3 thoughts on “More Photos From London’s East End”

  1. I’m just finishing Bill Bryson’s “At Home: A Short History at Private Life,” which looks at the development of the various rooms of an average British house through history.

    While these photos look almost quaint, you wouldn’t believe the level of disease, squalor and hardship that existed in Britain well into this era… and to some extent even into the 1950s (when a ladies’ magazine editor nixed an article on bathroom decor in private homes, on account it would offend the many people whose homes did not even have one toilet).

    A highly recommended read.

  2. I was fascinated by the pictures, actually – although my three immigrant grandparents did not come from London’s East End, they would have known an England very much like this; grimy streets, tall soot-blackened buildings, horse-drawn wagons in the street, and gas street-lights.

    Well, two of the three would have: Granny Dodie grew up in Liverpool’s Merseyside, and departed as soon as she could for Southern California in the 1920s. She lived in a tall narrow house, and shared a bed (not a bedroom!) with two of her older sisters. Grandpa Jim legged it from Five-Mile-Town in Northern Ireland; likely his home-place wasn’t any more up-market. Earth closets (out-houses at the back of the little garden behind the row-house)and no electricity, and the smell of tortured cabbage lingering from decades of dinners. Grandpa Al’s family were from Reading, and they had slightly more pretensions to middle-class-ness.

    One Christmas, I bought a copy of this book for my daughter, and Granny Dodie and Great-Aunt Nan were reminiscing over it, all afternoon:

    They actually remembered all those things! Well, not the country house – but all the rest.

  3. Neville Shute’s novel, “Round the Bend” has an anecdote about the young man who goes off to the middle east in the 40s staying with his parents during a visit back to Southhampton and wiring his parents’ house for them. I think they also had a privy in the back garden. This was in the early 50s. Small wonder the fictional character left England and Shute followed suit in 1960.

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