Guilford Street, London WC1. Photo ©RogerDean 2015
The Terrible Sights of London – Thomas Archer, 1870:
‘THE BEST DINNERS IN LONDON.’
The specialty of the charity is sickness, widely interpreted to embrace that half-starvation on insufficient or improper food, which is the painful condition of so many of the poor, who fight to the death against actual pauperism, and would rather face death itself than consent to break-up a home. It is foolish of them, perhaps; but does it cost more to help them to maintain this honest effort by such means as this than to make them paupers at once, hopeless hereafter of erasing the workhouse stain, and of reuniting the ties that have been broken by the workhouse laws? But see, the musical box is playing its last tune for to-day; the bone of what once was a smoking mound of meat is retiring from the scene; and here, on a plate, is a collection of sweeties which, if I were a medical man, should find no place at a sick children’s dinner-table, unless, indeed, they were to point a moral or adorn a tale. Stay a minute, that is just it. They are intended to do both, and so are the half-dozen oranges that accompany them. Girl number one approaches the door, eyeing the plate with a half-shy, half-wistful smile, and a rather ostentatious display of as clean a pair of hands as can be found on this side St. Pancras church.
‘I’m glad to see a little girl come here to dinner with clean hands and face, and I always notice when children try to make their hair tidy,’ says the lady with the kind motherly face; ‘and so I shall give you a nice orange, my dear.’
Confusion, and a rather resentful attempt of a grimy-fisted boy to go out with his arms folded, in which he signally fails.
‘What, don’t you wish for a sweet? I don’t think you deserve it, but for this once I’ll give you one; and remember, if you
don’t wash your hands next time, I shall leave you out.’