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charles booth and jacobs island

The picture of the Jacob's Island sign is by sarflondonunc and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence (Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic). Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarflondondunc/2495909843/.Jacob's Island was a setting for scenes in Oliver Twist. Dickens described it as 'the filthiest, the strangest, the most extraordinary of the many localities that are hidden in London'.  Industry and housing had developed around St Saviour's Dock (the mouth of the now 'lost' River Neckinger) by the eighteenth century. The worst housing on Jacob's Island was cleared in the nineteenth century to make way for warehouses. However, this was not before a major cholera epidemic in 1849-50 and a fire that raged for two weeks or more in 1861. This area like the rest of London was studied by researchers involved in Charles Booth's (1840-1916) famous social survey of London life - Life and Labour of the People in London. A key element of the research was a series of maps coloured street by street to indicate the levels of poverty and wealth. The map for this area in 1898-9 shows a concentration of 'very poor' households in chronic want (often employed as casual labourers) and 'poor' households (existing on between 18s and 21s 'for a moderate family'). Much of this was on London Street (now known as Wolseley Street - right - named after Field Marshall Sir Garnet Wolseley – the original of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'modern major-general). There were also some mixed streets.

Social investigators such as Charles Booth provided both a spur for social action and arose from it. Many settlements combined both. Some of those associated with Booth's efforts were involved in settlement work, some - like Beatrice Webb - became important political activists. Booth himself became a strong advocate of state old-age pensions as key means of alleviating destitution. His research had confirmed it as one of the commonest causes of pauperism. [link: Booth's map of Jacob's Island]

Acknowledgement: The picture of the Jacob's Island sign is by sarflondonunc and is reproduced here under a Creative Commons licence (Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic). Flickr - http://www.flickr.com/photos/sarflondondunc/2495909843/.

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