Lodging houses

Kitchen, Fox Court, Grays Inn Lane, London, Mayhew 1861, Vol I p259“The night-time haven of the wandering tribes”:
The common lodging-house in Victorian England

By the early nineteenth century common lodging-houses had become a well-established form of working-class accommodation in English market towns and cities. In the 1840s their numbers grew rapidly in response to the rising demand for cheap accommodation as more and more people travelled the country in search of work.

Common lodging-houses had an evil reputation, certainly amongst middle-class commentators, and by the 1830s they were considered to be a serious social problem. They were seen as overcrowded, unsanitary dens of iniquity where delinquency and dishonesty were encouraged, stolen goods were exchanged and incendiary political views might be shared. They were known as centres of sexual depravity and dreaded by many as sources of infection and contagious disease. They also represented the antithesis of the Victorian view of family and ‘home’: squalid, raucous and lacking in privacy.

Using examples from Oxfordshire, this talk investigates the truth of these claims and tries to cast common lodging-houses in a more positive light by looking at the economic and social functions that they fulfilled in relation to the supply of industrial and agricultural labour, to patterns of migration, to retailing, to the treatment of the poor and to the provision of popular entertainment. Their role in prompting reform in the provision of working-class housing and in improvements in public sanitation is also examined.

“A deeply researched and beautifully presented talk which led to a lively discussion and an informative question and answer session” Adrian Cantwell, Wootton & Dry Sandford History Society, November 2021.

“An excellent talk… superbly researched and beautifully presented.”  Alan Garnell, Lechlade History Society, October 2016.

“Our members found the details of the lives and occupations of lodging house dwellers quite fascinating.”  Peter Clare, Friends of Abingdon Museum, September 2014.

“You tell us so much in a clear and understandable and very interesting way.”  Elizabeth Harfield, Shilton History Group, February 2013.

“Your friendly approach and most interesting presentation were really enjoyed by us all and we look forward to seeing you again next year.”  Geoff Edwards, Buckinghamshire Family History Society, July 2012.

“Feedback from our members was hugely complimentary, both because your talk’s content was splendid, and because your oral delivery was so clear and precise.”  Paul Gaskell, Oxfordshire Family History Society, May 2012.

Contact me on 01865 242760 or liz@lizwoolley.co.uk to book this talk.

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