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Charles Dickens Pens The Descent Into Poverty (page 6)


Charles Dickens pens the descent into poverty In the process, whole neighbourhoods, of the type described by Dickens in Sketches by Boz in 1836, were obliterated. In Drury Lane Dickens saw “wretched houses with broken windows patched with rags and paper; every room let out to a different family, and sometimes two or even three - fruit and ‘sweet stuff’ manufacturing in the cellars, barners and red-herring vendors in the front parlours, cobblers in the back; a bird fancier in the first floor, three families on the second, starvation in the attics, Irishman in the passage, a ‘musician’ in the front kitchen, and a charwoman and five hungry children in the back one - filth everywhere - a gutter before the houses and a drain behind - clothes drying, and slops emptying from the windows….”

The Duke of Bedford Attempts changes

The cholera epidemic of 1850 spread rapidly through the unsanitary tenements and stung the Bedford Estate into action. To prevent further decay it introduced strict controls and only with the Duke’s specific consent could leases be sold to a butcher, publican, cow keeper, bookbinder, or dealer in rags, birds or caricatures. In addition an absolute ban was maintained against the frivolities of music halls, ballrooms, billiard rooms, auction salesrooms, shooting galleries, madhouses and school seminaries. They were fighting a losing battle in a survey of 1886 their were still a 120 lodging-houses in Covent Garden, which were occupied by the poorest classes.


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