They could have been written years later by Orwell about Wigan. Full of telling detail, they give an impressive picture of the research behind the maps.
When London was being rebuilt between 1860 and 1880 and was a chaos of half completed building projects, with dirt and smoke everywhere, the better-off moved from the centre of London to the Camberwell, the wide streets of Sutherland Avenue or St. John's Wood and away from the once attractive houses of Lisson Grove, while the aspiring working class went to the newly built Queen's Park. As they all left, poorer people crowded in. The fashionable Lisson Grove of the 1820s had indeed sunk low. Its prosperous Christchurch congregation had fled. It was built as a finely fitted church with a font in semi-precious stones. By 1880 it was a centre of poverty.
A Booth notebook records:-
'Miss Hart of Christchurch, [the] specimen of the wise and kind church worker, divided the parish into two parts by Lisson Grove. On one side were the frequently changing inhabitants of Oxford and Cambridge Mansions, professional people, or ladies of small income. The other part had been half destroyed by the railway and those whose houses remained had been driven away. The Church was in the centre of the poor part. Only thirty years of gradual, steady improvement to the poor part, by pulling down and rebuilding and attracting a more respectable class would make a difference.
Efforts (were being made) at philanthropic rent collecting and teaching the poorest with large families, to live decently. Some people had risen from lower to higher levels of cleanliness. Still there were places getting dirtier and more dilapidated.'
Another person, speaking about the Bell Street/Chapel Street area said:-
| "There has been a complete change as to the history. People used to shift and evade rent. Now houses are full and rooms are difficult to get. Rents must be paid. Owners are getting more out of the property than ever before." Yet another one said, "Nearly all live in one room. There is often no place to put down a hat. People live in a fearful state of dirt".
Interview with Mr Pierpoint, curate of Christchurch, 18 Dec. 1890.
This interview gives a vivid picture of the area at the time. It consists of a house by house description of the tenants of Devonshire St. (now Ashmill St). At this period Devonshire St stretched across what is now Penfold Street, blocking it off. Part was demolished later when Penfold St was cut through. The southern side as far as Lisson St, was demolished in 1960 with the building of Rutherford School and the northern side was cleared later to create the park along Broadley St. Further along the road other houses have been demolished and replaced by blocks of flats or small modern houses, but a few of the originals still exist. Thus almost all the houses described here have long gone.
The curate seems to know the street and the occupants of each house intimately. Ground floor front - Ground Floor back - First Floor front - he knew knew them by name and by nature. Astute, clearly a born gossip, but humane with it, he could rattle off information collected over years, subject matter for a hundred novels and social tracts, taken as a matter of course in his workaday life.