OF THE LOW LODGING-HOUSES OF LONDON.
The patterers, as a class, usually frequent the low
lodging-houses. I shall therefore now proceed to give some further information
touching the abodes of these people -reminding the reader that I am treating of
patterers in general, and not of any particular order, as the "paper
In applying the epithet "low" to these places, I do but adopt the word commonly applied, either in consequence of the small charge for lodging, or from the character of their frequenters. To some of these domiciles, however, as will be shown, the epithet, in an opprobrious sense, is unsuited.
An intelligent man, familiar for some years with some low lodging-house life, specified the quarters where those abodes are to be found, and divided them into the following districts, the correctness of which I caused to be ascertained.
Drury-lane District. Here the low lodging-houses are to be found principally in the Coalyard, Charles-street, King-street, Parker-street, Short's-gardens, Great and Little Wyld-streets, Wyld-court, Lincoln-court, Newton-street, Starcourt.
Gray's-inn Lane. Fox-court, Charlottebuildings, Spread Eagle-court, Portpool-lane, Bell-court, Baldwin's-gardens, Pheasant-court, Union-buildings, Laystall-street, Cromer-street, Fulwood's-rents (High Holborn).
Chancery-lane. Church-passage, and the Liberty of the Rolls.
Bloomsbury. George-street, Church-lane, Queen-street, Seven-dials, Puckeridge-street (commonly called the Holy Land).
Saffron-hill and Clerkenwell. Peter-street, Cowcross, Turnmill-street, Upper and Lower Whitecross-street, St. Helen's-place, Playhouse-yard, Chequer-alley, Field-lane, Great Saffron-hill.
Westminster. Old and New Pye-streets, Ann street, Orchard-street, Perkins's-rents, Rochester-row.
Lambeth. Lambeth-walk, New-cut.
Marylebone. York-court, East-street.
St. Pancras. Brooke-street.
Paddington. Chapel-street, Union-court.
Shoreditch. Baker's-rents, Cooper's-gardens.
Whitechapel, Spitalfields, &c. George-yard, Thrawl-street, Flower and Dean-street, Wentworth-street, Keate-street, Rosemary-lane, Glasshouse-yard, St. George's-street, Lambethstreet, Whitechapel, High-street.
Borough. Mint-street, Old Kent-street, Longlane, Bermondsey.
Limehouse. Hold (commonly called Hole).
Deptford. Mill-lane, Church-street, Giffordstreet.
There are other localities, (as in Mile-end, Ratcliffe-highway, Shadwell, Wapping, and Lisson-grove,) where low lodging-houses are to be found; but the places I have specified may be considered the districts of these hotels for the poor. The worst places, both as regards filth and immorality, are in St. Giles's and Wentworth-street, Whitechapel. The best are in Orchard-street, Westminster (the thieves having left it in consequence of the recent alterations and gone to New Pye-street), and in the Mint, Borough. In the last-mentioned district, indeed, some of the proprietors of the lodginghouses have provided considerable libraries for the use of the inmates. In the White Horse, Mint-street, for instance, there is a collection of 500 volumes, on all subjects, bought recently, and having been the contents of a circulating library, advertised for sale in the Weekly Dispatch.
Of lodging-houses for "travellers" the largest is known as the Farm House, in the Mint: it stands away from any thoroughfare, and lying low is not seen until the visitor stands in the yard. Tradition rumour states that the house was at one time Queen Anne's, and was previously Cardinal Wolsey's. It was probably some official residence. In this lodginghouse are forty rooms, 200 beds (single and double), and accommodation for 200 persons. It contains three kitchens, -of which the largest, at once kitchen and sitting-room, holds 400 people, for whose uses in cooking there are two large fire-places. The other two kitchens are used only on Sundays; when one is a preaching-room, in which missionaries from Surrey Chapel (the Rev. James Sherman's), or some minister or gentleman of the neighbourhood, officiates. The other is a reading-room, supplied with a few newspapers and other periodicals; and thus, I was told, the religious and irreligious need not clash. For the supply of these papers each person pays 1d. every Sunday morning; and as the sum so collected is more than is required for the expenses of the reading-room, the surplus is devoted to the help of the members in sickness, under the management of the proprietor of the lodginghouse, who appears to possess the full confidence of his inmates. The larger kitchen is detached from the sleeping apartments, so that the lodgers are not annoyed with the odour of the cooking of fish and other food consumed by the poor; for in lodging-houses every sojourner is his own cook. The meal in most demand is tea, usually with a herring, or a piece of bacon.
The yard attached to the Farm House, in Mint-street, covers an acre and a half; in it is a washing-house, built recently, the yard itself being devoted to the drying of the clothes -washed by the customers of the establishment. At the entrance to this yard is a kind of porter's lodge, in which reside the porter and his wife who act as the "deputies" of the lodginghouse. This place has been commended in sanitary reports, for its cleanliness, good order, and care for decency, and for a proper division of the sexes. On Sundays there is no charge for lodging to known customers; but this is a general practice among the low lodging-houses of London.
In contrast to this house I could cite many instances, but I need do no more in this place than refer to the statements, which I shall proceed to give; some of these were collected in the course of a former inquiry, and are here given because the same state of things prevails now. I was told by a trustworthy man that not long ago he was compelled to sleep in one of the lowest (as regards cheapness) of the lodging-houses. All was dilapidation, filth, and noisomeness. In the morning he drew, for purposes of ablution, a basinfull of water from a pailfull kept in the room. In the water were floating alive, or apparently alive, bugs and lice, which my informant was convinced had fallen from the ceiling, shaken off by the tread of some one walking in the rickety apartments above!
"Ah, sir," said another man with whom I conversed on the subject, "if you had lived in the lodging-houses, you would say what a vast difference a penny made, -it's often all in all. It's 4d. in the Mint House you've been asking me about; you've sleep and comfort there, and I've seen people kneel down and say their prayers afore they went to bed. Not so many, though. Two or three in a week at nights, perhaps. And it's wholesome and sweet enough there, and large separate beds; but in other places there's nothing to smell or feel but bugs. When daylight comes in the summer -and it's often either as hot as hell or as cold as icicles in those places; but in summer, as soon as its light, if you turn down the coverlet, you'll see them a-going it like Cheapside when it's throngest." The poor man seemed to shudder at the recollection.
One informant counted for me 180 of these low lodging-houses; and it is reasonable to say that there are, in London, at least 200 of them. The average number of beds in each was computed for me, by persons cognizant of such matters, from long and often woful experience, at 52 single or 24 double beds, where the house might be confined to single men or single women lodgers, or to married or pretendedly married couples, or to both classes. In either case, we may calculate the number that can be, and generally are, accommodated at 50 per house; for children usually sleep with their parents, and 50 may be the lowest computation. We have thus no fewer than 10,000 persons domiciled, more or less permanently, in the low lodging-houses of London -a number more than doubling the population of many a parliamentary borough.
The proprietors of these lodging-houses mostly have been, I am assured, vagrants, or, to use the civiller and commoner word, "travellers" themselves, and therefore sojourners, on all necessary occasions, in such places. In four cases out of five I believe this to be the case. The proprietors have raised capital sufficient to start with, sometimes by gambling at races, sometimes by what I have often, and very vaguely, heard described as a "run of luck;" and sometimes, I am assured, by the proceeds of direct robbery. A few of the proprietors may be classed as capitalists. One of them, who has a country house in Hampstead, has six lodging-houses in or about Thrawl-street, Whitechapel. He looks in at each house every Saturday, and calls his deputies -for he has a deputy in each house -to account; he often institutes a stringent check. He gives a poor fellow money to go and lodge in one of his houses, and report the number present. Sometimes the person so sent meets with the laconic repulse -"Full;" and woe to the deputy if his return do not evince this fulness. Perhaps one in every fifteen of the low lodging-houses in town is also a beer-shop. Very commonly so in the country.
To "start" a low lodging-house is not a very costly matter. Furniture which will not be saleable in the ordinary course of auction, or of any traffic, is bought by a lodging-house "starter." A man possessed of some money, who took an interest in a bricklayer, purchased for 20l., when the Small Pox Hospital, by King's-cross, was pulled down, a sufficiency of furniture for four lodging-houses, in which he "started" the man in question. None others would buy this furniture, from a dread of infection.
It was the same at Marlborough-house, Peckham, after the cholera had broken out there. The furniture was sold to a lodging-house keeper, at 9d. each article. "Big and little, sir," I was told; "a penny pot and a bedstead -all the same; each 9d. Nobody else would buy."
To about three-fourths of the low lodginghouses of London, are "deputies." These are the conductors or managers of the establishment, and are men or women (and not unfrequently a married, or proclaimed a married couple), and about in equal proportion. These deputies are paid from 7s. to 15s. a week each, according to the extent of their supervision; their lodging always, and sometimes their board, being at the cost of "the master." According to the character of the lodging-house, the deputies are civil and decent, or roguish and insolent. Their duty is not only that of general superintendence, but in some of the houses of a nocturnal inspection of the sleeping-rooms; the deputy's business generally keeping him up all night. At the better-conducted houses strangers are not admitted after twelve at night; in others, there is no limitation as to hours.
The rent of the low lodging-houses varies, I am informed, from 8s. to 20s. a week, the payment being for the most part weekly; the taxes and rates being of course additional. It is rarely that the landlord, or his agent, can be induced to expend any money in repairs, -the wear and tear of the floors, &c., from the congregating together of so many human beings being excessive: this expenditure in consequence falls upon the tenant.
Some of the lodging-houses present no appearance differing from that of ordinary houses; except, perhaps, that their exterior is dirtier. Some of the older houses have long flat windows on the ground-floor, in which there is rather more paper, or other substitutes, than glass. "The windows there, sir," remarked one man, "are not to let the light in, but to keep the cold out."
In the abodes in question there seems to have become tacitly established an arrangement as to what character of lodgers shall resort thither; the thieves, the prostitutes, and the better class of street-sellers or traders, usually resorting to the houses where they will meet the same class of persons. The patterers reside chiefly in Westminister and Whitechapel.
Some of the lodging-houses are of the worst class of low brothels, and some may even be described as brothels for children.
On many of the houses is a rude sign, "Lodgings for Travellers, 3d. a night. Boiling water always ready," or the same intimation may be painted on a window-shutter, where a shutter is in existence. A few of the better order of these housekeepers post up small bills, inviting the attention of "travellers," by laudations of the cleanliness, good beds, abundant water, and "gas all night," to be met with. The same parties also give address-cards to travellers, who can recommend one another.
The beds are of flock, and as regards the mere washing of the rug, sheet, and blanket, which constitute the bed-furniture, are in better order than they were a few years back; for the visitations of the cholera alarmed even the reckless class of vagrants, and those whose avocations relate to vagrants. In perhaps a tenth of the low lodging-houses of London, a family may have a room to themselves, with the use of the kitchen, at so much a week -generally 2s. 6d. for a couple without family, and 3s. 6d. where there are children. To let out "beds" by the might is however the general rule.
The illustration presented this week is of a place in Fox-court, Gray's-inn-lane, long notorious as a "thieves' house," but now far less frequented. On the visit, a few months back, of an informant (who declined staying there), a number of boys were lying on the floor gambling with marbles and halfpennies, and indulging in savage or unmeaning blasphemy. One of the lads jumped up, and murmuring something that it wouldn't do to be idle any longer, induced a woman to let him have a halfpenny for "a stall;" that is, as a pretext with which to enter a shop for the purpose of stealing, the display of the coin forming an excuse for his entrance. On the same occasion a man walked into "the kitchen," and coolly pulled from underneath the back of his smock-frock a large flat piece of bacon, for which he wanted a customer. It would be sold at a fourth of its value.
I am assured that the average takings of lodging-house keepers may be estimated at 17s. 6d. a night, not to say 20s.; but I adopt the lower calculation. This gives a weekly payment by the struggling poor, the knavish, and the outcast, of 1,000 guineas weekly, or 52,000 guineas in the year. Besides the rent and taxes, the principal expenditure of the lodging-house proprietors is for coals and gas. In some of the better houses, blacking, brushes, and razors are supplied, without charge, to the lodgers: also pen and ink, soap, and, almost always, a newspaper. For the meals of the frequenters salt is supplied gratuitously, and sometimes, but far less frequently, pepper also; never vinegar or mustard. Sometimes a halfpenny is charged for the use of a razor and the necessary shaving apparatus. In one house in Kent-street, the following distich adorns the mantel-piece:
"To save a journey up the town, A razor lent here for a brown: But if you think the price too high, I beg you won't the razor try."
In some places a charge of a halfpenny is made for hot water, but that is very rarely the case. Strong drink is admitted at almost any hour in the majority of the houses, and the deputy is generally ready to bring it; but little is consumed in the houses, those addicted to the use or abuse of intoxicating liquors preferring the tap-room or the beer-shop.
OF THE FILTH, DISHONESTY, AND IMMORALITY OF LOW LODGING-HOUSES.
In my former and my present inquiries, I received many
statements on this subject. Some details, given by coarse men and boys in the
grossest language, are too gross to be more than alluded to, but the full truth
must be manifested, if not detailed. It was remarked when my prior account
appeared, that the records of gross profligacy on the part of some of the most
licentious of the rich (such as the late Marquis of Hertford and other worthies
of the same depraved habits) were equalled, or nearly equalled, by the account
of the orgies of the lowest lodging houses.
Sin, in any rank of life, shows the same features.
And first, as to the want of cleanliness, comfort, and decency: "Why, sir," said one man, who had filled a commercial situation of no little importance, but had, through intemperance, been reduced to utter want, "I myself have slept in the top room of a house not far from Drury-lane, and you could study the stars, if you were so minded, through the holes left by the slates having been blown off the roof. It was a fine summer's night, and the openings in the roof were then rather an advantage, for they admitted air, and the room wasn't so foul as it might have been without them. I never went there again, but you may judge what thoughts went through a man's mind -a man who had seen prosperous days -as he lay in a place like that, without being able to sleep, watching the sky."
The same man told me (and I received abundant corroboration of his statement, besides that incidental mention of the subject occurs elsewhere), that he had scraped together a handful of bugs from the bed-clothes, and crushed them under a candlestick, and had done that many a time, when he could only resort to the lowest places. He had slept in rooms so crammed with sleepers -he believed there were 30 where 12 would have been a proper number -that their breaths in the dead of night and in the unventilated chamber, rose (I use his own words) "in one foul, choking steam of stench." This was the case most frequently a day or two prior to Greenwich Fair or Epsom Races, when the congregation of the wandering classes, who are the supporters of the low lodginghouses, was the thickest. It was not only that two or even three persons jammed themselves into a bed not too large for one full-sized man; but between the beds -and their partition one from another admitted little more than the passage of a lodger -were placed shakes-down, or temporary accommodation for nightly slumber. In the better lodging-houses the shake-downs are small palliasses or mattresses; in the worst, they are bundles of rags of any kind; but loose straw is used only in the country for shake-downs. One informant saw a traveller, who had arrived late, eye his shakedown in one of the worst houses with anything but a pleased expression of countenance; and a surly deputy, observing this, told the customer he had his choice, "which," the deputy added, "it's not all men as has, or I shouldn't have been waiting here on you. But you has your choice, I tell you; -sleep there on that shake-down, or turn out and be d -; that's fair." At some of the busiest periods, numbers sleep on the kitchen floor, all huddled together, men and women (when indecencies are common enough), and without bedding or anything but their scanty clothes to soften the hardness of the stone or brick floor. A penny is saved to the lodger by this means. More than 200 have been accommodated in this way in a large house. The Irish, at harvest-time, very often resort to this mode of passing the night.
I heard from several parties, of the surprise, and even fear or horror, with which a decent mechanic -more especially if he were accompanied by his wife -regarded one of these foul dens, when destitution had driven him there for the first time in his life. Sometimes such a man was seen to leave the place abruptly, though perhaps he had pre-paid his last halfpenny for the refreshment of a night's repose. Sometimes he was seized with sickness. I heard also from some educated persons who had "seen better days," of the disgust with themselves and with the world, which they felt on first entering such places. "And I have some reason to believe," said one man, "that a person, once well off, who has sunk into the very depths of poverty, often makes his first appearance in one of the worst of those places. Perhaps it is because he keeps away from them as long as he can, and then, in a sort of desperation fit, goes into the cheapest he meets with; or if he knows it's a vile place, he very likely says to himself -I did -` I may as well know the worst at once.' "
Another man who had moved in good society, said, when asked about his resorting to a low lodging-house: "When a man's lost caste in society, he may as well go the whole hog, bristles and all, and a low lodging-house is the entire pig."
Notwithstanding many abominations, I am assured that the lodgers, in even the worst of these habitations, for the most part sleep soundly. But they have, in all probability, been out in the open air the whole of the day, and all of them may go to their couches, after having walked, perhaps, many miles, exceedingly fatigued, and some of them half-drunk. "Why, in course, sir," said a "traveller," whom I spoke to on this subject, "if you is in a country town or village, where there's only one lodging-house, perhaps, and that a bad one -an old hand can always suit his-self in London -you must get half-drunk, or your money for your bed is wasted. There's so much rest owing to you, after a hard day; and bugs and bad air'll prevent its being paid, if you don't lay in some stock of beer, or liquor of some sort, to sleep on. It's a duty you owes yourself; but, if you haven't the browns, why, then, in course, you can't pay it." I have before remarked, and, indeed, have given instances, of the odd and sometimes original manner in which an intelligent patterer, for example, will express himself.
The information I obtained in the course of this inquiry into the condition of low lodginghouses, afforded a most ample corroboration of the truth of a remark I have more than once found it necessary to make before -that persons of the vagrant class will sacrifice almost anything for warmth, not to say heat. Otherwise, to sleep, or even sit, in some of the apartments of these establishments would be intolerable.
From the frequent state of weariness to which I have alluded, there is generally less conversation among the frequenters of the low lodginghouses than might be expected. Some are busy cooking, some (in the better houses) are reading, many are drowsy and nodding, and many are smoking. In perhaps a dozen places of the worst and filthiest class, indeed, smoking is permitted even in the sleeping-rooms; but it is far less common than it was even half-a-dozen years back, and becomes still less common yearly. Notwithstanding so dangerous a practice, fires are and have been very unfrequent in these places. There is always some one awake, which is one reason. The lack of conversation, I ought to add, and the weariness and drowsiness, are less observable in the lodging-houses patronised by thieves and women of abandoned character, whose lives are comparatively idle, and whose labour a mere nothing. In their houses, if the conversation be at all general, it is often of the most unclean character. At other times it is carried on in groups, with abundance of whispers, shrugs, and slang, by the members of the respective schools of thieves or lurkers.
I have now to speak of the habitual violation of all the injunctions of law, of all the obligations of morality, and of all the restraints of decency, seen continually in the vilest of the lodging-houses. I need but cite a few facts, for to detail minutely might be to disgust. In some of these lodging-houses, the proprietor -or, I am told, it might be more correct to say, the proprietress, as there are more women than men engaged in the nefarious traffic carried on in these houses -are "fences," or receivers of stolen goods in a small way. Their "fencing," unless as the very exception, does not extend to any plate, or jewellery, or articles of value, but is chiefly confined to provisions, and most of all to those which are of ready sale to the lodgers.
Of very ready sale are "fish got from the gate" (stolen from Billingsgate); "sawney" (thieved bacon), and "flesh found in Leadenhall" (butcher's-meat stolen from that market). I was told by one of the most respectable tradesmen in Leadenhall-market, that it was infested -but not now to so great an extent as it was -with lads and young men, known there as "finders." They carry bags round their necks, and pick up bones, or offal, or pieces of string, or bits of papers, or "anything, sir, please, that a poor lad, that has neither father nor mother, and is werry hungry, can make a ha'penny by to get him a bit of bread, please, sir." This is often but a cover for stealing pieces of meat, and the finders, with their proximate market for disposal of their meat in the lowest lodging-houses in Whitechapel, go boldly about their work, for the butchers, if the "finder" be detected, "won't," I was told by a sharp youth who then was at a low lodging-house in Keate-street, "go bothering theirselves to a beak, but gives you a scruff of the neck and a kick and lets you go. But some of them kicks werry hard." The tone and manner of this boy -and it is a common case enough with the "prigs" -showed that he regarded hard kicking merely as one of the inconveniences to which his business-pursuits were unavoidably subjected; just as a struggling housekeeper might complain of the unwelcome calls of the tax-gatherers. These depredations are more frequent in Leadenhall-market than in any of the others, on account of its vicinity to Whitechapel. Even the Whitechapel meat-market is less the scene of prey, for it is a series of shops, while Leadenhall presents many stalls, and the finders seem loath to enter shops without some plausible pretext.
Groceries, tea especially, stolen from the docks, warehouses, or shops, are things in excellent demand among the customers of a lodging-house fence. Tea, known or believed to have been stolen "genuine" from any dock, is bought and sold very readily; 1s. 6d., however, is a not unfrequent price for what is known as 5s. tea. Sugar, spices, and other descriptions of stolen grocery, are in much smaller request.
Wearing-apparel is rarely bought by the fences I am treating of; but the stealers of it can and do offer their wares to the lodgers, who will often, before buying, depreciate the garment, and say "It's never been nothing better nor a Moses."
"Hens and chickens" are a favourite theft, and "go at once to the pot," but in no culinary sense. The hens and chickens of the roguish low lodging-houses are the publicans' pewter measures; the bigger vessels are "hens;" the smaller are "chickens." Facilities are provided for the melting of these stolen vessels, and the metal is sold by the thief -very rarely if ever, by the lodging-house keeper, who prefers dealing with the known customers of the establishment -to marine-store buyers.
A man who at one time was a frequenter of a thieves' lodging-house, related to me a conversation which he chanced to overhear -he himself being then in what his class would consider a much superior line of business -between a sharp lad, apparently of twelve or thirteen years of age, and a lodging-house (female) fence. But it occurred some three or four years back. The lad had "found" a piece of Christmas beef, which he offered for sale to his landlady, averring that it weighed 6 lbs. The fence said and swore that it wouldn't weigh 3 lbs., but she would give him 5d. for it. It probably weighed above 4 lbs. "Fip-pence!" exclaimed the lad, indignantly; "you haven't no fairness. Vy, its sixpun' and Christmas time. Fip-pence! A tanner and a flag (a sixpence and a four-penny piece) is the werry lowest terms." There was then a rapid and interrupted colloquy, in which the most frequent words were: "Go to blazes!" with retorts of "You go to blazes!" and after strong and oathful imputations of dishonest endeavours on the part of each contracting party, to over-reach the other, the meat was sold to the woman for 6d.
Some of the "fences" board, lodge, and clothe, two or three boys or girls, and send them out regularly to thieve, the fence usually taking all the proceeds, and if it be the young thief has been successful, he is rewarded with a trifle of pocket-money, and is allowed plenty of beer and tobacco.
One man, who keeps three low lodginghouses (one of which is a beer-shop), not long ago received from a lodger a valuable greatcoat, which the man said he had taken from a gig. The fence (who was in a larger way of business than others of his class, and is reputed rich,) gave 10s. for the garment, asking at the same time, "Who was minding the gig?" "A charity kid," was the answer. "Give him a deuce" (2d.), "and stall him off" (send him an errand), said the fence, "and bring the horse and gig, and I'll buy it." It was done, and the property was traced in two hours, but only as regarded the gig, which had already had a new pair of wheels attached to it, and was so metamorphosed, that the owner, a medical gentleman, though he had no moral doubt on the subject, could not swear to his own vehicle. The thief received only 4l. for gig and horse; the horse was never traced.
The licentiousness of the frequenters, and more especially of the juvenile frequenters, of the low lodging-houses, must be even more briefly alluded to. In some of these establishments, men and women, boys and girls, -but perhaps in no case, or in very rare cases, unless they are themselves consenting parties, herd together promiscuously. The information which I have given from a reverend informant indicates the nature of the proceedings, when the sexes are herded indiscriminately, and it is impossible to present to the reader, in full particularity, the records of the vice practised.
Boys have boastfully carried on loud conversations, and from distant parts of the room, of their triumphs over the virtue of girls, and girls have laughed at and encouraged the recital. Three, four, five, six, and even more boys and girls have been packed, head and feet, into one small bed; some of them perhaps never met before. On such occasions any clothing seems often enough to be regarded as merely an incumbrance. Sometimes there are loud quarrels and revilings from the jealousy of boys and girls, and more especially of girls whose "chaps" have deserted or been inveigled from them. At others, there is an amicable interchange of partners, and next day a resumption of their former companionship. One girl, then fifteen or sixteen, who had been leading this vicious kind of life for nearly three years, and had been repeatedly in prison, and twice in hospitals -and who expressed a strong desire to "get out of the life" by emigration -said: "Whatever that's bad and wicked, that any one can fancy could be done in such places among boys and girls that's never been taught, or won't be taught, better, is done, and night after night." In these haunts of low iniquity, or rather in the room into which the children are put, there are seldom persons above twenty. The younger lodgers in such places live by thieving and pocket-picking, or by prositution. The charge for a night's lodging is generally 2d., but smaller children have often been admitted for 1d. If a boy or girl resort to one of these dens at night without the means of defraying the charge for accommodation, the "mot of the ken" (mistress of the house) will pack them off, telling them plainly that it will be no use their returning until they have stolen something worth 2d. If a boy or girl do not return in the evening, and have not been heard to express their intention of going elsewhere, the first conclusion arrived at by their mates is that they have "got into trouble" (prison).
The indiscriminate admixture of the sexes among adults, in many of these places, is another evil. Even in some houses considered of the better sort, men and women, husbands and wives, old and young, strangers and acquaintances, sleep in the same apartment, and if they choose, in the same bed. Any remonstrance at some act of gross depravity, or impropriety on the part of a woman not so utterly hardened as the others, is met with abuse and derision. One man who described these scenes to me, and had long witnessed them, said that almost the only women who ever hid their faces or manifested dislike of the proceedings they could not but notice (as far as he saw), were poor Irishwomen, generally those who live by begging: "But for all that," the man added, "an Irishman or Irishwoman of that sort will sleep anywhere, in any mess, to save a halfpenny, though they may have often a few shillings, or a good many, hidden about them."
There is no provision for purposes of decency in some of the places I have been describing, into which the sexes are herded indiscriminately; but to this matter I can only allude. A policeman, whose duty sometimes called him to enter one of those houses at night, told me that he never entered it without feeling sick.
There are now fewer of such filthy receptacles than there were. Some have been pulled down -especially for the building of Commercialstreet, in Whitechapel, and of New Oxfordstreet -and some have fallen into fresh and improved management. Of those of the worst class, however, there may now be at least thirty in London; while the low lodgings of all descriptions, good or bad, are more frequented than they were a few years back. A few new lodging-houses, perhaps half a dozen, have been recently opened, in expectation of a great influx of "travellers" and vagrants at the opening of the Great Exhibition.
OF THE CHILDREN IN LOW LODGINGHOUSES.
The informant whose account of patterers and of vagrant
life in its other manifestations I have already given, has written from personal
knowledge and observation the following account of the children in low
"Of the mass of the indigent and outcast," he says, "of whom the busy world know nothing, except from an occasional paragraph in the newspaper, the rising generation, though most important, is perhaps least considered. Every Londoner must have seen numbers of ragged, sickly, and ill-fed children, squatting at the entrances of miserable courts, streets, and alleys, engaged in no occupation that is either creditable to themselves or useful to the community. These are, in many cases, those whose sole homes are in the low lodginghouses; and I will now exhibit a few features of the `juvenile performers' among the ` London Poor.'
"In many cases these poor children have lost one of their parents; in some, they are without either father or mother; but even when both parents are alive, the case is little mended, for if the parents be of the vagrant or dishonest class, their children are often neglected, and left to provide for the cost of their food and lodging as they best may. The following extract from the chaplain's report of one of our provincial jails, gives a melancholy insight into the training of many of the families. It is not, I know, without exception; but, much as we could wish it to be otherwise, it is so general an occurrence, varied into its different forms, that it may be safely accounted as the rule of action.
" `J. G. was born of poor parents. At five years old his father succeeded to a legacy of 500l. He was quiet, indolent, fond of drink, a good scholar, and had twelve children. He never sent any of them to school! "Telling lies," said the child, "I learned from my mother; she did things unknown to father, and gave me a penny not to tell him!" The father (on leaving home) left, by request of the mother, some money to pay a man; she slipped up stairs, and told the children to say she was out.
" `From ten to twelve years of age I used to go to the ale-house. I stole the money from my father, and got very drunk. My father never punished me for all this, as he ought to have done. In course of time I was apprenticed to a tanner; he ordered me to chapel, instead of which I used to play in the fields. When out of my time I got married, and still carried on the same way, starving my wife and children. I used to take my little boy, when only five years old, to the public-house, and make him drunk with whatever I drank myself. A younger one could act well a drunken man on the floor. My wife was a sober steady women; but, through coming to fetch me home she learned to drink too. One of our children used to say, "Mam, you are drunk, like daddy." '
"It may be argued that this awful `family portrait' is not the average character, but I have witnessed too many similar scenes to doubt the general application of the sad rule.
"Of those children of the poor, as has been before observed, the most have either no parents, or have been deserted by them, and have no regular means of living, nor moral superintendance on the part of relatives or neighbours; consequently, they grow up in habits of idleness, ignorance, vagrancy, or crime. In some cases they are countenanced and employed. Here and there may be seen a little urchin holding a few onions in a saucer, or a diminutive sickly girl standing with a few laces or a box or two of lucifers. But even these go with the persons who have `set them up' daily to the publichouse (and to the lodging-house at night); and after they have satisfied the cravings of hunger, frequently expend their remaining halfpence (if any) in gingerbread, and as frequently in gin. I have overheard a proposal for `half-a-quartern and a two-out' (glass) between a couple of shoeless boys under nine years old. One little fellow of eleven, on being remonstrated with, said that it was the only pleasure in life that he had, and he weren't a-going to give that up. Both sexes of this juvenile class frequent, when they can raise the means, the very cheap and `flash' places of amusement, where the precocious delinquent acquires the most abandoned tastes, and are often allured by elder accomplices to commit petty frauds and thefts.
"Efforts have been made to redeem these young recruits in crime from their sad career, with its inevitable results. In some cases, I rejoice to believe that success has crowned the endeavour. There is that, however, in the cunning hardihood of the majority of these immature delinquents, which presents almost insuperable barriers to benevolence, and of this I will adduce an instance.
"A gentleman, living at Islington, who attends one of the city churches, is in the habit of crossing the piece of waste ground close to Saffron-hill. Here he often saw (close to the ragged school) a herd of boys, and as nearly as he could judge always the same boys. One of them always bowed to him as he passed. He thought -and thought right -that they were gambling, and after, on one occasion, talking to them very seriously, he gave each of them twopence and pursued his way. However, he found himself followed by the boy before alluded to, accompanied by a younger lad, who turned out to be his brother. Both in one breath begged to know if `his honour' could please to give them any sort of a job. The gentleman gave them his card, inquired their place of residence (a low lodging-house) and the next morning, at nine o'clock, both youths were at his door. He gave them a substantial breakfast, and then took them into an outhouse where was a truss of straw, and having himself taken off the band, he desired them to convey the whole, one straw at a time, across the garden and deposit it in another out-house. The work was easy and the terms liberal, as each boy was to get dinner and tea, and one shilling per day as long as his services should be required. Their employer had to go to town, and left orders with one of his domestics to see that the youths wanted nothing, and to watch their proceedings; their occupation was certainly not laborious, but then it was work, and although that was the first of their requests, it was also the last of their wishes.
"Taking advantage of an adjoining closet, the servant perceived that the weight even of a straw had been too much for these hopeful boys. They were both seated on the truss, and glibly recounting some exploits of their own, and how they had been imposed upon by others. The eldest -about fourteen -was vowing vengeance upon `Taylor Tom' for attempting to `walk the barber' (seduce his `gal'); while the younger -who had scarcely seen eleven summers -averred that it was `wery good of the swell to give them summut to eat,' but ` precious bad to be shut up in that crib all day without a bit o' backer'). Before the return of their patron they had transported all the straw to its appointed designation; as it was very discernible, however, that this had been effected by a wholesale process, the boys were admonished, paid, and dismissed. They are now performing more ponderous work in one of the penal settlements. Whether the test adopted by the gentleman in question was the best that might have been resorted to, I need not now inquire.
"It would be grateful to my feelings if in these disclosures I could omit the misdemeanors of the other sex of juveniles; but I am obliged to own, on the evidence of personal observation, that there are girls of ages varying from eleven to fifteen who pass the day with a `fakement' before them (`Pity a poor orphan'), and as soon as evening sets in, loiter at shop-windows and ogle gentlemen in public walks, making requests which might be expected only from long-hardened prositution. Their nights are generally passed in a low lodging-house. They frequently introduce themselves with `Please, sir, can you tell me what time it is?' If they get a kindly answer, some other casual observations prepare the way for hints which are as unmistakeable as they are unprincipled.
OF THE LOW LODGING-HOUSES THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY.
Further to elucidate this subject, full of importance, as I
have shown, I give an account of low lodging-houses (or
"padding-kens") at the "stages" (so to speak) observed by a
patterer "travelling" from London to Birmingham.
I give the several towns which are the usual sleeping places of the travellers, with the character and extent of the accommodation provided for them, and with a mention of such incidental matters as seemed to me, in the account I received, to be curious or characteristic. Circuitous as is the route, it is the one generally followed. Time is not an object with a travelling patterer. "If I could do better in the way of tin," said one of the fraternity to me, "in a country village than in London, why I'd stick to the village - if the better tin lasted -for six months; aye, sir, for six years. What's places to a man like me, between grub and no grub?" It is probable that on a trial, such a man would soon be weary of the monotony of a village life; but into that question I need not now enter.
I give each stage without the repetition of stating that from "here to there" is so many miles; and the charge for a lodging is at such and such a rate. The distance most frequently "travelled" in a day varies from ten to twenty miles, according to the proximity of the towns, and the character and capabilities (for the patterer's purposes) of the locality. The average charge for a lodging, in the better sort of country lodging-houses, is 4d. a night, -at others, 3d. In a slack time, a traveller, for 4d., has a bed to himself. In a busy time -as at fairs or races - he will account himself fortunate if he obtain any share of a bed for 4d. At some of the places characterised by my informant as "rackety," "queer," or "Life in London," the charge is as often 3d. as 4d.
The first stage, then, most commonly attained on tramp, is -
Romford. -"It's a good circuit, sir," said my principal informant, "and if you want to see life between from London to Birmingham, why you can stretch it and see it for 200 miles." The Romford "house of call" most frequented by the class of whom I treat, is the King's Arms (a public-house.) There is a back-kitchen for the use of travellers, who pay something extra if they choose to resort, and are decent enough to be admitted, into the tap-room. "Very respectable, sir," said an informant, "and a proper division of married and single, of men and women. Of course they don't ask any couple to show their marriage lines; no more than they do any lord and lady, or one that ain't a lady, if she's with a lord, at any fash'nable hotel at Brighton. I've done tidy well on slums about `ladies in a Brighton hotel,' just by the Steyne; werry tidy." In this house they make up forty beds; some of them with curtains.
Chelmsford. -The Three Queens (a beer-shop.) "A rackety place, sir," said the man, "one of the showfuls; a dicky one; a free-and-easy. You can get a pint of beer and a punch of the head, all for 2d. As for sleeping on a Saturday night there, `O, no, we never mention it.' It mayn't be so bad, indeed it ain't, as some London lodging-houses, because there ain't the chance, and there's more known about it." Fourteen beds.
Braintree. -The Castle (a beer-shop.) "Takes in all sorts and all sizes; all colours and all nations; similar to what's expected of the Crys tal Palace. I was a muck-snipe when I was there -why, a muck-snipe, sir, is a man regularly done up, coopered, and humped altogether -and it was a busyish time, and when the deputy paired off the single men, I didn't much like my bed-mate. He was a shabby-genteel, buttoned up to the chin, and in the tract line. I thought of Old Seratch when I looked at him, though he weren't a Scotchman, I think. I tipped the wink to an acquaintance there, and told him I thought my old complaint was coming on. That was, to kick and bite like a horse, in my sleep, a'cause my mother was terrified by a wicious horse not werry long afore I was born. So I dozed on the bed-side, and began to whinny; and my bed-mate jumped up frightened, and slept on the floor." Twenty-two beds.
Thaxton. -"A poor place, but I stay two days, it's so comfortable and so country, at the Rose and Crown. It's a sort of rest. It's decent and comfortable too, and it's about 6d. a night to me for singing and patter in the taproom. That's my cokum (advantage)." Ten beds.
Saffron Walden. -The Castle. "Better now -was very queer. Slovenly as could be, and you had to pay for fire, though it was a house of call for curriers and other tradesmen, but they never mix with us. The landlord don't care much whose admitted, or how they go on." Twenty-four beds.
Cambridge. -"The grand town of all. London in miniature. It would be better but for the police. I don't mean the college bull-dogs. They don't interfere with us, only with women. The last time I was at Cambridge, sir, I hung the Mannings. It was the day, or two days, I'm not sure which, after their trial. We pattered at night, too late for the collegians to come out. We `worked' about where we knew they lodged -I had a mate with me -and some of the windows of their rooms, in the colleges themselves, looks into the street. We pattered about later news of Mr. and Mrs. Manning. Up went the windows, and cords was let down to tie the papers to. But we always had the money first. We weren't a-going to trust such out-and-out going young coves as them. One young gent. said: `I'm a sucking parson; won't you trust me?' `No,' says I, `we'll not trust Father Peter.' So he threw down 6d. and let down his cord, and he says, `Send six up.' We saw it was Victoria's head all right, so we sends up three. `Where's the others?' says he. `O,' says I, `they're 1d. a piece, and 1d. a piece extra for hanging Mr. and Mrs. Manning, as we have, to a cord; so it's all right.' Some laughed, and some said, `D -n you, wait till I see you in the town.' But they hadn't that pleasure. Yorkshire Betty's is the head quarters at Cambridge, -or in Barnwell, of course, there's no such places in Cambridge. It's known as `W -nd Muck Fort.' It's the real college touch -the seat of learning, if you're seeing life. The college lads used to look in there oftener than they do now. They're getting shyer. Men won't put up with black eyes for nothing. Old Yorkshire Betty's a motherly body, but she's no ways particular in her management. Higgledy-piggledy; men and women; altogether." Thirty beds.
Newmarket. -"The Woolpack. A lively place; middling other ways. There's generally money to be had at Newmarket. I don't stay there so long as some, for I don't care about racing; and the poorest snob there's a sporting character." Six beds.
Bury St. Edmund's. -"Old Jack Something's He was a publican for forty years. But he broke, and I've heard him say that if he hadn't been a player on the fiddle, he should have destroyed his-self. But his fiddle diverted him in his troubles. He has a real Cremona, and can't he play it? He's played at dances at the Duke of Norfolk's. I've heard him give the tune he played on his wedding night, years and years back, before I was born. He's a noblelooking fellow; the fac-simile of Louis Philippe. It's a clean and comfortable, hard and honest place." Twelve beds.
Mildenhall. -"A private house; I forget the landlord's name. The magistrates is queer there, and so very little work can be done in my way. I've been there when I was the only lodger." Seven beds.
Ely. -"The Tom and Jerry. Very queer No back kitchen or convenience. A regular rough place. Often quarrelling there all night long. Any caper allowed among men and women. The landlord's easy frightened." Five beds.
St. Ives. -"Plume of Feathers. Passable." Eleven beds.
St. Neot's. -"Bell and Dicky, and very dicky too. Queer doings in the dos (sleeping) and everything. It's an out-of-the-way place, or the town's people might see to it, but they won't take any notice unless some traveller complains, and they won't complain. They're a body of men, sir, that don't like to run gaping to a beak. The landlord seems to care for nothing but money. He takes in all that offer. Three in a bed often; men, women, and children mixed together. It's anything but a tidy place." Thirteen beds.
Bedford. -The Cock. "Life in London, sir; I can't describe it better. Life in Keate-street, Whitechapel." Fifteen beds.
Irchester. -"I don't mind the name. A most particular place. You must go to bed by nine or be locked out. It's hard and honest; clean and rough." Six beds.
Wellingborough. -"A private house. Smith or Jones, I know, or some common name. Ducker, the soldier that was shot in the Park by Annette Meyers, lived there. I worked him there myself, and everybody bought. I did the guntrick, sir, (had great success.) It's an inferior lodging place. They're in no ways particular, not they, who they admit or how they dos. At a fair-time, the goings on is anything but fair." Ten beds.
Northampton. -"Mrs. Bull's. Comfortable and decent. She takes in the Dispatch, to oblige her travellers. It's a nice, quiet, Sunday house." Twelve beds.
Market Harborough. -"There's a good lady there gives away tracts and half-a-crown. A private house is the traveller's house, and some new name. Middling accommodation." Nine beds.
Lutterworth. -"A private house, and I'll go there no more. Very queer. Not the least comfort or decency. They're above their business, I think, and take in too many, and care nothing what the travellers do. Higgledy-piggledy togegether." Ten beds.
Leicester. -"The Rookery. Rosemary-lane over again, sir, especially at Black Jack's. He shakes up the beds with a pitchfork, and brings in straw if there's more than can possibly be crammed into the beds. He's a fighting man, and if you say a word, he wants to fight you." Twelve beds.
Hinckley. -"The Tea-board. Comfortable." Eight beds.
Nuneaton. -"The same style as Hinckley. A private house." Eight beds.
Coventry. -"Deserves to be sent further. Bill Cooper's. A dilapidated place, and no sleep, for there's armies of bugs, -great black fellows. I call it the Sikh was there, and they're called Sikhs there, or Sicks there, is the vermin; but I'm sick of all such places. They're not particular there, -certainly not." Twenty beds.
Birmingham. -"Mrs. Leach's. Comfortable and decent, and a good creature. I know there's plenty of houses in Birmingham bad enough, - London reduced, sir; but I can't tell you about them from my own observation, 'cause I always go to Mrs. Leach's." Thirty beds.
Here, then, in the route most frequented by the pedestrian "travellers," we find, taking merely the accommodation of one house in each place (and in some of the smaller towns there is but one), a supply of beds which may nightly accommodate, on an average, 489 inmates, reckoning at the rate of 12 sleepers to every 8 beds. At busy times, double the number will be admitted. And to these places resort the beggar, the robber, and the pickpocket; the street-patterer and the streettrader; the musician, the ballad-singer, and the street-performer; the diseased, the blind, the lame, and the half-idiot; the outcast girl and the hardened prostitute; young and old, and of all complexions and all countries.
Nor does the enumeration end here. To these places must often resort the wearied mechanic, travelling in search of employment, and even the broken-down gentleman, or scholar, whose means do not exceed 4d.
A curious history might be written of the frequenters of low lodging-houses. Dr. Johnson relates, that when Dean Swift was a young man, he paid a yearly visit from Sir William Temple's seat, Moor Park, to his mother at Leicester.
"He travelled on foot, unless some violence of weather drove him into a waggon; and at night he would go to a penny lodging, where he purchased clean sheets for sixpence. This practice Lord Orrery imputes to his (Swift's) innate love of grossness and vulgarity; some may ascribe it to his desire of surveying human life through all its varieties." Perhaps it might not be very difficult to trace, in Swift's works, the influence upon his mind of his lodging-house experience.
The same author shows that his friend, Richard Savage, in the bitterness of his poverty, was also a lodger in these squalid dens: "He passed the night sometimes in mean houses, which are set open at night to any casual wanderer; sometimes in cellars, among the riot and filth of the meanest and most profligate of the rabble." A Richard Savage of to-day might, under similar circumstances, have the same thing said of him, except that "cellars" might now be described as "ground-floors."
The great, and sometimes the only, luxury of the frequenters of these country lodging-houses is tobacco. A man or women who cannot smoke, I was told, or was not "hardened" to tobacco smoke, in a low lodging-house was halfkilled with coughing. Sometimes a couple of men, may be seen through the thick vapour of the tobacco-smoke, peering eagerly over soiled cards, as they play at all-fours. Sometimes there is an utter dulness and drowsiness in the common sitting-room, and hardly a word exchanged for many minutes. I was told by one man of experience in these domiciles, that he had not very unfrequently heard two men who were conversing together in a low tone, and probably agreeing upon some nefarious course, stop suddenly, when there was a pause in the general conversation, and look uneasily about them, as if apprehensive and jealous that they had been listened to. A "stranger" in the lodging-house is regarded with a minute and often a rude scrutiny, and often enough would not be admitted, were not the lodging-house keeper the party concerned, and he of course admits "all what pays."
One patterer told me of two "inscriptions," as he called them, which he had noticed in country lodgings he had lately visited; the first was: -
"He who smokes, thinks like a philosopher, and feels like a philanthropist." -Bulwer's Night and Morning.
The second was an intimation from the proprietor of the house, which, in spite of its halting explanation, is easily understood: -
"No sickness allowed, unles by order of the Mare."