Charles Booth's Poverty Survey

Booth's conclusions on the administrative area of St George-in-the-East make grim reading. He found that all the districts of London, it was worst in terms of poverty, domestic crowding, death rate per thousand, and on a combined position based on all the variables of social difficulty. Note this comment - which has a somewhat contemporary ring - that a degree of vice and crime can add 'brightness' to a drab area!
Of all the districts of that 'inner ring' which surrounds the City, St. George's-in-the-East is the most desolate. The other districts each have some charm or other - a brightness not extinguished by, and even appertaining to, poverty and toil, to vice, and even to crime ... a rush of human life as fascinating to watch as the current of a river to which life is so often likened. But there is nothing of this in St. George's, which appears to stagnate with a squalor peculiar to itself.

See here for his investigators' ambivalent attitude to Jewish immigration (they exacerbated over-crowding but tended to live more orderly, moral lives); and here for his connections, which he broke, with the Charity Organisation Society.

Here is a thesis, based on his 'religious influences' archive, showing how he distinguished between the 'repectable' and 'unrespectable' poor on moral and religious grounds, and like other philanthropists of the time advocated harsh policies for the latter.

A sample survey

Open the 1898 map here - you can zoom in and out, move around and compare it with a modern map. A transcript from one local 'walk' follows.

The colours refer to the poverty classification system used on the maps of 1889 and their 1898 revision, and are as follows:

black: lowest class; vicious, semi-criminal
dark blue: very poor, casual; chronic want
light blue: poor, 18s. to 21s. a week for a moderate family
purple: mixed – some comfortable, others poor
pink: fairly comfortable, good ordinary earnings
red: middle class, well-to-do
yellow: upper middle and upper classes, wealthy

The survey notes changes from 1889 which were incorporated into the 1898 maps.

DISTRICT 8  -  surveyed 7 March 1898 by G.H.D.

Walk with Inspector Joseph Reid round district bounded on the north by Chamber Street, on the East by Pell Street, on the south by upper East Smithfield & St George's St & on the west by Little Tower Hill & the Minories, being part of the Parishes of St Paul's Whitechapel & St George's in the East.

Inspector Reid is a tall man, over 6ft, fair moustache, energetic. Has been in the subdivision 3 years. Came here from Notting Dale dist. which he says has rougher streets and more vicious – by reason of the bullies than anything he has seen here.

Starting at the Police Station in Leman St, south past Chamber St, purple as map. On the E side of Leman St a turning called Mill Yard, blackdark blue on map. Brothel formerly, now shut, houses being rebuilt, newly paved, prosecution at the instance of Vestry, now light blue.

Then west along Royal Mint St small shops with 4 st lodgings above for carmen, general labourers and dockers, all English, purple to l.b., not marked on map. South down Glass House St, all Peabody Dwellings. 'They are very strict and will not allow any noisy family to remain', purple, not marked on map, no Jews here. Dwellings 5 storied with large asphalt yards. The whole block between Glass House St & Cartwright St is a mass of Dwellings, all purple, built either by the Peabody Trust or the Metropolitan Industrial Dwellings Co [3 rooms from 6/9. 2 rooms from 4/6 & one room from 3/3]. Reid said that there were a few thieves in the Dwellings but no known bad characters. Many young girls who work in the City in the single rooms, a respectable class. All these dwellings are strictly kept.

Between Glass House St & Dock St is Shorters Rents, dark blue on map, poor but no trouble to the police, rather l.b. than d. blue.

South along Glass House St on the East side is New Martin Street, as map, on north side 2 st & attic houses, some very old at the west end but well kept & in good repair. The south side (d.b. on map) is down & now a yard for carts.

S into Royal Mint St, between it & Dock Street is Chambers Sq, uncoloured on map, consisting of 10 ho. 3 st, fair state, children booted & clean, a very old wooden house at the west side where there is an outlet into Glass house St, purple to l.b.

West along Upper East Smithfield the next court westwards on the north side of the road is Coopers Row, now only a smithy. The next Brown bear Alley. No houses. The next Norwich Ct dark blue on map now two ho (l.b.) only remain on the west side, the rest has been demolished, no trouble to police only very poor, many loose brickbats from the demolished houses. No opening into Loats Buildings which is the next ct west, now no dwellings but a smithy & a cooperage (d.b. on map)

West along Upper E Smithfield, past the Mint into King St & Queen St pinkl.b. on map. Both have shops underneath. King St as map. Queen St l.b. on west side but purple on east. Houses on w side shored up to prevent their falling. Reid thought the whole were shortly to come down to provide a better approach to the Tower bridge.

Into Royal Mint St the whole of the North side with the xc of 4 ho before you come to the railway is down & now used as yards by the railway cos. North up passage formerly called Little Prescot St & Swallow Gardens where one of the Whitechapel murders was committed under dark railway arch. Now all houses down & another piece of dark blue disappears. Into Chamber St 3 & 2 st houses on north side only; purple as map. At the west end are the Roman Catholic schools. Just east of the schools is a court with part of Cohen's pencil factory and 2 or 3 ho, purple. West of the schools is another court, not marked or coloured on map, called Chamber Court. 3 st. 5 houses. Poor, resp. l.b. Children clean, booted, hatted, well fed, light blue. South into Royal Mint St on the south side is the Rothchild's gold refinery with a little court of houses (probably St Peter's Ct on map) [15. iii.98 not St Peter's Ct which is boarded up G.H.D.] for the workmen, all Frenchmen: pink.

South down Well St & east along Gracies Alley. Black on map, now purple to pink, Wesleyan East End Mission takes up a large part of the north side. Formerly brothels now none. It is a clean paved way with shops on either side, one a German restaurant. Into Wellclose Square. The NW side (d.b. on map) is now taken up by a Roman Catholic mission to sailors & new warehouses, some still building: pink now. North up Shorter St the SE corner of which is down & new warehouses make the SW side. On the E side is a small ct of 2 ho, l.b., not marked on map. The rest of the st is purple to pink rather than l.b.

Into Cable St, at this point almost completely Jewish. South down North East passage. Black on map: a few sailors widows still living there, one common lodging ho with beds 4d. a night on East side, but the double bedded common lodging ho. next to it closed. l.b. barred black on west side, d.b. on east, at the SE corner (black on map) is a public house, tap to the brewery next door. The East side of Well Close Square is made up on the Brewery, 2 houses now being pulled down, a doctor's ho & a shop. South down Ship Alley. black on map now shops & homework, nearly all Jews. Poor, purple to l.b. Into St George's St, west to Neptune St the SE corner of which is now a large public house, & higher up is a beer house (all marked black on map) but now rather pink or red. The west side (on map dark blue & black) is poor, casual labourers & a few thieves, all children booted, d. blue. North into the Square, at the NE corner of Neptune St is the old sessions house with dock & judges chair still remaining now a 2ndhand furniture dealers shop (a Mr Miller, who said he had been about the streets in the city as a boy, matchselling I think.) The SW side of Wellclose Square are the ?Joel Emmanuel almshouses for Jews. The west side of the square has a court at the lower end above Harads' (?) place, not shown on map, with 1 3st. wooden house. d. blue, & stables behind, above it are 4 dark blue houses as map, rough, one ticket of leave, above that is the old fire brigade station with a plaster frieze in relief above the ground floor windows, now let out as dwellings by the LCC and in character purple. Harads Place at the SW corner is now purple rather than l.b., clean doorsteps & windows, doors shut, 2 st houses, no court on the north side.

NE into Cable St turning south down Pell St (dark blue on map) several Cockney Irish here, rough, but not of the roughest class, houses look particularly clean & resp. causes trouble to police only during funeral wakes. Built 1774. at NE end is Wrights Row. 4 houses, purple. NW side is Pell place. regular labourers, purple. Lower down on East side is Ludens Place. 8 cott, purple to l.b., blinds & windows clean. On the west side are Thomas Pll.b. nothing between it & the black of Wellclose square, rougher but only barely dark blue. Edward's Place. A little lower down on W side, house empty – on the opposite side to Stable Yard. In the street some bread about. Reid said the inhabitants were quarrelsome but they fight it out at home & don't give us trouble. 2 & 3 families to each house 'but no crowding at all like the Jews' & they are getting better.

The court between Pell St & Ship Alley is down and closed so that a large piece of black and dark blue is gone & has helped to the betterment of Pell St.

General Remarks

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