Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Newberry Library-Part 3

In addition to the vast holdings that can be accessed in the map room, the main sections of the library also have a treasure trove of maps on the walls and in the stacks. I had the opportunity to examine and photograph their prints of the remarkable "Maps Descriptive of London Poverty, 1898-9" by the British philanthropist Charles Booth.  These maps are part of a 12 volume set in which he colored in each block of a set of Ordnance Survey maps from 1897.

The information for each block was gathered by social investigators who followed policemen on their beats. The comments of the police officers were combined with their own personal observations.
The color scheme is described by Booth as follows:
Black: Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal.
Dark Blue: Very poor, casual. Chronic want.
Light Blue: Poor. 18s. to 21s. a week for a moderate family.
Purple: Mixed. Some comfortable others poor.
Pink: Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings.
Red: Middle class. Well-to-do.
Yellow: Upper-middle and Upper classes. Wealthy.
From the above map you can see that Victoria Street was quite well off while very close by Great Peter Street was in the lowest two classes.

It appears, from this detail around Blackfriars Road in South London that the main streets were "well to do" areas, but there was lots of poverty along the back streets and alleys. The middle classes apparently didn't mind living by the lunatic asylum.
Below is another section on the edge of Regent's Park. I chose this partially uncolored section to show the wonderful detail of the old Ordnance Survey maps.
The London School of Econmics has an interactive version of these maps. You can scan zoom and pan to any section of London and see what it looked like in 1898.

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