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.

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Living Standards in 1890

Shoreditch in 1890 was not an upper class area, however, it should not be labelled as the lowest class area either. It leaned more towards a mix of middle class to lower working class group, who comfortable living conditions despite being in the East End of London.

To understand the characteristics of Shoreditch, the first thing that was looked at was Charles Booth’s map. This map was created not only to show what London looked like but to also visualise exactly what living conditions were like in certain areas and how it had spread. It showed Shoreditch to have a range of people living, mainly from “Middle Class” to “Very Poor, Casual. Chronic want.” and some of the “Lowest Class. Vicious. Semi-thugs”. There was a pattern showing those of similar classes being clumped together along the same roads, and those categorised as the lowest class would be tucked away between slightly higher classes.

By looking at the Medical Health Report, it helps visualise Shoreditch in 1890. The statistics show the death by diseases main cause was bronchitis. Bronchitis is a disease that is common among those who smoked or were exposed to high pollution, and the results showed the majority were above the age of 55 (209 of the 489 deaths).

The report also helps show how each area was affected in proportion to deaths and the living conditions of each area. Such could be seen in the areas labelled as “Shoreditch South” and “Haggerston” in both the map and report. In Shoreditch South, the map labels parts of the area housed by lowest class groups of people. On the report, it shows an average of 19.4 deaths for every 1000 people living in the area. However, in Haggerston, an area that doubled the population of Shoreditch South, was mainly inhabited by “Fairly Comfortable” to “Very Poor” people, but not a single “Lowest Class” group. In this area, if one were to disregard the deaths at the infirmary and hospital, the average death per 1000 would be 18.29. The different of classes in each area shows a clear change of living standards by the amount of deaths in the area.

Overall, the map and the report shows that Shoreditch in 1890 was indeed an area of London which had experienced a fair amount of death but that was due to the amount lower class civilians living in the area. In Shoreditch, the worse the living conditions were for the people, the more likely they were going to die.