And so the notes go on, notebook after notebook, of different sizes and written in different hands, representing hours and hours of patient observation.

Southam Street had been built for a well off clientele, but went downhill.

Unfortunately Booth's Map stops on the edge of Kensal Town, so we do not know the position in 1881, but by 1923, Southam Street consisted of 140 nine-roomed houses in which 2,500 people were living - an average of two persons to every room in the street. The housing accommodation was even worse than in the Special Area of Notting Dale. A writer speaks of:-

"slum basements, where rheumatism and consumption and drink scribble their names on the dirty wallpaper."

He adds that this part of North Kensington figured weekly in the Police News.

 

A Later Story

One man, who was brought up in Senior Street in the 1930s and emigrated to Florida after the Second World War, wrote to me from there. He lived in Florida, so the Spanish which he had learnt in Senior Street School helped him to settle in there where Spanish was the common language. He had a good house and a large garden with oak trees, and contrasted it with the Senior Street he remembered.

He had lived above a workshop in Senior Street, where they dipped canvas sacks in hot liquid tar to turn them into coal sacks. The family took the fumes for granted. This sort of story, of people living cheek by jowl with small industry, could be repeated many times over. Large factories, sawmills and timber yards, small workshops slotted where they could find a lodging, the canal bank was alive with industry.

Looking at the area today, rebuilt, with industry banned, full of trees, with its fine openwork bridge in place of the ugly Ha'penny Bridge, one can hardly believe the condition of this district years ago.

 

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Updated March 15, 2011