begun in 1958, was about 111 feet high and contained nearly 300,000 cubic yards of waste. It was precariously placed on sandstone above a natural spring, which lay on the steep hill above the village.
As mining progressed, the heaps of waste grew and grew. In 1963 and 1964 residents and local officials had raised concerns about the seventh tip’s location with the National Coal Board, which owned and operated the mine. They were especially worried because the tip was located right above Pantglas Junior School, which was attended by about 240 students.
Those concerns were all too prescient, but the National Coal Board ignored them. “The threat was implicit,” notes the BBC: “make a fuss and the mine would close.”
On October 21, students at Pantglas were only scheduled for a half day of school ahead of a mid-term break. It had been a rainy day, but that wasn’t unusual—not only had it been raining for weeks, but the area got at least 60 inches of rain annually. The children had just arrived at school when it happened: saturated by rain, the fine coal material piled on the hill liquefied into a thick slurry and began hurtling toward them.
It happened so quickly that nobody could prepare. Students heard a sound like a jet plane. It was black quicksand burying everything in its path. The slurry hit the school, slamming its walls to rubble and pouring in through the windows. Pipes burst and water began flowing outside the school.
Down the hill, the town, which had begun to flood from streams clogged with debris, sprang into action. Emergency workers and volunteers ran up toward the school to help. 𠇌ivil defense teams, miners, policemen, firemen and other volunteers toiled desperately, sometimes tearing at the coal rubble with their bare hands, to extricate the children,” reported The New York Times. 𠇋ulldozers shoved debris aside to get to the children. A hush fell on the rescuers once when faint cries were heard in the rubble.”
Alix Palmer, a young journalist on his first major assignment, went to Aberfan to report on the rescue efforts. It had been hours since anyone had been pulled out alive. “The fathers straight from the pit were digging,” he wrote to his mother afterward. “No-one had yet really given up hope, although logic told them it was useless.”
In the aftermath, the true scale of the disaster became clear. One hundred and forty-four people were dead, 116 of them children. Half of the village’s children had been killed. 𠇊ll our friends were gone,” Jeff Edwards, who survived the disaster pinned beneath his desk, told the BBC in 2016.
A tribunal later concluded that the National Coal Board was responsible for the disaster after examining 300 exhibits and interviewing 136 witnesses. “The Aberfan disaster could and should have been prevented,” said the tribunal in its report. The disaster was a matter “not of wickedness but of ignorance, ineptitude and a failure in communications,” it wrote.
Two rows of white arches near the top of Aberfan cemetery, as seen here in 2016, mark the graves of the children killed in the colliery tip disaster of 1966.
Rowan Griffiths/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
Great Britain quickly mobilized on behalf of the people in Aberfan. The Aberfan Disaster Memorial Fund, which was set up on the day of the disaster, raised the equivalent of $16.6 million in modern dollars. The money was used to pay for repairs in the village and the care of those who were injured and bereaved in the disaster.
But the money also had to help pay for the removal of the remaining tips that lurked above the village. The head of the National Coal Board refused to visit Aberfan and parents of children had to prove they were 𠇌lose” to their children to receive a payment of from the board. The funds for removing the tips were only repaid in 1997—without interest.
Someone else had lingering heartache about the Aberfan disaster: Elizabeth II. Instead of visiting herself, she sent Prince Philip in her stead. “We kept presenting the arguments,” an advisor told biographer Robert Lacey, 𠇋ut nothing we said could persuade her.” Finally, she had a change of heart and visited eight days after the slide, speaking with village residents and showing poignant grief𠅊n uncharacteristically emotional display for the usually stoic queen.
For the people of Aberfan, the visit was part of the healing process. “They were above the politics and the din and they proved to us that the world was with us, and that the world cared,” Marjorie Collins, who lost her eight-year-old son in the disaster, said in 2015. But nothing could make it less bitter to lose a child. “I lost my daughter and we were lucky to save the lad,” an Aberfan father told LIFE in 1967. “No amount of money will fetch any of them back, will it?”