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Title: The Bitter Cry of Outcast London - An Inquiry into the Condition of the Abject Poor
Author: Preston, William Carnall, Mearns, Andrew
Language: English
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THE BITTER CRY

OF

OUTCAST LONDON.

AN INQUIRY INTO

THE CONDITION OF

THE ABJECT POOR.

LONDON:

JAMES CLARKE & CO.,
13, FLEET STREET, E.C.


* *We desire thankfully to acknowledge the assistance kindly
afforded us in the pursuit of our investigations by the Secretary and
Agents of the London City Mission, and also by the Rev. A. G. BROWN of
the East London Tabernacle, and his Missionaries.

All communications should be addressed to Rev. ANDREW MEARNS, London
Congregational Union, Memorial Hall, Farringdon Street, E.C.


THE BITTER CRY

OF

OUTCAST LONDON.


There is no more hopeful sign in the Christian Church of to-day than the
increased attention which is being given by it to the poor and outcast
classes of society. Of these it has never been wholly neglectful; if it
had it would have ceased to be Christian. But it has, as yet, only
imperfectly realised and fulfilled its mission to the poor. Until
recently it has contented itself with sustaining some outside
organizations, which have charged themselves with this special function,
or what is worse, has left the matter to individuals or to little bands
of Christians having no organization. For the rest it has been satisfied
with a superficial and inadequate district visitation, with the more or
less indiscriminate distribution of material charities, and with opening
a few rooms here and there into which the poorer people have been
gathered, and by which a few have been rescued. All this is good in its
way and has done good; but by all only the merest edge of the great dark
region of poverty, misery, squalor and immorality has been touched. We
are not losing sight of the London City Mission, whose agents are
everywhere, and whose noble work our investigations have led us to value
more than ever, but after all has been done the churches are making the
discovery that seething in the very centre of our great cities,
concealed by the thinnest crust of civilization and decency, is a vast
mass of moral corruption, of heart-breaking misery and absolute
godlessness, and that scarcely anything has been done to take into this
awful slough the only influences that can purify or remove it.

Whilst we have been building our churches and solacing ourselves with
our religion and dreaming that the millennium was coming, the poor have
been growing poorer, the wretched more miserable, and the immoral more
corrupt; the gulf has been daily widening which separates the lowest
classes of the community from our churches and chapels, and from all
decency and civilization. It is easy to bring an array of facts which
seem to point to the opposite conclusion--to speak of the noble army of
men and women who penetrate the vilest haunts, carrying with them the
blessings of the gospel; of the encouraging reports published by
Missions, Reformatories, Refuges, Temperance Societies; of Theatre
Services, Midnight Meetings and Special Missions. But what does it all
amount to? We are simply living in a fool's paradise if we suppose that
all these agencies combined are doing a thousandth part of what needs to
be done, a hundredth part of what _could_ be done by the Church of
Christ. We must face the facts; and these compel the conviction that
THIS TERRIBLE FLOOD OF SIN AND MISERY IS GAINING UPON US. It is rising
every day. This statement is made as the result of a long, patient and
sober inquiry, undertaken for the purpose of discovering the actual
state of the case and the remedial action most likely to be effective.
Convinced that it is high time some combined and organized effort was
made by all denominations of Christians, though not for denominational
purposes, the London Congregational Union have determined to open in
several of the lowest and most needy districts of the metropolis,
suitable Mission Halls, as a base of operations for evangelistic work.
They have accordingly made this diligent search, and some of the results
are set forth in the following pages, in the hope that all who have the
power may be stimulated to help the Union in the great and difficult
enterprise which they have undertaken.

Two cautions it is important to bear in mind. First, the information
given _does not refer to selected cases_. It simply reveals a state of
things which is found in house after house, court after court, street
after street. Secondly, there _has been absolutely no exaggeration_. It
is a plain recital of plain facts. Indeed, no respectable printer would
print, and certainly no decent family would admit even the driest
statement of the horrors and infamies discovered in one brief visitation
from house to house. _So far from making the worst of our facts for the
purpose of appealing to emotion, we have been compelled to tone down
everything, and wholly to omit what most needs to be known, or the ears
and eyes of our readers would have been insufferably outraged._ Yet even
this qualified narration must be to every Christian heart a loud and
bitter cry, appealing for the help which it is the supreme mission of
the Church to supply. It should be further stated that our
investigations were made in the summer. The condition of the poor during
the winter months must be very much worse.


NON-ATTENDANCE AT WORSHIP.

It is perhaps scarcely necessary to say of the hundreds of thousands who
compose the class referred to, that very few attend any place of
worship. It is a very tame thing to say, and a very little thing
compared with what must follow, but it is needful to a proper statement
of our case. Before going to the lower depths, where our investigations
were principally carried on, we find in the neighbourhood of Old Ford,
in 147 consecutive houses, inhabited for the most part by the
respectable working class, 212 families, 118 of which never, under any
circumstances, attend a place of worship. Out of 2290 persons living in
consecutive houses at Bow-Common, only 88 adults and 47 children ever
attend, and as 64 of these are connected with one Mission Hall, only 24
out of the entire number worship elsewhere. One street off Leicester
Square contains 246 families, and only 12 of these are ever represented
at the house of God. In another street in Pentonville, out of 100
families only 12 persons attend any sanctuary, whilst the number of
attendants in one district of St. George's-in-the-East is 39 persons
out of 4235. Often the numbers given of those who do attend include such
as only go once or twice a year, at some charity distribution, so that
our figures are more favourable than the actual facts. Constantly we
come across persons who have never been to church or chapel for 20
years, 28 years, more than 30 years; and some persons as old as 64 never
remember having been in a place of worship at all. Indeed, with the
exception of a very small proportion, the idea of going has never dawned
upon these people. And who can wonder? Think of


THE CONDITION IN WHICH THEY LIVE.

We do not say the condition of their homes, for how can those places be
called homes, compared with which the lair of a wild beast would be a
comfortable and healthy spot? Few who will read these pages have any
conception of what these pestilential human rookeries are, where tens of
thousands are crowded together amidst horrors which call to mind what we
have heard of the middle passage of the slave ship. To get into them you
have to penetrate courts reeking with poisonous and malodorous gases
arising from accumulations of sewage and refuse scattered in all
directions and often flowing beneath your feet; courts, many of them
which the sun never penetrates, which are never visited by a breath of
fresh air, and which rarely know the virtues of a drop of cleansing
water. You have to ascend rotten staircases, which threaten to give way
beneath every step, and which, in some places, have already broken
down, leaving gaps that imperil the limbs and lives of the unwary. You
have to grope your way along dark and filthy passages swarming with
vermin. Then, if you are not driven back by the intolerable stench, you
may gain admittance to the dens in which these thousands of beings who
belong, as much as you, to the race for whom Christ died, herd together.
Have you pitied the poor creatures who sleep under railway arches, in
carts or casks, or under any shelter which they can find in the open
air? You will see that they are to be envied in comparison with those
whose lot it is to seek refuge here. Eight feet square--that is about
the average size of very many of these rooms. Walls and ceiling are
black with the accretions of filth which have gathered upon them through
long years of neglect. It is exuding through cracks in the boards
overhead; it is running down the walls; it is everywhere. What goes by
the name of a window is half of it stuffed with rags or covered by
boards to keep out wind and rain; the rest is so begrimed and obscured
that scarcely can light enter or anything be seen outside. Should you
have ascended to the attic, where at least some approach to fresh air
might be expected to enter from open or broken window, you look out upon
the roofs and ledges of lower tenements, and discover that the sickly
air which finds its way into the room has to pass over the putrefying
carcases of dead cats or birds, or viler abominations still. The
buildings are in such miserable repair as to suggest the thought that if
the wind could only reach them they would soon be toppling about the
heads of their occupants. As to furniture--you may perchance discover a
broken chair, the tottering relics of an old bedstead, or the mere
fragment of a table; but more commonly you will find rude substitutes
for these things in the shape of rough boards resting upon bricks, an
old hamper or box turned upside down, or more frequently still, nothing
but rubbish and rags.

Every room in these rotten and reeking tenements houses a family, often
two. In one cellar a sanitary inspector reports finding a father,
mother, three children and four pigs! In another room a missionary found
a man ill with small pox, his wife just recovering from her eighth
confinement, and the children running about half naked and covered with
dirt. Here are seven people living in one underground kitchen, and a
little dead child lying in the same room. Elsewhere is a poor widow, her
three children, and a child who had been dead thirteen days. Her
husband, who was a cabman, had shortly before committed suicide. Here
lives a widow and her six children, including one daughter of 29,
another of 21, and a son of 27. Another apartment contains father,
mother and six children, two of whom are ill with scarlet fever. In
another nine brothers and sisters, from 29 years of age downwards, live,
eat and sleep together. Here is a mother who turns her children into the
street in the early evening because she lets her room for immoral
purposes until long after midnight, when the poor little wretches creep
back again if they have not found some miserable shelter elsewhere.
Where there are beds they are simply heaps of dirty rags, shavings or
straw, but for the most part these miserable beings huddle together upon
the filthy boards. The tenant of this room is a widow, who herself
occupies the only bed, and lets the floor to a married couple for 2s.
6d. per week. In many cases matters are made worse by the unhealthy
occupations followed by those who dwell in these habitations. Here you
are choked as you enter by the air laden with particles of the
superfluous fur pulled from the skins of rabbits, rats, dogs and other
animals in their preparation for the furrier. Here the smell of paste
and of drying match-boxes, mingling with other sickly odours, overpowers
you; or it may be the fragrance of stale fish or vegetables, not sold on
the previous day, and kept in the room overnight. Even when it is
possible to do so the people seldom open their windows, but if they did
it is questionable whether much would be gained, for the external air is
scarcely less heavily charged with poison than the atmosphere within.

Wretched as these rooms are they are beyond the means of many who wander
about all day, picking up a living as they can, and then take refuge at
night in one of the common lodging-houses that abound. These are often
the resorts of thieves and vagabonds of the lowest types, and some are
kept by receivers of stolen goods. In the kitchen men and women may be
seen cooking their food, washing their clothes, or lolling about smoking
and gambling. In the sleeping room are long rows of beds on each side,
sometimes 60 or 80 in one room. In many cases both sexes are allowed to
herd together without any attempt to preserve the commonest decency.
But there is a lower depth still. Hundreds cannot even scrape together
the two-pence required to secure them the privilege of herding in those
sweltering common sleeping rooms, and so they huddle together upon the
stairs and landings, where it is no uncommon thing to find six or eight
in the early morning.

That people condemned to exist under such conditions take to drink and
fall into sin is surely a matter for little surprise. We may rather say,
as does one recent and reliable explorer, that they are "entitled to
credit for not being twenty times more depraved than they are." One of
the saddest results of this over-crowding is the inevitable association
of honest people with criminals. Often is the family of an honest
working man compelled to take refuge in a thieves' kitchen; in the
houses where they live their rooms are frequently side by side, and
continual contact with the very worst of those who have come out of our
gaols is a matter of necessity. There can be no question that numbers of
habitual criminals would never have become such, had they not by force
of circumstances been packed together in these slums with those who were
hardened in crime. Who can wonder that every evil flourishes in such
hotbeds of vice and disease? Who can wonder that little children taken
from these hovels to the hospital cry, when they are well, through dread
of being sent back to their former misery? Who can wonder that young
girls wander off into a life of immorality, which promises release from
such conditions? Who can wonder that the public-house is "the Elysian
field of the tired toiler?"


IMMORALITY

is but the natural outcome of conditions like these. "Marriage," it has
been said, "as an institution, is not fashionable in these districts."
And this is only the bare truth. Ask if the men and women living
together in these rookeries are married, and your simplicity will cause
a smile. Nobody knows. Nobody cares. Nobody expects that they are. In
exceptional cases only could your question be answered in the
affirmative. Incest is common; and no form of vice and sensuality causes
surprise or attracts attention. Those who appear to be married are often
separated by a mere quarrel, and they do not hesitate to form similar
companionships immediately. One man was pointed out who for some years
had lived with a woman, the mother of his three children. She died and
in less than a week he had taken another woman in her place. A man was
living with a woman in the low district called "The Mint." He went out
one morning with another man for the purpose of committing a burglary
and by that other man was murdered. The murderer returned saying that
his companion had been caught and taken away to prison; and the same
night he took the place of the murdered man. The only check upon
communism in this regard is jealousy and not virtue. The vilest
practices are looked upon with the most matter-of-fact indifference.
The low parts of London are the sink into which the filthy and
abominable from all parts of the country seem to flow. Entire courts are
filled with thieves, prostitutes and liberated convicts. In one street
are 35 houses, 32 of which are known to be brothels. In another district
are 43 of these houses, and 428 fallen women and girls, many of them not
more than 12 years of age. A neighbourhood whose population is returned
at 10,100, contains 400 who follow this immoral traffic, their ages
varying from 13 to 50; and of the moral degradation of the people, some
idea may be formed from an incident which was brought to our notice. An
East-end missionary rescued a young girl from an immoral life, and
obtained for her a situation with people who were going abroad. He saw
her to Southampton, and on his return was violently abused by the girl's
grandmother, who had the sympathy of her neighbours, for having taken
away from a poor old woman her means of subsistence.

The misery and sin caused by drink in these districts have often been
told, but these horrors can never be set forth either by pen or artist's
pencil. In the district of Euston Road is one public-house to every 100
people, counting men, women and children. Immediately around our chapel
in Orange Street, Leicester Square, are 100 gin-palaces, most of them
very large; and these districts are but samples of what exists in all
the localities which we have investigated. Look into one of these
glittering saloons, with its motley, miserable crowd, and you may be
horrified as you think of the evil that is nightly wrought there; but
contrast it with any of the abodes which you find in the fetid courts
behind them, and you will wonder no longer that it is crowded. With its
brightness, its excitement and its temporary forgetfulness of misery, it
is a comparative heaven to tens of thousands. How can they be expected
to resist its temptations? They could not live if they did not drink,
even though they know that by drinking they do worse than die. All kinds
of depravity have here their schools. Children who can scarcely walk are
taught to steal, and mercilessly beaten if they come back from their
daily expeditions without money or money's worth. Many of them are taken
by the hand or carried in the arms to the gin-palace, and not seldom may
you see mothers urging and compelling their tender infants to drink the
fiery liquid. Lounging at the doors and lolling out of windows and
prowling about street corners were pointed out several well-known
members of the notorious band of "Forty Thieves," who, often in
conspiracy with abandoned women, go out after dark to rob people in
Oxford Street, Regent Street and other thoroughfares. Here you pass a
coffee-house, there a wardrobe shop, there a tobacconist's, and there a
grocer's, carrying on a legitimate trade no doubt, but a far different
and more remunerative one as well, especially after evening sets
in,--all traps to catch the unwary. These particulars indicate but
faintly the moral influences from which the dwellers in these squalid
regions have no escape, and by which is bred "infancy that knows no
innocence, youth without modesty or shame, maturity that is mature in
nothing but suffering and guilt, blasted old age that is a scandal on
the name we bear."

Another difficulty with which we have to contend, and one in large
measure the cause of what we have described, is the


POVERTY

of these miserable outcasts. The poverty, we mean, of those who try to
live honestly; for notwithstanding the sickening revelations of
immorality which have been disclosed to us, those who endeavour to earn
their bread by honest work far outnumber the dishonest. And it is to
their infinite credit that it should be so, considering that they are
daily face to face with the contrast between their wretched earnings and
those which are the produce of sin. A child seven years old is known
easily to make 10s. 6d. a week by thieving, but what can he earn by such
work as match-box making, for which 2¼d. a gross is paid, the maker
having to find his own fire for drying the boxes, and his own paste and
string? Before he can gain as much as the young thief he must make 56
gross of match-boxes a week, or 1296 a day. It is needless to say that
this is impossible, for even adults can rarely make more than an average
of half that number. How long then must the little hands toil before
they can earn the price of the scantiest meal! Women, for the work of
trousers finishing (_i.e._, sewing in linings, making button-holes and
stitching on the buttons) receive 2½d. a pair, and have to find their
own thread. We ask a woman who is making tweed trousers, how much she
can earn in a day, and are told one shilling. But what does a day mean
to this poor soul? _Seventeen hours!_ From five in the morning to ten at
night--no pause for meals. She eats her crust and drinks a little tea as
she works, making in very truth, with her needle and thread, not her
living only, but her shroud. For making men's shirts these women are
paid 10d. a dozen; lawn tennis aprons, 3d. a dozen; and babies' hoods,
from 1s. 6d. to 2s. 6d. a dozen. In St. George's-in-the-East large
numbers of women and children, some of the latter only seven years old,
are employed in sack-making, for which they get a farthing each. In one
house was found a widow and her half idiot daughter making palliasses at
1¾d. each. Here is a woman who has a sick husband and a little child to
look after. She is employed at shirt finishing at 3d. a dozen, and by
the utmost effort can only earn 6d. a day, out of which she has to find
her own thread. Another, with a crippled hand, maintains herself and a
blind husband by match-box making, for which she is remunerated on the
liberal scale mentioned above; and out of her 2¼d. a gross she has to
pay a girl a penny a gross to help her. Others obtain at Covent Garden
in the season 1d. or 2d. a peck for shelling peas, or 6d. a basket for
walnuts; and they do well if their labour brings them 10d. or a shilling
a day. With men it is comparatively speaking no better. "My master,"
says one man visited by a recent writer in the _Fortnightly Review_,
"gets a pound for what he gives me 3s. for making." And this it is easy
to believe, when we know that for a pair of fishing boots which will be
sold at three guineas, the poor workman receives 5s. 3d. if they are
made to order, or 4s. 6d. if made for stock. An old tailor and his wife
are employed in making policemen's overcoats. They have to make, finish,
hot-press, put on the buttons, and find their own thread, and for all
this they receive 2s. 10d. for each coat. This old couple work from
half-past six in the morning until ten at night, and between them can
just manage to make a coat in two days. Here is a mother who has taken
away whatever articles of clothing she can strip from her four little
children without leaving them absolutely naked. She has pawned them, not
for drink, but for coals and food. A shilling is all she can procure,
and with this she has bought seven pounds of coals and a loaf of bread.
We might fill page after page with these dreary details, but they would
become sadly monotonous, for it is the same everywhere. And then it
should not be forgotten how hardly upon poverty like this must press the
exorbitant demand for rent. Even the rack-renting of Ireland, which so
stirred our indignation a little while ago, was merciful by comparison.
If by any chance a reluctant landlord can be induced to execute or pay
for some long-needed repairs, they become the occasion for new
exactions. Going through these rooms we come to one in which a hole, as
big as a man's head, has been roughly covered, and how? A piece of
board, from an old soapbox, has been fixed over the opening by one nail,
and to the tenant has been given a yard and a half of paper with which
to cover it; and for this expenditure--perhaps 4d. at the
outside--_threepence a week has been put upon the rent_. If this is
enough to arouse our indignation, what must be thought of the following?
The two old people referred to above have lived in one room for 14
years, during which time it has only once been partially cleansed. The
landlord has undertaken that it shall be done shortly, and for the past
three months has been taking 6d. a week extra for rent for what he is
thus _going to do_. This is what the helpless have to submit to; they
are charged for these pestilential dens a rent which consumes half the
earnings of a family, and leaves them no more than from 4d. to 6d. a day
for food, clothing and fire; a grinding of the faces of the poor which
could scarcely be paralleled in lands of slavery and of notorious
oppression. This, however, is not all; for even these depths of poverty
and degradation are reached by the Education Act, and however beneficent
its purpose, it bears with cruel weight upon the class we have
described, to whom twopence or a penny a week for the school fees of
each of three or four children, means so much lack of bread.

Amidst such poverty and squalor it is inevitable that one should be
constantly confronted with scenes of


HEART-BREAKING MISERY--

misery so pitiful that men whose daily duty it has been for years to go
in and out amongst these outcasts, and to be intimately acquainted with
their sufferings, and who might, therefore, be supposed to regard with
comparatively little feeling that which would overwhelm an unaccustomed
spectator, sometimes come away from their visits so oppressed in spirit
and absorbed in painful thought, that they know not whither they are
going. How these devoted labourers can pursue their work at all is a
marvel, especially when it is remembered that the misery they actually
see suggests to them the certain existence of so much more which no
human eye discovers. Who can even imagine the suffering which lies
behind a case like the following? A poor woman in an advanced stage of
consumption, reduced almost to a skeleton, lives in a single room with a
drunken husband and five children. When visited she was eating a few
green peas. The children were gone to gather some sticks wherewith a
fire might be made to boil four potatoes which were lying on the table,
and which would constitute the family dinner for the day. Or, take
another case, related by Rev. Archibald Brown, who, with his
missionaries is doing a noble work amongst the poor in the east of
London. People had doubted the accuracy of reports presented by the
missionaries, and he accordingly devoted a considerable time to personal
visitation and inquiry. He found case after case proving that but little
of the wretchedness had been told, and here is a _fair specimen_. At the
top of an otherwise empty house lived a family; the husband had gone to
try and find some work. The mother 29 years of age, was sitting on the
only chair in the place in front of a grate, destitute of any fire. She
was nursing a baby only six weeks old, that had never had anything but
one old rag round it. The mother had nothing but a gown on, and that
dropping to pieces; it was all she had night or day. There were six
children under 13 years of age. They were barefooted, and the few rags
on them scarcely covered their nakedness. In this room, where was an
unclothed infant, the ceiling was in holes. An old bedstead was in the
place, and seven sleep in it at night, the eldest girl being on the
floor.

This is bad, but it is not the worst. In a room in Wych Street, on the
third floor, over a marine store dealer's, there was, a short time ago,
an inquest as to the death of a little baby. A man, his wife and three
children were living in that room. The infant was the second child who
had died, poisoned by the foul atmosphere; and this dead baby was cut
open in the one room where its parents and brothers and sisters lived,
ate and slept, _because the parish had no mortuary and no room in which
post mortems could be performed_! No wonder that the jurymen who went to
view the body sickened at the frightful exhalations. This case was given
by Mr. G. R. Sims, in his papers on "How the Poor Live;" but all the
particulars are found in the dry newspaper reports of the inquest. In
another miserable room are eight destitute children. Their father died a
short time ago, and "on going into the house to-day," says the
missionary, "the mother was lying in her coffin." Here is a filthy
attic, containing only a broken chair, a battered saucepan and a few
rags. On a dirty sack in the centre of the room sits a neglected,
ragged, bare-legged little baby girl of four. Her father is a
militiaman, and is away. Her mother is out all day and comes home late
at night more or less drunk, and this child is left in charge of the
infant that we see crawling about the floor; left for six or eight hours
at a stretch--hungry, thirsty, tired, but never daring to move from her
post. And this is the kind of sight which may be seen in a Christian
land where it is criminal to ill-treat a horse or an ass.

The child-misery that one beholds is the most heartrending and appalling
element in these discoveries; and of this not the least is the misery
inherited from the vice of drunken and dissolute parents, and manifest
in the stunted, misshapen, and often loathsome objects that we
constantly meet in these localities. From the beginning of their life
they are utterly neglected; their bodies and rags are alive with vermin;
they are subjected to the most cruel treatment; many of them have never
seen a green field, and do not know what it is to go beyond the streets
immediately around them, and they often pass the whole day without a
morsel of food. Here is one of three years old picking up some dirty
pieces of bread and eating them. We go in at the doorway where it is
standing and find a little girl twelve years old. "Where is your
mother?" "In the madhouse." "How long has she been there?" "Fifteen
months." "Who looks after you?" The child, who is sitting at an old
table making match-boxes, replies, "I look after my little brothers and
sisters as well as I can." "Where is your father? Is he in work?" "He
has been out of work three weeks, but he has gone to a job of two days
this morning." Another house visited contains nine motherless children.
The mother's death was caused by witnessing one of her children being
run over. The eldest is only fourteen years old. All live in one small
room, and there is one bed for five. Here is a poor woman deserted by
her husband and left with three little children. One met with an
accident a few days ago and broke his arm. He is lying on a shake-down
in one corner of the room, with an old sack round him. And here, in a
cellar kitchen, are nine little ones. You can scarcely see across the
room for smoke and dirt. They are without food and have scarcely any
clothing.

It is heart-crushing to think of the misery suggested by such
revelations as these; and there is something unspeakably pathetic in the
brave patience with which the poor not seldom endure their sufferings,
and the tender sympathy which they show toward each other. Where,
amongst the well-conditioned, can anything braver and kinder be found
than this? A mother, whose children are the cleanest and tidiest in the
Board School which they attend, was visited. It was found that, though
she had children of her own, she had taken in a little girl, whose
father had gone off tramping in search of work. She was propped up in a
chair, looking terribly ill, but in front of her, in another chair, was
the wash-tub, and the poor woman was making a feeble effort to wash and
wring out some of the children's things. She was dying from dropsy,
scarcely able to breathe and enduring untold agony, but to the very
last striving to keep her little ones clean and tidy. A more touching
sight it would be difficult to present; we might, however, unveil many
more painful ones, but must content ourselves with saying that the
evidence we have gathered from personal observation more than justifies
the words of the writer before referred to, that "there are (_i.e._, in
addition to those who find their way to our hospitals) men and women who
lie and die day by day in their wretched single rooms, sharing all the
family trouble, enduring the hunger and the cold, and waiting without
hope, without a single ray of comfort, until God curtains their staring
eyes with the merciful film of death."


WHAT IT IS PROPOSED TO DO.

That something needs to be done for this pitiable outcast population
must be evident to all who have read these particulars as to their
condition--at least, to all who believe them. We are quite prepared for
incredulity. Even what we have indicated seems all too terrible to be
true. But we have sketched only in faintest outline. Far more vivid must
be our colours, deeper and darker far the shades, if we are to present a
truthful picture of "Outcast London;" and so far as we have been able to
go we are prepared with evidence, not only to prove every statement, but
to show that these statements represent the general condition of
thousands upon thousands in this metropolis. Incredulity is not the only
difficulty in the way of stirring up Christian people to help. Despair
of success in any such undertaking may paralyse many. We shall be
pointed to the fact that without State interference nothing effectual
can be accomplished upon any large scale. And _it is_ a fact. These
wretched people must live somewhere. They must live near the centres
where their work lies. They cannot afford to go out by train or tram
into the suburbs; and how, with their poor emaciated, starved bodies,
can they be expected--in addition to working twelve hours or more, for a
shilling, or less,--to walk three or four miles each way to take and
fetch? It is notorious that the Artizans Dwellings Act has, in some
respects, made matters worse for them. Large spaces have been cleared of
fever-breeding rookeries, to make way for the building of decent
habitations, but the rents of these are far beyond the means of the
abject poor. They are driven to crowd more closely together in the few
stifling places still left to them; and so Dives makes a richer harvest
out of their misery, buying up property condemned as unfit for
habitation, and turning it into a gold-mine because the poor must have
shelter somewhere, even though it be the shelter of a living tomb.

The State must make short work of this iniquitous traffic, and secure
for the poorest the rights of citizenship; the right to live in
something better than fever dens; the right to live as something better
than the uncleanest of brute beasts. This must be done before the
Christian missionary can have much chance with them. But because we
cannot do all we wish, are we to do nothing? Even as things are
something can be accomplished. Is no lifeboat to put out and no
life-belt to be thrown because only half a dozen out of the perishing
hundreds can be saved from the wreck? The very records which supply the
sad story we have been telling, give also proofs of what can be done by
the Gospel and by Christian love and tact and devotion. Gladly do many
of these poor creatures receive the Gospel. Little match-box makers are
heard singing at their toil, "One more day's work for Jesus." "If only
mother was a Christian we should all be happy," said one; and on his
miserable bed, amidst squalor and want and pain, a poor blind man dies
with the prayer upon his lips, "Jesus, lover of my soul, Let me to Thy
bosom fly." Another writes, "You have filled my heart with joy, and my
little room with sunshine." A second, who now regularly attends a place
of worship, says, speaking of the visits of the missionary, "Before he
came to visit me I used to sit and make match-boxes on Sunday, but a
word now and then has enabled me to look up to the Lord. I don't feel
like the same person." Another who himself became a missionary to his
own class, and exercised great power over them whenever he spoke, was
able to say, "I was as bad as any of you, but the Lord Jesus had mercy
upon me, and has made me better and so happy." This man had been a
"coal-whipper" of notoriously evil life, and was rescued through his
casually going into a room in one of the courts of which we have spoken,
where a missionary was holding a meeting. Such results should rebuke our
faithlessness. Even in these dark and noisome places the lamp of Life
may be kindled; even from these miry spots bright gems may be snatched,
worth all the labour and all the cost.

It is little creditable to us that all our wealth and effort should be
devoted to providing for the spiritual needs of those who are
comfortably conditioned, and none of it expended upon the abject poor.
It is true that we have not half done our duty to any class, but this
fact is no justification of our having wholly neglected this rescue
work. To shut up our compassion against those who need it most, because
we have not yet done our duty to those who need it less, is a course
that we should find it hard to justify to our Master and Lord. His tones
were ever those of pitying love even to the most sinful outcast, but
would they not gather sternness as He met us with the rebuke: "This
ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other undone"? An
"exceeding bitter cry" is this which goes up to heaven from the misery
of London against the apathy of the Church. It is time that Christians
opened their ears to it and let it sink down into their hearts. Many
pressing needs are taxing the resources of the London Congregational
Union, but the Committee feel that this work amongst the poor must no
longer be neglected, and that they must do all they can to arouse the
Churches of their order to undertake their share of responsibility. They
have determined to take immediate action. Having selected three of the
very worst districts in London, from which many of the foregoing facts
have been gathered, they have resolved at once to begin operations in
the very heart of them. No denominational purpose will sway them,
except that they will try to awaken their own denomination to a sense of
its duty; but there will be no attempt to make Congregationalists or to
present Congregationalism. Deeper, broader and simpler must this work be
than any which can be carried on upon denominational lines. In such a
forlorn hope there is no room for sectarianism. The Gospel of the love
of Christ must be presented in its simplest form, and the one aim in
everything must be to rescue and not to proselytize. Help will be
thankfully welcomed from whatever quarter it may come, and help will be
freely given to other workers in the same field, if only by any means
some may be saved. It is impossible here and yet to give details as to
the methods which it is proposed to pursue; suffice it to say that in
each district a Mission Hall will be erected, or some existing building
transformed into a Hall having appliances and conveniences requisite for
the successful prosecution of the Mission. Services and meetings of all
kinds will be arranged, and, as far as possible, an agency for house to
house visitation organized. An attempt must be made to relieve in some
wise and practical, though very limited way, the abounding misery,
whilst care is taken to prevent the abuse of charity. In this matter the
injudicious and inexperienced may easily do more harm than good,
pauperising the people whom they wish to help, and making hypocrites
instead of Christians. To indicate what we mean we may mention one case
pointed out to us of a woman who attended three different places of
worship on the Sunday and some others during the week, because she
obtained charitable help from all. But we cannot on this account refuse
to try some means of mitigating the suffering with which we come into
contact. Therefore this must be attempted along with whatever other
means the Committee, in conference with those who have had long
experience of this work, may think likely to answer the end they have
before them. Their hope is that at least some, even of the lowest and
worst, may be gathered in; and their aim will be to make as many of
these as they can missionaries to the others; for manifestly those who
have been accustomed to speak to and work amongst a somewhat better
section of the community will not be so likely to labour successfully
amongst these outcasts as will those who have themselves been of their
number. The three districts already fixed upon are, as it will be
understood, intended only to afford a field for the immediate
commencement of this beneficent work. Other districts will be occupied
as funds come in and the resources of the Committee are enlarged; but
even the comparatively limited operations already undertaken will
necessitate so great an expenditure and require so much aid from those
who are qualified for the work, that they cannot wisely attempt more at
present. For not only will the cost and furnishing of Halls and of
carrying on the work be very large, but a relief fund will be needed as
indicated above. The Committee, therefore, can only hope to carry
forward with any success the project to which they have already put
their hands, by the really devoted help of the churches which they
represent.


DESCRIPTION OF THE DISTRICTS.

The district known as Collier's Rents is one of the three to which
attention will first be given, and the old chapel, long disused, is now
in the builders' hands and will soon be ready for opening, not as a
chapel, but as a bright, comfortable, and in every way suitable Hall. It
would be impossible to find a building better situated for working among
the very poor and degraded than this. It stands in a short street,
leading out of Long Lane, Bermondsey, the locality in which were
recently found the bodies of nine infants, which had been deposited in a
large box at the foot of some stairs in an undertaker's shop. There are
around the Hall some 650 families, or 3250 people, living in 123 houses.
The houses are largely occupied by costermongers, birdcatchers, street
singers, liberated convicts, thieves and prostitutes. There are many low
lodging-houses in the neighbourhood of the worst type. Some of them are
tenanted chiefly by thieves, and one was pointed out which is kept by a
receiver of stolen goods. In some cases two of the houses are united by
means of a passage which affords a ready method of escape in case of
police interference.

Turning out of one of these streets you enter a narrow passage, about
ten yards long and three feet wide. This leads into a court eighteen
yards long and nine yards wide. Here are twelve houses of three rooms
each, and containing altogether 36 families. The sanitary condition of
the place is indescribable. A large dust-bin charged with all manner of
filth and putrid matter stands at one end of the court, and four
water-closets at the other. In this confined area all the washing of
these 36 families is done, and the smell of the place is intolerable.
Entering a doorway you go up six or seven steps into a long passage, so
dark that you have to grope your way by the clammy, dirt-encrusted wall,
and then you find a wooden stair, some of the steps of which are broken
through. Ascending as best you can, you gain admission to one of the
rooms. You find that although the front and back of the house are of
brick, the rooms are separated only by partitions of boards, some of
which are an inch apart. There are no locks on the doors and it would
seem that they can only be fastened on the outside by padlock. In this
room to which we have come an old bed, on which are some evil-smelling
rags, is, with the exception of a broken chair, the only article of
furniture. Its sole occupant just now is a repulsive, half-drunken
Irishwoman. She is looking at some old ragged garments in hope of being
able to raise something upon them at the pawnshop, and being asked if
she is doing this because she is poor, she gets into a rage and cries,
"Call me poor? I have got half a loaf of bread in the house, and a
little milk;" and then from a heap of rubbish in one corner, she pulls
out a putrid turkey, utterly unfit for human food, which she tells us
she is going to cook for dinner. This woman has just "done seven days"
for an assault upon a police officer. We find that she has a husband,
but he spends almost all his money at the public-house. Rooms such as
this are let furnished (!) at 3s. 6d. and 4s. a week, or 8d. a night,
and we are told that the owner is getting from 50 to 60 per cent. upon
his money.

And this is a specimen of the neighbourhood. Reeking courts, crowded
public-houses, low lodging-houses and numerous brothels are to be found
all around. Even the cellars are tenanted. Poverty, rags and dirt
everywhere. The air is laden with disease-breeding gases. The
missionaries who labour here, are constantly being attacked by some
malady or other resulting from blood poisoning, and their tact and
courage are subjected to the severest tests. In going about these alleys
and courts no stranger is safe if alone. Not long ago a doctor on his
rounds was waylaid by a number of women, who would not let him pass to
see his patient until he had given them money; and a bible-woman,
visiting "Kent Street," was robbed of most of her clothing. Even the
police seldom venture into some parts of the district except in company.
Yet bad as it is there are elements of hopefulness which encourage us to
believe that our work will not be in vain. Many of its denizens would
gladly break away from the dismal, degrading life they are leading, if
only a way were made for them to do so; as it is they are hemmed in and
chained down by their surroundings in hopeless and helpless misery.

Such is Collier's Rents. To describe the other two localities where our
work is to be commenced, in Ratcliff and Shadwell, would, in the main,
be but to repeat the same heart-sickening story. Heart-sickening but
soul-stirring. We have opened but a little way the door that leads into
this plague-house of sin and misery and corruption, where men and women
and little children starve and suffer and perish, body and soul. But
even the glance we have got is a sight to make one weep. We shall not
wonder if some, shuddering at the revolting spectacle, try to persuade
themselves that such things cannot be in Christian England, and that
what they have looked upon is some dark vision conjured by a morbid pity
and a desponding faith. To such we can only say, Will you venture to
come with us and see for yourselves the ghastly reality? Others, looking
on, will believe, and pity, and despair. But another vision will be seen
by many, and in this lies our hope--a vision of Him who had "compassion
upon the multitude because they were as sheep having no shepherd,"
looking, with Divine pity in His eyes, over this outcast London, and
then turning to the consecrated host of His Church with the appeal,
"Whom shall we send and who will go for us?"

_October, 1883._

[Illustration: Decoration]


Printers: WARREN HALL & LOVITT, 88, Camden Road, N.W.


     Oh, Thou, who once on earth, beneath the weight
     Of our mortality, didst live and move,
     The incarnation of profoundest love;
     Who on the Cross that love didst consummate--
     Whose deep and ample fulness could embrace
     The poorest, meanest, of our fallen race:
     How shall we e'er that boundless debt repay?
     By long loud prayers in gorgeous temples said?
     By rich oblations on Thine altars laid?
     Ah, no! not thus Thou didst appoint the way.
     When Thou wast bowed our human woe beneath,
     Then, as a legacy, Thou didst bequeath
     Earth's sorrowing children to our ministry--
     And, as we do to them we do to Thee.

     ANNE CHARLOTTE LYNCH.





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