Page 11: The needy poor

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During this period the seeds were sown for the disastrous development of some of the worst slums in London. The land north of the Norland Estates was composed of a clay particularly good for making bricks and pottery and by the early nineteenth century a colony of brick-makers settled there. At the same time a colony of pig-keepers, forced to move out of Marylebone, settled in the Notting Dale area, building cottages with one room for the family and one for the pigs. The industry depended on the collection of food and refuse from the West End which was then boiled down to extract the fat, a practice which added to the already appalling sanitary conditions. By the middle of the century cholera and other diseases spread like wildfire and the average life expectancy was eleven years and seven months.

Conditions were not much better in the secret slums just off Kensington High Street including Market Court, Gardener’s Buildings and Brown’s Buildings. The most notorious was Jenning’s Buildings, described in the local paper as “Truly horrible to conceive ... in that narrow space are crammed nearly 1500 living souls”. Mainly Irish labourers, they worked in the market gardens and later on building sites. These rookeries were cleared away by 1867 with many of the displaced inhabitants moving to Notting Dale.

Chelsea also had its fair share of slum areas, in particular Turks Row just off Lower Sloane Street, the Draycott Avenue/ Cale Street area, the western reaches of the Thames and the World’s End.

 

Photograph of people outside slum building

Market Court photographed in 1868, just prior to its demolition
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Photograph of mother with six children playing in street

Harassed mother in World's End Chelsea photographed by John Bignell, 1962
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The History of the Royal Borough

Virtual Museum – The History of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
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