Irish Immigration and Temporary Cottages

Tomlin’s Town on the 1813 map and the curious 'temporary cottages' on the 1827 one, require some explanation. During the 18th and 19th centuries immigrant workers came each year from Ireland to cut the hay and corn harvests in England. Many arrived with their wives and children, begging their way to London and hoping to earn enough money to pay the rents of their small holdings in poverty stricken areas of Galway, Roscommon and Mayo. In one year 20 sailing and 7 steam ships sailed from the West coast of Ireland direct to London, charging 5 shillings for pigs and 10 shillings for people. The population of St Marylebone could increase by 5000 just before the harvest as all this temporary labour arrived.

Many did not find work, becoming a charge on the poor rates of Liverpool, Chester and the London parishes. Some of the immigrants, especially after bad harvests back in Ireland, with nothing to go home for, began to settle in England. They found mainly unskilled work as builder's labourers, chairmen, porters, coal heavers, or in building the canals, sending money back to Ireland at intervals.

Irish colonies arose in the Gravel Pits on the Bishop of London's estate near Notting Hill. Small huts were set up, for which a small ground rent had to be paid. Potatoes could be planted but the huts had to be dismantled every six months and re-erected elsewhere so that tenancies were not created. Presumably Tomlin's Town and the 'Temporary Cottages' in Lisson Grove were of this nature. Between 1774 and 1781 a Dr Bland kept a record of the country of origin of patients at the Westminster General Dispensary. One in eleven had been born in Ireland.

There was no Poor Law in Ireland, so immigration to England or America was almost forced upon the Irish in times of hunger. Arrived in England, they worked for wages a third, or even a half less than the normal London wage.' The poorest able-bodied men undertook stone breaking which gave only sixpence or eight pence a day. At rates of pay like this, their housing was bound to be abysmal. Montague Burgoyne told the Mendicity Committee that he had heard that 700 Irish lived in twenty four small houses. He had found the numbers even greater than this - often three or four families in one room.

 

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