3 November 1888
The threepenny or fourpenny "Dose 'ouse" by no means represents the ultimate stage of squalid poverty. The man or woman who commands the accommodation is like Carlyle's typical possessor of sixpence, compared with the wretchedness an utter hopelessness of him or her, who, at ten o'clock, is absolutely without the means to purchase a night's shelter. Cold, tired, famishing, to late to seek even the hated alternative of the casual ward. not a rag worth twopence to pawn; no - there is nothing but a doorstep or an archway into which to creep and to hide! Theoretically, Mr. George Hamilton of the Free Gospel Mission, 59, Mile-end-road, is not acting according to scientific charitable principles; for he has ventured to use his mission-room as a night shelter for this entirely destitute class of women. It may be "demoralising", perhaps in a few instances the few pence saved are spent in gin before coming to it, but, judging from the appearance of those whom I saw there one very recent, pouring wet night, hat it not been for this room, most of them would "not have had where to lay their heads."
One word about the Mission itself, first. Mr. Hamilton has never made any public appeal for assistance, but has carried it in entirely for many years by himself and with the assistance of a few personal friends. Since he used his premised as a night refuge, the parish authorities intervened, in sanitary grounds, to prevent his overcrowding it; and the neighbours objected to his action as a nuisance. But he has found it useful that he intends moving into premises more suitable for the purpose. It must be understood that he offers no attraction whatever. He does not even provide a bet for his visitors. All he does is to allow the wretched women to come and sit there for the night. There is just some fire, some wooden benches, and the bare boards. The Aerated Bread Company give him their tea leaves, and there is sufficient goodness left in them to make a cup of tea for all, and he generally, but not always, gives a thick slice of bread to each one. Yet, so great is the demand for these scanty privileged, that his assistant, when he goes to the door to give the admission tickets to those who are patiently waiting for them outside, is often carrier off his legs in the eager clamour to get in. It is a different party who gather there every night, and he seldom has one twice following. It was the most miserable destitute assemblage that it has ever been my lot to see. Most of them were old or past middle-aged women, and of the type which we associate with the unhappy victims of the recent murders. They crouched against the walls, with their wretched shawls drawn tight around them. One was absolutely shoeless; another hat wound some rags and straw around her feet. One wore a tattered old skirt of brown satin, which had evidently gone through many vicissitudes in its carrier down to Petticoat-lane. The crushed and battered old bonnets had been laid aside by some, and one regretfully thought of all the sweet feminine attributes of neatness and taste that had been crushed away under the grinding wheels of dire need, ere any woman could wear such dirt and rags upon her head, as some of these were. It was plain that many of them had not have a petticoat under their old skirts, and some had scarce the garment they call "a shift". One of the saddest stories I heard there was from a nice-looking and quite young woman, who seemed to feel her position acutely. She had been a servant, and had been dismissed from her situation seven months ago. She had picked up a few odd jobs occasionally, but had sunk and sunk, and could only dejectedly answer the questions as to how she got her living by saying, "Just how I can."
"Would you like to go back to service?", I inquired.
"Ah! just shouldn't I," she replied; "but who would take me as I am."
A few nights back a tall and very handsome girl came to the shelter, earnestly begging admission. Some four months ago she had foolishly run away from a respectable home to live with a man in a street near. He was a brutal bully, and she was abject in terror of her life, for he used to send her out on the streets, and if she failed to bring enough money to gratify his drinking propensities, used simply to pull off her clothing, throw her down in the floor, and beat her till he was tired with the heavy buckle end of a soldier's belt. On one occasion he had tried to cut her throat. Medical examination proved the truth of her story, and, as she expressed great sorrow for her mistake, she had been placed in a home to be trained as a domestic servant. Another instance was that of a young woman, daughter of a gas-fitter. She had been educated to be a nursery governess, but her father had died suddenly, and she and her little brother were left alone in the world. Friends managed to obtain admission for the little boy to Mr. Spurgeon's Orphanage and she got work as a shoe stitcher. Bad times came, and she lost this. She could not pay her rent, every little article she possessed had been pawned, and one cold dreary night at ten o'clock, she was turned adrift into the streets. A friendly policeman seeing her crying bitterly brought her to the shelter, and Mr, Hamilton asked her what she intended to do. She said she had a prospect of a job on Saturday (it was then Wednesday), an she had twopence which a lady had given her. "But," he asked, "could you live for a day on that?"
"Oh yes, sir", she quietly answered. "I've often done it. I eat very little."
He mentioned he to a lady friend, who took her into her house, in which she is now giving great satisfaction as a servant. Many of the older women have seen better days. But the market for their unskilled labour is so hopelessly overcrowded, and they cannot find work. What are they to do? what are we to do for them? It is an increasing class. Many come there, and honestly say they don't want charity, but employment, and could thy once get that they would ask no more.
The bread and the tea were soon eagerly devoured. More than one told me it was the first food they had eaten all day, and their ravenous action bore out their words. And then some stretched themselves along the floor for sleep. It was not a bed of down and silken sheets, but it was better than a doorway, and open area, or a corner of some draughty court in the pitiless soaking rain of a drear November night.
A REMARKABLE LETTER.
The Earl of Sheffield has for some time past been the recipient of anonymous and threatening letters. The other day he received the following, bearing the Uckfield Post-mark of October 27: - "England, Oct. 28, '88. - Dear Lord Sheffield, - I am sorry but feeling it my duty to let you know as I do not think you do, or you would not have the Heart to turn an old Tennent like poor old Mrs. Grover out of her House after such an hard struggle to maintain and bring up her family, not only that, but not allowing anyone to get an honest living there in the butchering line, as they have done for a great number of years, but it seems to me as though you and your faithful steward want it all, and if you had my wish you would get more than you wanted. Remember, this is a warning to you, but, at the same time, I should be much obliged to you I you could arrange it for your steward to sleep under the same roof as yourself on Monday night, October 29, or else I shall have to bring an assistant. My knife is nice and sharp. Oh for a gentleman this time instead of a lady. I am sorry for troubleing you, but don't forget the 29th. - I remain yours truly, JACK THE RIPPER." - Lord Sheffield has resolved to make a special effort upon this occasion to capture his assailant. The above letter has, therefore, been reproduced in fac-simile, and his Lordship has offered a reward of 250 pounds for information leading to the arrest of the writer.
In two annual reports in connection with the London City Mission issued yesterday, some additional light is thrown upon the social condition of people who live in the neighbourhood where the East-end atrocities have been committed, and upon the effects which the latter have produced among the inhabitants. The Flower-and-Dean-street report says: "All the victims of the recent crimes in the East-end lived in this district, and frequented the common lodging-houses which are situated within its boundaries. Some of them were well known to the missionary, especially the last of the series, who met with their sad fate so unsuspectingly in Mitre-square. This poor woman was neater in her appearance than many of her class, and had on previous Sunday attended the service held by the missionary in one of the lodging-houses." The dreadful tragedies which have so recently occurred have struck terror into the minds of many pg this class, and advantage has been taken of this by the organizing secretary of the midnight movement. The population is a migratory one There are forty lodging-houses in the neighbourhood accommodation 4,000 souls. The reports show that the earnings of this class of people are very inadequate, while the price they pay for the rooms is exorbitant.