Horrors of Shoreditch

As discussed in the previous blog the Charles Booth map shows what kind of people were living in Shoreditch during 1860. This area was not seen as the most glamour’s nor was it an upper class location although, it was not seen as a lower class area. Shoreditch is a mixed location allowing for all different kinds of people to live as one. This area of East London, was one of the primarily locations for people to migrate to. In the sixteen century this area was seen as wealthy city but moving forward to the mid to late ninetieth century there was a large amount of German Jews fleeing from their countries looking for work, cheaper housing situations and a better life.  However, Jews were not the only people migrating in, there were also a large amount of poor Irish, Dutch and French people moving into East London. Shoreditch went from a population of 35,000 in 1801 to a population of 130,000 in 1851. In 50 years Shoreditch collected about 95,000 people. With this massive growth in such a short period of time one can only imagine the living conditions.

This not only shows how cheap it must have been to find housing here but also with so many people how can everyone find decent jobs? What can people do to provide for themselves or families? With the numbers growing so quickly could this area really be that safe, clean, or secure for the people to survive?

One of the worst areas in East London was the Old Nichol. The Old Nichol fell between High Street, Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. These were known as the “black street”, because of Charles Booth’s poverty map of 1896. Not only where the living conditions just horrible but so much corruption occurred. Including juvenile delinquency, self employment aka thieves, prostitution, robbery, etc.

In “Life and Labour of the People in London”, Charles Booth describes the Shoreditch area saying it was primarily an area of working class people with a mixture of poor people and malicious people. He continues to mention how there was prostitution, thieves, and high poverty ratings. Which would make sense. When people are put into this kind of living situations they need a way to survive. Not that it was the right way but they found something that worked. Some people did have jobs, however these jobs had very low wages. Not giving people real chances of survival. Landlords knew what they were doing and so did the sweat shop works. Some people even saw it as the peoples own fault for being in such horrible situations. The living conditions in these areas were so terrible that it was not uncommon for sexual abuse. Beatrice Webb, one of the founders of the LSE wrote, “To put it bluntly, sexual promiscuity and even sexual perversion are almost unavoidable among men and women of average character…”.

Interestingly enough there are very few reports of people who found living here not so terrible. Living in these areas was not made for many but it is good to look back at what use to be. With all that went on in these slums the second half of the nineteenth century attracted journalists and researchers to find out what was really going on. And this lead to immediate action to improve these areas. Helping to bring out the real reasons for such hard times.