Victorian London - Districts - Areas - Bethnal Green 

see also Hector Gavin's Sanitary Ramblings - click here

A man came yesterday from Bethnal Green with an account of that district. They are all weavers, forming a sort of separate community; there they are born, there they live and labour, and there they die. They neither migrate nor change their occupation; they can do nothing else. They have increased in a ratio at variance with any principles of population, having nearly tripled in twenty years, from 22,000 to 62,000. They are for the most part out of employment, and can get none. 1,100 are crammed into the poor house, five or six in a bed; 6,000 receive parochial relief. The parish is in debt; every day adds to the number of paupers and diminishes that of ratepayers. These are principally small shopkeepers, who are beggared by the rates. The district is in a complete state of insolvency and hopeless poverty, yet they multiply, and while the people look squalid and dejected, as if borne down by their wretched­ness and destitution, the children thrive and are healthy. Government is ready to interpose with assistance, but what can Government do? We asked the man who came what could be done for them. He said ‘employment’, and employment is impossible.

Charles Greville, Diary, Feb 17th 1832

see also Sinks of London Laid Open - click here

BETHNAL GREEN. A low-lying district, separated from Stepney in the year 1743, and made a parish by the name of St. Matthew, Bethnal Green. It is chiefly inhabited by poor weavers of silk, connected with the great French settlement in Spitalfields. In 1839 there were only two churches in the whole district, but ten churches have been erected since that time. The population in 1841 was 74,988.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

see also Thomas Archer - The Pauper, The Thief and The Convict - click here

Here was a large house said to have been a palace of Bishop Bonner's, and taken down in 1849, in forming Victoria Park. Between 1839 and 1849, there were built here ten district churches, principally through the exertions of Dr. Blomfield, Bishop of London the tenth of these churches (St. Thomas's) was erected at the sole cost of a private individual. Silk-weavers live in great numbers at Bethnal Green.

Nichol-street, New Nichol-street, Half Nichol-street, Nichol-row, Turvil-street, comprising within the same area numerous blind courts and alleys, form a densely-crowded district in Bethnal Green. Among its inhabitants may be found street vendors of every kind of produce, travellers to fairs, tramps, dog-fanciers, dog-stealers, men and women sharpers, shoplifters and pickpockets. It abounds with the young Arabs of the streets, and its outward moral degradation is at once apparent to any one who passes that way. Here the police are certain to be found, day and night, their presence being required to quell riots and to preserve decency. Sunday is a day much devoted to pet pigeons and to bird-singing clubs prizes are given to such as excel in note, and a ready sale follows each award. Time thus employed was formerly devoted to cock-fighting. In this locality, twenty-live years ago, an employer of labour, Mr. Jonathan Duthoit, made an attempt to influence the people for good by the hire of a room for meeting purposes. The first attendance consisted of one person. Persistent efforts were, however, made; other rooms have from time to time been taken and enlarged; here is a Hall for Christian instruction; and another for Educational purposes; Illustrated Lectures are delivered; a Loan Library has been established, also a Clothing Club and Penny Bank, and Training Classes for industrial purposes.-Athenaeum, 1862

John Timbs, Curiosities of London, 1867

see also Thomas Archer's Terrible Sights of London - click here

see also Richard Rowe in Life in the London Streets - click here

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - Old Weavers' Houses at Bethnal Green

Old Weavers' Houses at Bethnal Green - photograph


On the revocation of the Edict of Nantes numerous Walloon and French weavers came over to England and settled in and around Spitalfields. "God's blessing is surely not only brought upon the parish [of Spitalfields] by receiving poor strangers," wrote Stowe, "but also a great advantage both accrued to the whole nation by the rich manufactures of weaving silks and stuff and camlet, which art they brought with them.'' Our picture shows some characteristic houses situated in Florida Street, Bethnal Green, which in former days were occupied by weavers. The hand-loom, though still in use in this part of London, has, of course, been to a great extent superseded by the power-loom.