Tuesday, February 1, 2011

No wonder they left!

Stay with me, I know it's long, but the following is a description from "Sanitary Ramblings, Being Sketches and Illustrations of Bethnal Green, by Hector Gavin, 1848" on victorianlondon.org.  (My Henry and Sarah Savage lived at #27 Wilmot Street, in Bethnal Green)

This district contains very few good houses, with the exception of those in Bethnal-green-road, and Pollard's-row. The great majority of the other houses are the abodes of those a little above the poor, and the poor following every variety of occupation. A very considerable proportion of the inhabitants are weavers; a W is attached to the names of those streets chiefly occupied by weavers. One of the peculiarities of this district is, that between Bethnal-green-road and Three Colt-lane, more particularly, but likewise in other parts of the district, there are great numbers of isolated houses, huts, or sheds placed on the ground, with plots of ground in front of, and surrounding them. These were formerly, that is to say, from forty years ago, downwards to the present day, summer- houses surrounded with plots of ground, and used as places of floriculture and recreation by the citizens of London. Hence these places are called gardens. The tide of citizen emigration has for a long time however, been diverted from Bethnal-green, and the wooden sheds and temporary huts erected on the bare soil, for storing gardening utensils, and in which to spend the summer evenings, have gradually been converted into human habitations. None, or almost none of the houses which are now on the ground, were originally intended for the dwellings of human beings, but for the purposes specified. The commencement of this transition state is to be observed in Whisker's-gardens, District No. 1. The entrance to these abodes is by narrow lanes, which are unpaved, and consequently nearly always muddy, in wet weather more particularly so, so that ingress or egress is necessarily accompanied with personal uncleanness. These dwellings, in some instances, are unfit to house cattle in; in other, but very few instances (I think I could count the exceptions), they are tolerably clean. They are totally without drainage of any kind, except into shallow cesspools, or holes dug in the gardens; they are consequently extremely damp, and the inhabitants suffer much from rheumatism, from febrile diseases, from diseases of the respiratory and digestive organs, from nervous affections, and cachexia. There is very seldom any water laid on to the houses; one stand-tap, as in Middle-walk, George-gardens, generally supplies five, ten, or sixteen houses. Many houses are altogether without water, and the inhabitants require to get it as they best can. In Wilmot-grove the peculiarity of barrels sunk in the ground is to be remarked. Some of the houses have wells, as in Camden-gardens. Very few of these houses have regular cesspools; the privies are sometimes placed close beside the entrance to the house, at other times at the extremity of the garden bordering the narrow lane or footpath. They are, in the majority of cases, full, in some instances, overflowing, and frequently, like the houses themselves, in a dilapidated condition. Another peculiarity in this district, is the number of alleys and narrow lanes, many of them forming cul-de-sacs. The houses in these alleys are always of the very worst description, and are in an excessively dirty state. There is seldom any house drainage, or if there be, it is only to a gutter in front, where the water stagnates, till the sun's heat shall cause it to disappear by evaporation. It is the nearly universal custom to throw the refuse water and garbage on the streets.

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