Overcrowding and Housing in Nineteenth-Century London Essay examples

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Overcrowding and Housing in Nineteenth-Century London

From 1801 to 1851, the population of London grew from under 1 million inhabitants to 2.25 million. This was due in large part to immigration, both from other countries and from the countryside of England. Hundreds of thousands of people were moving to the newly industrialized cities and towns to find work, having been squeezed off the land because of the enclosure of farms. There was also displacement of the working-class within the city of London because of a number of construction projects. There were street improvement schemes in which tenements were razed in order to widen the passages. The transformation of part of the city into a non-residential district devoted to finance
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One of every three inhabitants of flats of 4 or less rooms, irrespective of class, were overcrowded. In 1866, the Sanitary Act defined overcrowding as less than 400 cubic feet for each adult living in a room day and night, or 300 cubic feet for a sleeping room. For children, these dimensions were halved. This means that a man, woman, and one child living in a room 8'x10'x10' would be considered overcrowded. For statistical and census purposes, the London City Council ignored cubic capacity, and counted anything beyond two people per room as overcrowded. Hector Gavin, a lecturer in forensic medicine at Charing Cross Hospital estimated that if all the windows and doors of a typical laborers tenement were shut(against the cold, for example), the maximum length a man could survive before all available oxygen was consumed was seven hours. The Window Tax of 1695, which taxed any opening in a building's exterior walls, was finally repealed by the first Public Health Act of 1848.

As the problem of overcrowding became more and more evident, several remedies were tried. There was some individual philanthropy, model dwellings were built by "philanthropic capitalists," legislation was passed prohibiting overcrowding, slums were torn down(which, of course, only worsened the problem by displacing more people), there was suburban speculative development closely following the development of the railroad which provided cheap, rapid transit to the newly-forming
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