Slumming is the thing to do in Victorian England.


A weak milky sun rises this morning over the slum tenements in the factory district.

Slowly, the city wakens.

The blackened buildings are still damp to the touch as the milkmaids begin their morning distribution of pints of milk to select front doors. Workers leave their homes for the day shift at the factory. Carefully, they make their way on the slippery cobblestones still glistening with morning slop.

(First published in May 2018 when I was painting portraits and writing stories suggested by the portraits.)

Slumming in Victorian England: Mr. Stiles, slum lord

Mr. Horace Stiles, proprietor of a section of decaying terraced cottages near the belching smokestacks, is making his rounds collecting the weekly rent.

Slumming tourism

Victorian Era
"Do gooder" from Victorian Era.

Before long, the neighbourhood will be invaded with the usual gawkers and do-gooders who have been visiting the area.They come with journalists, and social workers, and missionaries, slumming tourists they all are

The street sellers will work their usual circuit. From their donkey carts or wheelbarrows they will be hawking hot eels, waste materials from kitchens such as drippings and bones, or selling sheep's feet or live birds.These street sellers will make a decent living as long as they keep moving through different neighbourhoods.

All will witness the gray skin and the sunken eyes of the local children.

The little boy sobbing on the steps of his home will capture their attention momentarily. His father gave him a proper beating this morning when he wet his bed which he shares with two other siblings.

The curious onlookers might see the mother with her young child sitting on the steps of the local church. Both have a worrisome cough. The image might spur a journalist to write a column about homeless women and children.

Abandoned - monochromatic sketch

Slumming tourists will smell the raw sewage from the earth closet or lavatory. It has overflowed again and is spilling out into the narrow alleyway between the homes.

Local streets will be crowded and noisy, but only for a short period. As the factory whistle blows in the evening, and the exhausted workers return home, the gawkers will also find their way to their more affluent, comfortable neighbourhoods, and forget, for a while, the sad scenarios they have witnessed that day.

(photo of tenement housing in header by Chris Barbalis, and of "do gooder" by Jonathan Farber at Unsplash.)

Rejected - monochromatic sketch


2 Responses

    • …A historical period that I find fascinating. In another life, I was an English teacher and I had to talk about Elizabeth I and James I, the latter being the more interesting to my students especially when we studied Macbeth.

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