London Poverty Maps for #FamilyHistory

If you’re researching London ancestors, this website is very interesting and useful for expanding your family story.

Charles Booth’s London

Charles James Booth (1840-1916) was an English philanthropist and social researcher. He is most renowned for his innovative work documenting working class life in London at the end of the 19th century. You might have seen the BBC2 series The Secret History of Our Streets which referred to the Charles Booth Poverty Maps throughout the series.
This link will take you to The Poverty Maps and they are fascinating.

The population is categorised from the lowest class (Vicious, semi-criminal) through Poor (18s to 21s a week for a moderate family) to the top of the scale Upper middle and Upper (Wealthy). Click on “Legend” on the left of the map to see the categories in more detail and to understand the colour coding of the streets and their associated poverty levels.

You can zoom in and out of the map and if you’re interested in particular streets then use the search box top left.

And not to mention the notebooks! You could spend weeks reading these fascinating documents.

Some of our London ancestors lived in the St-George-in-the-East, Watney Street, Commercial Road area of the East End which is categorised variously from “Lowest class. Vicious, Semi criminal” to “Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings”.

From about 1910 to 1940, Michael’s mother, Rose Murray, lived with her parents and sister in Planet Street in the centre of this zone. In the nineteenth century, Planet Street was known as Star Street and there was a pub of that name in the vicinity.

In 1898 when Charles Booth visited Star Street as part of his mapping exercise he categorised the street as “Very poor. Casual. Chronic want” so life in Star Street was tough.

Later on, life in Planet Street was still tough.

Rose used to tell this tale from the late 1920s:

I’d gone out dancing with some friends and we’d met some boys who walked us home. At the top of Planet Street, my friend Phoebe said to the boys, “Come and have a drink with us at home.”

One of these boys said, “What in Hammer and Chopper Street? No thanks. Good Night,” and off they went.

Despite it’s apparent reputation, Rose always had fond memories of the time she lived in Planet Street.

If you’ve ancestors who lived in London during the Victorian era, Charles Booth’s London is a gold mine of information.

Thanks for reading my blog today.

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4 thoughts on “London Poverty Maps for #FamilyHistory

  1. I love the Booth Poverty Maps, they’re amazing. I don’t visit them nearly so often as I should. It’s fascinating how close together the different social groups lived – but then, perhaps not so surprising when the ‘lower classes’ served those more affluent groups and so lived not so very far away.
    Thanks for the reminder, I must go and take a look at the areas from my recent family history research!

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