Part of the evidence of Alderman James Silver to the Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, 1902

See the background to this Commission, and comments on Alderman Silver and Major Evans Goordon, here.

….As an instance of the extent to which the foreign colony in St. George's-in-the-East has grown I would allude to streets like William Street, Samuel Street, James Street, Langdale Street, Severne Street, Umberston Street, Morgan Street, Grove Street, and Christian Street. Within my knowledge there was a time when not a foreign person resided there: now there are scarcely 20 English residents in all these streets.
[These streets are shown on the 1878 map - right. They are between Christian Street and Cannon Street Road, apart from Severne Street which is slightly further west.]
2624. About what population do these streets represent? Would it be some hundreds, or what would it be? — About 1,000, roughly speaking. In William Street, for instance – a long street – there is one Englishman left, a man named Rutherford, and he is classed by these aliens as 'that foreigner'. To pay the exorbitant rents it follows that the foreigner who takes the house must let out every room to a different family, even to the basement and the coal cellars; and, in one instance, to my knowledge, to the w.c. I have handed in numerous cases of overcrowding of a most disgraceful nature to the Public Health Committee of the Stepney Borough Council. I would point out that although we of course have the Public Health Act in vogue [sic], and try to act up to it, and although we endeavour to prevent overcrowding as far as possible, in dealing with these people it is very much like dealing with a large rabbit warren. We simply put the legal ferrets, if I may so call them, into the hole; the rabbits come out and go into another hole, and the same operation is repeated.
2625. (Major Evans-Gordon) You mean by that, supposing you turn people out of one house, they simply go into another? — They simply go into another.
2626. Simply transfer the overcrowding till the legal ferret, as you have very appositely called him, has gone away? — Yes.
2627. (Chairman) Does the legal ferret come and turn them out for non-payment of rent? — No. Under the Public Health Act, for overcrowding and illegal occupation. To obtain some conception of the multitudes housed in these rookeries it is only necessary to go into these streets on a summer's evening. Every house seems to vomit forth hordes of people. No decent, self-respecting Englishman would live under such conditions, and it is the contempt and disgust excited him him at seeng people live under such circumstances that feeds the feeling of indignation existing in East London at the unrestricted influx of these foreigners. I am far from saying that these foreigners are a class or as a race immoral. Doubtless in point of morality they are as virtuous as we are, but the conditions under which they exist – for they cannot be said to live – are indecent and disgusting, and excite feelings of loathing. That, given the appetite, these conditions do conduce to gross immorality I would prove by reference to the case of a Roumanian Jewess-a girl of, I believe, 15- in our workhouse at the present time with a child of which she alleges her parent to be the father.
2628. (Major Evans-Gordon) Now with regard to the trade and the traders? — The characteristic of the foreigner is to deal with, to associate with, and to herd with people of his own race. Within my knowledge in the past two years — of my personal knowledge — some four tradesmen once carrying on prosperous businesses in the
Cannon Street Road, St. George's East, have been ruined by this foreign invasion. They are an undertaker (Bradford), a grocer (Bausor), an oilman (Steadman), and a pork butcher (Hasler), all within a stone's throw of each other. Their former customers, all Britishers, have been compelled to leave the neighbourhood, and the foreigners will not deal with them.
[See further comments here]
A once prosperous market place—Watney Street—once the resort of the majority of small shoppers in the borough of Stepney, is also on the verge of ruin by reason of the establishment of a foreign market in Samuel Street.
[This does not accord with other accounts of Watney Market of the time: it had grown to over 100 shops and 100 stalls. And the Jewish market, a few blocks west, was in Hessel Street (formerly Morgan Street), though there may have been some stalls in Samuel Street which was its southern continuation.]
To this market resort now not only the foreigners, but, I regret to say, many British people who prefer to go to the cheapest market rather than support the people of their own race. If they could see, as I have seen, the goods displayed on the barrows of these foreigners—chickens, oranges, apples, vegetables, and even bread and fish—reposing the night before under large foreign-made beds in a small and indescribably filthy room, and in sickening proximity to chamber utensils, they would not be so eager to go to these cheap foreign markets. The English have been described as a nation of shopkeepers. That is far more true of these foreigners. Every other house in the streets of these foreign colonies become a small emporium, and even in the ordinary windows of small houses which the builders never in their wildest dreams imagined could become shops, a handful of goods — it may only be a chicken, some fish, minced meat, a few packets of cigarettes, rings of bread or pickled gherkins — is displayed, the profit on the sale of which, however small tends to increase the weekly income, and to the smallest possible extent individually, but yet to a considerable extent collectively, to attract trade away from the more legitimate centres. The foreign shopkeeper, coster or window salesman is unquestionably able to sell cheaper than the ordinary tradesman. His expenses are not so great, his standard of life is of the lowest possible description, and he is satisfied with a smaller profit. In this way also he attracts trade — the trade not only of people of his own race, but also of the Britishers, and hence another cause for the bitterness existing. He works unceasingly. I have passed many of these shops at 2 and even 3 in the morning, when they are still open.
2629. When you say they work unceasingly, of course working hard is a merit; but what I understand you to mean by that is that foreigners of this nature, coming here with different habits and able to keep these tremendous hours, exercise an unfair competition upon our own people? — They do.
2630. (Chairman) What shops are you referring to? — All kinds of shops – fruit shops, tobacconists' shops, provision shops, open till 2 or 3 in the morning.
2631. Are there customers there then? — The only customers that ever deal with them are these foreigners, and they do have customers at that time.
2632. At 2 or 3 in the morning? — Yes; it is no uncommon thing. If you pass along Cannon Street Road, St. George's, as I have, you will find at that time of the morning a large number of windows still lighted, and many of these tailoring machines going. Many of these people work all night long.
2633. In their shops? — In their rooms; I would not call them shops, and they come out of these rooms and purchase their necessaries.
2634. (Major Evans-Gordon) That, you say, is one of the forms of unfair competition and pressure with the native-born person? — That is so.
2635. (Chairman) Unfair or not, at least it is an ousting process according to you? — Yes.
2656. (Major Evans-Gordon) A competition which they feel very keenly? — Which they feel and very bitterly resent.

[the following questions relate to the effect on the rates]

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