FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 1888
PUBLIC MORTUARIES - The Whitechapel tragedies are bringing to light more than one metropolitan want. The need for proper mortuary accommodation in the Whitechapel district was the subject of protest by Mr. Phillips, who complained of the impropriety of expecting medical men to make autopsies in places wholly unfitted for the purpose. His views were endorsed by the coroner and jury at the inquest of the unfortunate woman who has been recently murdered, the former stating that there was no public mortuary between the limits of the City of London and Bow. The absence of accommodation of this kind is an undoubted reproach to London, which would not have been tolerated had any sufficient system of sanitary administration existed in the metropolis. The position of London generally in respect of mortuary accommodation would make a fitting subject of investigation by the Local Government Board or Home Office. - The Lancet.
SHELTER FOR DOCK LABOURERS - A correspondent writes: "Permit me to call attention to the cause of the labourers in the East-end docks, who are known as a hard working class of men, with small earnings, compelling them to live in low and dirty lodgings, amidst disgusting surroundings. Their sufferings during the winter are deplorable. Being constantly on the spot I notice that from early morning until past mid-day these poor creatures are to be seen standing in the roads and corners, amidst wind, rain, and snow, with clothes in tatters that are past repair, without food - patiently awaiting employment outside the dock gates, and when some of their number are needed, to see them rush, thrusting aside the older and weaker ones, is a sickening sight to behold. My object in drawing public attention is - Firstly, that these wretched beings shall, before the winter sets in again, have some shelter provided for them, either inside the dock gates or near by, in order that they may have protection from the inclement weather, and where a cup of tea or coffee with bread, or soup can be provided at the cost of one penny; and secondly, that they might have their names or numbers called, when the managers of the dock company have work for them, and prevent that unseemly rush for work, in which doubtless those who deserve it most have not the necessary strength for the struggle. I would most earnestly invite all those who are interested in suffering humanity to see for themselves the above facts.
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH"
SIR - In consequence of the serious and dreadful crimes recently committed in the East-end of London, public attention seems at least to have been aroused to the shameful neglect on the part of constituted authorities with regard to the deplorable condition of tens of thousands of citizens, who are housed more after the manner of wild beasts than of human creatures. This apathy is the more astounding because there is abundant evidence to prove that it would pay capitalists and small investors to form companies to erect buildings suitable not simply for the artisan and respectable working classes, who have hitherto been chiefly considered, but for the accommodation particularly of those who are regarded as outcasts and semi-criminal. With the present value of money great difficulty is often experienced in finding a security which gives a really safe guarantee with a dividend of 4 per cent. In the poorer parts of London, on the most selfish grounds, the people who are herded together have a right to appeal for the assistance of the wealthier classes of society in order to have the land cleared of dirty hovels to make room for open spaces and plain, substantial, well-built habitations. If the objection be raised that directly a company came into existence and wished to obtain a particular site for such purpose all the owners of property so-called would at once make demands which would render it impossible to carry out the plans in view, in that case the public would have a right to demand that Parliament should confer upon the proper authorities, or, failing them, then upon private capitalists, under due restrictions, the same powers of acquiring freeholds compulsorily which the railway companies possess and exercise. It is significantly hinted in East London that the blame for the continuance of the present disgraceful state of things in Whitechapel rests upon the Metropolitan Board of Works. The Artisans' Dwellings Acts have been put into partial operation only. To a great extent they have been inoperative, although something has been done in Royal Mint-street and in Goulston-street. In connection with the Goulston-street and Flower and Dean-street scheme, which included two large areas covering 312,000 square feet, the land had been sold at various times for the erection of artisans' dwellings, and accommodation has been given for over 3,500 persons. As compared with its condition of, say, ten years since, Whitechapel has certainly much improved, but the clearance effected has been as much due to the extension of the railways and to the activity of private persons as to the authorities representing the rate-payers. Why, it is asked, did the Metropolitan Board of Works abolish the one half of Thrawl-street and of Flower and Dean-street and leave the other half still standing? Why did they stop short in pulling down a portion and not the whole of Wentworth-street? For how long will the Fashion-street scheme remain "under consideration?" As far back as 1877 the Sanitary Officer reported that an area of 19,886 square yards with a population of 2,307, should be rebuilt, and this would have entailed the wholesale demolition of Bell-lane, Coburg-court, Little Montague-street, Bell-court, Artillery-passage, Artillery-lane, Sandys-row, Rosetta-place, Fryingpan-alley, Tripe-yard, Tuson's-court, Fisher's-alley, Cox-square, Paradise-place, Cobb's-court, Middlesex-street, Bull-court, Wentworth-street, New-court, and Short-street. In this area each person has, or had at that time, just a little over eight square yards to live and to breathe in. This Bell-lane scheme and another, the Pearl-street scheme, were scheduled together under the Artisans' and Labourers' Dwellings Act. Five years since Great Pearl-street and Little Pearl-street, Vine-court, Vine-yard, Crown-court, New-court, Wilk-court, Diamond-court, and a portion of Great Eagle-street were condemned, and yet nothing has been done. Eight thousand and odd square yards to house a population of over 1,000, with a death rate of 33.3 per 1,000 as compared with 26.4 per 1,000 for the rest of the district! These broad facts have been staring the authorities in the face for years, and yet nothing has been achieved. In the part of Thrawl-street which still exists the population is of such a class that robberies and scenes of violence are of common occurrence. It is a risk for any respectable person to venture down the turning even in the open day. Thieves, loose women, and bad characters abound, and, although the police are not subject, perhaps, to quite the same dangers as they were a few years ago, there is still reason to believe that a constable will avoid, as far as he can, this part of his beat, unless accompanied by a brother officer. The district, in short, is one of common lodging-houses, and it is believed by some that if the mysteries of their ownership were exposed to the public eye much would be made clear which now puzzles the uninitiated, and which would serve to explain why the march of improvement is so slow in Whitechapel. But nothing short of a Royal Commission would accomplish this object.
Taking the sub-district known as the Commercial-street Division, which is bounded by Baker's-row on the east and Middlesex-street on the west or City side; with Whitechapel-road on the south, there are no less than 146 registered lodging-houses, with a number of beds exceeding 6,000. Of these 1,150 are in Flower and Dean-street alone, and nearly 700 in Dorset-street. Some of the houses contain as few as four beds, whilst others have as many as 350. At a few of these men only are received, and at others women only, but in the majority there are what are known as "double-doss beds." If no other testimony were needed than that tendered before Mr. Wynne Baxter, coroner, there is little room to doubt the truth of the assertion that when these double beds are let no questions are asked, and the door is opened for the most frightful immorality. The prosecution of a registered lodging-house as a disorderly house is never heard of, and the reason is said to be the fact that the lodging-house keeper takes refuge behind the licence granted to him by the police. Under the Act of 1851 the keepers of common lodging-houses have to register their names and addresses, to give the police inspector appointed for the duty free access at all times, to cleanse the premises, to limewash the walls and ceilings twice a year, and to give immediate notice of an outbreak of infectious disease. The police also require that the house should provide 300 cubic feet to every bed, and they demand of the keeper a certificate of character. In addition to these regulations which concern the lodging-house keeper, the local District Board of Works looks carefully after the drainage and sanitary arrangements, for which the owner is responsible. From the observation of independent witnesses there seems no ground for supposing that the inspector delegated by the Commissioner of Police fails in his duty, or that the District Board officials evade theirs; and, so far as outward cleanliness goes, and compliance with the Act in this respect, the common lodging-houses of to-day are, no doubt, superior to those of a few years ago, before the footrule and whitewash brush were brought into constant use. But what the police and the local body appear to disregard is the moral condition of the inmates of these dens. They admit that they are often of a dangerous class, but their argument is that if they are hunted from their known resorts in one quarter of the metropolis they will only overcrowd another. Thus it happens that the common lodging-house keeper is seldom asked to furnish the name of every person who has frequented his house during the preceding day and night, and, further, steps are rarely taken under the "Prevention of Crime Act, 1871," which prescribes that it is an offence to harbour thieves or reputed thieves, or knowingly to permit them to assemble, or to allow the deposit of goods suspected of having been stolen. Indeed, when the police do make a raid and search the place upon complaint being made, the thieves and their confederates contrive with great effrontery to conceal their plunder unseen. The permanence of these hotbeds of crime has become recognised, and yet the police are not in sufficient force to keep them well under supervision. At any rate, they do not seem able to prevent ruffians from wilfully damaging surrounding property, and from injuring people by throwing brickbats from behind hoardings. If the police argument were strictly true that the houses were inhabited by the criminal classes merely, there might be a justification for not wishing to disperse the infecting units all over London, where they would be more difficult to deal with than when congregated, but in the common lodging-house may be met all sorts of people, many of whom owe their degradation to the life which it entails upon them. As a respectable artisan remarked, "A man who goes into a lodging-house is cursed: he can never get out of it." Happily the demoralising effects upon children are not so great since the Vigilance Societies, empowered by the Criminal Amendment Act of 1885, have been busy in removing young people under age from the pernicious atmosphere; but there are far too many boys and girls who are dragged by their parents into the worst of temptations and associations.
It was with a view to ameliorate the condition of the poor that Lord Radstock and other gentlemen, with a purely philanthropic motive, acquired two years since a warehouse of four floors in Commercial-street, at the corner of Wentworth-street, and converted it into a model lodging-house. The success of the venture led to the acquisition of the adjoining premises, and the number of beds now provided is 500. In every respect this lodging-house - the only one of its sort in London - deserves to be imitated. First, its charges are low - viz., 4d for a single bed, or 2s per week; and 6d for a "cabin," or 3s per week. Each bed has two blankets, two sheets, and a quilt; the bedstead is of iron, and a kind of shield at the head affords a certain degree of privacy. The floor space is partitioned into rooms, containing each ten or a dozen beds; whilst in the "cabins" there is only one. A "casual" ward for the reception of newcomers has lately been added, and probationers are transferred thence to floors above. Many of the lodgers are regulars, but some are birds of passage purely. The lavatory, ventilating, and sanitary arrangements are on an enlightened scale. In the common kitchen food may be cooked at the great fire, or obtained at low charges at the bar, a dinner with vegetables for fourpence, or a bowl of soup for a penny. No known bad characters are admitted. Tickets for beds are issued from five p.m. until 12.30 midnight, and after that hour if a man wants to get in he must have a pass. It is by these rules, especially, and by the exclusion of women, that the Victoria Home is so greatly to be preferred to the most modern and "improved" of the lodging-houses which are strictly commercial undertakings. There are establishments which comply with every requisition of the police, where the beds are made regularly at a certain hour, and the kitchen closed from two a.m. to four a.m., and where uncleanliness is not tolerated, but which, nevertheless, perpetuate the old system of the doss-house, with many of its most glaring evils. The success that has attended the Victoria Home will lead, it is said, to the formation of a similar retreat for women, who are indeed badly off. It is in this direction that there is an opening for enterprise. From Lord Radstock's programme bible class teaching and such influences are inseparable; but is there not room even for a business movement which, dispensing with any aim of this special character, shall, first, provide the homeless poor with good lodgings at a minimum cost per night, free of all the abuses which belong to the existing system of profit-making at an exorbitant rate; and, secondly, assure to investors furnishing the necessary capital a fixed dividend of four per cent. per annum?
There is already a company in existence which proceeds on parallel lines to this suggestion. Lord Rothschild is at the head, and the block of buildings owned by it is in Thrawl-street. It cost £40,000 to build 198 tenements and thirty workshops. A single room can be had for 2s 3d per week, but the chief feature is what may be termed "flats," each complete and self-contained. A sitting-room, bed-room, scullery, and lavatory can be rented from 4s to 6s 6d per week; and if two or three bed-rooms be wanted the rates are respectively from 6s 6d to 6s 9d and from 7s 3d to 7s 6d. Whatever the income, the dividend is not to exceed 4 per cent, and, as the first year's working has shown, it is never likely to be less. The plain question is, What reason, apart from the difficulty of purchasing sites at a reasonable outlay, is there to prevent the application of the same principle to the erection of lodging-houses for the lowest classes? It may be pleaded, from the investor's point of view, that 4 per cent. is not enough to be very tempting, but, on the other hand, we must include the consideration of safety, and the difficulty experienced nowadays in associating that with anything over 4 per cent. is known to all capitalists, big and little. The last report of Lord Rothschild's company distinctly says that the directors are convinced "there will always be, after making all due allowances for depreciation and repairs, a safe dividend of 4 per cent. per annum." Here, then, leaving philanthropy apart, is the investor's desideratum - an interest on his capital exceeding what he can now derive from any English railway securities of average standing. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the financial arrangements of this particular concern to be able to say whether the directors went to work in the most economical way. Probably, not being practical men, they did not. I see they paid £7,000 - more than a sixth of their capital - for a freehold site of three-quarters of an acre. This is a heavy deduction at starting. But under the provisions of the Artisans' Dwellings Act, 1875, land might be acquired by the local authority on much better terms, and with subsequent good management 4 per cent. might safely be taken as the minimum yield. Thus, helped by the existing Acts, a well-considered scheme, amply provided with capital, should pay as a mere commercial speculation. Why is not the attempt made? - Yours, &c.,
TO THE EDITOR OF "THE DAILY TELEGRAPH."
SIR - I have read with considerable interest your very able article in yesterday's issue, which closes with the expression of most just strictures upon the present inadequacy and incapacity of the detective department.
I think that it may not be inappropriate or irrelevant to state my experiences as a candidate for enrolment on the staff of that department, which will tend to prove, in my humble opinion, that the conditions imposed upon applicants virtually bar the admission of men of superior education, intelligence, and address. I stated in my letter to the then head of the department that I was a man of good attainments, a gentleman by birth, of mature experience, speaking French, and, in addition to knowing London and England well, had travelled all over the Continent and knew Paris perfectly. I my ignorance of the working of the department, I naturally supposed that officers other than those one may readily recognise in the streets, and at our various railway-stations, exhibitions, &c., from their very carriage and the listlessness of their behaviour, were employed, at any rate, for tracing superior criminals of the Benson class - men who must be sought in the haunts of gentlemen (in which the men indicated above would be out of their element and conspicuous at once), and not necessarily at Whitechapel or in the purlieus of Shadwell. I, unfortunately, destroyed the stereotyped form of letter I received in reply to my application, but I can quote from memory. Firstly, I was required to serve for a term of, I think, three years in the police force as an ordinary constable and of course to wear the uniform. This was a sine qua non! Secondly, there was a standard of height, one's intelligence was to be gauged by one's inches. A man, say of 5 ft 10 in, regardless of his qualifications, could possibly be enrolled in that select corps; whereas a pigmy of say 5 ft 8 in would have to put up with his conge for no other cause. I only instance the height, as I forget the exact standard.
Surely, Sir, reform is needed, and I trust that your influential voice will not be silenced until we see our detective force as effective as that of France and other countries, and not as it at present stands, a laughing stock to all men of ordinary 'cuteness and intelligence. - I enclose my card, and am, Sir, your obedient servant,
Essex-street, W.C., Sept. 19.
WORSHIP-STREET - AN UNPLEASANT LIKENESS TO "LEATHER APRON." - Thomas Mills, 59, described as a cabinet-maker, with no fixed abode, but who has been many times before this court for drunkenness, was again brought up to answer a charge of being intoxicated in Wellington-row, Shoreditch, on the previous night. - The constable who proved the case said that he found the prisoner surrounded by a mob, the people pulling him about and threatening him, saying, "We'll lynch him, he's 'Leather Apron'." The prisoner was drunk, and for his own safety was removed to the police station. The prisoner (to the magistrate): It's quite true, sir, but what am I to do? Whenever I go out they say I'm "Leather Apron," because the papers had published a portrait of the man, and I'm like it. I was out looking for work, and wherever I go they say, "That's him," and I can't get work, and I get a drop to drink, and then I get angry. - Mr. Saunders said he had no doubt it was the prisoner's own fault for getting drunk. If he kept sober people would not take any notice of his likeness to a picture. He fined him 2s 6d.