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   Back to London declines as a whaling port

Dilapidated housing at Snowfields in Bermondsey.

Dilapidated housing at Snowfields in Bermondsey.
Dilapidated housing at Snowfields in Bermondsey.
© National Maritime Museum, London
Repro ID: H2401
Description: London's slums emerged with the industrialization of Britain and the rise of migration from rural regions. In 1865 Dr Julian Hunter, who had been commissioned to investigate English housing conditions, found that the capital had the worst slums in the country. 'There are about 20 large colonies in London, of about 10,000 persons each, whose miserable condition exceeds almost anything...seen elsewhere'. Forty years later, an official enquiry found that over 22 per cent of Londoners lived in one or two rooms, compared with under 5 per cent in Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield. The problem became acute and the government had to take urgent measures to address the public health hazards posed by slum dwellings. The Dwellings Improvement Act, introduced in 1875, aimed to remove slums and put new low-cost housing in their place. The difficulty lay in implementing slum clearance, as the onus lay with the local authorities who not only had to remove the slums but replace them with better dwellings. Nevertheless, in time, this policy was accepted and in the 1920s and 1930s, slums housing some 200,000 people were cleared to make way for more modern homes.
Creator: G. W. Young
Date: c. 1890
Credit line: Southwark Library
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