Health and Housing

  • Norris Pope


In September 1841, before he was at all acquainted with ragged school operations, Lord Ashley was taken on a tour of some of London’s worst slums by Southwood Smith, the great advocate of sanitary reform. ‘What a perambulation have I taken to-day in company with Dr Southwood Smith!’ he wrote in his diary; ‘What scenes of filth, discomfort, disease! … No pen nor paint-brush could describe the thing as it is. One whiff of Cowyard, Blue Anchor, or Baker’s Court, outweighs ten pages of letter-press.’ 1 Ashley had reason to be appalled; and his subsequent experience with ragged schools only deepened his revulsion at the terrible and unsanitary state in which the very poor were compelled to live. As he put it in 1853,

it is to no purpose to send out the schoolmaster, it is to no purpose to employ the missionary, it is to no purpose to preach from the pulpit, it is to little or no purpose to visit from house to house, and carry with you the precepts and the lessons of the Gospel, so long as you leave the people in this squalid, obscene, filthy, disgusting, and overcrowded state.2


Labour Classis Housing Society City Corporation Housing Reform Sanitary Improvement 


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  1. 48.
    Henry Austin, ‘Metropolitan Improvements’, Westminster Review, xxxvi (1841) pp. 404–35.Cf. M. W. Flinn, loc. cit.Google Scholar
  2. 72.
    Thomas Hatton and Arthur H. Cleaver, A Bibliography of the Periodical Works of Charles Dickens (1933)pp. 244–5.Google Scholar
  3. 115.
    Cf. E. P. Hennock, ‘Finance and Politics in Urban Local Government in England, 1835— 1900’, Historical Journal vi 2 (1963) pp. 214–17, etc.Google Scholar
  4. 147.
    Henry Roberts, The Dwellings of the Labouring Classes [1853] P. 3.Google Scholar

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© Norris Francis Pope 1978

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  • Norris Pope

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