No. 1005: The Broadway, N8
The Broadway, London, N8. Photo © Roger Dean, 2013
Toilers in London; Or, Inquiries Concerning Female Labour in the Metropolis – The “British Weekly” Commissioners, 1889:
“Slack time” is the bugbear of the City work-girl. If the work were regular she would be a fairly happy individual; but she does not earn enough to put by, and, although she knows pretty well when the slack season will set in, she cannot provide for it. Supposing she is a London girl her family help her, and she makes her clothes during slack weeks, or assists her mother in household matters; but, if she is a stranger in the metropolis, she pawns her clothes, and falls back upon other means of subsistence. It is a curious fact that, although most of these girls belong to the artisan class, the greater number of them are not Londoners; they come from all parts of the United Kingdom to pick up the gold which is still supposed to pave the streets of the metropolis. Very few go back to tell the tale of the great City; so girls daily flock into our Modern Babylon from small towns and country villages. Two girls, friends, have come under our notice. They were discontented with their life in a small market town in the South of England, and came to London to make their fortune. They took a room in the West Central district, and began to look for work. On applying at various places they were told “No hands are wanted;” and at others they heard, “We never take girls who have not been properly taught, country hands are of no use to us.” Bit by bit they pawned all their clothes, and still they walked from place to place looking for work. One day they met their old employer, who had come to London on business. He was shocked to see how thin they had become, to notice their ragged clothes and anxious appearance. He offered to take them back, for they had good characters, and had given him satisfaction during the years they had worked for him. But they were too proud to give in. They could not let their friends in the market town see that they had no value in the great City. They refused his offer with tears, he says; but they went on their way, and he never saw them again. Within a year from that time these girls were dead. One died from the effect of drugs given to her by a chemist; the other died in childbirth.
[The relief in the photograph above is one of several showing the many uses for gas on the exterior of the old Gas Showroom in Crouch End, North London. It is now home to a branch of Barclays Bank. R.D.]