The story of Juteopolis is a tale of two cities, both of them Dundee. One was a city populated by the mill workers living in overcrowded squalor. The other was the world of the wealthy Jute Barons, with their mansions and estates.
With so many women working in the mills it was left to the unemployed men to become ‘kettle bilers’ and look after the babies and cook the meals. The diet was meagre in the extreme. Meat was a rare luxury. Potatoes and porridge were the staple diet for a 19th Century Dundonian, with ‘bread meat’ for the babies, an unwholesome mix of bread and boiling water. The early 20th century saw the introduction of so-called ‘convenience foods’ like margarine, white bread and sugar, more expensive but easier and quicker to prepare. Poor diet was a contributor to the low life expectancy, which, in 1863, was just 33 years for a man. The living conditions didn’t help either. The average number of people to a home was eight, often sharing four to a bed. Water was often polluted and cholera and typhus epidemics swept the city. Small wonder so many sought solace in the pubs.
All this was in stark contrast to the privileged lives of the mill owners. Well educated, well fed and well off, theirs was a genteel existence. However, they also felt a sense of duty to the community and gave much money to be spent on philanthropic works in the city.