London Labour and the London Poor, Volume 1

Mayhew, Henry


Of the Low Lodging-Houses of London.


THE patterers, as a class, usually frequent the low lodging-houses. I shall therefore now proceed to give some further information touching the abodes of these people—reminding the reader that I am treating of patterers in general, and not of any particular order, as the "paper workers."

In applying the epithet "low" to these places, I do but adopt the word commonly applied, either in consequence of the small charge for lodging, or from the character of their frequenters. To some of these domiciles, however, as will be shown, the epithet, in an opprobrious sense, is unsuited.

An intelligent man, familiar for some years with some low lodging-house life, specified the quarters where those abodes are to be found, and divided them into the following districts, the correctness of which I caused to be ascertained.

Here the low lodginghouses are to be found principally in the Coalyard, , , , Short's-gardens, Great and Little Wyld-streets, Wyld-court, Lincoln-court, , Starcourt.

Fox--court, Charlottebuildings, Spread Eagle-court, , Bell-court, Baldwin's-gardens, Pheasant-court, Union-buildings, , , Fulwood's-rents ().

Church-passage, and the Liberty of the Rolls.

, , , -dials, Puckeridge-street (commonly called the Holy Land).

, Cowcross, , Upper and Lower , St. Helen's-place, Playhouse-yard, , , Great .

Old and New Pye-streets, Ann-


street, , Perkins's-rents, .

Lambeth-walk, New-cut.

York-court, .


, Union-court.

Baker's-rents, Cooper's-gardens.


George-yard, , Flower and , Wentworth--street, Keate--street, Rosemary--lane, Glasshouse-yard, St. George's-street, Lambethstreet, .

, Old , Longlane, .


Hold (commonly called Hole).

, , Giffordstreet.

There are other localities, (as in Mile-end, Ratcliffe-highway, , , and Lisson-grove,) where low lodging-houses are to be found; but the places I have specified may be considered the of these hotels for the poor. The worst places, both as regards filth and immorality, are in St. Giles's and , Whitechapel. The best are in , (the thieves having left it in consequence of the recent alterations and gone to New ), and in the Mint, Borough. In the last-mentioned district, indeed, some of the proprietors of the lodginghouses have provided considerable libraries for the use of the inmates. In the White Horse, , for instance, there is a collection of volumes, on all subjects, bought recently, and having been the contents of a circulating library, advertised for sale in the

Of lodging-houses for "travellers" the largest is known as the Farm House, in the Mint: it stands away from any thoroughfare, and lying low is not seen until the visitor stands in the yard. Tradition rumour states that the house was at time Queen Anne's, and was previously Cardinal Wolsey's. It was probably some official residence. In this lodginghouse are rooms, beds (single and double), and accommodation for persons. It contains kitchens,—of which the largest, at once kitchen and sitting-room, holds people, for whose uses in cooking there are large fire-places. The other kitchens are used only on Sundays; when is a preaching-room, in which missionaries from (the Rev. James Sherman's), or some minister or gentleman of the neighbourhood, officiates. The other is a reading-room, supplied with a few newspapers and other periodicals; and thus, I was told, the religious and irreligious need not clash. For the supply of these papers each person pays every Sunday morning; and as the sum so collected is more than is required for the expenses of the reading-room, the surplus is devoted to the help of the members in sickness, under the management of the proprietor of the lodginghouse, who appears to possess the full confidence of his inmates. The larger kitchen is detached from the sleeping apartments, so that the lodgers are not annoyed with the odour of the cooking of fish and other food consumed by the poor; for in lodging-houses every sojourner is his own cook. The meal in most demand is tea, usually with a herring, or a piece of bacon.

The yard attached to the Farm House, in , covers an acre and a half; in it is a washing-house, built recently, the yard itself being devoted to the drying of the clothes —washed by the customers of the establishment. At the entrance to this yard is a kind of porter's lodge, in which reside the porter and his wife who act as the "deputies" of the lodginghouse. This place has been commended in sanitary reports, for its cleanliness, good order, and care for decency, and for a proper division of the sexes. On Sundays there is no charge for lodging to known customers; but this is a general practice among the low lodging-houses of London.

In contrast to this house I could cite many instances, but I need do no more in this place than refer to the statements, which I shall proceed to give; some of these were collected in the course of a former inquiry, and are here given because the same state of things prevails now. I was told by a trustworthy man that not long ago he was compelled to sleep in of the lowest (as regards cheapness) of the lodging-houses. All was dilapidation, filth, and noisomeness. In the morning he drew, for purposes of ablution, a basinfull of water from a pailfull kept in the room. In the water were floating alive, or apparently alive, bugs and lice, which my informant was convinced had fallen from the ceiling, shaken off by the tread of some walking in the rickety apartments above!

"Ah, sir," said another man with whom I conversed on the subject, "if you had lived in the lodging-houses, you would say what a vast difference a penny made,—it's often all in all. It's in the Mint House you've been asking me about; you've sleep and comfort there, and I've seen people kneel down and say their prayers afore they went to bed. Not so many, though. or in a week at nights, perhaps. And it's wholesome and sweet enough there, and large separate beds; but in other places there's nothing to smell or feel but bugs. When daylight comes in the summer—and it's often either as hot as hell or as cold as icicles in those places; but in summer, as soon as its light, if you turn down the coverlet, you'll see them a-going it like when it's throngest." The poor man seemed to shudder at the recollection.

informant counted for me of these low lodging-houses; and it is reasonable to say that there are, in London, at least of them. The average number of beds in each was computed for me, by persons cognizant of such


matters, from long and often woful experience, at single or double beds, where the house might be confined to single men or single women lodgers, or to married or pretendedly married couples, or to both classes. In either case, we may calculate the number that can be, and generally are, accommodated at per house; for children usually sleep with their parents, and may be the lowest computation. We have thus no fewer than persons domiciled, more or less permanently, in the low lodging-houses of London—a number more than doubling the population of many a parliamentary borough.

The proprietors of these lodging-houses mostly have been, I am assured, vagrants, or, to use the civiller and commoner word, "travellers" themselves, and therefore sojourners, on all necessary occasions, in such places. In cases out of I believe this to be the case. The proprietors have raised capital sufficient to start with, sometimes by gambling at races, sometimes by what I have often, and very vaguely, heard described as a "run of luck;" and sometimes, I am assured, by the proceeds of direct robbery. A few of the proprietors may be classed as capitalists. of them, who has a country house in Hampstead, has lodging-houses in or about , Whitechapel. He looks in at each house every Saturday, and calls his deputies—for he has a deputy in each house —to account; he often institutes a stringent check. He gives a poor fellow money to go and lodge in of his houses, and report the number present. Sometimes the person so sent meets with the laconic repulse—"Full;" and woe to the deputy if his return do not evince this fulness. Perhaps in every of the low lodging-houses in town is also a beer-shop. Very commonly so in the country.

To "start" a low lodging-house is not a very costly matter. Furniture which will not be saleable in the ordinary course of auction, or of any traffic, is bought by a lodging-house "starter." A man possessed of some money, who took an interest in a bricklayer, purchased for , when the , by King's-cross, was pulled down, a sufficiency of furniture for lodging-houses, in which he "started" the man in question. None others would buy this furniture, from a dread of infection.

It was the same at Marlborough-house, Peckham, after the cholera had broken out there. The furniture was sold to a lodging-house keeper, at each article. "Big and little, sir," I was told; "a penny pot and a bedstead —all the same; each Nobody else would buy."

To about -fourths of the low lodginghouses of London, are "deputies." These are the conductors or managers of the establishment, and are men or women (and not unfrequently a married, or proclaimed a married couple), and about in equal proportion. These deputies are paid from to a week each, according to the extent of their supervision; their lodging always, and sometimes their board, being at the cost of "the master." According to the character of the lodging-house, the deputies are civil and decent, or roguish and insolent. Their duty is not only that of general superintendence, but in some of the houses of a nocturnal inspection of the sleeping-rooms; the deputy's business generally keeping him up all night. At the better-conducted houses strangers are not admitted after at night; in others, there is no limitation as to hours.

The rent of the low lodging-houses varies, I am informed, from to a week, the payment being for the most part weekly; the taxes and rates being of course additional. It is rarely that the landlord, or his agent, can be induced to expend any money in repairs,—the wear and tear of the floors, &c., from the congregating together of so many human beings being excessive: this expenditure in consequence falls upon the tenant.

Some of the lodging-houses present no appearance differing from that of ordinary houses; except, perhaps, that their exterior is dirtier. Some of the older houses have long flat windows on the ground-floor, in which there is rather more paper, or other substitutes, than glass. "The windows there, sir," remarked man, "are not to let the light in, but to keep the cold out."

In the abodes in question there seems to have become tacitly established an arrangement as to what character of lodgers shall resort thither; the thieves, the prostitutes, and the better class of street-sellers or traders, usually resorting to the houses where they will meet the same class of persons. The patterers reside chiefly in and Whitechapel.

Some of the lodging-houses are of the worst class of low brothels, and some may even be described as brothels for children.

On many of the houses is a rude sign, "Lodgings for Travellers, a night. Boiling water always ready," or the same intimation may be painted on a window-shutter, where a shutter is in existence. A few of the better order of these housekeepers post up small bills, inviting the attention of "travellers," by laudations of the cleanliness, good beds, abundant water, and "gas all night," to be met with. The same parties also give address-cards to travellers, who can recommend another.

The beds are of flock, and as regards the mere washing of the rug, sheet, and blanket, which constitute the bed-furniture, are in better order than they were a few years back; for the visitations of the cholera alarmed even the reckless class of vagrants, and those whose avocations relate to vagrants. In perhaps a of the low lodging-houses of London, a family may have a room to themselves, with the use of the kitchen, at so much a week—generally for a couple without family, and where there are children. To let out "beds" by the night is however the general rule.



The illustration presented this week is of a place in Fox-court, Gray's-inn-lane, long notorious as a "thieves' house," but now far less frequented. On the visit, a few months back, of an informant (who declined staying there), a number of boys were lying on the floor gambling with marbles and halfpennies, and indulging in savage or unmeaning blasphemy. of the lads jumped up, and murmuring something that it wouldn't do to be idle any longer, induced a woman to let him have a halfpenny for "a stall;" that is, as a pretext with which to enter a shop for the purpose of stealing, the display of the coin forming an excuse for his entrance. On the same occasion a man walked into "the kitchen," and coolly pulled from underneath the back of his smock-frock a large flat piece of bacon, for which he wanted a customer. It would be sold at a of its value.

I am assured that the average takings of lodging-house keepers may be estimated at a night, not to say ; but I adopt the lower calculation. This gives a weekly payment by the struggling poor, the knavish, and the outcast, of guineas weekly, or guineas in the year. Besides the rent and taxes, the principal expenditure of the lodging-house proprietors is for coals and gas. In some of the better houses, blacking, brushes, and razors are supplied, without charge, to the lodgers: also pen and ink, soap, and, almost always, a newspaper. For the meals of the frequenters salt is supplied gratuitously, and sometimes, but far less frequently, pepper also; never vinegar or mustard. Sometimes a halfpenny is charged for the use of a razor and the necessary shaving apparatus. In house in , the following distich adorns the mantel-piece:

To save a journey up the town,

A razor lent here for a brown:

But if you think the price too high,

I beg you won't the razor try.

In some places a charge of a halfpenny is made for hot water, but that is very rarely the case. Strong drink is admitted at almost any hour in the majority of the houses, and the deputy is generally ready to bring it; but little is consumed in the houses, those addicted to the use or abuse of intoxicating liquors preferring the tap-room or the beer-shop.

View all images in this book
 Title Page
 The Street-Folk: Of Wandering Tribes in General
 Of the Wandering Tribes of this Country
 Of the London Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Number of Costermongers and Other Street-Folk
Of the Varieties of Street-Folk in General, and Costermongers in Particular
Of Costermongering Mechanics
Ancient Calling of Costermongers
Of the Obsolete Cries of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers 'Economically' Considered
The London Street Markets on a Saturday Night
The Sunday Morning Markets
Habits and amusements of Costermongers
Gambling of Costermongers
'Vic Gallery'
The Politics of Costermongers.-- Policemen
Marriage and Concubinage of Costermongers
Religion of Costermongers
Of the Uneducated State of Costermongers
Language of Costermongers
Of the Nicknames of Costermongers
Of the Education of Costermongers' Children
The Literature of Costermongers
Of the Honesty of Costermongers
Of the Conveyances of the Costermongers and Other Street-Sellers
Of the 'Smithfield Races'
Of the Donkeys of the Costermongers
Of the Costermongers' Capital
Of the 'Slang' Weights and Measures
Of Half Profits
Of the Boys of the Costermongers, and their Bunts
Of the Juvenile Trading of the Costermongers
Of the Education of the 'Coster-Lads'
The Life of a Coster-Lad
Of the 'Penny Gaff'
Of the Coster-Girls
The Life of a Coster Girl
Of Costermongers and Thieves
Of the More Provident Costermongers
Of the Homes of the Costermongers
Of the Dress of the Costermongers
Once Try You'll Come Again
Of the Diet and Drink of Costermongers
Of the Cries, Rounds, and Days of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers on their Country Rounds
Of the Earnings of Costermongers
Of the Capital and Income of the Costermongers
Of the Providence and Improvidence of Costermongers
Of the Costermongers in Bad Weather and During the Cholera
Of the Costermongers' Raffles
Of the Markets and Trade Rights of the Costerongers, and of the Laws Affecting Them
Of the Removals of Costermongers From the Streets
Of the Tricks of Costermongers
Of the Street-Sellers of Fish
Of Sprat-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Fruit and Vegetables
Of the Stationary Street-Sellers of Fish, Fruit, and Vegetables
Of the Street-Irish
Of the Street-Sellers of Game, Poultry (Live and Dead), Rabbits, Butter, Cheese, and Eggs
Of the Sellers of Trees, Shrubs, Flowers (Cut and In Pots), Roots, Seeds, and Branches
Street-Sellers of Green Stuff
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Pea-Soup and Hot Eels
Of the Experience of a Hot-Eel and Pea-Soup Man
Of the Street-Sellers of Pickled Whelks
Of the Customers, Etc., of Pickled Whelk-Sellers
Of the Street Sellers, and of the Preparation of Fried Fish
Of the Experience of a Fried Fish- Seller, and of the Class of Customers
Of the Preparation and Quantity of Sheep's Trotters, and of the Street-Sellers
Statements of Sheep's Trotter Women
Of the Street Trade in Baked Potatoes
Of 'Trotting,' or 'Hawking' Butchers
Of the Experience of a Hawking Butcher
Of the Street-Sellers of Ham-Sandwiches
Of the Experience of a Ham Sandwich- Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Bread
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Green Peas
Of the Experience of a Hot Green Pea Seller
Of Cats' and Dogs'--Meat Dealers
Of the Street-Sale of Drinkables
Of Coffee-Stall Keepers
Of the Street Sale of Ginger-Beer, Sherbet, Lemonade, &c
Of the Experience and Customers of A Ginger-Beer Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot Elder Wine
Of the Street Sale of Peppermint-Water
Of Milk Selling in St. James's Park
Of the Street Sale of Milk
Of the Street-Sale of Curds and Whey
Of the Street-Sellers of Rice-Milk
Of Water-Carriers
Of the Street-Sellers of Pastry and Confectionary
Of Street Piemen
Of the Street-Sellers of Boiled Puddings
Of the Street-Sellers of Plum 'Duff' or Dough
Of the Street-Sellers of Cakes, Tarts, &c.
Of Other Cake-Sellers in the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Gingerbread- Nuts, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Hot-Cross Buns, and of Chelsea Buns
Of Muffin and Crumpet-Selling in the Streets
Of the Street Sale of Sweet-Stuff
Of the Customers of the Sweet-Stuff Street-Sellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Cough Drops and of Medical Confectionary
'Lohoch de farfara,' the Lohoch of Coltsfoot
Of the Street-Sellers of Ices and of Ice Creams
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Capital, or Stock in Trade, of the Street- Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Income, or 'Takings,' of Street-Sellers of Eatables and Drinkables
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, &c.
Of the Former and Present Street- Patterers
Of the Habits, Opinions, Morals, and Religion of Patterers Generally
Of the Publishers and authors of Street-Literature
Of Long Song-Sellers
Of Running Patterers
Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Recent Experience of a Running Patterer
Of the Chaunters
Of the Experience of a Chaunter
Of the Death and Fire Hunters
Of the Sellers of Second Editions
Of the Standing Patterers
Experience of a Standing Patterer
Of Political Litanies, Dialogues, etc.
Of 'Cocks,' Etc.
Of 'Strawing'
Of the Sham indecent Street-Trade
Of Religious Tract Sellers
Of a Benefit Society of Patterers
Of the Abodes, Tricks, Marriage, Character, and Characteristics of the Different Grades of Patterers
Of the Low Lodging-Houses of London
Of the Filth, Dishonesty, and Immorality of Low Lodging-Houses
Of the Children in Low Lodging- Houses
Of the Low Lodging-Houses Throughout the Country
Of the Street Stationers, and the Street Card-Sellers
Of the Seller of the Penny Short-Hand Cards
The Lecture
'I perish with hunger'
Of the Sellers of Race Cards and Lists
Of the Street-Sellers of Gelatine, of Engraved, and of Playing Cards, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Experience of a Street- Stationer
Of a 'Reduced' Gentlewoman, and a 'Reduced' Tradesman, as Street-Sellers of Stationery
Of the Street-Sale of Memorandum- Books and Almanacks
Of the Street-Sale of Pocket-Books and Diaries
Of the Street-Sellers of Songs
Of the Street 'Pinners-up,' or Wall Song-Sellers
Of Ancient and Modern Street Ballad Minstrelsy
Of Street 'Ballads on a Subject'
Of the Street Poets and Authors
Of the Experience of a Street Author, or Poet
Of the Street-Sellers of Broad-Sheets
Of the 'Gallows' Literature of the Streets
Of the Street-Sellers of Conundrums
Of the Street-Sellers of Comic Exhibitions, Magical Delusions, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Play-Bills
Of the Street-Sellers of Periodicals, Pamphlets, Tracts, Books, Etc.
Of the Street-Sale of Back Numbers
Of the Sale of Waste Newspapers at Billingsgate
Of the Sale of Periodicals on the Steam- Boats and Steam-Boat Piers
Of the Sale of Newspapers, Books, &c., at the Railway Stations
Of the Street Booksellers
Of the Character of Books of the Street-Sale
Of the Experience of a Street Book- Seller
Of Street Book-Auctioneers
Of the Street-Sale of Song-Books, and of Children's Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Account-Books
Of the Street-Sellers of Guide-Books, &c.
Of the Street-Sellers of Fine Arts
Of Street Art
Of the Street-Sellers of Engravings, Etc., in Umbrellas, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pictures in Frames
Of the Street-Sellers of Manuscript and Other Music
Of the Capital and Income of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
Capital or Value of the Stock-in-Trade of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature and the Fine Arts
Income, or Average Annual 'Takings,' of the Street-Sellers of Stationery, Literature, and the Fine Arts
An Epitome of the Pattering Class
Of the 'Screevers,' or Writers of Begging-Letters and Petitions
'God Save the Queen'
Of the Probable Means of Reformation
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Manufactured Articles in Metal
Of the Cheap Johns, or Street Han- Sellers
'The Original Cheap John'
The Crippled Street-Seller of Nut- Meg-Graters
Of the Swag-Shops of the Metropolis
Shopkeepers and Dealers Supplied with the Following Articles --
Of the Life of a Cheap-John
The Street-Sellers of Cutlery
Of the Blind Street-Sellers of Tailors' Needles, etc.
The Public-House Hawkers of Metal Spoons, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Jewellery
Of the Pedlar-Jewellers
Of the Street-Sellers of Card-Counters, Medals, Etc.
The Construction is of Iron and of Glass, 1848 Feet Long. about Half is 456 Wide. the Remainder 408 Feet Wide, and 66 Feet High; Site, Upwards of 20 acres. Josh. Paxton, archt.
Of the Street-Sellers of Rings and Sovereigns For Wagers
Of the Street-Sellers of Children's Gilt Watches
Of the Street-Sellers of Tinware
Of the Life of a Tin-Ware Seller
Of the Street-Sellers of Dog-Collars
Of the Life of a Street-Seller of Dog- Collars
Of the Street-Sellers of Tools
Of the Beggar Street-Sellers
Pike's Patent Cotton. 120 Yards
'The Lace-Makers' Appeal'
'ALLEN, Printer, Long-row, Nottingham'
Of the 'House of Lords,' a Street-Seller's Defunct Club
Of the Street-Sellers of Crockery and Glass-Wares
Of the 'Swag,' Crockery, and Glass Shops
Of the Street-Sellers of Spar and China Ornaments, and of Stone Fruit
Of the Street-Sellers of Textile Fabrics
Of the Haberdashery Swag-Shops
Of Hawkers, Pedlars, and Petty Chapmen
Of the Packmen, or Hawkers of Soft Wares
Statement of a Packman
Of the Tally Packman
Of the 'Duffers' or Hawkers of Pretended Smuggled Goods
Of the Street-Sellers of 'Small-Ware,' or Tape, Cotton, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Lace
Of the Street-Sellers of Japanned Table- Covers
Of the Street-Sellers of Braces, Belts, Hose, Trowser-Straps, and Waistcoats
Of the Street-Sellers of Boot and Stay- Laces, &c.
Of a Blind Female Seller of 'Small-Wares'
The Blind Street-Seller of Boot-Laces
Of the Life of a Blind Boot-Lace Seller
Of the Low Lodging-Houses
Statement of a Young Pickpocket
Statement of a Prostitute
Statement of a Beggar
Meeting of Thieves
Of the Country Lodging-Houses
Of the Street-Sellers of Chemical Articles of Manufacture
Of the Street-Sellers of Blacking, Black Lead, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of French Polish
Of the Street-Sellers of Grease-Removing Compositions
Of the Street-Sellers of Corn-Salve
Of the Street-Sellers of Glass and China Cement, and of Razor Paste
Of the Street-Seller of Crackers and Detonating Balls
Of the Street-Sellers of Lucifer-Matches
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigar Lights, or Fuzees
Of the Street-Sellers of Gutta-Percha Heads
Of the Street-Sellers of Fly-Papers and Beetle-Wafers
Of the Street-Sellers of Miscellaneous Manufactured Articles
Of the Street-Sellers of Walking-Sticks
Of the Street-Sellers of Whips, Etc.
Of the Street-Sellers of Pipes, and of Snuff and Tobacco Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Cigars
Of the Street-Sellers of Sponge
Of the Street-Sellers of Wash-Leathers
Of the Street-Sellers of Spectacles and Eye-Glasses
Of the Street-Sellers of Dolls
Of the 'Swag-Barrowmen,' and 'Lot- Sellers'
Of the Street-Sellers of Roulette Boxes
Of the Street-Sellers of Poison For Rats
Of the Street-Sellers of Rhubarb and Spice
Of the Hawking of Tea
Of the Women Street-Sellers
Of the Children Street-Sellers of London