Blast from the past: London 1888

After reading a book yesterday, Jack the Ripper the Casebook, I was astonished by just how hard life must of been back in 1888. The United Kingdom has come a very long way since then, with many families living in spacious family homes. Even terraced houses are not as jam packed as they were back in 1888.

I read that back in 1888 the terraced town houses were crammed with people. People shared small rooms with many others, as a lot of the home owners rented out their rooms. These rooms were basically crammed with as many beds as the owner could fit in, and then rented out for four pence a night. Living conditions were horrendous, but I guess this was the norm for the lower class people of London during that era.

Many of the women back in those days had split from their husbands due to their out of control drinking habits. Drinking habits were very common back in those days, as many individuals seen this as a way of escaping their reality. Many women were once supported by their ex husbands, who had custody of their numerous children and who were paying them around 5 shillings per week. Obviously with a drinking habit this money was not enough. This resulted in many women turning to prostitution, and once their ex husbands found out they ceased paying their wives the weekly money.

Work in those days was very hard to come by. Job security was non-existent and the average wage back then was only £2 a week, even less when immigrants arrived. The majority of men would wait anxiously down at the docks trying to secure work from the gaffer of boats which would often arrive in. Fights would often break out as men were determined to be picked, and to be picked they had to ensure being at the front of the crowd.

The sheer smell and living conditions in Whitechapel East End London must have been horrific at this time. So much so that the upper class, which lived nearby, would often be reminded of such squalor depending on which way the wind was blowing.

With the advances in living conditions these days, I find it astonishing that people used to have to live this way – children, men and women just basically existing through their day-to-day lives, often living on the brink of starvation on a daily basis. I am so lucky and privileged to be in a full time job, with a nice home, food in my cupboards and happiness!

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2 thoughts on “Blast from the past: London 1888

  1. Andrea Kelly says:

    I always marvel at how much stronger our ancestors must have been in order to live through those kinds of conditions! I know I definitely wouldn’t be able to do it. Great post 🙂

  2. I’m the same Andrea, I couldn’t live a day without my cupboard full of food, mobile phone, laptop/ computer … Let alone my memory foam mattress! When I was reading the book, which is fantastic by the way, I could only imagine their constant struggle.. So many advances have been achieved since them days, and I’m so grateful to realise just how easy/ stress free my life is 🙂 … Thanks for reading!

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