SALON NO. 61: LONDON SLUMS
Way, way down the property ladder
A tale of two Cities: As another high-tech high-rise with eye-wateringly expensive apartments goes up and the burned out tomb of Grenfell tower comes down, yet again Londoners are presented with the gigantic disparity in the capital's living standards. Now overcrowding, sky-high rents and homelessness are becoming common again, historians FIONA RULE and SANDRA HEMPEL take us back to their roots in the slums of the Victorian city with its tottering tenements and rotting rookeries.
A slum in Kensington? Jennings' Buildings consisted of 81 two-story wooden tenements rammed with over 1,000 Irish immigrants living in accommodation meant for 200 with only 49 toilets for all the inhabitants. Not surprisingly, its death rate was twice that of the surrounding area.
The industrial revolution had pulled thousands from the poverty-stricken countryside into the city in search of work but, with nowhere for them to live, the result was a gigantic growth in slum housing and the infamous rookeries described by Dickens and appalled 19th century social reformers. Journalist and author SANDRA HEMPEL looks at living conditions in London in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the various desperate noble attempts to provide decent accommodation for working people.
Meanwhile, over in the East End, things were even worse. Halfway up Commercial Street, one block away from Spitalfields Market, lies an anonymous service road. The average pedestrian wouldn’t even notice it existed. But unlikely though it may seem, this characterless, 400ft strip of tarmac was once Dorset Street – the most notorious thoroughfare in the Capital. Author and historian FIONA RULE takes us on a walk down 'the worst street in London', the resort of Protestant fire-brands, thieves, con-men, pimps, prostitutes and murderers - most notably Jack the Ripper..
FIONA RULE is a writer, researcher and historian. She is the author of five books:- The Worst Street In London (2008), London's Docklands (2009, London's Labyrinth (2011), Streets Of Sin (2015), The Oldest House In London (2017). A regular contributor to television and radio programmes, Fiona also has her own company, House Histories, which specialises in researching the history of people's homes. She holds an Advanced Diploma in Local History from the University of Oxford.
SANDRA HEMPEL is a journalist and author who writes on health and social issues. Her first two books – "The Medical Detective" and "The Inheritor's Powder" – are set in 19th century Britain and take as their theme a different aspect of the history of medicine. She is fascinated by the struggle of doctors and medical scientists down the ages to understand the workings of the human body and to diagnose and treat disease.