Poverty in Late Victorian England

According to Boyer and Schmidle, one of the manifestations of poverty in the Victorian Era is the development and existence of slums. At the time, the most notable slums were located in East London, and for this case, East London was nicknamed, the darkest London by respectable citizens. Other parts of the city that were infested with slums include Clerkenwell, Jacob’s Island (situated in Bermondsey), The Devil’s Acre in Westminster Abbey, the southern banks of Thames River, Pottery Lane in Notting Hill, Mint in Southwark and Giles in Central London. These slums rapidly emerged against the backdrop of inhabitation by the predominantly working-class population. This subculture had not been factored in the city’s planning and housing programs. Because of this, the substandard houses were cheap enough for the poorly remunerated working class to afford. The subculture in this case comprised Irish immigrants, the English population, the German Jew, the Russian, immigrants from Eastern and Central Europe and lived in abject poverty. This population obtained its shelter in the larger part of Whitechapel and the rest of the surrounding areas of Mile End and St. George’s-in-the-East (Boyer and Schmidle, 249). Another manifestation of poverty is a crime. Because of poverty and increased settlement in the slums, Whitechapel and other slums not only became the hub of the Victorian East End but also an overcrowded and crime-riddled area. In these areas, there were many poor families that were living, packed in single-roomed accommodations bereft of proper ventilation and adequate sanitation. Alongside this condition, there were about 200 common lodging houses for sheltering more than 8,000 destitute and homeless people, for every night. It is against this backdrop that the renowned writer and social researcher, Margaret Harkness rented one of these rooms in Whitechapel, so as to make firsthand observations and study ofWhitechapel’s degraded slum life.