A Typical Booth Visitors's Notebook

Devonshire Street, No. 1

Front ground, Walters + son, cobblers Ground back, Handyman, married daughter of above, 3 children, out of work.

First front + back, Wyatt, landlady of this house. A grass widow + her daughter, both prostitutes.

No. 2

Ground, used as a warehouse for storing old rags. Church people sometimes hold services there.

Ground back, Perry - a widow with 2 children - she goes out charring - fairly decent.

First Floor front + back, Nash - a coster - wife + children. Now very decent but woman used to be the horror of the neighbourhood. Kept house for prostitutes - drank fearfully Now quite reformed + strong teetotaler.

And so on all along the street.

  • Widow with 2 sons. One in the army. Younger one loafs about and sponges on his mother.
  • 2 boys aged 9 + 12 never go to school if they can help it. --
  • Mother dying by inches -­
  • Family makes bird cages + never go out –
  • Labourer - never seems to work - loafs about the public houses . -­
  • Widow washerwoman with 5 children who attend Board School regularly,--
  • A chucker-out at a pub and a wife who goes out charring, ----`
  • Cook - wife and 6 children. He spends his time at the pubs. She does anything she can. Oldest boy, a decent lad, is at a chemist's in Bond St. but he is very consumptive.

The interviewer later visited the same houses and was kindly met. Her comments confirm the curate's opinions and some of her sentences are telling:

"Obviously used clothes as a counterpane and blankets at night as there was only a sheet on the bed.”

Mother said, "The severe weather certainly did try the children's toes a bit. Still they had boots if only they would keep them on their feet."

Add to this the difference between our today's fabrics and the wool used in those days.. It is difficult to remember how woollen clothing which has been wet and dry, and wet and dry, and is wet again, used to smell. Remember too the difference between our modern standards of personal cleanliness and those when there were no baths in the houses and often no running water. Even just after the Second World War, the top of a tram could smell like a sheep pen. A respectable housewife's fight against dirt had to be unending.


The tops of the houses in Devonshire St (Ashmill Street) in 1980, later demolished.

 

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Updated August 9, 2011