Lamb’s Conduit Street, London, WC1. Photo © Roger Dean 2012
The Terrible Sights of London – Thomas Archer, 1870:
Surely among London’s terrible sights we may include the large number of men and women who wander faint and weary in its streets, wondering where, without loss of that self-respect which is almost all they have left of their past estate, they may find even such food and shelter as would be provided by the nearest casual ward, but without its degradation; or in the night refuge, but without having to share it with those who claim it on grounds which they cannot bring themselves to acknowledge.
We do not see this sight, for the sufferers are separated by their very misfortunes. One by one they pass along the Great City’s highways, fearing the light even more than the shadow; yearning for friendly companionship, but yet escaping observation; thinking how in all that vast moving crowd they are alone with sorrow and disappointment, and, sick with bewilderment and despair, envying the very beggars who whine to them for the alms that would save themselves from gnawing hunger.
Now in all this vast London of ours – with its palaces and churches, its hospitals and refuges, its asylums and prisons, its long lines, of splendid buildings, its dreary mazes of filthy hovels – I know of but one house the door of which will open to the touch of such trembling hands, but one hearth where such weary feet may rest, but one home where such claims will meet with the response they most need.