Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

Browsing Booth

December 20th, 2013 by Catherine McIntyre, Archives Assistant

The catalogue for the Booth collection is now available on the Archives online catalogue. It has long been available to search via the Booth Online Archive, but is now available to browse and view in its full hierarchical structure on the Archives catalogue.

Charles Booth undertook a survey into the life and labour of the people of London, the work for which started in 1886 and took until 1903, culminating in the publication of 17 volumes of results. The Booth collection held at LSE Archives & Special Collections contains the original survey materials, including the “poverty maps” and survey notebooks.

BoothMap6

Booth Poverty Map, Sheet 6 (BOOTH/E/1/6)

There were three focus areas of the investigation: poverty, industry and religious influences. The team of investigators, which included Beatrice Potter (later Webb) and Clara Collett, interviewed School Board visitors, employers, trades union leaders and ministers. The collection also contains questionnaires returned by employers and reports on visits to churches.

The collection is a wealth of information on the life and work of London’s inhabitants at the end of the Victorian era. It is a popular resource for family history researchers whose ancestors lived and worked in the industries and geographical areas covered by the survey. The poverty maps have been featured in the BBC’s ‘Who Do You Think You Are?’ series, most recently with Strictly Come Dancing’s Len Goodman discovering the poverty his Bethnal Green ancestors would have lived in. Other interesting sources of information in the collection include the police notebooks, which contain reports of investigators’ walks with policemen around their beats and interviews with the policemen about the locations in which they work. They paint a vivid picture of life and conditions of the time:

Again south & into Albion Square. Good 2 1/2 storied houses round it, but a very badly kept square. No gates, no flowers, only mud heaps & trenches dug by street boys who were playing in them. 40 or 50 year old trees, remnants of former care, & a dilapidated iron railing round were the only things to show it had once been cared for.

- George H. Duckworth, Walk with Inspector James Flanagan, District 13 (South Hackney and Hackney), 2nd September 1897, BOOTH/B/347.

The collection is also used by academic researchers studying the social, economic and industrial history of the period, or the research methods used to collect data, as well as geographers interested in the classification scheme used to describe the social status of particular streets.

A browse of the catalogue is as rewarding as searching for something (a street, a name, a business) so please do go and have a look and see what you can discover. Click on the + symbols to expand the hierarchy for each series and then click on the file titles to view catalogue records for each file.

The police notebooks, Stepney Union casebooks and some material relating to the Jewish community have been digitised and are available here: police notebooks, Stepney Union casebooks/Jewish material. The 12 maps descriptive of poverty have been digitised and are available to browse and search.

This will be the last blog post from me as I am leaving LSE Library today. I do hope my posts have been interesting and informative to read. Have a merry Christmas everyone!

Down on District 45: Deptford

June 8th, 2012 by Andy Jack, LSE Digital Library

BBC Two series explores social history of London using the Booth maps as a starting point

On Wednesday I watched the first part of the new BBC Two series The Secret History of Our Streets. The episode is currently available on the BBC iPlayer if you would like to watch it for yourself. The first in the six part series focused on the human story of Deptford High Street. We are told that over the course of the last 125 years the area has lost both its wealth and the tight, familial community that gave life to it. The story is one of demolitions, compulsory purchase orders, modernist concrete monoliths and a community ravaged by post-war social experimentation. It isn’t the most uplifting viewing, but the insight into an area only a handful of miles from the affluence of London’s banking district is quite fascinating.

There will be five more programmes in the series all focusing on a particular street.  Coming up next will be Camberwell Grove.

Sheet 12 of 12

Map Descriptive of London Poverty, 1898-9 Sheet 12 of 12

Charles Booth

The series starting point is the Charles Booth maps and notebooks which were produced as part of the the survey into life and labour in London (1886-1903). Beatrice Potter (later to become Beatrice Webb and founding member of the LSE) attended the first meeting of Charles Booth’s Board of Statistical Research on 17th April, 1886 and recorded the occasion in her diary:

Charles Booth’s first meeting of the Board of Statistical Research at his London office. Object of the Committee is to get a fair picture of the whole of London society – the 4,000,000 – by district and employment, the two methods to be based on census returns. At present Charles Booth is the sole worker in this gigantic undertaking. I intend to do a little bit of it while I am in London, not only to keep the Society alive, but to keep me in touch with actual facts so as to limit my study of the past to that part of it useful in the understanding of the present.”

Extract taken from Beatrice Webb’s diaries in LSE Digital Library


The study was certainly an ambitious undertaking covering 4 million people and over 10,000 streets, but for a self-confessed ‘man of investigation’ it must of been personally very satisfying.

Walk with Inspector Gummer and Sergeant Goddard, 18 July 1899

Pages from one of the Booth notebooks: 'Walk with Inspector Gummer and Sergeant Goddard, 18 July 1899'

Deptford: District 45

It was 13 years into the study that the researchers turned their attention to Deptford and what they found will likely be quite surprising to the modern reader. The Booth maps, an early example of social cartography,  used colour coding to indicate the income and social class of its inhabitants.  This ‘Poverty Classification’ applied to 19th century Deptford shows that the High Street was considered ‘Middle class. Well-to-do’ (Red). However, some of the side streets such as Hales street were classified by the Booth study at the very bottom of the scale both ‘Vicious, semi-criminal’ and ‘Very poor, casual. Chronic want’. (Black and Blue). In modern day Booth style maps the area is considered to be at the wrong end of the deprivation scale (but far from hopeless as many of the lively local bloggers will tell you).  This is quite a turnaround over the course of the last 100 years and it is exactly that which the programme is exploring.

Booth Poverty Map: a focus on Deptford High Street

Booth Poverty Map: a focus on Deptford High Street

Through the recollections of local people and retired council staff we begin to understand how this came about. The questions still remain around why, with some believing ‘they’ just had it in for Deptford. The episode suggested to me that it was the case of the State wanting to sweep away the past in a brave new post-war world. This involved embracing modernist architectural ideas of a machine-like city, ordered and efficient, and one we might consider today as quite dehumanised and robotic.

Parts of Deptford were classified as slums and in the 1960s and 1970s demolished to make way for housing estates that are still a familiar site across London today.  Apparently, by a quirk of fate, some homes were spared demolition and still remain. From an online view of two streets in the Deptford area – and mentioned in the programme – we can get an idea of what changed. For example, Albury Street appears to still have the buildings of Booth’s time whereas Reginald Road clearly hasn’t. I know which type of housing I personally prefer to both look at and live in…nowadays.

Booth at the LSE

At LSE  we hold a considerable collection of material relating to the Booth study and we also host the Charles Booth Online Archive where it is possible to view a digital version of the map and compare it with a more recent street map. It is also possible to view some of the digitised police notebooks and see for yourself what the researchers recorded on their guided tours of the community.

PhoneBooth on Mobile Devices

We are also currently undertaking an innovative project with Edina, part funded by JISC, to mobilise the Booth maps and digitised notebooks for delivery to mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones. The PhoneBooth project will enable people to retrieve nearby notebook entries for reading in the actual location to which the historic observations occurred. If your street existed 100 years ago and is on Booth’s maps then you will be able to find out whether the area was a den of iniquity or, perhaps part of a well-heeled suburb. You will also be able to read the police commentary on the inhabitants and understand in what ways, if any, your part of London has changed since the epic Booth study.

One of the prototype proofs-of-concept for the PhoneBooth project

One of the prototype proofs-of-concept for the PhoneBooth project

I’m looking forward to the next installment of the series now and particularly the conversations about the programme on the web. The first episode encouraged a lot of blogging and tweeting which is certainly adding a lot more to the BBC’s interpretation as well as exposing many more stories and memories from ex and current residents alike.

Further information

The PhoneBooth project blog contains more detailed information about the pedagogical and technological aims of the project and includes updates on progress.
PhoneBooth will be available in July/August 2012.

New Collection in the Digital Library: Street Life in London

March 27th, 2012 by Andy Jack, LSE Digital Library

The Cheap Fish Of St. Giles's

Hot on the heels of the launch of LSE Digital Library and the Webbs on the Web collection comes the first of many image collections that will become available. Thirty-six images taken from the book ‘Street Life in London’, (1876-77) by renowned photographer, John Thomson, are set alongside extracts from the original text by radical journalist, Adolphe Smith.

The photographs are fascinating, capturing a variety of characters making their way in late 19th century London as best they could under their circumstances. The hardship etched on the faces of these men, women and children, who eked out a precarious existence on the streets, draws you in, but, what makes the book even more engaging are the stories that tell us more about these people.

In the book each picture is paired with a chapter that tells a wonderful – but not always nice – story about the subject. In the Digital Library collection we have stayed faithful to this approach and used extracts from these chapters to tell the story behind each image.

Italian Street Musicians

Italian Street Musicians

We will be adding the full and complete ‘Street Life in London’ book to the Digital Library in the near future to present, preserve and enable use of it in new and exciting ways. In the meantime, you can access a PDF version directly from the Street Life in London collection page, or through the catalogue.

We have also uploaded these images to Historypin to make the collection available to users of that platform and to make use of the georeferencing and map interface that the service offers. You can find out more about Historypin on YouTube. You can also view our mapped photographs on the Digital Library itself, or on the LSE Library Historypin Channel.

This is just the beginning of our exposure of image collections through the Digital Library. We have many other collections which we are looking forward to sharing with you shortly, such as some of our Russian posters and then, in the not-too-distant future, the George Bernard Shaw prints, negatives and albums.

One final comment from me; everyone who has seen these so far seems to have their own favourite, this is what makes this collection so interesting and shareable.

I’m off to walk around London now and observe the street life of the 21st century.

Street Photography

August 30th, 2011 by Sue Donnelly, Archivist

In autumn 2003  I went over to the East End of London to the studio of Paul Trevor to appraise the photographic archive of Survival Programmes a record of inner city life during the 1970s. The project was funded by the Gulbenkian Foundation and undertaken by the Exit Photography Group comprising Paul Trevor, Chris Steele-Perkins and Nicholas Battye who travelled to cities across the UK to photograph inner city life. The cities covered included Liverpool, Belfast, Birmingham and Newcastle. At the time I got the sense that few people were interested in the collection for either its aesthetics or as a documentary record of time and place.

So it has been good to see Paul Trevor’s work popping up in a couple of street photography exhibitions over the summer. Paul is one of the photographers interviewed by the Museum of London  for the London Street Photography exhibition which includes Paul’s photographs of Brick Lane. Up in Liverpool at the Walker Art Gallery Like You’ve Never Been Away showcases some of Paul’s photographs of Liverpool taken for Survival Programmes.

Survival Programmes produced vivid if sometimes disturbing images of inner city life. To find out more the photographs can be accessed via the Archives Reading Room on the lower ground floor of the Library.  There are details on the Archives Catalogue.

Online Fabian Society tracts and minute books coming soon

July 28th, 2009 by Nick White, Assistant Archivist

“Why are the many poor?” is the very first Fabian tract and its just one of around 580 such pamphlets which will be available online soon. In addition, some of the earliest Fabian Society minute books will also be placed online.

The Fabian Society started publishing tracts in the year of its formation, 1884. The online site will include most tracts up to 1997. Many of the early tracts were written by LSE founders George Bernard Shaw and Sidney Webb. Other famous authors in the collection include:

  • Politicians Clement Attlee, Tony Benn, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Denis Healey
  • Academics G D H Cole, Harold Laski, Peter Townsend and Beatrice Webb
Fabian Tract 1: Why are the many poor?

Fabian Tract 1: Why are the many poor?

The tracts relate to a great variety of topics including:

  • cultural matters
  • economics
  • electoral reform
  • foreign policy (such as colonialism, the Cold War and relations with Europe)
  • industrial relations
  • the Labour Party
  • local government 
  • politics (such as electoral and parliamentary reform)
  • poverty
  • social reform (such as education, health and pensions)
  • socialism
  • women’s issues
Detail from Fabian Tract  251

Detail from Fabian Tract 251

Examples include:

  • “Women and the Factory Acts”, by Beatrice Webb (Fabian Tract 67, 1896)
  • “Socialism for millionaires”, by George Bernard Shaw (Fabian Tract 107, 1901)
  • “Family life on a pound a week”, by Mrs Pember Reeves (Fabian Tract 162, 1914
  • “What happened in 1931: a record”, by Sidney Webb (Fabian Tract 237, 1932)
  • “Can Labour win?”, by Anthony Crosland (Fabian Tract 324, 1960)
Fabian Tract 387

Fabian Tract 387

When launched the tracts and minute books will be available in the form of pdf files and will be available to anyone with access to the web. Further details will be provided nearer the launch.

A new lease of life

July 2nd, 2009 by Anna Towlson, Assistant Archivist

Last month saw the return from the conservators of our collection of reports from the Salvation Army Farm Colony at Hadleigh (also known as Coll Misc 0842).

We rarely get material actively repaired, concentrating instead on preserving it in a stable condition through careful storage and handling, but these reports were a special case. With some of the sheets so brittle and fragile they could not be unfolded without breaking, it was clear that more active intervention was needed.

Before treatment...

Before conservation treatment...

The reports were written for Hackney Poor Law Union to keep them updated on the progress of the men they sent to the colony, and in particular to let them know whether the training the men received at the Colony helped them to find jobs and stay out of the workhouse. Dating from 1899-1907, they not only provide an insight into attitudes towards the poor at the turn of the century, but also give us poignant glimpses of the individual lives being played out behind the official records.

The reports include the names and ages of the men sent to the Colony by Hackney Union, along with a brief statement about their work and conduct at the Colony, and a note about what they went on to do after they left the Colony. Most names appear in only one of two of the reports, with some inmates recorded as successfully getting jobs or emigrating, and others recorded as leaving of their own accord, but one name recurs in reports year-after-year: Frederick Padfield is first recorded in the 1899 report, and over the next five years worked in both the Colony’s market gardens and its brickfields. Initially reported to be ‘doing well’, officials later described him as ‘quiet, harmless, somewhat eccentric and ordinarily unequal to hold his own with the average worker’. At the beginning of 1905 he was recorded as ‘just pottering along, that’s all’, and in October he was dismissed for refusing to work, ending up later that month in the workhouse.

...and after

...and after

The conservation treatment was carried out at Graham Bignell’s paper conservation studio. Graham carried out aqueous treatment to deacidify the folios and flatten them out, then repaired each folio with spider tissue, using Japanese tissue infills for the missing areas. Time-consuming and intricate work, but the result is a new lease of life for this fascinating piece of history.


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