A tinted version of the Booth poverty Map of the Lisson Grove area of Marylebone in 1889

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The Booth Map of the Paddington Basin and Lisson Grove area in colour.
Modern technology makes this colour version easily available.

Wealthy (three or more servants; houses rated £100 or more)
Well to do (one or two servants)
Working class comfort
Comfort mixed with poverty
Standard poverty
Very poor
The lowest grade

This part of the Both map illustrates how mixed the population of London was in some areas. Wealthy lived cheek by jowl with Poverty. Edgware Road was lined with shops and offices with people above with at least one servant living in. In the triangle south of Chapel Street were some with three servants living in. A few yards away, round the Basin, around Hall Place, in Homer Street and Lisson Grove, were Blue for Poverty. Among these were streets coloured Black for the lowest class.

Uses of the Booth Poverty Maps in this website.

Karel Čapek, the playwright, came to England in the nineteen twenties, more than thirty Years after Booth made his maps, and was horrified by the sheer extent of the London slums.  He came from the Continent where there were slums, but these were relatively small patches. They did not spread for miles as did the London ones.

‘What is terrible in East London is not what one can see and smell but that there is so enormously and irredeemably much of it. Elsewhere poverty and ugliness are like a rubbish heap between two houses, like a hideous nook, fistula or unclean drain: but here there are miles and miles of bleak houses, hopeless streets, superfluous children, gin places and Christian shelters. Miles and miles from Peckham to Hackney, from Walworth to Barking: Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Poplar, Bromley, Stepney, Bow and Bethnal Green. ----- There are certainly more hideous quarters and more destitute streets in all parts of the world: even destitution has a higher standard here and the poorest beggar still isn’t bound in rags. But my God, what people, what sorts of millions of people live in this larger half of London, in these short, uniform, joyless streets which swarm on the map of London like worms in immense carrion.’

Letters from London, by Karel Capek, trans. by Geoffrey Newsome, 2001
Horsell’s Farm Cottage, Brinkworth, Wilts SN13 5AS
By permission of the translator.

 

 

How the Survey was Compiled

The information for the Booth Maps was collected by teams of people who interviewed the local clergy, police, teachers, and others with particular knowledge of the local areas. One of the main sources of information was the School Board Visitors. Their original qualification had been the ability to run faster than the children, and so catch truants, but they became far more than that, compiling unrivalled local knowledge. It was their duty to visit every house in every street and make notes on each family with children of school age. They began a few years before the children reached school age and continued until the last child in the family had left.

Many of the Visitors worked in the same area for a number of years, so their knowledge of individual families, the father’s occupations, family income, etc. was extensive. The Collection of Booth material, which is stored at London School of Economics, includes 392 note-books of house to house surveys, 55 volumes including records of interviews, and 6 boxes of 25' O. S. maps hand coloured to show degrees of poverty. The seventeen volume survey analyzed this material, but the original notebooks, terse and immediate, are sharp and alive. Quick notes written on the hoof as raw material for more ponderous sentences later, but well worth reading in their own right.

The Impact of The Booth Maps

The 1889 Booth Poverty Map had a profound impact on public opinion, partly for humanitarian reasons, but also because the black and dark blue areas of the very poor were scattered among the red and pink houses of the better off.  People might not have known the full details about microbiological infection at that time, but they knew that filthy conditions might affect their own health. Enlightened self interest often informed their charity.

This was before Lloyd George’s Old Age Act of 1906, and there was no Unemployment Insurance.  Most charity was organised through the churches, so it was natural for the Poverty Map to be followed by a survey of the work done by the churches to relieve the situation.  After the Poverty Map had been published in 1889, local clergy were interviewed and the reports, most written on the spot, in long-hand, are preserved at the London School of Economics, carefully filed in districts. These formed the basis of the later reports and printed maps.

Some interviewers are not above commenting on the clergy.

‘Mr Arnold, the curate, is not helped by self-deception.  A godly young man - offensive- pious - and self-sufficient - at bottom a hypocrite.’

Apparently another Mr Slope.

The reports, in different handwritings, describe the work done by the churches in providing help during illness and free school meals to children, made without distinction as to creed.  There is an earthy realism among some of the clergy.

‘No change in drink unless for the worse. Mothers attending the Mothers’ Meeting would go from a temperance meeting to the public house.’

But the churches are patient.

‘At first the people come for what they can get, but when they are responsive they can be very good.'


London School of Economics Library website,
where the Booth Poverty Maps are kept. 
LSE Charles Booth On Line

 

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