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A lady's view of the unemployed at the East

Webb, Beatrice (1886) A lady's view of the unemployed at the East. Pall Mall Gazette (6530).

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Miss Beatrice Potter, who like other members of her family, has had much actual experience among the poor in the East-end of London, sends us the following:-- As one who is personally acquainted with many of the "unemployed," I venture to differ from the opinion which seems to be gaining ground that it would be wise to institute a system of public works with the special object of providing employment for this class within the metropolis. I am a rent collector on a large block of working-class dwellings situated near the London Docks, designed and adapted to house the lowest class of the working poor. The rooms are chiefly let in single tenements, and the tenants are for the most part casual workers, dock labourers, carmen, employees of the building trades, fish porters, and hangers-on to the numberless small industries which exist in East London. Through my business connection with tenants and applicants, I have been enabled to inquire into the present life and previous history of a small but representative section of the vaguely defined class who are known as the "unemployed." I have also taken some trouble to learn the industrial condition of that part of London, and to understand the remarkable change which has taken place in that district during the last fifty years. Half a century ago, sack making, gun making, and other handwork industries flourished in the waterside districts of London, employed thousands, and, if we may trust the memory of inhabitants, paid them well. With the introduction of machinery, the cheapening of transit, the increase of metropolitan rates and taxes, and from other economical causes these industries have forsaken the metropolis and moved into the country and suburban districts. The change has not been sudden. Sacks are still made and barrels hooped in small quantities in the Mint district, and the occupation of casual service in the City warehouses and offices have to some extent, especially to the women, supplied the employment which was taken from them by the removal of the productive industries of East London. The docks, the greatest of the low-class labour markets, are now on the eve of their departure, or perhaps, to state it more accurately, of a great reduction of their business in central London and the transference of it to docks under the same companies further down the river. Unfortunately the labourers do not seem inclined to follow their masters; and it is a significant fact, which, I think, will be found true on inquiry, that the new docks, a few miles from London Bridge, are supplied with labour from outlying districts, and that they have not enticed or have refused the old employees of the London docks. - Introductory paragraph.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: The Pall Mall Gazette is available online to subscribers to British Library Newspapers - link in LSE Library Catalogue record above. Issue 6530 was published on 18 February 1886.
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2017 13:29
Last Modified: 09 Jun 2017 13:32

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