Esoteric London

No. 1001: Princelet Street, E1

Posted in Amusements, Graffiti by esotericlondon on December 30, 2013

© Roger Dean RED_6061

Princelet Street, London, E1. Photo © Roger Dean 2013

Sketches of London Life and Character – Albert Smith [et. al.], [1859]:

As you pass through one of those low, densely-populated districts of London where narrow dirty streets show the openings of noisome courts, narrower and dirtier still, and these again conduct to alleys, so dark and close, that sunlight never comes lower down the houses than the parapets of their roofs, you will be struck, above all things, by the swarms of children everywhere collected. They scuffle about, and run across your path, and disappear, like rabbits in a warren, in obscure holes. They wait on the kirb until a cab approaches, and run under the very knees of the horse. They collect round the open water plug, and spend the entire day there, all returning wet through to the skin. They form the great proportion of Mr. Punch’s audience, when his scream is heard in the adjacent large thoroughfare. The barrage of the Nile is rivalled by their indefatigable attempts to obstruct the gutters with rubbish, and form basins in which to launch their walnut shells.
These children are not altogether the results of overfecundity of the inhabitants, for the families thereabouts abiding are by no means large. You occasionally see a girl of seven or eight years staggering under the weight of a baby whose sole nurse she is; but seldom find them with brothers and sisters. They are only acquaintances. Their parents live huddled up in dirty single rooms, repelling all attempts to improve their condition – for “The People,” we regret to say, are naturally fond of dirt – and whenever the rain is not actually pouring down in torrents, they turn their children out to find means of amusement and subsistence, at the same time, in the streets.
Of all their favourite haunts, there is not one more popular than the bit of open ground where a mass of houses have been pulled down to make room for a new street or building. If they find an old beam of timber, so much the better. They unite their pigmy forces to turn it into a see-saw, and, this accomplished, a policeman is the only power that can drive them from the spot.

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