I wrote the following account in 2010 as part of an evening course in literature at Birkbeck College — ‘London Approaches and Perspectives’. This account is a close reading of the Charles Booth notebooks for a small group of ‘black streets’ in Notting Dale. My grandmother had been born into one of those streets in 1900, just 11 months after the report was written. It is an academic essay with references at the end.
I believe that in Britain the undercurrent of eugenics persists to this day.
As Labour gained control of its first ward in North Kensington, the first local social housing development was completed on Kenley Street: Seymour King’s Buildings (named after the Tory mayor, the first of the Royal Borough of Kensington). But the rents were set too high for most of the former inhabitants of the street, who were forced to move into more overcrowded accommodation.
The refurbishment effectively ‘cleansed’ the area. Does anything ever change?
Photograph, and italicised caption, from www.historytalk.org 2010– local history studies centre for North Kensington and Notting Dale.
A view of Victorian London’s poor through Charles Booth’s survey of London and, in particular, the ‘General Remarks’ from George Duckworth’s Walk in Notting Dale February 1, 1899
My grandmother, and her eleven surviving siblings, were brought up in a series of single rooms, some in Charles Booth’s ‘Black District of Notting Dale’ — not in the East End, which is the usual portrait of the 19th Century London poor, but just off Holland Park Avenue, cheek-by-jowl with the wealthy of the West End. Always an area of gross inequality.
My grandmother’s family lived in Notting Dale at the time of her birth in January 1900. Her family lived a peripatetic life in the poorest parts Paddington and Kensington with at least one documented incarceration in the Workhouse in 1893/94. Notting Dale was known as the ‘West-End Avernus’: hell; one can only assume that it was an improvement on the workhouse. The area was mapped for the second edition of Charles Booth’s Survey of London and, in twenty pages of notes, the secretary for the Survey, George Duckworth, described the streets as “of unenviable notoriety all over London…streets of casuals, thieves and prostitutes”. Although the houses in Notting Dale were built in the mid 19th Century to house middle-class families living in the inner suburbs of London; it was not long before they were let as single rooms to the poor, probably more profitably. Inevitably, because “the whole area was hemmed in …and was heavily polluted by the railway”, it was an unattractive place for those who could afford the new, leafier outer suburbs. Around the time of my grandmother’s birth the infant mortality rate in the area was an exceptionally high 432 in 1,000 births. The houses my grandmother lived in as a child probably only had one scullery to share between all the households, one tap and one lavatory. Cooking was difficult and malnutrition hard to avoid: bread, supplemented with potatoes and margarine, was likely to have been the staple diet. My great-Aunt, recounts how her father was often so hungry as a child that he sucked the iron railings on the street: an indication of anaemia. George Duckworth’s notebook is an attempt to capture the existence that the very poorest had to endure at the end of the nineteenth century but lives of subsistence are less well represented than the unintended prejudices of a recorder with a “privileged gaze”.
Charles Booth was a liberal, non-conformist from Liverpool who inherited a fortune of £20,000 at the age of 20 and became a successful shipping magnate and a benevolent employer. He had a keen, amateur interest in statistics and eventually became the President of the Statistical Society in 1892. When, in 1884, Hyndman, who was a radical journalist and founder of the Social Democratic League, published a survey of London that estimated that 25% of Londoners were living in poverty Charles Booth argued that these figures were exaggerated. From 1886 to 1903 he spent seventeen years, with the help of social reformers such as Beatrice Webb and others, surveying London and classifying London’s households and streets by colour coding maps to illustrate the classes Booth defined. Booth calculated that rather than 25% of Londoners living in poverty the proportion was actually closer to 30.7%. Booth was the first to define a ‘poverty line’ and concluded that chance and employment, rather than “fecklessness, laziness, drunkenness and physical and mental disability” were the primary causes of poverty. His solutions to the poverty he encountered were sometimes radical but more often were within the conventional thinking of the time. His evidence and conviction led to proposals for an old age pension, eventually introduced in 1910; he acknowledged the need for state intervention — or ‘socialist’ projects as he put it — but essentially he was a liberal with great belief in individualism. He believed his project was a scientific one: observing London and collecting data, but others should draw their own conclusions and formulate solutions; however that did not stop him putting forward a few of his own including a hope “that circumstances would arise in which As and Bs would be increasingly unable to find a ‘fresh opening in an ever-hardening world’, and that they would probably die out, like a failed sub-species”. 
George Duckworth was the secretary to Booth’s survey and for the third ‘Description of London Poverty’ in 1898 and 1899 his handwritten notebooks record his survey walks of London, including the Notting Dale area; always accompanied by a local policeman. Although not an intellectual Duckworth was a member of the literary upper middle class and Notting Dale was an alien environment in which he was a spectator, walking in the safe company of Sergeant Hearn. The community of Notting Dale is filtered through the eyes of the policeman; Sergeant Hearn provides the evidence and acts as the knowing gaze, without him Duckworth’s notebooks would be slim documents. As a policeman Hearn is the ‘reliable witness’, the voice of order and respectability, he literally and metaphorically opened doors. The others cited are also members of the police force, “Colonel Monsell and Sir Edward Bradford both spoke of them [the streets of the ‘black area’ of Notting Dale] as the worst they knew anywhere”. A sense of ‘us’ — Duckworth and the representative of law and order — and ‘them’ — is established in the first paragraph of the General Remarks on the area, “they are streets of casuals, thieves and prostitutes”. Residents of the area are not quoted, the people are not interviewed, it does not appear that they were talked to; instead they are observed and filtered by the views of those responsible for ‘control’; the evidence is that of the policeman’s opinion. Even the description of the furniture in the lodging houses comes from Hearn who describes the chair as “’probably without a back’”.
The Victorian, Malthusian, fear of the masses, overcrowding, overpopulation and disorder is evident in the reported speech of Sergeant Hearn, endorsed by Duckworth, “the number of bad streets has gradually increased until there is no such extensive criminal quarter in any other part of London. ‘You might clear out a whole street of a hundred families or so, here you would have thousands to deal with’”.  The need to control these masses, especially those defined as criminals, dominates the account. ‘Bullying’, along with ‘cunning’ and ‘artful’ — in other words uncontrollable — are words used to describe both the men and women of Notting Dale. Fear exists for men like Duckworth in these streets, they are “not only a ‘disgrace’” but “a ‘danger’ also”. Once again Duckworth quotes Hearn “’Rows may come at any moment, you cannot expect them on Fridays and Saturdays and make provision’: these men are not wage earners. Trouble comes suddenly and the whole place is at once in a ferment”. The use of the word ‘ferment’ implies fermentation or, like yeast, a ‘rising up’ of the lower classes; one of the great fears of Victorian middle-class Londoners.
The overwhelming impression is created that these ‘others’, the unnamed residents of Notting Dale, are animals, and not very intelligent ones; they are not even very skilled in their supposed occupation, “of skilled criminals there are none, all are inferior”. A picture is built up of depravity and a sense that this small area, penned in by the railway to the west and the wealthy squares to the east, is a jungle lived in by itinerant beasts of no fixed abode, “the inhabitants comes from all parts…Few stay in the street more than a few weeks, some for only a night”. The language takes away their humanity and their soul; in Victorian England to have no soul is to be beyond redemption; they are described as a “rambling band…always on the prowl…they come back …in the Winter for the soup season”. The implication is that, like swine, they return to the trough. The language is even more direct as the local residents are also described as “of the cunning, bullying, wild beast type”; they are to be feared and, by implication, they must be contained and kept away from the other classes, the ‘self-respecting artisans’, who live in the ‘pink’ streets. A possible remedy that Duckworth proposes for the ‘disgrace’ of the district is not higher wages, employment, financial support for the destitute or improvement of the housing for those who live there but development of an area of pink, rather than the proposed red and wealthy, streets in an area just to the north of Notting Dale so that “there would be greater chance for the children of the black area not to be swallowed up by the black”. The jaws of the herd threaten the young as well as the middle-class of London.
Although by 1899 the majority of the residents of Notting Dale were Londoners their pattern of work was still seasonal, determined in a similar way to the agricultural labourer’s casual cycle of employment. Some casual workers, especially single men, moved according to available work. Duckworth acknowledges this when he talks about the ‘fairly clean’ registered lodging houses housing “the better class of homeless labourer…such as the country navvy come up to London on a special job”. London was dependent on casual labour in the nineteenth century, an unorganised reserve pool of labour. Duckworth, without evidence, says at the end of the section on the ‘industries of the casual’ that “it does not seem as if they could ever settle to one business or one place”. However it was usual in the nineteenth century for workers to settle with one business, however casual its nature. Hearn — endorsed by Duckworth — prefers the explanation, of ‘gypsy blood’ accounting for the ‘restlessness’ of the ‘rambling band’. The populous was characterised rather than the economy analysed. The gypsy was, and still is, an outsider in society, almost a degenerate; often living outside the law, alien, other and ‘foreign’. Not one of ‘us’.
The opening page of the Notting Dale notebook under the foreboding title of the ‘beginning of a black district’ has a newspaper clipping attached to it, entitled West End Slums: Crusade Against Overcrowding, which gives a lurid slice-of-life picture, complete with children and dogs, of Notting Dale from a contemporary court report. This sets the scene and, along with Sergeant Hearn, provides evidence of the area being occupied by ‘casuals, thieves and prostitutes’. The men have ‘no work’ and the nameless women are ‘of loose character’. An idiosyncratic enumerator listed the occupation of some residents in the 1891 Census in a dockland district as ‘Fallen Woman’; the equivalent census records for streets such as Bangor Street and Crescent Street document hawkers, washers, costermongers, flower sellers, general dealers, painters, labourers and a ‘scavenger’. Streets of people in casual, rather than skilled, work but few signs of no means of income and ‘Fallen Women’ are, possibly carefully, not recorded. By 1901 the occupations of the Notting Dalers indicate more skills, with some needlewomen, tailoresses, shoemakers and plumbers. In contrast to the anonymity and facelessness of the people in Duckworth’s notes, the census records give the residents names and create a different picture: families and their means of earning a living are individually defined; those living in lodging houses, that Duckworth reports “give trouble and harbour criminals” but each have an occupation. The overcrowding is apparent but the people are humanised, their work may be menial and they may live lives of destitution but they are attributed with occupations.
Duckworth can be described as a flâneur who “symbolises the privilege or freedom to move about the public arenas of the city observing but never interacting, consuming the sights through a controlling but rarely acknowledged gaze”. This male gaze in particular, in nineteenth century London, defined women and the binary opposite of the flâneur: the prostitute. Middle class women alone on the streets of London felt vulnerable; they certainly could not be ‘invisible’ observers like Duckworth. However the women who lived in districts like Notting Dale often had to earn their living on the streets “…’a great number of the flower-girls come from here’. Prostitutes live here…” They did not escape the male gaze, and judgement, though and were easily condemned as “bullies, but ‘the new law has fairly frightened them’. Since October those who have been charged, convicted and sentenced to 2 or 3 months hard labour for this offence.”  The laws against prostitution in Victorian England were a response to both moral panic and fear of contagion. Venereal disease was prevalent and prostitutes held responsible for contamination, if not in law by 1898, then at least morally. Duckworth does not record his observations about families or mothers in his notebook instead, as Deborah Epstein Nord comments in her essay on the Victorian flâneur “we begin to see that in the city of the male spectator woman appears most often as prostitute, always objectified, always ‘other’ and always instrumental in making the social or existential statement he is after”. Nord goes on to say that “to the Victorian sensibility [the prostitute] suggests a flaw in the social system that threatens to implicate us all. What remains constant, however, is the prostitute’s otherness, her use as a trope, her ultimate transience and disposability”, or condemnation to three months hard labour.
It is this sense of ‘disposability’ of the residents of 1899 Notting Dale that we are left with at the end of Duckworth’s notes on the area. Duckworth proposes building better housing “small working class (pinks) houses” but this is not for classes A and B who live in Notting Dale in 1899 but for classes E and F, the ‘self-respecting artisans’. What to do with classes A and B? “Better almost to have the black spots scattered over London than egested”. Probably not for the first time in their lives, many residents were forced by higher rents to move on in the early part of the twentieth century when the area was improved. Duckworth leaves the reader with the impression of people who do not deserve anything better, who need to be corralled like animals; but he is unable to reconcile these eugenic prejudices with his descriptions of the children. Although families and mothers are absent in Duckworth’s notes of the streets he does refer to the children he sees coming out of the Board School or at the soup kitchen “children waiting patiently. Faces clean, hair brushed, clean if ragged pinafores…many hatless, boots not good, but all healthy, no sore eyes…all chatting, happy”. In his summary he describes the children as “clean, well fed and fairly dressed” and with almost a sense of astonishment he remarks, “and this is the school which draws its children from the poorer streets.” Duckworth seems unable to reconcile his description of the children with his impression of the worthlessness of the adults, the parents, of the area. In his earlier notes, before the General Remarks, he allows the policeman’s comment “it’s the schools that makes them clean” to undermine the role of the parents in the demeanour and clothing of the children.
Incrementally Duckworth builds up a picture of a community where the residents are not only ‘criminals’, ‘cadgers’, ‘loafers’ and ‘too lazy to work’ they are also less than human; in a Christian tradition they are ‘soulless’ and cannot be saved; the undeserving poor; “the pauper is poor and depraved because of the necessities of capitalism, but his depravity must not be allowed to go unpunished.” A close reading of one small document that formed part of the enormous task of mapping the people of London displays the in-grained intolerance of at least one ‘neutral’ observer and a reflection of the deep fear and loathing of the Victorian poor by even the liberals of that age.
Humpherys, A. Knowing the Victorian City: Writing and Representation Victorian Literature and Culture 2002 Cambridge, Cambridge University Press pp601–612
Kiernan, V. Victorian London — Unending Purgatory, New Left Review, Vol I/76, Nov-Dec 1972
Ledger, S., In Darkest England: The Terror of Degeneration in “Fin de Siècle” Britain, Literature and History, ser.3:4:2 (1995: Autumn) p.71–86
Lummis, T. “Charles Booth: Moralist or Social Scientist?”, Economic History Review, Feb 1971, Vol 24 Issue 1, pp100–105
Nord, D.E., The Urban Peripatetic: Spectator, Streetwalker, Woman Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 46, №3 (Dec., 1991), pp. 351–375 University of California Press
Norman-Butler, B. Victorian Aspirations: The Life and Labour of Charles and Mary Booth, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, London 1972
Reeder, D., Representations of Metropolis: descriptions of the social environment in Life and Labour in Retrieved Riches: Social Investigation in Britain 1840–1914, edited by Englander, D. & O’Day, R., Aldershot, Scolar Press, 1995
Simey, T.S., Charles Booth, Oxford, OUP, 1960
Whetlor, S.The Story of Notting Dale, K&C Community History Group, London, 1998
 For a transcript of the text of the ‘General Remarks’ for this essay see Appendix I, for a copy of the original text of the whole walk see Appendix III
 See Appendix II
 The rents per square foot for the houses in the Old Nichol area “were between four and ten times higher than those of the finest streets and squares of the West End” — Wise, S., The Blackest Streets, London, Bodley Head, 2008 p.10 Stedman Jones, G., Outcast London London, Penguin Books 1984 p.94also says that higher rents were charged to unreliable tenants, especially those employed in casual labour.
 . http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=49883, reproduction of Survey of London: Volume 37: Northern Kensington; The Potteries, Bramley Road Area, and the Rise of the Housing Problem in North Kensington. Chapter XIV, (accessed 8 December, 2010)
 In 1896 the Medical Officer, Dr Dudfield, “ published the first figures for infantile mortality within the ‘Avernus’, which showed that no less than 432 out of every 1,000 children born there died before reaching the age of one year, compared with only 176 per 1,000 births in the whole parish and 161 in all London”. . http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.aspx?compid=49883 reproduction of Survey of London: Volume 37: Northern Kensington; The Potteries, Bramley Road Area, and the Rise of the Housing Problem in North Kensington.Chapter XIV. 2010 (accessed 8 December 2010) Compare this too to The Blackest Streets, p.9 where the average in the late 1880s for the Old Nichol is described as “a horrific 252 per 1,000”.
 Pember Reeves, M., Round About a Pound A Week; London, Virago 1979 (1st published 1913 G. Bell & Sons Ltd) — study undertaken in 1909.
 Wise, S. The Blackest Streets, London, Vintage Books, 2009 p. 169 — Sarah Wise’s description of Charles Booth
 See Appendices V and VI; and VII for the causes of poverty.
 Of these 30.7% Booth found that low pay and unemployment was the primary cause of poverty for 85% and ‘circumstances’ (large families, sickness) and ‘habit’ (‘idleness, drunkenness and thriftlessness’) the cause for 15%. Social, rather than moral, causes of poverty were highlighted; contrary to received ideas about the poor in the nineteenth century; and in contrast to Booth’s preconceptions. See Fried, A. & Elman R.M., Charles Booth’s London, Penguin, 1971 p. 30
 Wise, S. The Blackest Streets, London, Vintage Books, 2009 p. 171
 Booth saw the workhouses as an example of ‘socialism’.
 For Booth’s class classifications and street colour coding see Appendices V and VI — as ‘Black Streets’ the Notting Dale district was considered to consist mainly of people from Booth’s classes A and B.
 Wise, S. The Blackest Streets, London, Vintage Books, 2009 p. 187
 “Those who undertook the task of setting the East End to rights had no grasp of the real causes of its poverty; they were content with ‘the crudest tenets of political economy and tended to exaggerate them to the point of caricature’ (qtd. Stedman Jones, G., Outcast London p. 265). One theory flourishing in the 1880s, and endorsed by Booth, Marshall, and other notables, was that the human species must deteriorate in an urban environment; it offered a seductively easy answer to the question why East Enders [for ‘East Enders’ read ‘poor Londoners’] were poor — they were poor because they were degenerate.” Kiernan, V. ‘Victorian London — Unending Purgatory’, New Left Review, Vol I/76, Nov-Dec 1972 p.87
 Duckworth was the elder half-brother of Virginia Woolf (neé Stephens) and there is considerable evidence that he sexually assaulted her from the age of six and throughout her teenage years. When Duckworth undertook the walk with Sergeant Hearn, surveying the Notting Dale district in 1899, Virginia was seventeen years old.
 Colonel Monsell, Chief Constable of Number 2 District (comprising D; E; F; G; S; X; and Y police divisions) see Charles Booth Notebooks B353, pp206–213 “Sir Edward Bradford was a distinguished Victorian who served as Commissioner from 1890 to 1903, after many years in India and after surviving a mauling by a tiger and a ship wreck… As Commissioner, Sir Edward moved into the new Norman Shaw headquarters building on Embankment, dealt with a police strike, and oversaw the introduction of the first motor taxi cabs in London. He was also Commissioner for the introduction of the Fingerprint Bureau.” http://www.historybytheyard.co.uk/bradford.htm (accessed 8 December 2010)
 The population of Kensington and Paddington increased from just over 100,000 in 1841 to over 270,000 by 1881 — White, J. London in the Nineteenth Century, London, Vintage, 2008, p.85
 “Most of the time in post-Chartist England, and particularly in London, what the rich were likely to fear was not a serious movement of sedition, but sudden irresponsible tumult, like a cyclone, a mob out- break as portrayed by Dickens in Barnaby Rudge (1841) and A Tale of Two Cities (1859).” Kiernan, V. ‘Victorian London — Unending Purgatory’, New Left Review, Vol I/76, Nov-Dec 1972 p.83
 See Appendix IX for a transcription of the newspaper clipping.
 See Appendix VIII for a random example of the 1901 Census return for part of Bangor Street, Notting Dale.
 Pollock, G. quoted in Nord, D. E. The Urban Peripatetic: Spectator, Streetwalker, Woman Writer, Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 46, №3 (Dec., 1991), University of California Press, p 351
 Humphreys, A., Knowing the Victorian City: Writing and Representation, Victorian Literature and Culture, 2002, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p.604
 The ‘new law’ was probably the 1895 interpretation of a subsection of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 that ruled that “that any prostitute living with another prostitute would be guilty of keeping a ‘brothel’” and therefore subject to up to three months hard labour see Laite, J., Paying the price again: prostitution policy in historical perspective, History and Policy Group website http://www.historyandpolicy.org/papers/policy-paper-46.html#change, (accessed 7 December 2010)
 Epstein Nord, D. The Urban Peripatetic: Spectator, Streetwalker, Woman Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 46, №3 (Dec., 1991), pp. 351–375 University of California Press p. 353
 Epstein Nord, D. The Urban Peripatetic: Spectator, Streetwalker, Woman Nineteenth-Century Literature, Vol. 46, №3 (Dec., 1991), pp. 351–375 University of California Press p. 354
 This is consistent with the approach Booth took, as Simey stated, quoting Booth, “Class A was to be ‘harried out of existence’ there was nothing to be said in their favour, for ‘no sooner do they make a street their own than it is ripe for destruction and should be destroyed’”, Simey describes Booth’s view of and punitive ‘solution’ for Class B as “’industrially valueless as well as socially pernicious’…its members were only to be allowed to live as families in industrial colonies” Simey, T.S., Charles Booth, Oxford, OUP, 1960 p. 194
 See classifications in Appendix VI
 See Appendix IV.
 Interestingly Charles Booth, himself, was not a particularly religious man, and at times he was scathing of the moralistic approach of the missions in districts such as Notting Dale stating that their work, a mixture “of Gospel and giving produces an atmosphere of meanness and hypocrisy and brings discredit on both charity and religion”. Fried, A. & Elman R.M., Charles Booth’s London, Penguin, 1971 p. 39
 Kiernan, V. ‘Victorian London — Unending Purgatory’, New Left Review, Vol I/76, Nov-Dec 1972 p.89
 One of the ‘Kensington Town’ survey walks in the ‘Black District’ of Notting Dale — ref B359 pp141–147 and 156–167 (starting at the following page http://booth.lse.ac.uk/notebooks/b359/jpg/141.html).
 “Initially I thought I might write something about George Duckworth, another of Booth’s researchers, but the only thing I could find of interest about him was that he had sexually abused his half-sister, Virginia Woolf (nee Stephen).” Interview with Deborah Macdonald 2008, http://www.casebook.org/authors/interviews/deborah-mcdonald.html 2010
 Colonel Monsell Chief Constable of Number 2 District (comprising D; E; F; G; S; X; and Y police divisions) see Charles Booth Notebooks B353, pp206–213
 “Sir Edward Bradford was a distinguished Victorian who served as Commissioner from 1890 to 1903, after many years in India and after surviving a mauling by a tiger and a ship wreck… As Commissioner, Sir Edward moved into the new Norman Shaw headquarters building on Embankment, dealt with a police strike, and oversaw the introduction of the first motor taxi cabs in London. He was also Commissioner for the introduction of the Fingerprint Bureau.” http://www.historybytheyard.co.uk/bradford.htm
 See Fiona Rule, The Worst Street In London, London, Ian Allen Ltd, 2008- focuses on Dorset Street off Commercial Street, Shoreditch.
 This is spelt as ‘emgested’ in the text but this word does not exist; could egested be the word that is meant? Definition is ‘excreted, eliminated from the body’. Maybe Duckworth confused emgested for the opposite of ingested.
Transcript of Charles Booth Survey ‘Walk with Sergeant W. Hearn on Feb 1 1899’, District 28: Kensington Town
Conducted by Survey Assistant ‘GHD’ — George Duckworth
The Bangor Street Area
The most interesting part of this route is the black area i.e. Bangor St, Crescent St, St Katherine’s Rd the S end of Sirdar Rd & Kenley St. These are streets of unenviable notoriety all over London. Colonel Monsell & Sir Edward Bradford both spoke of them as the worst they knew anywhere. They are streets of casuals, thieves and prostitutes. In appearances the men & women seen in them compare with those in Dorset St out of Commercial St E: in Whitechapel. It is proposed that they should all be marked black.
As compared with Dorset St they have this in their favour: the houses are not so high, the street is broader & well paved with asphalt or cement & cleanly kept. ‘The paving was done last summer & has already made these streets seem more self-respecting than they were’ said Hearn. The inhabitants come from all parts. Some from the clearances outside London & others from outside Notting Dale is known to all provincial tramps. Few stay in the street more than a few weeks, some only for a night. The rooms are mostly let furnished and singly, rents of 3/6 & 4/- each. Furniture consists of a chair ‘probably without a back’, an iron bedstead with a flock mattress, pair of sheets & blanket & coverlet & wash handstand; basin, jug etc. Seldom a looking glass, never a carpet, the only ornament on the walls is a shop almanac or two. At the bottom of the house is a store & the housekeeper is expected to provide cooking utensils.
The registered lodging houses are regularly inspected & fairly clean. The better class of homeless labourer goes to them such as the country navvy come up to London on a special job. It is the unlicensed & filthy lodging houses that give the trouble & harbour criminals. When the clearances were made in Lisson Grove for the Great Central Railway those who knew the people came here & hired all the houses they could & furnished them. They knew that the natural drift of such a class was to Notting Dale ‘it was the only district with a similar class which had room for more’.
Difficulties of dealing with the area
Those years ago there were a great number of houses to be let, now there are very few. Whole streets could be seen without a pane of glass in the windows & unwanted, now they are full. The number of bad streets has gradually increased until there is no such extensive criminal quarter in any other part of London. ‘You might clear out a whole street of a hundred families or so, here you would have thousands to deal with’. The only remedy that Sergt. Hearn can suggest is that gradual pressure be put on the landlords to put their houses in order & exercise greater care in the selection of their tenants — a difficult task because there are so many small landlords, but not impossible.
No particular day in the week is worse than another from a police point of view. ‘Rows may come at any moment, you cannot expect them on Fridays & Saturdays & make provision’: these men are not wage earners. Trouble comes suddenly & the whole place is at once in a ferment.
Of crime there is very little within the district in spite of the number of criminals. ‘They go elsewhere to thieve, here there is nothing to take’. ‘There are an artful lot to deal with’: one day they will swear information against a man & the next will swear in the court that they never said a word of it.’
Industries of the casual
It is a noted rag, bone & bottle district. ‘A convenient situation between the great collecting districts of Kensington & St John’s Wood.’ ‘Hundreds are engaged in this work.’ There are also a number of organ grinders, there are four places in the subdivision where the organs are let out, the hirers are all Englishmen, generally youths. But the greater number of these in the black area do nothing but cadge & loaf & ‘there are a few skilled mechanics among them, simply too lazy to work’. Wood chopping & flower selling & costering in a small way are also local industries, ‘a great number of flower girls come from here’. Prostitutes live here & there used to be bullies but the ‘new law has fairly frightened them’. Since October those have been charged, convicted & sentenced to 2 or 3 months hard labour for this offence. Of skilled criminals there are none, all are inferior; of the cunning, bullying, wild beast type. It does not seem as if they could ever settle to one business or one place.
Restlessness of the casual
Those who live in furnished rooms are a rambling band. There a day, a week, perhaps a month, never more than 6 wks, always on the prowl, in & out of London, up the Thames in summer or they go haymaking, hop & fruit picking, in London they make the round of the casual wards: they come back to Notting Dale in winter for the soup season. Hearn thinks that gypsy blood must account for their restlessness. ‘Conditions of life for gypsies are getting harder every day, all over the country they are ‘moved on’: they are forced to settle down but they can’t do it all at once.’
This is a district which is not only a ‘disgrace’; it is large enough to be a ‘danger’ also. According to the police there are a succession of streets the majority of whose inhabitants are criminals. Every year the area of criminality is extending. Better almost to have the black spots scattered over London than emgested [sic]. Pressure on the landlords to exercise greater supervision over their tenants is the first remedy suggested: and pressure on the Charity Commissioners to allow small working class (ie pinks) houses to be built on the St Quintin’s Park Estate instead of the ‘red’ charactered houses on which they now insist — is the second. If there was a considerable pink area of self-respecting artisans there would be greater chance for the children of the black area not to be swallowed up by the black themselves. There is demand for the houses (p147) but there are not the houses. The redeeming feature of the Bangor St area is the appearance of the roadway & that of the children. By far the greater number of those seen coming out of the St Clement’s School (in the Sirder St) were clean, well fed & fairly dressed: & this is the school which draws its children from the poorer streets. Another feature is that none of those seen whether old or young looked in need of food.
This is a transcript of a newspaper cutting from 1899 attached to George Duckworth’s notebook
WEST END SLUMS
Crusade Against Overcrowding
The West-end has its slums as well as the East.
Directly a vestry attempts to make a clearance it is met with the housing problem. Whether the Kensington Vestry has found a solution within their district is not made clear, but there was evidence yesterday at the local petty sessions that it had started a crusade against the many slums that are dumped down within the shadow of the mansions of the rich.
Walter Holmes, forty-four, of Kenley street, Notting-dale, was summoned for overcrowding with respect to his premises at 49 Kenley street. Police sergeant, 3X, said on the 14th Inst. he was attracted by cries of “Murder” proceeding from Kenley street. He entered the house, and in a room there saw a man named Sheriff standing over a woman with whom he cohabited. In the room were also two young sisters of Sheriff’s aged fifteen and eighteen years, and another woman aged twenty-four years, covered with a blanket. There was also in the room a large retriever dog. The women were of loose character, and the man had done no work until the passing of the new Act.
A summons against Thomas Sheriff for permitting the overcrowding was then heard and another summons against each defendant for a similar offence on April 10 — The Bench fined Holmes 20s and costs and Sheriff 10s and costs in each case.
For overcrowding in the same house, a man named Goddard was fined 5s and costs.
Two similar summonses were then heard against a man named Bates with reference to other houses in Catherine street. When defendant appeared in the bench it was noticed he had no hands.
Inspector Steward Keney Vein said that he had found sixteen dogs and eleven children together in the house of seven rooms.
It was stated that this man had previously been charged for similar offences. He owned several houses in this district. Fined 20s and costs in each case.