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This book, the germ of which consists of ten letters published in the Morning Post during the month of January 1861, under the title of 'London Horrors', is an attempt to beat the bounds of metropolitan dirt and misery. As a special correspondent of a newspaper is not a parliamentary committee, and I hardly felt inclined to produe a blue-book, this volume contains indications rather than proofs of metropolitan social degradation. The proofs, however, unfortunately are not far off; and for a million of people to live in London as they are now living, and, in the main, are contented to live, is a glaring national disgrace. With virtues, we ought to wince a great deal at the houses [-vi-] of the poor. The evils shadowed forth by this and like books cannot be remedied by Government, nor tinkering philanthropy. Parliament babbles about them occasionally, and a few people, deceived by the babbling, imagine that royal roads to cleanliness and plenty are about to be opened up. Those few of the poor and miserable who wish for improvement (they are not the majority) must shut their ears to such debates, and learn to help themselves. A little less drunken indulgence in matrimony and child-breeding would at once better their condition, as the Rev. Mr. Malthus told them long ago.
THE one domestic question at present uppermost in the public mind is the social condition of the humbler classes. It has been forced upon us by a winter of unexampled severity; by an amount of national distress, not at all exceptional in the cold season, which has gone to the very verge of bread riots*;
[* Extract from a report in the Morning Star, January 18, 1861. - "Owing to the continuance of the frost, and all out door labour being stopped, the distress and suffering that prevail in the metropolis, particularly among the dock labourers, bricklayers, masons, and labouring classes at the East End, arc truly horrible. Throughout the day thousands congregate round the approaches of the different workhouses and unions, seeking relief, but it has been impossible for the [-4-] officers to supply one-third that applied. This led to consider able dissatisfaction, and hundreds have perambulated the different streets seeking alms of the inhabitants and of the passers-by. On Tuesday night much alarm was produced by an attack made on a large number of bakers' shops in the vicinity of the Whitechapel Road and Commercial Road East. They were surrounded by a mob of about thirty or forty in number, who cleared the shops of the bread they contained, and then decamped. On Wednesday night, however, affairs assumed a more threatening character, and acts of violence were committed. By some means it became known, in the course of the afternoon, that the dock labourers intended to visit Whitechapel in a mass, as soon as dusk set in, and that an attack would be made on all the provision shops in that locality. This led to a general shutting up of the shops almost through out the East End - a precaution highly necessary, for between seven and nine o'clock thousands congregated in the principal streets and proceeded in a body from street to street. An attack was made upon many of the bakers' shops and eating-houses, and every morsel of food was carried away. A great many thieves and dissipated characters mingled with the mob, and many serious acts of violence were committed. The mounted police of the district were present, but it was impossible for them to act against so large a number of people. Yesterday, the streets were thronged with groups of the unemployed, seeking relief of the passers-by. In the outskirts similar scenes were observed, and in some instances acts approaching intimidation were resorted to to obtain alms."]
and by agitations in the [-4-] press and on the platform for an immediate improvement in labourers' cottages. The chief streets of the metropolis have been haunted for weeks by gaunt labourers, who have moaned out
[-5-] a song of want that has penetrated the thickest walls. The workhouses have been daily besieged by noisy and half-famished crowds; the clumsy poor-law system, with its twenty-three thousand officers, its boards, and its twelve thousand annual reports, has notoriously broken down; the working clergy, and the London magistrates, worn out and exhausted, have been the willing almoners of stray benevolence; Dorcas societies, soup-kitchens, ragged-schools, asylums, refuges, and all the varied machinery of British charity, have been strained to the utmost; and now we may sit down and congratulate ourselves that only a few of our fellow-creatures have been starved to death. The storm to all appearance has passed, but the really poor will feel the effects of those two bitter months -December, 1860, and January, 1861 - for years. It is doubtful if there was not more real privation in February than in January of the present year; and the registrar-general's return of deaths from starvation - the most awful of all deaths - for the mild week ending February 16, had certainly increased.
[-6-] There has been no lack of generosity on the part of those who have been able to give. The full purse has been everywhere found open, and thousands have asked to be shown real suffering, and the best mode of relieving it. A local taxation, cheerfully and regularly paid, of 18,000,000l. per annum, beyond the Government burden, is either inadequate for the purposes to which it is applied, or applied in the most wasteful and unskilful manner. The sum, or its administration, is unable to do its work. The metropolis, not to speak of other towns, is not "managed," not cleansed, not relieved from the spectre of starvation which dances before us at our doors. We are evidently surrounded by a dense population, half buried in black kitchens and sewer-like courts and alleys, who are not raised by any real or fancied advance in wages; whose way of life is steeped in ignorance, dirt, and crime; and who are always ready to sink, even to death, at their usual period of want. How many they really number, what they really profess to be, and in what proportion they may be found in different parts of the metropolis,
[-7-] are secrets that no census has ever fully exposed.
We are a little too apt to pride ourselves on our material growth, and to overlook the quality in the quantity of our population. Thirty millions of people in the United Kingdom - one-tenth of whom belong to London proper - make a very pretty figure in returns and official documents, until they come to be carefully sifted and examined. Taken in the bulk, with a lofty statistical disregard of minds and souls, they show an undoubted advance in capital and prosperity. Taken in detail, in a kind of house-to-house visitation, they show that the spreading limbs of a great city may be healthy and vigorous, while its heart may gradually become more choked up and decayed.
A vast deal of life that skulks or struggles in London is only familiar to the hard-working clergy, certain medical practitioners, and a few parochial officers. It burrows in holes and corners, at the back of busy thoroughfares, where few know of its existence, or care to follow it. [-8-] The largest and most painstaking directories pass it by; writers upon London reject it as too mean, too repulsive, or too obscure; and novelists, when they condescend to touch it, for the sake of obtaining contrasts, often paint it in the colours of imagination, rather than in the hard outlines of fact. Its records, if truthfully given, have little romance, little beauty, and little variety. Poverty, ignorance, dirt, immorality, crime, are the five great divisions of its history. Immovability, love of place, a determination to huddle together, are some of its chief characteristics; and the growth of many courts and alleys, disgraceful to humanity, is the sure result. Whatever is demanded in London, whether in defiance of law or public decency, is promptly supplied; and ill-constructed, ill-ventilated lurking nests of dwellings exist in every quarter of the metropolis, in obedience to this rule of trade.
Those who wish to search London for gross examples of overcrowded dwellings may find them in the centre, or in any one of the four outskirts. Soho, St. James's, Westminster, and St. Martin's-[-9-]in-the-Fields, can lay no claim to purity in this respect; and that part of Westminster known as Tothill Fields is notoriously one of the greatest offenders. In the west there is Knightsbridge, rendered filthy and immoral by the presence of its large military barracks, with Chelsea, and Brentford; in the south there are Lambeth, Walworth, embracing Lock's Fields, and the Borough, with its notorious Kent Street; in the north there is Agar Town, built on a swamp, and running down to the canal in every stage of dirt and decay, with Somers' Town, Kentish Town, and Camden Town, each contributing its share to the general mass of misery; and in the east there are St. George's, Whitechapel, Bethnal Green, and overgrown Shoreditch. A melancholy list like this could be filled up for pages by any one familiar with the back streets of London. I have not touched upon the corners of Clerkenwell, of "merry Islington," and a dozen other districts; and I have purposely omitted St. Giles's and Saffron Hill, because they no longer represent the worst parts of London. I [-10-] have merely taken a broad glance round the metropolis, to show that overcrowding amongst the poor, with all its attendant evils, is not peculiar to any particular parish or district.
The features of this huddling together vary slightly in different neighbourhoods, being governed, in some degree, by the character of the houses. In neighbourhoods that have "seen better days" - where family mansions that were once inhabited by city merchants, or the leading clerks and managers in banks or offices, have sunk gradually through all the different grades of lodging-houses, "classical and commercial" schools, down to workshops for cabinet-makers, turners, or ginger-beer brewers - the overcrowding takes the form of living in what are called "tenements." The old mansion, faded and dilapidated, with its garden cut off, it may be, for a skittle-ground or a factory, is let out to a dozen or fifteen families, according to the number of its rooms. Its broad staircase, broken, shattered, and muddy, is always open to the street; and its long, narrow windows are patched with paper. [-11-] Its broad closets and store-chambers are now filled with ragged children, who share their rough beds with coals, coke, wood, and a few cooking utensils. Its dark wainscotings, scratched and chipped, are hung with damp yellow clothes, that are always "in the wash;" its passages are often strewn with oyster-shells and broken tobacco-pipes; and its fore-court is filled with ashes, one or two rusty, broken saucepans, like old hats, and sometimes with a dead cat, - the playthings of the crowd of dirty children, who roIl about on its hard, black earth. The iron railings that once closed it in from the thoroughfare have been long torn away, stolen, destroyed, sold; and all that remains of the low wall in which they were fixed may be a few rotten, jagged bricks standing on one side. I can find scores of such houses - containing forty, fifty, or even sixty human beings, surrounded by neighbourhoods crowded with gas factories, cooperages, and different workshops, or pierced by the dark arches of metropolitan railways - that stand within two miles of the Bank of England, and that [-12-] once were looked upon as pleasant country retreats!
Dropping, however, this description of Ragged London, drawn from memory, let us go out into the ragged streets, and ragged houses, and see what the ragged people are doing in January, 1861. We will begin with Ragged London in the centre.
CLERKENWELL AND THE CITY BORDERS
We have been too much accustomed of late years to look upon certain notorious localities as representing the only plague-spots in London. They have been visited by day, inspected by night; have formed the text-books of preachers, the back-bones of sanitary reports, and the building materials of popular authors. They have attained an exaggerated importance in the public mind, and have been erroneously regarded as the tumours of our social degradation. The sweepings of society have seldom been carefully traced to their hiding-places, and fancy neighbourhoods have been created upon paper, and peopled with the phantoms of imagination. Where are the emaciated children who have often been, dangled before our eyes? Certainly not in the
[-14-] black-holes inhabited by the poor. What is it that gives fulness to the cheeks, agility to the limbs, and even bone and sinew to the form? It cannot be food. A block of coarse bread, taken at uncertain intervals, is far from forming the supposed necessary three meals a day, and yet those children who get nothing but this plain and scanty fare astonish those who know them best with their healthy vigour. These children live in the streets, and draw their nourishment from wind and mud. They are not stunted, far from it, and with few exceptions are stronger than the children of the middle class.
The close, crowded borders of the city of London haves been touched upon too frequently in some parts, too little in others. We have heard enough of Saffron Hill, and have been lectured about a certain refuge in Field Lane until we have almost forgotten that there are any more refuges in the world. The homeless wanderer must be housed, the starving castaway must be fed; but the great work to be done is to improve the habits of the industrious poor. [-15-] If there were no such thing as "social science," no meddling legislation, no local Government Act with boards and inspectors, no vestries, no committees, and no guardians (save the mark!), society might settle down in its chosen places, and no one take any heed of any one but himself. While, however, we profess to love our neighbours as ourselves, and establish costly public systems--to say nothing of the efforts of private benevolence--to assist those who are too ignorant or too weak to help themselves, it is high time to inquire what is doing for the people in every corner of the town. There are scores of courts in Bishopsgate Street, scores more in Sun Street, Finsbury, scores more in Chiswell Street, Cripplegate, some in Lower Thames Street, others in parts of Blackfriars, that are not fit for human habitation. There are Golden Lane, Whitecross Street*,
[* A correspondent writing January 20, 1861, says:-- "The district of which Old Street, Goswell Street, Barbican, and Whitecross Street are the boundaries, is a maze of courts swarming with people in a state of starvation."
The following report of an earlier date (January 6, 1861) [-16-] also refers to the same neighbourhood:--On Monday night an inquest was held by the coroner as to the death of Sarah Brasnall, aged seventy-four, who was discovered in a dying condition, at No. 4, Graham's Buildings, Bunhill Row, St. Luke's, and who died from exposure to the cold. The deceased was a slop-worker, and in the receipt of 1s. 6d. per week and a loaf from the parish. On Thursday night the deceased was not about at her usual time, and on the following morning a lodger went to her room and found her lying upon the bedstead naked. It was very cold and frosty at the time. An alarm was raised, and Mr. Cullen, the surgeon, was called, but the deceased soon afterwards expired. The deceased was suffering from strangulated hernia, and her body was much emaciated. Mr. Cullen, the surgeon, said that the deceased's death had no doubt been accelerated by exposure to the inclement weather, and the want of sufficient food and clothing. The jury returned a verdict accordingly. The same evening, the coroner held an inquiry concerning the death of Hannah Coward, an infant child, who was found in a wretched condition at a low and disreputable house, in Sycamore Street, St. Luke's. The police deposed that the mother had been taken into custody on a charge of felony, but was discharged by the magistrate, and when the police went to the house they found the children in a most deplorable condition. The constables kindly took them to the workhouse, and every assistance was rendered by the authorities, but the deceased died on Friday. The police said that another child was dying from the same cause, and when the deceased was found, she had a "teat" made of a small bag of plums, which had been placed in her mouth. Dr. Love said the deceased had died from neglect, starvation, and cold; and the other child could not live. The coroner, by the [-17-] special request of the jury, severely reprimanded the conduct of the mother and father, when they returned a verdict of "Death from want of the necessaries of life, and exposure to the weather, through the wilful neglect of the parents."]
and that melancholy avenue [-16-] of vermin-haunted furniture called Long Alley which runs from the Curtain Road, Shoreditch, [-17-] across Sun Street, into Moorfields*,
[* The Earl of Derby, speaking in the House of Lords of the parish of St. Bartholomew, Moorfields, Cripplegate, February 28, 1861, says:-- "The population of this parish amounts to four thousand five hundred odd, but I am informed by the incumbent that it may now be taken as exceeding five thousand. The number of houses in it does not exceed five hundred, which gives a proportion of nine or ten persons to every house in the parish. There is not a single gentleman's house in it, not a single large shopkeeper. The whole population is of the poorest class, the lower order of shopkeepers, costermongers, dock labourers, and others of the poorest order of the population. There are not ten families in it that occupy a single house, though the bulk of these houses contain only three rooms. In fact, to use the expression of the clergyman who called on me yesterday in reference to this subject, the aristocracy in the parish are those who can indulge in the luxury of two rooms; the great number of families have one room only, and in many cases there is more than one family in a room."]
which are a disgrace to any country that prides itself upon its civilization. The blind alleys in coal-mines, the slimy passages of district sewers, anything that is dark and filthy, may be compared to these places. It is impossible and unnecessary to visit them all. I have known them for years,
[-18-] and, whatever sanguine clergymen or apologetic inspectors may say to the contrary, they get worse every day, and can never be improved. The tinkering of a drain, the whitewashing of a ceiling, will never remove the evils of their original structure. They are filled with labourers, artizans, needlewomen, and girls employed in many fancy trades, and the capital and enterprise of the city of London are largely responsible for them all. In the Clerkenwell district, two-thirds of the enormous population of sixty or seventy thousand depend upon the City for their support. It is the old story of workpeople who must be "near their bread," and overcrowding follows as a matter of course.
Clerkenwell is a hard-working, operative district, especially in the interior, and contains few thieves, except those that are bottled up in prison. A penal air is given to the neighbourhood by the Houses of Correction and Detention, but, with this exception, the population is patient, industrious, and honest. Very little prostitution defiles its streets, and this not openly. The watch and [-19-] watchcase making trades form the chief occupation of the men, and the women and children work at artificial flower-making, mantle-making, &c., for the City warehouses. In its upper portion --towards Pentonville--on the top of the mountain, are numbers of large private residences; and in the lower portion-down in the valley-the parish runs into Smithfield. Many French eggmerchants, importing enormous quantities of these eatables, are scattered about the neighbourhood; and a place called Sharp's Alley was once famous for making common sausages of refuse meat, known in the slang of the district as "blood-worms." *
[* Sanitary Condition of the City, January, 1861.-At the meeting of the City Commissioners of Sewers yesterday, February 5, Dr. Letheby, the medical officer of health, reported on the state of one hundred and ninety-seven houses that had been inspected during the week, and he submitted a list of thirty-nine places for sanitary improvement. He also reported that the markets and slaughterhouses had been duly inspected in the course of the week, and that the officers had seized 6,090 lbs., or nearly 2 3/4 tons, of meat, as unfit for human food. Nearly all this was meat in a state of disease. There were the carcases of fifty-six rotten sheep, four pigs, and thirty-four quarters of beef, besides smaller joints. 2,664 lbs. were sized by Mr. Fisher in Newgate Market; 1,740 lbs. by [-20-] Mr. Davidson in Leadenhall; and 1,684 lbs. by Mr. Newman in Aldgate, and in Tyler's Market, and elsewhere. The mortality returns for the week are still excessively high. Last week the number of deaths in the City was ninety-seven, instead of an average of sixty-two.]
[-20-] Like most places with pretensions to great antiquity, it is closely built upon. It has its old archways and remains of monastic times, and presents in many places the aspect of a cathedral city. This is a peculiarity which makes it very picturesque, but largely uninhabitable. The back courts of Rouen give materials for charming pictures; but their sanitary condition has yet to be represented. A few rags hanging out of a window, a hole without any sash in it, a tattered woman, with a shock-headed baby standing at the side of a winding alley, make a delightful water-coloured sketch when they are touched off by Prout; but not so delightful a sketch in a blue book or a descriptive paper. Clerkenwell, especially near the parish church, was laid out on a plan evidently copied from those old cities that had to be built closely so as to come within the fortified walls which formed their protection from invasion.
[-21-] The old courts, or outlines of courts, in the "Close," as it is called, still remain, and are, as usual, the worst nests of overcrowding in the district. There is Union Place, a row of houses built within the last few years, and forming an alley of close, ill-ventilated dwellings. They contain two small rooms, the size of which may be about twelve feet square, with a cupboard of a room about half the size, and they are let for about 5s. 6d. a week. As usual in these places, there is but one public privy for all; and the population, with children, may average ten to a house, giving more than eighty people. The pavement was tolerably clean, and the place may rank as a first-class court; but the rooms smelt musty for want of a through draught of air, which they can never get, as there are no windows at the back. Here we found one woman sick and going to the infirmary, having been deserted by her husband, and another trying to support herself, her husband (who was out of work), and eight children, by washing and house cleaning. It is astonishing what miracles a tub, a piece of [-22-] soap, a brisk pair of arms, and a stout heart will often do.
Opposite this place, in another corner of the Close, is a lower class of court, called Cromwell Place. Here the houses are chiefly let off in rooms at from 1s. 6d. to 3s. a week, and seven persons in one small room--father, mother, grownup children, and infants--appear to represent the average distribution of tenants. One family of seven--the man a labourer at a greengrocer's had just been discovered by the working clergy nearly naked, and provided with a few articles of clothing. The next room sheltered another family--equal in numbers, and very little better off in condition. The children were all running about with naked feet; and the rooms were barely furnished, dirty, and musty. These poor people were once far better off, and they dated their fall from a winter a few years back, when bread was at a very high price. This is not the first time that I have heard a connection traced between present poverty and past scarcity of corn. The parlour contained another family of six, and the [-23-] mother had just sold her only bed to a marine-store dealer for two shillings, to stop the many little hungry mouths around her. The father had been out of work for many weeks; one son had enlisted in the army, another had become a sailor, and a girl of fourteen could have got a situation as a domestic servant, but she had nothing but rags to go in. This, I am sorry to say, is a very common case. The best workman in the family was a little stuttering, red-coated shoeblack, who earned his shilling every day, paid his regulation fourpence honestly over to his office, and brought home his eightpence every night to his mother. This small house contained eighteen people.
Near this alley is a lower and complex series of passages, going generally by the name of Pear-tree Court. The open space, where the orchard may have been, if we are to infer anything from the name, is now filled with every description of animal and vegetable refuse. The houses on one side are very old, and chiefly made of wood, which is rotten and black with age; the stunted houses on the other side turn their backs [-24-] to this space, and show yards that are actually not more than four feet square. The alleys about this place are very numerous, with houses, dark, squeezed up, wavy in their outline, and depressed about the roof, like crushed hats. The population is almost a parish in itself, being so numerous; and in the most open parts hawkers of common china have their store-sheds. Some of the passages are so narrow that it is scarcely possible to creep up them; and tracing one of these to its source we came to an ancient smithy, rusty brown, idle, and crowded with litter. A rotten bellows, full of rat-holes, was lying in a puddle by the side of a dismantled grindstone, and a few splinters of wood. Inside the low door of the smithy, under clusters of old rusty keys, bolts, and rings, which hung from the black, smoky rafters like grapes, were two old yellow-shirted, dusty, grisly men in spectacles, who might have sat to Quentin Matsys for his picture of "The Misers." One said he had been in the parish for seventy years, and bemoaned the decay of trade; and the other complained of [-25-] the competition of "furriners." The sunlight shone through a broken window into the hollow forge, showing the black cinders, and a blacker cat.
The landlord of all this unsightly property keeps his own missionary and his own doctor to look after his tenants; but he neither ventilates the rooms nor enlarges the stifling yards. A little more cleanliness might help the missionary, and would certainly lessen the doctor's work.
Near Pear-tree Court is a settlement called Red Lion Gardens--the remains probably of Clerkenwell, when it was a country village. The entrance to this place is between those dingy brokers' shops, which look out upon the bleak hills of dirt accumulated on each side of New Farringdon Street. It is at the upper end, nearly opposite the workhouse, and is not easily found. It contains several rows of low one-roomed cottages, with little square yards in front, and is very much like similar places about Hoxton, Holywell Mount, Shoreditch, and other outskirts. In one room, or cottage, was a labourer with his [-26-] wife and six children; in another was a poor cabman and family--the man trying to mend a very rotten pair of shoes to go out in, having sold his best pair off his feet. He had just come out of prison, where he had been sent for five days, because he was summoned for hanging about the Great Northern Railway Terminus with his cab, and had no money to pay the fine. He was civil and intelligent, and his room, though poorly furnished, was very clean. At another cottage a young woman was standing, waiting for her mother to return and open the closed door. She had come some little distance to see her father--an old, blind street fiddler--who was ill in bed with a fever. The mother had gone to the public soup-kitchen to try and get some food, and had locked the door; the old man was too ill and helpless to rise and open it. While we were talking to the young woman, who told us that she was a brushmaker, living in Finsbury, and that her husband was a butcher's man, out of work, in consequence of the badness of trade, the mother came back, with her bonnet in her [-27-] hand, and her apron all in tatters. She had been roughly treated in the crowd at the soup-kitchen, as all the really poor, weak, and helpless always are; and while greasy tramps, low thieves and their girls, and other unworthy objects, got in (as I saw afterwards at Clerkenwell, and also at the Leicester Square soup-kitchen), the decent old fiddler's wife came empty away. She burst into tears as she told her daughter this, and was some time before she could be comforted. They were not beggars, not tramps, and were clean and honest. We went into the cottage--I and the excellent clergymen who accompanied me where the old fiddler was propped up in bed. The doctor had ordered him some beef-tea--a rather costly luxury for a blind fiddler!
"He's brought up a heavy family," said the old woman, "and never asked nobody for anything, until the frost bit him, and now he's dropped from his eating."
The old man recognized the voice of one of the clergymen, and seemed pleased with the goodness of his memory and ear. The gentleman was the [-28-] son of some one before whose door the old fiddler had played for many years.
"Very proud I am to hear that voice," whispered the old man, "and many's the sixpence I've had from your father, God bless him."
Street hawkers and street minstrels are not ungrateful vagrants and thieves, and it would be a pity if they were, for the London courts and alleys shelter about one hundred thousand of them. I know much of working people of all kinds, and I have seen hundreds of bright, open, honest faces under the battered hats and bonnets of costermongers.*
[* On Thursday, December 13, 1860, a meeting of street vendors of the metropolis was held at the sale-room of Messrs. Keeling and Hunt, Monument Yard; Mr. Keeling in the chair. There were a good many costermongers present on the occasion. The chairman said the street vendors were at present the principal means of conveying provisions to the artisan class of the community. But they were interfered with in the pursuit of their useful calling, were subjected to fine and imprisonment, and were told when they were following their occupation that they were violating the law. The great objection made against them was that they obstructed the thoroughfares, but if that was an objection it applied equally to others. Were it not for the street vendors, the goods which they circulated would not be brought to London
[-29-] at all. All they wanted was to be allowed a fair opportunity of following their calling. The hon. secretary then read a very respectful petition to the Court of Aldermen, stating fully the nature of their grievances. Mr. H. Isaacs moved the adoption of the petition, and the appointment of a deputation to present it to the City authorities. The resolution was seconded, and unanimously adopted. The next resolution-- "That this meeting pledges itself to protect the street vendors from interference when lawfully pursuing their calling, by placing it in their power to employ counsel to defend them when unjustly prosecuted" --was moved by Mr. Brooke, seconded by Mr. Wallace, and adopted. Solomon Green was afraid there were thieves in other callings besides street vendors. He believed that not much less than
3,000,000l. of money was invested in various articles by the costermongers throughout the country, and if they were only true to themselves he had no doubt they would be able to protect their capital.
A vote of thanks to the chairman closed the proceedings.]
[-29-] The freehold property in Clerkenwell often belongs to charities and corporations. Berry Street, Little Sutton Street, and other places lying off Wilderness Row--very fair specimens of the dull, badly-built, badly-ventilated, overcrowded streets of the neighbourhood--are laid out on ground belonging to the Charter House. Lamb-and-Flag Court, Fryingpan Alley, and several other branches of the same property--the lowest and most degraded in the parish-were left by one William Sanderson, in 1659, to be [-30-] divided equally between the poor of Clerkenwell and the poor of Wendover, Buckinghamshire. The property is now divided, doubtless under many leases and sub-leases, amongst tenants who are proud of their dirty habits. Fryingpan Alley is what I should call a rampant court. Its entrance is two feet wide--a long narrow slit in the wall--half paved, with a gutter which constantly trickles with sewage. Its tenants are chiefly gipsies and the lowest class of vegetable vendors. It is worse than anything in Whitechapel or Bethnal Green. The rooms are dustbins--everything but dwelling-places. The women are masculine in appearance; they stand with coarse, folded arms and knotted hair, and are ready to fight for their castle of filth. They dislike the new underground railway that is forming in the neighbourhood; they look upon New Farringdon Street as a Corporation job; and they have got a rude notion that all local improvements put money into the pockets of Government. Children make faces at you; repulsive men smoke down upon you from the [-31-] holes that serve for windows; old women howl at you from the gloomy cellars; and a spreading heap of wet, muddy vegetable refuse, lying in an open spot that an inhabitant called "the square," was regarded like part of old William Sanderson's freehold. An idle, pipe-sucking giant, who was offered sixpence to clear away this nuisance, walked slowly round it, looked at it reflectively --not to say affectionately--and finally decided that he had better leave it alone. Such a place as this, with its old herring-casks standing at the dark doors, its rags hanging across from house to house, and its swarthy defenders, would make a very telling picture upon canvas, like many of its companions. Its reform, I am afraid, is beyond the reach of anything, except an earthquake or a new railway, and even then the inhabitants would only be pushed somewhere else.*
[* The Metropolitan Railway projects of 1861 are estimated to destroy one thousand houses in low neighbourhoods, and displace a population of not less than twenty thousand.]
The greater part of this enormous neighbourhood is actively watched over by the Rev. Robert
[-32-] Maguire, the rector of the parish church, and a staff of three hard-working, business-like curates.
In the fine weather they preach much in the open air, and the rector says:--
"This very successful portion of our summer work was conducted last season with much spirit and energy, not indeed on my part, but through the services of Mr. Tindall and Mr. Herbert. I felt much disappointed that, from illness and other causes, I could avail myself of so few opportunities of preaching in the streets. My place and duties, however, were well supplied by Mr. Tindall, who occupied the station on the Green on Sunday evenings, during my absence, and preached with much profit to the people. The other preaching stations were occupied, more or less, during the summer, with the same gratifying success which has attended all such efforts for the spiritual instruction of the people. One man remarked, a few evenings after hearing an open-air sermon by one of my curates,-- ` Well, no sermon, in church or anywhere else, ever stuck to me so tight as that did: I can't get rid of it.' "
[-33-] The visiting - to say nothing of the mere church labour - must be enormous. Most rooms in most houses in the greatest part of the valley district contain one family of many members; some, it may be, contain two families.*
[* The Earl of Shaftesbury, speaking of Cow Cross, an adjoining district, in the House of Lords, February 28, 1861, says:-- "In sixteen courts there I found one hundred and seventy-three houses, having five hundred and eighty-six rooms in all, and in them five hundred and eighty-six families; the number of persons was three thousand seven hundred and fifty-four, being an average of six and a half persons to a room. The rooms were from fifteen feet by twelve to nine by nine. They were low, dark, dismal, and dirty; so low, indeed, that it was with great difficulty I could stand upright in them, and when I extended my arms I could touch the walls on either side with my fingers' ends; in these rooms I found five, six, seven, eight, and even nine persons living."]
Summer has its forms of occasional distress as well as winter; and many a garret, high up in the house-tops, contains poor workmen or sufferers who require help all the year round. There are ragged schools, national schools, evening schools, and Sunday schools, in full operation, and well attended; a district visiting society, which distributed last year (1860) between four and five thousand tickets for bread, grocery, meat, and coals; there
[-34-] is a Dorcas association, which, during the same period, supplied nearly three hundred articles of clothing to the poor at a nominal charge; there is an industrial society for supplying poor women with needlework at their own homes; and there is a ladies' benevolent society which, last year, gave six pensioners, over seventy years of age, 4s. per month, assisted sixty maternity cases with a box of linen and half-a-crown in each case, and relieved 1,200 persons during sickness. There is a Bible society, a working-man's institute, a pure literature society; and, amongst the institutions largely self-supporting, there is a clothing fund, and a provident fund. The latter shows a steady increase, and numbered 2,273 depositors and 1,023l. deposited during 1860. The rector and those who work with him. do everything they can to cultivate the friendship of the poorest parishioners, by means of social gatherings at different periods of the year. It is no uncommon thing to see 2,000 of the poor assembled at one of these gatherings, enjoying themselves in a manner they could never hope to
[-35-] do at their own wretched homes. Husbands come with their wives, and children with their parents, and every one is made to feel happy and at ease. Many of them spoke to me about these meetings during my morning's walk, and spoke utterly free from cant, or a desire to appear pious. There can be little doubt that such gatherings are not only kindly conceived, but very happily conducted by the curates and the rector. They do their best with the vast district committed to their charge, and will only fail in curing those evils that are beyond the reach of charity or preaching.