Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Public Health 1832-1854

During the 1840s there were two contradictory trends in matters of social policy. On the one hand there was a tendency to extend public control and, on the other, a tendency to call a halt to further change. The public health movement had to operate against the pressures produced by these opposing forces, pressures that in the end brought Chadwick down and ended a stage in the history of social policy. Public health was the fourth major area of policy, along with the poor law, factory reform and constabulary reform, with which Chadwick's name was connected. The campaign bore the characteristic stamp of Chadwick's mind:

  • It was constructively based on a broad conception of the issues involved.
  • Chadwick propounded sanitary policies that tackled all parts of the problem and left no loose ends.
  • He thought out an administrative structure at both central and local levels that should be intelligently related to basic environmental and geographical factors.
  • This comprehensiveness and broad planning won him a number of enemies. Any of such plans would antagonise some powerful interests. The whole policy was bound to offend a whole legion.
  • Nor were the plans free from Chadwick's characteristics dogmatism and they showed his usual inability to compromise or to modify his ideas.

Policy development went through several phases between the late 1830s and 1848.

Awakening public interest

Enquiries had been made by Arnott, Southwood Smith and Kay-Shuttleworth into the sanitary conditions in East London in 1839. Chadwick's own Report on the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain was produced in 1842. It was the result of two further years’ exhaustive work and it put the whole discussion of public sanitary policy onto an entirely new footing.

Chadwick's basic ideas

Chadwick's ideas dominated policy up to 1854. He believed that disease was carried by impurities in the atmosphere and that the great problem was to get rid of impurities before they could decompose. The key to resolving the whole problem was the provision of a sufficient supply of pure water driven through pipes at high pressure. This would provide both drinking water and make it easier to cleanse houses and streets. Manure could be collected when it left the town and used as fertiliser in the surrounding fields. It was the very completeness of his solution that presented many problems:

  1. Many water companies were in existence but they normally provided water only on certain days a week and at certain times. They did not provide it in either the quantity or at the pressure that Chadwick desired.
  2. Many houses in poorer districts had no water supply at all and no proper means of sewage disposal.
  3. Where sewers did exist the levels were often very badly regulated. Chadwick wished to replace the large brick-arched constructions with smaller egg-shaped types developed by John Roe.

In addition to his first two basic ideas -- the atmospheric theory of infection and the cyclical theory of water supply and drainage -- Chadwick maintained that proper central direction of sanitary planning should be combined with efficient local organisation, an idea parallel to his views on poor law and police.

Chadwick's 1842 Report

The 1842 Sanitary Report was complemented by another report of 1843 on interments in towns that exposed the terrible conditions of over-crowded graveyards of London. These reports made a deep impression on public opinion and some 30,000 copies were initially printed. They were followed by a Royal Commission on the state of towns, by a good deal of propagandist activity through the Health of Towns Association founded in December 1844, and eventually by the passage of the Public Health Act 1848. Several points stand out in the Sanitary Report:

  1. Members and officials of existing commissions of sewers were generally examined in an unsympathetic, even hostile way.
  2. There were two authoritative statements of the views of reformers, one by Southwood Smith from the scientific and medical viewpoint, the other by Thomas Hawksley from an engineering viewpoint.
  3. Complementing Hawksley's evidence, there was evidence from other professional men about the importance of properly made plans and surveys as the pre-requisite for sound planning.

By the middle of the 1840s the local state was beginning to intervene in towns and several of the larger towns obtained private Acts to dealing with nuisances. In 1847 William Duncan became the Medical Officer for Liverpool, the first appointment in Britain. By now the public health debate had polarised into those who favoured reform [The Clean Party] and those against it, 'The Dirty Party' or 'Muckabites'.  The central State did intervened in 1846 with the Nuisances Removal Act and particularly in the 1848 Public Health Act. The prime motivation behind both pieces of legislation was for combating the imminent cholera outbreak. The 1848 Act began the process of breaking down laissez-faire attitudes. It

  • Established a Central Board of Health with a five-year mandate based at Gwydir House in London with three Commissioners [Lord Morpeth, Lord Shaftesbury and Chadwick, with Southwood Smith as Medical Officer].
  • Local Boards of Health could be established if 10 percent of ratepayers petitioned the Central Board or would be set up in towns where the death rate was higher than 23 per thousand.
  • The Local Boards of Health would take over the powers of water companies and drainage commissioners. It would levy a rate and had the power to appoint a salaried Medical Officer. They also had the power to pave streets etc. but this was not compulsory.

There were several important weaknesses in the Act:

  1. The lifespan of the Central Board was limited to five years.
  2. It was permissive in character and many towns did not take advantage of the Act. The large cities by-passed the legislation by obtaining private Acts of Parliament to carry out improvements and so avoided central interference.
  3. The Act was based on preventative measures and was therefore narrow in outlook. Such measures did bring about improvements but Chadwick paid no attention to contagionist theories and so alienated the medical profession.
  4. The Act did not legislate for London, which remained an administrative nightmare.

The scale of the General Board's operations was modest. By July 1853 only 164 places, including Birmingham, had been brought under the Act. Many large towns stood aside having taken separate powers under local acts: Leeds in 1842, Manchester in 1844 and Liverpool in 1846. In Lancashire only 26 townships took advantage of the Act and by 1858 only 400,000 of the county's 2.5 million people came under Boards of Health.

The litmus test for the success or failure of the new policies took place in London. A new Metropolitan Commission of Sewers had been set up in December 1847 of which Chadwick was a leading member. From the outset there were bitter rivalries in the Commission between him and the representatives of the old sewer commissions and the parish vestries. In 1850 Chadwick produced a new scheme for the water supply and for a system of publicly controlled cemeteries. Both schemes aroused a host of opponents and both schemes were abandoned. The Treasury refused to advance money for the purchase of private cemeteries. The Metropolitan Water Supply Act 1852 left the whole provision in the hands of water companies.

By 1852 hopes for any comprehensive reform in London had been dashed and there was growing opposition to the General Board in the country as a whole. Lord Morpeth was replaced by Lord Seymour who was hostile to Chadwick. Feelings against the Board and Chadwick in particular rose orchestrated by The Times. The Central Board should have ended in 1853 but was given a year's extension [1853-4] because of a renewal of cholera. Chadwick knew that the 'Dirty Party' was intent on his destruction. He produced a report on what had been achieved but again criticised the various vested interests. Hostility in Parliament and from The Times and Punch focused on Chadwick who was seen as trying to bullying the nation into cleanliness. It was Seymour, who left office in 1852, who demanded the removal of the present Board members and successfully carried an amendment against the government's bill to reorganise the Board. Chadwick resigned and never held public office again. The Central Board was officially abolished in August 1854 but was replaced by a new Board of Health [itself abolished in 1858]. This was the end and on 12 August 1854 Chadwick ceased to be a commissioner. Though he lived until 1890 this marked the end of his active career.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Public health: Introduction

Poor housing, overcrowding and high levels of disease, often held to have been exacerbated by the massive influx of Irish migrants, were certainly perceived as problems by those with power and authority in the Victorian city and by politicians at Westminster. Despite prevailing laissez faire[1] attitudes, the development of municipal intervention in various aspects of the urban environment reveals a genuine crisis in urban living conditions with an increasing gap between public expectations and the realities of urban life.  Much as they might have wished to, neither local nor national politicians could ignore urban living conditions:

  1. The increasing amount of statistical and other information was discussed and publicised by local societies and used as propaganda by medical men and others with first-hand experience of life in the slums. Edwin Chadwick[2] was the best-known propagandist, but at the local level many influential people became increasingly aware and concerned about conditions of urban life.
  2. Such evidence was unlikely to have been enough on its own to persuade ratepayers and their elected representatives to pass legislation and spend money improving housing and sanitation for the working class. Self-interest was at the heart if political action. Concerned about events in Europe, politicians genuinely believed that poor living conditions could lead to mass disturbances and urban violence.
  3. Closer to home, the impact of cholera in 1832 and 1848 brought home, especially to the middle classes, the fact that disease could affected all classes. The poor were blamed for the disease, but it was in the interests of the middle classes to improve conditions and prevent it recurring. Intervention was also rationalised through economic self-interest since a reduction in disease and improvement in housing would bring about a more efficient workforce and therefore benefit industrialists and entrepreneurs.
  4. But there were also important constraints. The contrast between political reaction to Chadwick's contribution to the Poor Law Report in 1834 and reaction to his 1842 public health report[3] was stark. In 1834 legislation rapidly followed the Report. However, it took six years to produce the public health legislation Chadwick wanted. In 1834 Chadwick was putting into words the commonly held assumptions of a broad spectrum of society, whereas in 1842 he was radical and original. The reasons for the differing response and the delay in legislation were largely to do with the variegated issues raised by the public health question. Derek Fraser synthesised them into four types of factor: technical; financial; ideological; and, political

If things were so bad why did neither central nor local government seem to do anything about it? There are various reasons for this situation. Derek Fraser has identified several but the following points [some of which he makes] need to be examined:

Inefficient local government

Today services like sewage disposal, street lighting and paving is provided by one local authority. Before 1835 many of the growing industrial towns did not have a Royal Charter and therefore did not have a Town Council. Where councils existed they were often corrupt and inefficient; self-perpetuating rather than elected and unaccountable for the ways in which they used the local rates. In some towns power was in the hands of the parish vestry that was elected by property owners.

  • Local government reform occurred with the Municipal Corporations Act 1835. It provided for elections every three years by the ratepayers of the town councils. It also allowed rates to be levied for street lighting, fresh water-supply and sewage disposal but this took a local Act of Parliament.
  • Most towns before 1835 tried to deal with 'nuisances' like water supply and drainage. These were the Improvement Commissions. The problem was that each Commission dealt with a specific area of health not the whole package. There was consequently confusion and lack of co-ordination.
  • The chaotic nature of local government militated against effective reform.

Added to this was self-interest. Various groups in towns acted against any interference with the existing situation:

  1. Water companies and builders were in search of profit. Water companies, for example, only supplied water to those areas of a town where the householders could afford the fees.
  2. Builders exploited the demand for cheap housing and paid little attention to drainage, ventilation or water supply.
  3. Private landlords were reluctant to pay for sanitary improvements largely because of the cost and their reluctance to accept any responsibility for the cleanliness of the working classes.


Knowledge of town planning was limited and this led to jerrybuilt houses. There is also the suggestion that middle class families were ignorant of the real conditions in which the working classes lived. Middle class houses were built on the edge of towns and were worlds apart from the inner-city slums.


Whose responsibility was public health? The laissez-faire attitudes of the period meant that central government did not see it as their responsibility and so did nothing.

Whatever the reasons, the second half of the nineteenth century saw unprecedented activity in the passing of both bylaws and national legislation affecting urban living conditions. Local legislation was in practice more important than that passed by the national Parliament: national acts often included what had previously occurred at a local level.


Principal public health and housing legislation in Britain 1848-1914

1848 Public Health Act [England and Wales]

1851 Lodging Houses Act [England and Wales] -- Shaftesbury Act

1855 Dwelling Houses Act

1858 Public Health Amendment Act

1866 Sanitary Act

1866 Labouring Classes' Dwelling Act [England and Wales]

1868 Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act [Torrens Act]

1872 Public Health Act [England and Wales]

1874 Working Men's Dwellings Act [England and Wales]

1875 Public Health Act [England and Wales]

1875 Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvements Act [Cross Act]

1879/80 Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Improvements Act

1882 Artisans' Dwellings Act

1885 Housing of the Working Classes Act

1890 Housing of the Working Classes Act

1890 Public Health Act

Although the Public Health Act 1848 did not effect any major changes in urban areas, it was the culmination of a concerted public health campaign in England and Wales, marking acceptance of the fact that public health was an issue of national importance. Not until the Sanitary Act 1866 were local Authorities obliged to provide a proper water supply, drainage and sewerage system, and even this Act lacked teeth to enforce its powers. Many towns acted independently: Manchester, for instance, took control of the city's water supply in 1851. But powers to force Local Authorities to act to improve water supply and sanitation did not become effective until the 1875 and especially 1890 Public Health Acts.

[1] Laissez-faire comes from the French and roughly translates as ‘let it be’ or ‘leave it alone’. There was an important contemporary debate on what the proper role of the state, locally and nationally, should be. One school argued that there should be a ‘minimal state’ in which the state should intervene in the lives of individuals as little as possible.

[2] R.A. Lewis Edwin Chadwick and the Public Health Movement 1832-1854, Longman, 1952 is an essential work on Chadwick and should be read in conjunction with S.E. Finer The Life and Times of  Sir Edwin Chadwick, Methuen,  1952.  These  should  now  be supplemented  with A. Brundage England's "Prussian  Minister". Edwin Chadwick and  the Politics  of  Government Growth 1832-1854, Pennsylvania  University Press, l988.

[3] Edwin Chadwick Report  on  the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population, 1842, new  edition, M.W. Flinn (ed.), 1965.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Urban growth: Disease in the Victorian city

It was unhealthy to live in Victorian cities, though chances of illness and premature death varied considerably depending on who you were, where you lived, how much you earned and how well you were fed. Social class mattered. Not all towns had equally high mortality rates and death rates in the countryside could match those in middle class suburban areas of cities[1].

Contemporary opinion was most concerned about infectious diseases even those more people died from 'other causes' than from all infectious diseases combined. Such diseases as typhus and influenza were both endemic and epidemic: they killed large numbers of both rural and urban dwellers but affected the young and malnourished of the urban slums. Smallpox became less important, in part because of the vaccination developed by Edward Jenner in the 1790s. Typhus fever was endemic in London and epidemics occurred in all towns in 1817-19, 1826-27 and 1831-2. Influenza epidemics occurred in 1803 and 1831. As towns grew, polluted water became an increasingly pressing problem and was the cause of many diseases from infantile diarrhoea and typhoid fever and especially cholera.

  1. Infectious diseases were spatially concentrated: deaths from tuberculosis, typhus and cholera focused mainly on inner-city slum districts.
  2. The main nineteenth century killer of adults was tuberculosis. Few families were not touched by the effects of TB and even in 1900 it was responsible for around 10 per cent of all deaths nationally, despite a significant decline from 1850. Spread by a bacillus through droplet infection from coughs or saliva, tuberculosis is not highly contagious but its spread is encouraged by a combination of poverty, malnutrition and overcrowded living conditions. Though not immune, the middle classes were better able to withstand tuberculosis than the poor, malnourished working class.
  3. Typhus and typhoid fever were not separately diagnosed until 1869. They have completely different methods of transmission. Typhus, spread by body lice mainly to adults, is encouraged by poor living conditions. Endemic in the nineteenth century, it became epidemic during economic depressions and poverty crises and was strongly associated with poor residential areas. In contrast, typhoid fever was spread by a bacillus contained in sewage-contaminated water, milk or food and is directly related to poor sanitation and hygiene. It could be spread through the water supply to all parts of a town, but inner-city areas were most likely to be hit hardest.
  4. Contaminated water and food also spread cholera, but unlike typhoid it occurred only in specific epidemics introduced from Europe in 1831-2, 1848-9, 1853-4 and 1866 and was not otherwise present in Britain. Epidemic mortality could be high in affected areas but in general it was much less important than other infectious diseases. However, cholera did attract considerable public attention both because of its high mortality rate and the fact that it struck all classes, though as with typhoid fever it was the poor who suffered most.
  5. Children were particularly vulnerable to most infectious diseases, but especially from the effects of diarrhoea and dysentery, diphtheria, whooping cough, scarlet fever and measles. Infant mortality remained high and by the end of the nineteenth century still accounted for a quarter of all mortality.

What was the impact of such high rates of infectious disease? Death was only one, and not necessarily the most important, of the many effects of disease. For a poor family struggling to pay rent and buy food, illness [whether fatal or not] imposed additional strains: medical bills to pay; medicines to buy; extra heating costs; and the problem of childcare if the mother was taken ill. If the primary wage earner was off work the crisis would be more acute as not only did outgoings rise but incomes also fell. Short-term crises were met by pawning clothes, borrowing from kin and raising short-term loans. Prolonged illness increased costs and reduced income to such an extent that it could cause or increased malnutrition for the whole family, leading to further illness or to eviction for non-payment of rent. Families might then have to move to inferior accommodation or to be separated from one another in the workhouse. There is little doubt that the high level and concentration of infectious disease was a significant extra burden for working class families in the Victorian city.

In certain respects the health of the urban population began to improve as a result of a number of changes occurring after 1890.

  • The Public Health Act 1890, though it did not introduce many new principles, was more effective than previous legislation in ensuring that towns took responsibility for the basic provision of pure water supply and proper sanitary conditions.  The Housing Act 1890 placed emphasis on slum clearance, a programme that was only really beginning to have an effect by 1914.
  • The development of town planning began to stress environmental considerations that influenced the layout of some suburban developments and created a healthier environment. This only had an effect if individuals were able to move from the inner-city areas to the new garden suburbs.
  • Advances in medical knowledge and technology began to make real inroads into diseases that had been barely understood in 1830.
  • The development of a state welfare policy towards health created a buffer that prevented some of the worst impacts of disease in family life. The impact of the embryonic welfare state was patchy before 1914. In 1911 Lloyd George introduced the first national medical insurance scheme that was intended, in part, to replace schemes previously run by individual friendly societies.
  • General increases in standards of living and especially improvements in diet and nutrition throughout most of the population led to greater resistance to disease and lower mortality.

There had been some improvement in the quality of life for those living in urban communities between 1830 and 1914. However, the major determinant of health was still social class: the working class as a whole were less healthy than the middle class.

[1] On health see G.M. Howe Man, environment and disease in Britain, Penguin, 1976 and R. Woods and J. Woodward (eds.) Urban disease and mortality in nineteenth-century England, Batsford, 1984. F.B. Smith The People's Health 1830-1910, Croom Helm, 1979 is a valuable study of social problems and the limited resources of nineteenth century medicine.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Urban growth: Governing towns

History, as A.J.P. Taylor reminded us, gets 'thicker' as it approaches modern times[1]:'There are more people, more events, and more is written about them.'  Social history gets particularly ‘thick’ because more attention is paid to the lives of ordinary people, more of them were literate and more join the debate. There is a flood of evidence for urban conditions in this period -- reports, Blue Books, surveys, memoranda, diaries, books[2]. So what were urban conditions like in the 1830s? In what ways did those conditions change in the next eighty years and why?

Urban planning and administration

By the 1830s the administrative and electoral map of Britain was at odds with demographic and economic facts. The antiquated legal structure of local government created three major sets of problems for urban government:

  1. Urban status was often unrelated to contemporary size and function. Major cities, such as Manchester and the east Lancashire cotton towns and the Black Country industrial centres, were without formal status. Manchester and Birmingham, for example, were unincorporated[3] in the eighteenth century and, in theory, controlled by the county. Although they gained control over their own affairs through local Improvement Acts the system did not lend itself to effective local government. Unincorporated industrial towns had no direct representation in Parliament and found it difficult to petition for change. In contrast many decayed towns had parliamentary representation, for example the rotten borough of Old Sarum, or had a handful of inhabitants in the 'pocket' of aristocratic landowners retained borough status. London's metropolitan area of some eight-mile radius from St Paul’s had a population of 1.75 million in 1831 but lacked a coherent overall administrative structure.
  2. Even where urban administrations were in place in large towns, as in Incorporated Boroughs as at Liverpool, Bristol, Newcastle and Kingston upon Hull, their urban built-up areas were often tightly restricted in terms of continuing expansion. Incorporated towns also varied greatly in the way in which local government was organised. 'Closed' corporations like Leeds, Liverpool, Coventry, Bath and Leicester were often run by a small oligarchy appointed for life.
  3. This led to the third problem. What effective control was there of a range of issues -- physical, environmental, health, economic and social -- that often affected areas outside existing corporation boundaries? Thus, although London's parish vestries sought to provide better sanitation and health their efforts lacked integration. Despite the work of Improvement Commissioners in larger English cities, there were severe limitations to the range of their activities.

Under these circumstances it is not surprising that local government was slow to respond to the increasingly serious problems of urban life until after 1835.

Between the 1830s and 1890s urban and local government was restructured twice and there was significant legislation by the state on specific urban problems, together with a restructuring of the franchise and of parliamentary and civic representation.

  1. Parliamentary franchise was widened in 1832, 1867 and 1884-5. This created a more equal relationship between parliamentary representation and property ownership and population size and increased the urban voice in national affairs. The 1832 Reform Act, in very broad terms, gave the vote to urban middle class property owners. The 1867 Reform Act extended this to the urban working classes and the 1884 Reform Act did the same to the rural working classes.
  2. The Municipal Corporations Act 1835, and parallel legislation in Scotland in 1833 and 1834, laid the basis for municipal planning and control over a wide range of issues and recognised the true administrative map of urban Britain by giving full urban status to many unincorporated towns. Some, like Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield, were already very large indeed; others such as Bradford, Bolton, Huddersfield, Wolverhampton and Brighton were growing rapidly. They also allowed the incorporation of adjacent townships over which urban development had spread, as reflected in the considerable boundary extensions of Liverpool and Leeds and of Glasgow in the 1830s.
  3. The 1835 Act did not solve the problem of integrated urban government. Intervention through bye-laws in key issues -- health and sanitation, housing, public amenities, poverty -- was either piecemeal or, as in the case of the Poor Law and the provision of compulsory state education [made over to local government in 1919 and 1902 respectively] was reserved for central government. When new administrative divisions were established they were often out of tune with the times. For example, the reformed Poor Law of 1834 created a framework of 624 Unions focused on old market towns and regional centres, a pre-industrial pattern of functional regionalism that had to be constantly adjusted to meet the changing population distribution.

By the 1860s there was a growing recognition that urban administration needed to be more coherent if it was to implement legislation on health, housing and sanitation. In 1855 the Metropolitan Management Act [following the Royal Commission of 1854] attempted to created an integrated government for London by reorganising the previously haphazard structure into a Metropolitan Board to control sewage, highways, lighting and health in London's 36 Registration Districts with an 1861 population of 2.8 million.

Elsewhere, despite the addition of 554 new urban areas between 1848 and 1868 in England and Wales, confusion remained. A Royal Commission to investigate local government was set up in 1869 and its Second Report began the transition to the Acts of 1888 and 1894 that established the late nineteenth and early twentieth century framework of local government. The Public Health Act 1872 created an administrative framework of Urban and Rural Sanitary Districts under the Local Government Board set up the previous year. The Local Government Act 1875 and the Municipal Corporations Acts 1882 defined the principles and functions of a new system of urban administration. However, the Commissioners of the Board set up under the Local Government Boundaries Act 1887 and the decisions made under the Local Government Acts of 1888 and 1894 determined its geography. These Acts recognised that the needs of large towns could best be met by integrating all the functions of local government within all-purpose administrations of 63 Counties and 61 County Boroughs. London became an Administrative County incorporating its 41 Metropolitan Board Areas. In 1894 the remaining urban areas were consolidated into Municipal Boroughs and Urban Districts each with a range of powers but subordinate to their Administrative Counties for education, police and fire and some other services.

[1] A.J.P. Taylor English History 1914-1945, OUP, 1965, page 729.

[2] On  urban  conditions and the problems of public health  see  A.S. Wohl Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain, Methuen, 1985 and  his The  eternal slum: housing and social policy  in  Victorian London, Edward Arnold, 1986. J. Walvin English Urban Life 1776-1851, Hutchinson, 1984 is an excellent, readable study on the early years of the period. D. Fraser (ed.) Municipal reform and the Industrial city, Leicester University Press, 1982 contains useful case studies. On cholera see N. Longmate King Cholera, Hamish Hamilton, 1966, R.J. Morris Cholera, 1832, Croom  Helm, 1976  and  M. Pelling Cholera, Fever and English Medicine 1825-1865, OUP,  1977.  Royston Lambert Sir John Simon 1816-1904, MacGibbon & Kee, 1963 is excellent for the end of the period.  R. Porter Disease, Medicine and Society in England 1550-1860,  Macmillan, 2nd. ed., 1993 contains some useful ideas in its final chapters. F. Mort Dangerous Sexualities: Medico-Moral Politics in England since 1830,  Routledge, 1987, 2nd ed., 1999 examines the impact of disease on perceptions of women. F.B. Smith The People's Health 1830-1910, Croom Helm, 1979 is a valuable study of social problems and the limited resources of nineteenth century medicine.

[3] There was an important distinction between incorporated and unincorporated towns. Incorporated towns or boroughs had received charters, often in the Middle Ages, which gave them certain rights. In particular they were run by elected corporations. Unincorporated towns were still run by the parish or by the old feudal leet courts.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Urban growth: Suburbanisation

In 1902, H. G. Wells in his Anticipations of the Reactions of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought wrote, ‘Already for a great number of businesses it is no longer necessary that the office should be in London, and only habit, tradition and minor consideration keep them there." By the telephone and the post office parcel service "almost all the labour of ordinary shopping can be avoided. . . . The mistress of the house has all her local tradesman, all the great London shops, the circulating library, theatre box-office, the post-office and cab-rank, the nurse inst. and the doctor within reach of her hand.’

The years 1815-50 were ones of conscious suburbanisation. Deliberately, and for the first time, new and exclusively middle-class zones were created to provide socially intact areas in stark contrast to the residential mix typical of pre-industrial towns. Architectural historians confirm that detached and semi-detached houses built for single family occupancy were the quintessential suburban type and that before 1794, when the Eyre estate (St John's Wood, London) was begun, virtually no such houses existed. Before that date attempted suburban developments, for example in Liverpool (Toxteth Park) and Birmingham (Ashted) failed and even Edgbaston proved problematical until, like Everton, sufficient numbers of the new manufacturing and mercantile bourgeoisie began to populate it in the 1820s.

The middle classes were not a homogeneous group and suburbs were consequently differentiated to reflect social gradations. In addition to the Palladian or Gothic style country villas built in their own grounds, three principal types of suburb have been identified. Firstly, village developments a few miles from the city; secondly, ribbon developments encouraged by improved road surfaces for expanded turnpike traffic; and thirdly, estates planned by speculative builders frequently between main roads.

How can this new suburbanising trend, 1815-50, be explained? The simplest argument revolves on urban size, that beyond some threshold, perhaps around 50,000 people, achieved by individual cities at varying dates, the physical unity which integrated the social, political and economic activity of the town crumbled. London conspicuously, but also Manchester, Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol were already past the 50,000 mark in 1800; Leeds, Sheffield and Newcastle soon followed. In the early nineteenth century each spawned discrete middle-class suburbs. Urban scale, therefore, reached such proportions as to impose diseconomies - additional costs and time which impeded business, social relations and communications. The city accordingly became more specialised or zoned, a process accelerated by railway development from the 1830s, with a central business district, workshop and residential areas. Suburbs, then, were partly a product of increasing urban size; in the wake of industrialisation the middle classes for the first time were sufficiently numerous to produce a coherent entity rather than being confined, as previously, to a few streets or squares.

Whether the building industry changed sufficiently in the 1820s to propel suburbanisation is doubtful. The termination of wartime conditions in 1815 assisted both a short-run decline in materials costs and eased building finance. Building land on the urban fringe remained easily available, and if the emergence of general building contractors heralded an organisational change in the industry, it had not proceeded very far by the 1820s; nor was it exclusively associated with suburbanisation.

Were transport changes influential? Passenger networks required passengers to generate adequate revenue to operate. Consequently they followed rather than preceded residential. Short-stage coaches, already well developed in London in 1800, evolved into horse-drawn omnibuses by 1830, later in other cities, with more capacity, easy boarding and lower fares. By their timing horse buses sustained but did not initiate the suburbanising process, though they did facilitate suburban colonisation adjacent to routes served by them. As with trams after 1870, the expectation was that transport services would soon follow suburban development. Railways influenced housing in central districts where access routes, stations and goods yards demolished properties and displaced residents, inflated land values and introduced physical barriers to mobility. But many companies opposed suburban passenger traffic especially if it was at cheap fares, and so in English cities, railways contributed little to suburbanisation.

How far architectural design created the suburb is debatable. Shaw's villas in St John's Wood (1790s) and Nash's Georgian terraces overlooking Regent's Park (1810s) were certainly appealing to the rustic aspirations of a population many of whom had recently migrated from rural areas. Yet with, middle-class preferences in Scotland loyal to tenement dwelling and an English middle class still often housed in terraces, rural influences on architecture were moderated by two other, arguably more powerful influences: a preference for privacy, and a trend towards individualism rather than communality. Both required more space between houses and neighbours.

Victorian values and in particular evangelical doctrine offered a vigorous stimulus to suburbanisation. Personal resurrection or rebirth underlay a view of individual salvation regarded as essential to counteract the social disorder of revolutionary France and the malaise of early-nineteenth century British cities. Such thinking underpinned the virtues of sobriety, thrift and cleanliness in relation to the home which was seen as having a strong moral purpose. Moral reform began with the basic unit of society, the family, in which the wife and mother was a decisive influence. (Simultaneously the family accorded her a lifetime role in a phase of shrinking middle-class employment options.) Based on a code which stressed domestic privacy, sexual separation, social distancing, and the cultivation of propriety, discipline and cleanliness, evangelical moral rearmament of the 1790s achieved a widespread acceptance in Anglican and Nonconformist circles by the 1830s. The cult of privacy, therefore, rejected street and house arrangements where congestion, communality, noise and public access damaged self-discipline, extinguished self-sufficiency and, crucially, diminished parental responsibility. It was not simply the physical structures which undermined decency and the family unit- there were many examples of generously proportioned and well-maintained terraced housing and tenement flats - it was the congestion with which they were associated. Values, not villas, preserved the residential unity which characterised the suburb.

Privacy and domesticity coincided with the emerging doctrine of `separate spheres' since by the nature of increasing technical scale and complexity business organisation was inappropriately discharged from the home. The resulting separation of work and home isolated men from house and family, and though they retained economic dominance based on their workplace, the vacuum encouraged a female supremacy in the domestic arena. This division was recognised and strengthened from the pulpit in an effort to stabilise middle-class moral values and in the expectation that they would then permeate other classes. How far the working class were willing accomplices in these family and domestic patterns and how far they were infiltrated by middle- class values for the purposes of social control and manipulation remains uncertain. What is clear is that later nineteenth-century housing at all levels became increasingly introspective, self-contained, and with this privatisation of domestic space, acquisitions of consumer goods and personal possessions were both possible and defensible, and gardening feasible.

Another line of explanation is to regard suburbs as the logical middle-class response to the intensifying death, disease and depravity thought to be products of the uncontrolled urban environment. The filth and stench of the courts, yards and streets were offensive and hazardous to all and in the absence of early nineteenth-century administrative apparatus to control it, or engineering expertise to remove it, to flee from it made practical sense. The preference for hillside suburbs exposed to prevailing westerly winds uncontaminated by industrial and domestic pollutants was understandable in the light of statistical evidence and medical explanations which stressed air-borne contamination.

To explain suburbanisation merely as a response to public health dangers is an oversimplification. Indeed, middle-class economic power itself contributed to precisely those living conditions from which they fled by deriving a rented income from slums, by reinvesting business profits to the exclusion of environmental improvement, and crucially, by diverting housing investment to the suburbs. Suburbs were themselves the creation of capital, part of the ceaseless search for new investment outlets. Suburbs provided an integrated self-sustaining capitalist mechanism in pre - 1850 years and beyond, by generating custom for property developers, suppliers of building materials, furnishers, for transport operators, retailing and entertainment interests, and by providing opportunities for water and gas companies, not to mention new outlets for lenders and landlords, and the professional activities of solicitors, bankers, savings institutions and others associated with property transactions. This `bonanza' of new horizons for middle-class employment, profit and dividends was allied to further advantages. Suburbs gave access to the cheapest land to those with the greatest security of employment and with leisure to enjoy it. Suburbs also offered opportunities for the `manipulation of social distinctions to those most aware of their possibilities and most adept at turning them into shapes on the ground'. Finally suburbs distanced the threat of social change. An 'ecological marvel', the suburb was a spatial device which inoculated the middle class against the hazards of the city without requiring them to relinquish their political control over it.

Suburbs were part of a process by which the middle classes developed institutions to control power and influence in the face of significant changes caused by industrialisation and urbanisation. Peterloo (1819), the Merthyr Rising (1831), emergent trade unionism and other expressions of class tension could be controlled by cultural and residential unity in the suburbs, an embattled response, or by manipulation of urban institutions such as the town council and law enforcement through the instruments of legitimate political power, the ballot box, or by the management of informal networks, through professional bodies and employers' associations, or by a combination of these methods. Suburbs and the suburbans were, therefore, a consciously developed cog in the mechanism for maintaining, consolidating and defending political power and the Great Reform Bill (1832) and municipal reform (1834/5) only recognised a process already under way by 1830 and which continued thereafter.

The tension between slum and suburb can be viewed as a deliberate perpetuation of the status quo in social relations through the mechanism of low wages. Profits were reinvested with a view to deriving productivity gains and further profits, a process dependent upon low-priced labour abundantly replenished by natural increase and urban immigration. Capital accumulation and reinvestment therefore neglected environmental improvement unless it directly impaired workers' health and efficiency and landlords' rental incomes. The workforce was too poor and employers unwilling to consider substantive improvements. Viewed thus, capitalist accumulation generated two crises in the urban scene. One was the deterioration of significant portions of the capital stock, to which suburbs contributed and from which cities never recovered; the second was the creation of homogeneous inner city neighbourhoods in which working-class consciousness ultimately ran counter to capitalist interests. In these senses suburbs created inherent weaknesses in the control of cities which they were designed to perpetuate.

Urban growth: New towns

New urban developments in the nineteenth century were, in part, the result of expansive capitalism. It is natural that they should excite polemicists. Did they favour some social groups more than others? This needs to be considered against the background of the new urban growths of the late Victorian period: the resort and pleasure towns, the suburban and satellite towns and planned communities of both businessmen and utopians.

The seaside resort

John Glover-Kinde issued the song I do like to be beside the seaside in 1909. The most copied artist of mid-nineteenth century England was W.R.Frith whose most popular painting was Ramsgate Sands or Life at the Seaside painted in 1853-4. By 1911 55 per cent of English people were visiting the seaside on day excursions and 20 per cent were talking holidays requiring accommodation. The holiday industry involved about 1.25 per cent of the occupied population and 1.5 per cent of consumer expenditure. No previous society gave so many people the chance for a holiday beside the sea.  Seaside resorts were not places of production but of conspicuous expenditure where people wasted time and money: many contemporaries regarded them as parasites.

Transport permitted the expansion of coastal resorts and presented each with a problem of how to define and preserve its character. The Kent resorts -- Broadstairs, Ramsgate and Margate -- had a popularity before the railways arrived owing to cheap fares on the hoys and, after 1815, the Thames steam-packets. Steamboat services had an impact in other areas. From Liverpool after the Napoleonic wars, boats went along the Lancashire, Cheshire and North Wales coastline as well as to the Isle of Man. There were comparable stirrings in the Bristol Channel.  Some resorts owed their early expansion to Court connections. George III visited Weymouth in 1784, then almost every August and September from 1789 to 1805. Worthing and Southend were briefly favoured by royal princesses and Brighton undoubtedly owed its expansion to the patronage of the Prince Regent [later George IV 1820-30].

In the eighteenth century the seaside resort largely took second place to the spa and the appeal of the spas persisted into the nineteenth century. In 1841Dr A.B. Granville's map showed seventy spas, but the depression of the 1830s had taken its toll of their prosperity. Railway links and individual initiative brought renewed spa development after 1840. Tenbury Wells and Droitwich grew as offshoots of John Corbett's salt-extracting business; Matlock and Buxton revived after the coming of the railway in 1863 and the support of the seventh Duke of Devonshire. There was also municipal investment: Bath Corporation made extensive renovations in the late 1880s and the expansion of Harrogate owed much to vigorous corporation investment and rivalled some continental spas as an aristocratic and middle class centre.

Spas also developed as locations for fashionable sport or as general tourist centres: Harrogate utilised its proximity to the Yorkshire Dales; Cheltenham promoted general tourism in the Cotswold; Leamington exploited Shakespeare country; Llandrindod Wells brought visitors to Wales.  For recreation the spas lagged in popularity behind the inland tourist centres and inland tourist centres ran second to seaside resorts. Between 1861 and 1871 the 48 places classified as seaside resorts had grown by 21.5 per cent. Seaside towns were not the same. They catered for different classes of visitors and often combined holiday facilities with other pursuits, usually shipping and fishing. But tourism in some areas thrived and in others barely stirred. The railway reached Cornwall in 1859 but it remained comparatively unexploited until after 1914: it lost population in every decade from 1861 to 1901 and grew only 1.86 per cent between 1901 and 1911.

Only one resort in the south-west enticed visitors in any quantity. Torquay's population quadrupled between 1841 and 1901. It retained some port traffic and well as minor industry but its position as a social centre determined its expansion. Sir Lawrence Palk was active in the 1820s and 1830s in developing Torquay and the arrival of the railway in 1848 was greeted with a town holiday. It was promoted as an autumn and winter resort deliberately to offset the spasmodic conditions of the holiday trade. The late holiday season was largely a middle or upper class prerogative and to attract this clientele resorts needed to offer both creature comforts and the right tone. New middle class resorts, like Bournemouth and Eastbourne, were better able to lengthen their seasons, something working class resorts like Southend and Blackpool could not do. Exclusivity was encouraged. At Folkestone the resident Earls of Radnor were responsible for the new town that emerged on the cliffs to attract genteel society. At Skegness the prime mover was H.V.Tippet, agent of the Earl of Scarborough. Fleetwood commemorated its developer by name.

The history of pleasure resorts is more complicated than that of the middle class resorts. The outstanding new resort was Blackpool made by the customs of the textile trades: many northern textile towns had their 'wakes' [or holiday weeks] when factories closed and the towns emptied for the seaside. In some places the whole town took a rest, as in the July Glasgow Fair when excursion steamers on the Clyde and the railways to the Ayrshire coastal resorts were packed. The turning point was the late 1860s and 1870s. Bank Holidays (under an Act of 1871) gave working class trippers time for holidays, though legislation to provide a week's holiday with pay did not come until 1938. As real wages increase in the 1870s and as friendly societies and holiday clubs encouraged the habit of saving, so the prospects of textile workers spending time at the coast increased. The organisation of holidays, some with pay but most without, resulted in the development of block bookings and bargain rates. Blackpool did not discourage middle class visitors and Lytham St Anne's offered sanctuary for those affronted by Blackpool's common side. Blackpool was established as a mecca for entertainment: there were winter gardens, pleasure pavilions, aquarium, music-halls, its three piers, ballrooms and theatres [Frank Matcham created the Grand Theatre in 1894] but its 500 foot imitation Eiffel Tower [1891-4] was astonishing. Nowhere was everything gathered together, and in such proportions, as at Blackpool.

Blackpool gained a reputation as the premier, not just a plebeian, resort though Brighton vastly exceeded it in size. As an older community, Brighton contained deeper pockets of resistance to the new tourist trends. Blackpool had three times as many lodging-houses and the seaside landlady was very much a creation of Blackpool. But Brighton had three times as many hotels. Brighton resisted the influx of revelling lowborn Londoners and certain residents and hoteliers lobbied the railway companies to limit the number of cheap return tickets to London. It was, however, investment in amenities that turned the plebeian tide or at least stemmed it. Two substantial piers were built in 1866 and 1896 but the principal investment was in baroque hotels in the late nineteenth century to seduce the rich and nouveaux riches from the French Riviera. Royal patronage was essential: first class ticket sales from London to Brighton doubled following the visit of Edward VII in 1909.

There was more to Brighton than grand hotels. In the 1870s observers commented that both Brighton and Hastings were 'marine suburbs of London'. Several other resorts qualified as satellites or suburbs. Southport, twenty miles north of Liverpool, is a good example. Connected by rail in 1848, its population rose from 5,000 in 1851 to 48,000 in 1901. Southport had all the trappings of a middle class holiday centre but it also represented Liverpool wealth by the sea. The second home phenomenon was evident at resorts both inland and coastal. Leeds and Bradford businessmen colonised Scarborough as well as Ilkley and Harrogate. Wealthy Lancashire businessmen settled in the Lake District as well as in Cheshire. This was part of the general movement, temporary and permanent, from big cities.

Suburban growth

This is one of the great features of the nineteenth century. It is possible to identify three phases of suburban growth in this period:

  1. In the first half of the century improved road communication, by private carriage or public coach, facilitated ribbon development. City merchants built grand villas in picturesque settings along the highways that radiated from the major cities, especially London.
  2. From the mid-nineteenth century a new wave emerged, aided by the railways, that threatened to engulf exclusive villadom with the lower- and middle-middle classes.
  3. In the late nineteenth century working-class dormitories threatened the status of suburbia again.

Many contemporaries believed the development of suburbia,, to have spoiled the cities. The suburban dream equalled selfishness, a rejection of the obligation and commitment to the city where the suburbanite earned his living. Suburbs highlighted class distinctions residentially and the core of the cities became depopulated. What prompted suburban development? The following reasons can be identified:

  • There was the demographic upsurge. Of particular importance was the expansion of the lower middle class. Clerks increased from 2.5 per cent of all occupied males in 1851 to over 7 per cent in 1911: a rise from fewer than 150,000 to over 900,00 individuals. Though the composition of the class was varied and the single category concealed a range of character, responsibility and income, the clerk was the butt of snob jokes. Clapham, once among the most affluent Georgian suburb, remained in the 1860s a citadel of stockbrokers and merchants with easy access to open countryside. By 1900 Clapham was closed in and had deteriorated socially into a clerkly capital. Around provincial cities the same process is evident. Acock's Green, a village four miles from the centre of Birmingham, became unbearable for the upper-middle classes as the expanding city engulfed it. By 1903 it had become, as the Birmingham Daily Mail commented '[abandoned to] the smaller house -- the house adapted to the means of the family man of limited income who like to live just outside the artisan belt encircling the city.'
  • There was the ability of people to extend their journey to work. The combination of rising real wages and reduced hours of work -- allowing more travelling time -- were necessary preconditions for the growth of mass suburbs.
  • The presence of a responsive building industry, ready capital and compliant landowners was essential to organise and effect the transfer.
  • There was the matter of taste. Visions of family privacy and class exclusiveness gave a special tone to these constructions.

These were positively reinforcing conditions. There were also certain negative conditions in, for example, the prejudice against apartment building that ensured that English cities expanded outwards rather than upwards. Purpose built flats for the poor only emerged after it was clear that they could not take advantage of decentralised housing. The need for cheap, central accommodation was undeniable for the poor who needed to be close to possible work. The exception was in the industrial north-east where two-storey flats were commonplace. Generally, relatively low-density housing spilling out of open towns was the norm. City centres were vacated for residential purposes, left to bankers by day and prostitutes by night.

Suburbia tended to Conservatism in politics, a counterweight to urban Liberal radicalism and socialist collectivism. Central city-suburban conflict fast replaced the town-country conflict that dominated politics in previous ages. Lord George Hamilton's election for Middlesex in 1868 is commonly noted as having inaugurated the Conservative trend in suburban south-east England. By 1900, as a party organiser commented to a leading Liberal Lord Rosebery ‘.... as the middle and artisan classes had prospered or acquired their houses they have inclined to the Conservative party because they dread the doctrine which Sidney Webb thinks would be so popular.'

The suburban movement represented the beginnings of the gradual move from a society in which most people rented accommodation to one in which many envisaged owning their homes. About 1,500 building societies existed in 1850 but by 1895 there were some 2,600 societies with 600,000 members placed in a statutory basis in 1874 and 1894. In 1914 tenancies remained the norm for 90 per cent of the population. The property-owning democracy was a product of the post-war periods.  The suburbs were much criticised by contemporaries. William Besant in 1909 said they were 'without any society; no social gatherings or institutions; as dull a life as mankind ever tolerated....' Yet their credit side was plain:

  1. Thousands gained a precious privacy in a home of their own in quiet and healthy surroundings, within reach of the countryside. This is important because the Victorians left open fields that were only this century built upon.
  2. Shopping facilities, initially poor, improved dramatically with the displacement of the stall-holder and local craftsmen by the lock-up shop in the 1850s and the emergence of shopping centres in the 1880s containing branches of national retail chains like Boots, Liptons and Freeman, Hardy and Willis.
  3. The infrastructure of suburbs was reinforced in other ways with the building of churches, schools, pubs and theatres. There was also some decentralisation of industrial and business activity, some of which catered entirely for suburban needs: building and repair trades, bakeries and breweries, laundries, gas and electricity works. But lack of space and high rents and rates in city centres were driving other businesses to suburban sites. This development was generally part of the process of evolution of suburban sites. Camberwell, for example, began as a detached village outside London, became a satellite community and was fully absorbed as a suburb. By 1900 a majority of its population of 259,000 both lived and worked in Camberwell itself.
  4. The extension in railway mileage by 50 per cent between 1870 and 1912, from 13,562 to 20,038 miles, was the consequence of rural branch or suburban services. Many railways followed rather than anticipated suburban expansion. The growth in third-class suburban travel was of major importance in London. Outside London the railways were underused by commuters: the Nottingham Suburban Railway opened in 1889 could not withstand the competition of trams and closed in 1916.

Planning urban growth

The distinctive tradition of English town planning was not extinguished by industrialisation but it was repressed. When the term 'town planning' gained currency in the early part of this century, it emerged as a result of debates in Germany and the USA[1]. The problem with town planning in Britain, today as in the late nineteenth century, was that too many planners thought in one-dimensional terms: architects concentrated on houses, engineers on roads and so on. The need was to co-ordinate people and functions, to complement social and industrial organisation and to produce plans that would permit growth and change. Much of the planned developments of the nineteenth century were largely the work of individuals or individual employers:

  1. Many of the model factories and towns were motivated by feelings of industrial paternalism such as providing adequate housing for the working classes. Railway centres like Swindon and Crewe found captive workers caged in regulation housing.
  2. The enlightened employer had humanitarian, philanthropic and other motives to experiment. Robert Owen's New Lanark blended capitalism and paternalism. For the Oldknows, Ashworths and Gregs the motives were more ones of social control. Some model factory villages did involve ideas beyond the utilitarian or disciplinarian. The factory estates outside Bradford and Halifax planned by Titus Salt, Edward Akroyd and Francis Crossley between 1850 and 1870, were essays in urban regeneration. In Somerset the Quaker family of shoemakers, C & J Clark Ltd, built model housing for their workers in the industrial village of Street after production was mechanised in the 1850s. It was in the industrial Midlands and north that the most significant extensions of the tradition were made: Lever's Port Sunlight [1888], Cadbury's Bournville [1895] and Rowntree's New Earswick [1902].
  3. The Garden City was the ideal, the concept of Ebenezer Howard author of Tomorrow: A Peaceful Path to Real Reform [1898], reissued in 1902 as Garden Cities of To-morrow. Town and country, Howard argued, must be married in garden cities to enjoy the best of both, with low density housing, green belt and separate industrial and agricultural zones. The result was the first garden city at Letchworth.
  4. Decentralisation of housing, as in the development of suburbia and planning, reflected land values, social forces and cheaper transport. From the 1870s a growing 'civic gospel' began to create progressive municipal involvement in provision and regulation of housing and such amenities as baths, markets, libraries, art galleries and museums, parks and recreation spaces, as well as gas, electricity and, by the late nineteenth century, transport services. This larger social role was a prelude to more interventionist planning principles and policies. By 1900 most large towns were involved in such 'municipal socialism'.

The first direct state intervention in town planning per se was the Housing, Town Planning etc. Act 1909. It was limited in scope to building and land-use plans for developing peripheral areas of towns and was permissive rather than mandatory. Where enlightened municipal officials, such as Liverpool's Chief Engineer James Brodie, and a philosophy of planning [as in the University of Liverpool's Department and Lever Chair of Civil Design established in 1910] came together the result was a degree of quality of layout of suburbs and roads. But little was achieved before 1918.


Transport played an essential role in the development of bigger, functionally more specialised towns from 1830. It was only with the coming of railways and the establishment of a national rail network in the 1840s that a fully integrated urban system developed and the constraints of time and distance that kept all cities -- London apart -- tightly bounded in the early Victorian period were progressively reduced. This profound social revolution led to a period of great change in the structure of the urban system and the extent, characteristics and internal and external relations of cities. The first phase of railway construction confirmed the new regional urban hierarchy of the nineteenth century in its focus on London, the provincial capitals and industrial areas.

  1. Urbanism became more pervasive and individual towns became more populous. In 1831 some 44 per cent of the population of England and Wales and 32 per cent of Scotland's was urban dwelling. By 1891 the proportions had increased to 75 and 65 per cent respectively.
  2. Big towns grew at the expense of the small. In 1830 London was the only 'million' city but about one-sixth of Britain's population lived in large towns of over 100,000. By the 1890s nearly two-fifths did so and, in addition to London, another five city-regions had over a million people: Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and possibly Leeds. Such regional capitals were major centres of commerce and industrial services. Major ports, such as Liverpool and Glasgow, rivalled and in some activities surpassed London.
  3. There was an increase in the size and number of manufacturing towns. Many were highly specialised. The total number of towns of over 2,500 in England and Wales doubled between 1831 and 1901 from 412 to 895. Up to 1850 the fastest growing towns were in the major manufacturing areas of the industrial revolution -- the West Midlands, the Potteries, south Lancashire, west Yorkshire. By 1871 some of the new industrial towns like Cardiff and Middlesborough had almost outstripped slow-growing historic centres such as Chester, York and Exeter.
  4. Towards 1900 renewed urban concentration of economic activity led to overspill of great cities into surrounding residential and satellite towns. In parallel, some older centres were revitalised as new industries sought out skilled labour from declining crafts or as shifting values drew industries back to older towns such as Norwich, Coventry, Northampton, Leicester and Derby.
  5. The railways created new towns such as Swindon, Crewe, Ashford and Wolverton, workshops and company headquarters at strategic sites and junctions within their regional system. Rail companies also added new impetus to old-established towns such as Derby, Doncaster and Newton Abbot, while specialist suburbs or satellites focused on railway and engineering works developed at Springburn [Glasgow], Hunslet [Leeds], Gorton [Manchester] and Saltley [Birmingham].
  6. Railways also played a key role in the growth of specialist resorts and residential towns.
  7. One level in the urban hierarchy -- the small country town -- lost ground and the percentage of Britain's population in towns under 10,000 had changed little by the 1890s. Rural depopulation reduced the demand for crafts and services in markets and many county towns; cottage industries lost ground to factory production; and increased accessibility by rail to the larger towns reduced the range of shopping and services, leading to a decline of many hitherto thriving little towns.

Between 1830 and 1914 Britain became an overwhelmingly urban culture. It led to new ways of living and a range of environmental and governmental problems. It was ad hoc expansion rather than planned growth.

[1] On the development of urban planning see Helen Meller Towns, Plans and Society in Modern Britain, Cambridge University Press, 1997, an invaluable synthesis of recent research.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Urban growth: Great cities and manufacturing towns

Friedrich Engels wrote at the beginning of the chapter on 'The Great Towns' in his The Condition of the Working Class in England [1844] that[1]

'What is true of London, is true of Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, is true of all great towns. Everywhere barbarous indifference, hard egotism on one hand and nameless misery on the other, everywhere social warfare, every man's house in a state of siege, everywhere reciprocal plundering under the protection of the law....'

J.G.Kohl, a German visitor to Britain in the early 1840s, reported on the appearance of Birmingham

'Birmingham, compared with Manchester is evidently deficient in large buildings and public institutions.... London has her Thames, Liverpool her Mersey....Birmingham has nothing of the kind, nothing but a dull and endless succession of house after house, and street after street.'

By the time he reached Leeds, Birmingham's ugliness was forgotten

'The manufacturing cities of England are none of them very attractive or pleasing in appearance, but Leeds is, perhaps, the ugliest and least attractive town in all England. In Birmingham, Manchester and other such cities, among the mass of chimneys and factories, are scattered, here and there, splendid newsrooms or clubs, and interesting exchanges, banks, railway-stations or Wellington and Nelson monuments. Leeds has none of these.'

Alexis de Tocqueville noted a decade earlier that

'At Manchester a few great capitalists, thousands of poor workmen and little middle class. At Birmingham, few large industries, many small industrialists. At Manchester workmen are counted by the thousand.... At Birmingham the workers work in their own houses or in little workshops in company with the master himself.... the working people of Birmingham seem more healthy, better off, more orderly and more moral than those of Manchester [where] civilised man is turned back almost into a savage.'

Certainly, the built environments of Birmingham and Manchester were very different: there was less overcrowding in Birmingham and the quality of street cleansing and drainage was better than Manchester and other Lancashire towns.  It is tempting to arrange England's industrial cities along a continuum of social and economic structure from Manchester at one extreme -- as Engels called it 'the classic type of a modern manufacturing town' -- by way of Leeds where factories in the woollen industry were smaller than in Lancashire cotton, to Sheffield and Birmingham, the principal examples of workshop industry. This is misleading to several respects:

  1. It ignores the major seaports, many of which like Liverpool were industrial cities as well.
  2. It suggests falsely that the satellites of each of the major cities could also be ranged alone a continuum paralleling than of the regional capital.
  3. Engels' view of Manchester as the archetypal manufacturing city is misleading and other writers stressed that it was not typical

It was, however, the great cities that Victorians contemplated when they considered the urbanisation of their society. These cities and towns were multi-purpose and multi-functional and most were, to a marked degree, specialists in one or two substantial activities. Their competitive positions as great cities were geared to the fortunes of particular trades. Certainly the early expansion of towns and cities in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century led to differentiation between communities and the recognition that all towns experienced, or thought they experienced, the same problems. Certainly the major reasons for the growth of regional centres were similar to the reasons for the growth of London. However, by 1900 as the result of more government intervention, especially with regard to health and housing, increased dominance of national and metropolitan influences, the spread of chain stores and the diffusion of ideas and fashions from London, towns came to be more alike.

The forms of towns

The massive increase in urban population resulted in a substantial physical increase of the built-up areas of towns. That, in turn, triggered a fundamental restructuring of urban land usage. As with London, there was an increasing segregation within urban communities largely as a response to a series of technological transformations.

  1. Industrial technology. This has traditionally been regarded as the critical area of change. In 1800 small-scale craft industries based on workshops scattered throughout the town produced for the local market. By 1900 two changes had occurred.  First, large-scale, factory-based industry came into being demanding extensive areas of land and accessibility to water and rail transport. The urban industrial region emerged.  Secondly, workshop-based craft industries were eventually displaced. For example, the boot and shoemaker were eventually ousted by mass produced factory goods from the East Midlands; the tailor became a retailer of centrally produced off-the-peg garments.  Manufacturing was concentrated into larger and distinctive regions within the town.
  2. Retail technology. A whole series of changes took place. They were not complete until 1900. Though they were not immediate and revolutionary, the end result was a radical change in the whole system.  The weekly market was gradually replaced by, or transformed into, the permanent shopping centre. Up to 1850 the first stage was characterised by the building of a market hall. Michael Marks, for example, started in Leeds as a peddler or packman. By 1884 he had a stall in the open market that operated two days a week; from there he moved into the covered market that had been opened in 1857 on a daily basis; the next stage was to open stalls in other markets and by 1890 he had five.  The old core of the town, or part of it, that had been a mixture of land uses became more specialised into retail or professional uses.  Mass produced goods undermined old local craft production and specialist retailers of manufactured goods replaced the old combined workshop-retailing establishments. The railways enhanced this process by providing speedy transport of even perishable commodities. Part of this process was the wider occurrence of the lock-up shop to which the retailer commuted each day.  By the 1880s both multiple and department stores appeared, the former especially in the grocery trade. Thomas Lipton started a one-man grocery store in Glasgow in 1872; by 1899 he had 245 branches throughout Britain. The greater demand for professional services, itself related to urban growth, resulted in lawyers and doctors seeking central locations. But a variety of other uses also located themselves here offering services to business, auctioneers and accountants or to the public, such as lending libraries.
  3. Transport technology. There were two aspects that greatly affected the towns.  First, the impact of a developing railway system was a significant consumer of urban land.  Secondly, in 1800 movement was primarily on foot: this has been called 'the walking city'. By 1900 this had been transformed. The railway supplemented by the carriage, electric tram and omnibus were the main means of transport.

Civic Pride

Civic pride and civic rivalry among the industrial towns of the north were almost entirely materialistic and had few aesthetic issues. The motives that inspired both were in part those of business. Sanitary reform made business sense as much as moral sense. Healthier workers would improve output and individuals and public authorities would be spared unproductive spending on hospitals and funeral charges. Certainly a social conscience inspired civic improvements but it is an error to neglect business needs. For the Victorians humanitarian and business aims were complementary not contradictory.

In 1830 the prevailing style of Georgian urban design was theatrical, the prevailing aim one of spectacle. Cities and towns had been rebuilt and refashioned with elegant assembly rooms, town halls, residential squares, parades and public gardens, settings for the rituals that helped shaped a variety of interests -- landed, commercial, financial, professional -- into the cultural consensus of 'polite society'.

  1. Classical styling established a common, nation-wide code for polite townscape as did other improvements to the fabric such as paving, lighting, street cleaning and the provision of piped water and sewage disposal. Noxious or dangerous trades were expelled to the districts of the poor. Other areas for the poor, notably town commons were liable to be enclosed for the building of genteel properties.  The building of a genteel townscape articulated a growing segregation between polite and impolite culture. But this division was never complete. The urban crowd, riotous and unpredictable, was always a threat.
  2. Aristocratic motives for restructuring towns and styles were in part patrician, an expression of an aristocratic conception of society, but they were also financial. Leading aristocrats in London, like the Dukes of Bedford, Portland and Southampton, vied with each other to develop their estates. Long-term leases realised long-term financial returns: urban land was cropped as effectively as arable soil.
  3. The lives and living conditions of the poor were mostly kept off-stage. But after 1830 spectacle was replaced by surveillance. This reflected the attitudes of social reformers who frowned on spectacular public display.  London and city life generally became an object of concern. The conditions of the poor could no longer be ignored -- they ceased to have walk-on roles and became central to the condition of towns. Contemporaries developed the idea of the ‘dangerous classes’ especially as the working classes tended to be concentrated in particular areas of urban communities.
  4. The spectre of contagious diseases like cholera rampaging through towns and cities and with it a variety of social pathologies prompted the Victorian reformers into a more vigorous strategy for social and environmental control. Metropolitan improvements ceased to mean schemes to beautify London but came to be limited to ones that deal with specific evils such as traffic congestion, insanitary buildings, and inefficient sewage disposal in which aesthetic considerations were secondary.  There were a number of schemes, both privately and publicly funded, to improve the physical fabric of poorer urban districts and, by extension, their moral and social condition. Building wide streets, model housing estates and public parks was informed by the belief that slums nourished, if not caused, a variety of pathologies, not just physical disease but crime, laziness, irreligion and insurrection. At their core therefore schemes like this were concerned with principles of social discipline.

As towns and cities expanded so early Victorian reformers voiced their concern about the loss of open space for public recreation. The crisis was not actually as great as reformers believed; open country was only a short walk away in most cities. The issue was the use to which open space was put. Middle class reformers promoted 'rational recreation', constructive kinds of leisure as opposed to the dog racing, prize fighting and political rallies that occurred round the northern industrial towns. This too was a form of social control. The first purpose-built public park was the Arboretum in Derby opened in 1839 and the first municipal park was the more extensive Birkenhead Park opened four years later [soon known as 'the people's park']. From the 1850s new public parks and walks were built in most industrial towns and cities, often on the edges, sometimes by enclosing common land. Some were initially financed by large employers and then handed over to municipal corporations; others were municipal ventures from the outset. New cemeteries on the edge of cities were designed for rational recreation: Undercliffe Cemetery, high above Bradford, was run as a profit-making concern by local businessmen for families who walked beside extravagant tombs of the city's leading industrial families.

From the reform of municipal corporations in 1835 environmental improvement was entwined with middle class radicalism and attacks on what one Plymouth writer called 'a shabby mongrel aristocracy'. Between the mid 1830s and 1850s there were bitter disputes between the 'Economists' who associated improvement with sewerage, drainage and water supplies and 'Improvers' who took a broader view of civil improvement and who sought to build a new civil townscape of broad open spaces and magnificent public buildings. With the revival of urban fortunes it was improvement on the grand scale that captured the corporate imagination. The experience of Birmingham, especially under Joseph Chamberlain[2] in the 1870s, was not unique.

[1] F. Engels The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1844, various editions including W.O. Henderson and W.H. Chaloner, Blackwell, 1958, E.J. Hobsbawm in 1964 and Penguin, 1987. Two short studies of Engels, one by T. Carver, OUP, 1981 and a second by D. McLellan, Fontana, 1977, will be found useful.

[2] On Chamberlain in Birmingham the most recent study is Peter Marsh Joseph Chamberlain. Entrepreneur in Politics, Yale University Press, 1994.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Urban growth: London

Notions of the 'country' and the 'town' have always roused strong feelings and evoked powerful images. They have also created fundamental opposites. The 'country' was seen either the idea of a natural way of life, of peace, innocence and simple virtue or as a place of ignorance, backwardness and obstruction. Round the 'town' clustered either the idea of it as a centre of achievement, of learning and communication or as a place of worldliness, noise, ambition and corruption. Like all stereotypes these polarities contain some truth[1].  The town and city were the characteristic feature of British society in this period. By 1851 Britain was overwhelmingly an urban society and that trend was continued through to 1914. The nineteenth century saw the transformation of British society from one where one in four people lived in towns or cities to one in which over two thirds of people lived in built-up areas. This urbanisation was not without its cost in human misery and deprivation, in appalling housing and polluted conditions and in 'sweated' workshops. But towns were also places of elegance, of conspicuous spending and wealth, resplendent with their civil buildings and parks and their sense of 'civic pride‘ and were seen by many as places of ‘progress’. . Towns and cities were places of intense contrasts. This was not new. Towns and cities had always been places of contrast. Many of the problems such as housing and sanitation existed in the medieval and early modern town. What was new, however, was the scale and expansion of towns and cities. This exacerbated the problems or made them worse.

The economic changes that originated in the eighteenth century led to the rapid expansion of urban centres. Towns, especially those in the forefront of manufacturing innovation, attracted rural labour, which hoped for better wages and a sense of freedom. The notion that 'town air is free air' was nothing new -- it has its origins in medieval Germany. But labourers saw towns as places free from the paternalism and dependency of the rural environment and flocked there in their thousands. For some migration brought wealth and security. For the majority life in towns was little different, and in environmental terms probably worse, from life in the country. They had exchanged rural slums for urban ones and exploitation by the landowner for exploitation by the factory master. Poverty was universal [whether rural or urban] and few could escape from it[2].

Between one-sixth and one-fifth of the total population of England lived in London. Its functions were plural

  1. It was the largest city in the world containing the country's biggest concentration of industry chiefly clothing, footwear and furniture. According to the 1851 census 86 per cent of London's employers employed fewer than ten men though some large establishments could be found like the Woolwich Arsenal employing 12,000 people in 1900 and the main railway works of the Great Eastern Railway at Stratford employing around 7,000 in 1910.
  2. The port of London was the country's largest and, as the epicentre of railways and roads, London was undoubtedly the chief emporium of Britain and its empire.
  3. London was the functional and ceremonial seat of politics and diplomacy, the first place of finance and the professions, the most important stage for the world of art, literature and entertainment.

It was the centre and magnet for all things from luxurious living and High Society.

Defining London

Defining London is not easy for the historian. To the Metropolitan Board of Works and the London County Council, established in 1855 and 1888-9 respectively, it was an administrative province. To the City Corporation it was the jealously guarded enclave of about one square mile and almost immeasurable wealth. To the Registrar-General in charge of censuses London was an over-spilling, almost indeterminate, urban area. Some statistical definition was given to the concept of Greater London in 1875 when it was made to correspond to the Metropolitan Police District with a radius of fifteen miles from Charing Cross. Overall from 1861 to 1911 the population of the administrative county grew by 61 per cent, the Greater London conurbation 125 per cent, England as a whole 80 per cent.

Causes of expansion

The newspaper editor R.D. Blumenfeld wrote in his diary on 15 October 1900 'Everybody wants to come to London; and little wonder, since the rural districts are all more or less dead, with no prospect of revival.'  One of the major causes of the expansion of London was migration. It had the following characteristics:

  • More women than men were migrants. Domestic service and the prospect of marriage were prevailing forced. In addition women's opportunities of fieldwork were reduced in the late nineteenth century and a more scientific milk trade was eliminating the ordinary milkmaid. The number of women returned in censuses as agricultural workers fell from 229,000 in 1851 to 67,000 by 1901.
  • The majority of in-migrants were aged between 15 and 30, a situation that made the over-supply of unskilled, casual labour in the capital worse. The Royal Commission on the Poor Laws [1905-9] showed than in London people aged over 60 made up 67 per 1,000 population compared to 102 per 1,000 in mainly rural areas.
  • The greater the city the wider the magnetic field of its attraction. In the case of London, this extended overseas. East European pogroms[3] brought 100 - 150,000 Jewish settlers to England between 1881 and 1914[4]. Leeds, Manchester and, to a lesser extent, Liverpool were destinations but the heaviest concentration was in East London. Whitechapel's population in 1901 was 31.8 per cent alien. The proportion of foreign-born in the total population of London rose from 1.57 per cent in 1881 to 2.98 per cent in 1901. The number of Irish-born immigrants, especially in the old East End, was highest before 1860 but fell in the late nineteenth century.

Most migrants from the English countryside reached London from a short distance and the proportion of migrants was proportional to the distance of their homes from the capital. Railways certainly increased the volume of migration but did not substantially alter its character. Most people moved short distance in a series of stages.

The proportion of migrants in London's population was falling in the nineteenth century. In the period 1851-91, 84 per cent of London's increase in population came from the surplus of births, only 16 per cent from net immigration. This feature radically distinguished London from major European cities. Two causes were outstanding.  First, the superior sanitary provision of England that resulted in a falling death rate. Secondly, the outflow of population to suburbs. This was particularly obvious in London. The square mile of the City had a resident population that peaked around 1850 at 130,000 but had dropped to 27,000 by 1901: this should be contrasted with the increase in its daytime or working population that rose from 170,000 in 1865 to 437,000 by 1921. The decline of the working class population of the City resulted in them being jammed into the adjacent East End. Suburban railways and the underground, as well as enhanced omnibus services, meant that the middle class could move to the outer ring of Greater London [East and West Ham, Leyton, Tottenham, Hornsey, Willesden, Walthamstow and Croydon].

Housing: a problem of government

What in an average English town was the work of one or two sanitary and housing departments was in London split between many bodies. The options available to the LCC and before 1889 the Metropolitan Board of Works were unattractive and freedom of manoeuvre small. Each of the 28 Metropolitan Borough Councils [and before them, the vestries[5]] had concurrent powers with the LCC. Each was also a sanitary authority and it was their duty to overcome overcrowding and its associated problems. There was considerable difficulty in co-ordinating local government.  The LCC could build but it was the responsibility of other local authorities to provide tenants with other services. Even when the LCC did build council properties the tenants were not generally displaced slum dwellers.  The high price of land in London restrained the whole of the LCC's activity as it had to pay on average 35 per cent higher prices per acre than provincial local authorities.

Slum clearance without providing cheap alternative accommodation made the housing situation worse. Low cost travel from homes built on cheaper suburban land was a possible solution. There was, however, a substantial time lag before needs and abilities with respect of transport, work, wages and rents approached anything like a match. For this period most of the London’s inner-city poor were cramped in overcrowded, high-rent housing in order to remain in walking distance of work. As C.F.G. Masterman wrote in From the Abyss in 1903 'Place a disused sentry-box upon any piece of ground in South or East London and in a few hours it will be occupied by a man and his wife and family, inundated by applications from would-be lodgers.'

There was some improvement in overcrowding but in 1911 27.6 per cent of people in the inner London area were living more than two per room. This situation was not helped by the higher rents of ordinary working class homes: in 1908 they were 70 per cent higher than in Birmingham. The pressure was greatest in the East End. The housing problems of London serve to illustrate several points of general importance with regard to urban development in this period:

  • London was a living laboratory for experiment in the housing question, for individual and company philanthropy, for private enterprise and for collective public action.
  • From 1883 the exposures of Andrew Mearns The Bitter Cry of Outcast London and George Sims How the Poor Live stimulated a debate that led directly to the Royal Commission on the Housing of the Working Classes [1884-5].
  • It also gave stimulus to investigative social work in the Settlement Movement or Charles Booth's Life and Labour of the People in London.
  • Unregulated individualism was put on trial and, as rents rose and accommodation shortages spiralled out of control, the conclusion was forced from this experience that national government could not permanently stand aside since at the heart of the problem was an uneven distribution of wealth and resources. Graduated direct taxation and state subsidies to local council housing were the courses that were eventually adopted.

There was, and arguably still is, in the words of Joseph Chamberlain one-time mayor of Birmingham, an 'incurable timidity with which Parliament .... is accustomed to deal with the sacred rights of property.'

'The arithmetic of woe'

There were so many Londons. Contemporaries noted the difference of East and West End, and the character of north and south of the river and the enclaves of Westminster and the City. It was, however, the East End that dominated contemporary comment. Writers like Walter Besant[6] and George Gissing[7] focused attention on the enormity of the problems of the East End.

The East End consisted of the parishes east of Bishopsgate Street, stretching north of the Thames to the River Lea. By 1900, however, new industrial developments, the opening of the Royal Albert Dock and the Great Eastern Railway's provision of workmen's train services meant that East London also now comprised the working class dormitories east of the Lea and south of Epping Forest. By 1900 this swollen East London contained nearly two millions people.  It was virtually a one-class community with few amenities.

However, the work of East London displayed extraordinary variety but was mostly carried out in small workshops rather than large factories. Each parish had its own flavour -- some metal work but mainly cheap clothing, cigar and food preparation dominated Whitechapel; furniture, silk and toys predominated in Bethnal Green and Shoreditch; boots and shoes in Mile End; weaving in Spitalfields. The East End spanned the working class spectrum from the sweated trades, the casual and under-employed workers who predominated in the western part and along the waterfront, to the regularly employed and quietly respectable artisans in the Poplar, Bow and Bromley districts.  East London contained many technical inventions but also a darker side with sub-contracting, sweating, irregularity of demand and low wages. Craftsmanship survived but rarely in completeness: watch makers made only one bit of a watch.

Charles Booth's study of East London in the late 1890s is an important, and broadly accurate source for the social composition of East London. It is also a valuable corrective to the gloom of contemporary novelists like Gissing. He divided society into eight classes from A to H: A to F spanned the lower classes and classes G and H were the lower middle and upper middle classes. Booth found that the higher artisan [class F] made up about 13.5 per cent of the population. B to D made up 30 per cent, those with small regular earnings and intermittent earnings. Class E was varied but brought together most artisans and regular wage-earners and was the largest category at 42 per cent; the lowest class A was about 1.25 per cent of the population comprising 'some occasional labourers, street-sellers, loafers, criminals and semi-criminals'. This study is important in several respects.  It rendered insupportable generalisations about a tidal wave of wretchedness and viciousness gaining on society and about to engulf it.  Booth rejected the view that misery was all pervasive and irremediable.  Booth did, however, indicate that the state of East London had been worse in the past than in the 1890s. Certainly by 1860 there was a crisis in London's inner industrial areas as civic improvements elsewhere in the metropolis shunted thousands into adjacent working class parishes and resulted in a cruel spiral of rising rents and increased overcrowding[8]. Workers found themselves under increasing pressure because

  1. There was insufficient cheap, plentiful or well-times transport to, from and within the suburbs resulting in many working people being trapped in East London.
  2. The casual labour of the old East End was trapped within an economy of declining trades. Conditions of employment deteriorated. By the early 1870's London's shipbuilding had slumped beyond the point of recovery and by the 1880's most heaving engineering, iron founding and metal work had gone the same way. Competition from provincial furniture, clothing and footwear factories could only be met by reducing labour costs and led to the increasing importance of sweated trades.
  3. London's industries found themselves increasingly under pressure and this had two consequences. First, the disadvantages of the least skilled were cruelly exposed. Secondly, the 'respectable' working class found themselves pushed down into competing for the same work and accommodation as the casuals: this marked a dilution of labour status.

A sense of impersonality

The conventional middle class perception of East London was of a foggy, malarial urban landscape, a place where revolutionary tempers might grow to overthrow society. London was an image of their fear of the streets, aversion from crowds, anxiety about impersonality. London was a place of anonymity. Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, wrote in 1864:

'He looked out of the bedroom windows of the little inn in which he was staying at the surging crowd which passed and re-passed beneath him; and he could have screamed for someone who knew him or knew somebody who knew.... This feeling of isolation in the midst of a vast crowd was absolutely painful.'

The rapidity of growth startled the middle and upper classes. London was too extensive to be grasped, too impersonal to be understood. Many reacted to London as the poet Rudyard Kipling did to Chicago: 'Having seen it, I urgently desire never to see it again.'

A conclusion?

The influence of London, throughout the southeast and further, was increasingly immeasurable. The capital city had grown and spread to the point of virtual amorphousness, unorganised and unorganisable. The persistent feature of London in this period was the warning it gave about cities generally -- their overwhelming power to defeat those who tried to control their overall movement and development.

[1] The  issue of town and country is discussed in R. Williams The  Country and  the  City,  Chatto, 1973  and some of its implications  for  an industrialising society in M. Weiner English Culture and the Decline of the Industrial Spirit 1850-1950, CUP, 1982.  E. Jones Towns & Cities, OUP, 1966 provides a useful discussion of the nature of urban life and expansion. The agenda  for urban historians was set in 1968 in H.J. Dyos (ed.)  The Study  of Urban  History,  Edward Arnold and the extent  to  which developments  have occurred in D. Fraser and A.J. Sutcliffe (eds.) The  Pursuit of Urban History, Edward Arnold, 1983.

[2] The  development  of town and city can be approached through  A. Briggs Victorian Cities, Penguin, 1968, R. Dennis Industrial Cities of the Nineteenth  Century, CUP, 1984 and H.J. Dyos and M. Wolff (eds.) The Victorian City: Images and Realities, Routledge, 1973. P.J. Waller Town, City and Nation 1850-1914, OUP, 1983 is the most recent and most use-friendly study.  There are several useful studies of  specific  cities: D.J.Olson The Growth  of Victorian London, Batsford, 1976, D. Fraser (ed.) and R.J. Morris on Leeds, A. Briggs and E. Hopkins on Birmingham, M. Daunton on Cardiff. Two recent studies of importance are: J.G.Williamson Coping with City Growth during the British Industrial Revolution, Cambridge University Press, 1990 that adopt a statistical approach to the issues of urban growth; T. Koditschek Class Formation and Urban Industrial Society: Bradford 1750-1850, Cambridge University Press, 1990, that considers in depth the social and economic development of a 'boom' town. R.J. Morris and R. Rodger (eds.) The Victorian City: A Reader in British Urban History 1820-1914, Longman, 1994 collects together important papers and has an excellent introduction that puts urban growth in its context.

[3] Pogrom is a Russian word used for attacks on Jewish communities. These generally took place at times of crisis when the Jews were blamed, made the scapegoats for problems with which they generally had nothing to do.

[4] On Jewish migration in the second half of the nineteenth century and the role of Jewish labour in London see David Feldman Englishmen and Jews. Social Relations and Political Culture 1840-1914, Yale University Press, 1994.

[5] The vestry had its origins in medieval England having been established as early as the fourteenth century to manage church affairs. However, in the early modern period it became a general administrative body. In large industrialising parishes or in places where the leading inhabitants formed a cabal, executive committees, known as 'select vestries', were set up excluding most of the population. Inevitably the vestry began to involve itself in every aspect of local administration because it had the right to set parish rates to finance the work of its officials. Its influence only declined after 1834 when it lost its responsibilities for the poor law to the Poor Law Unions with their Boards of Guardians. In 1894 the parish councils finally replaced it.

[6] Besant wrote two books on London: East London [1901] and South London [1899]. In both he was highly critical and was capable of dismissing as of no account the greater part of London that was not the City or West End. Lumpenproletariat East London and artisan and petty-bourgeois South London were each to him a travesty of urban civilisation.

[7] George Gissing was the most gifted novelist to employ late-nineteenth century London as a backcloth to his fiction. Whether writing of working class Clerkenwell and Hoxton, as in The Nether World [1889] and Demos [1886], or artisan and petty-bourgeois Camberwell, in In the Year of the Jubilee [1894], the picture of the streets was drab, of squalor. Gissing's London was the London of defeat, a nightmare region 'beyond the outmost limits of dread', 'a city of the damned'. His urban world was barren, barbaric and beyond redemption.

[8] On conditions in London in the 1860s the standard work is Gareth Steadman Jones Outcast London, 1971 where the 'arithmetic of woe' can be seen graphically illustrated. See also the contemporary prints by the French artist Gustave Doré.