How bad were the living conditions for the poor in the newly industrialised towns and cities of the 1840s
In the 1840s, there was a lot of pollution, and there was little regulation of what was put into the river or the air.
The houses for 1840s workers were built very poorly. They were usually made by the factory owners at minimum cost. They were made either one brick, or half a brick thick, and only consisted of one room. There were no indoor lavatories, therefore the workers were left with only two ways to go to the toilet. The first way was to walk up the road and use the toilets at either end of the blocks. Once there they would deposit their body waste into the cess pool via a wooden bench. Flies lived on the walls of the cess pool. They were nourished by the molecules of excretion in the air. There toilets would be shared by as many as 160 people, sometimes more. The cess pool would empty itself into the river, but sometimes market gardeners who would go down into the cess pit to use the filth inside as fertiliser for their garden. Occasionally, young children would drop into the cess pit, never to be seen again.
The second way of going to the toilet was to simply do it out of a window. The body waste which was left on the streets was called night mud. Sometimes when it rained, the night mud would slip underneath your door and end up in your house. Sometimes the night mud would be placed in your house on purpose by people being malicious.
People did not have the type of water supply we have today. They did not have instant running water in their houses, instead they had to collect their water from standpipes in the street. These standpipes had clean water which could be pumped out, as it wasn’t safe to drink from the river, but water only came to a street, via these standpipes, every other day. Yet, there were also water seller who would sell bottles of supposedly, clean water, although no one ever found out where the water came from.
People in the 1840’s were afraid to leave their houses for an extended period of time. The reason for this is that as soon as you leave you house for over a day, it would be used as a toilet. This meant that people who got new jobs in factories would have to clean out there new houses of all of the muck left there by their fellow workers.
In the 1840s, living conditions were much worse than nowadays, due to the lack of both appropriate sanitary provisions and constant running water, but people of 1840’s would have found those conditions normal. What we think of as clean would have probably been considered impossible in those days.
Courtney from Study Moose
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