Page:The bitter cry of outcast London.djvu/22

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18
THE BITTER CRY

Halls and of carrying on the work be very large, but a relief fund will be needed as indicated above. The Committee, therefore, can only hope to carry forward with any success the project to which they have already put their hands, by the really devoted help of the churches which they represent.

DESCRIPTION OF THE DISTRICTS.

The district known as Collier's Rents is one of the three to which attention will first be given, and the old chapel, long disused, is now in the builders' hands and will soon be ready for opening, not as a chapel, but as a bright, comfortable, and in every way suitable Hall. It would be impossible to find a building better situated for working among the very poor and degraded than this. It stands in a short street, leading out of Long Lane, Bermondsey, the locality in which were recently found the bodies of nine infants, which had been deposited in a large box at the foot of some stairs in an undertaker's shop. There are around the Hall some 650 families, or 3,250 people, living in 123 houses. The houses are largely occupied by costermongers, bird catchers, street singers, liberated convicts, thieves, and prostitutes. There are many low lodging-houses in the neighbourhood of the worst type. Some of them are tenanted chiefly by thieves, and one was pointed out which is kept by a receiver of stolen goods. In some cases two of the houses are united by means of a passage, which affords a ready method of escape in case of police interference.

Turning out of one of these streets you enter a narrow passage, about ten yards long and three feet wide. This leads into a court eighteen yards long and nine yards wide. Here are twelve houses of three rooms each, and containing altogether 36 families. The sanitary condition of the place is indescribable. A large dust-bin charged with all manner of filth and putrid matter stands at one end of the court, and four water-closets at the other. In this confined area all the washing of these 36 families is done, and the smell of the place is intolerable. Entering a doorway you go up six or seven steps into a long passage, so dark that you have to grope your way by the clammy, dirt-encrusted wall, and then you find a wooden stair, some of the steps of which are broken through. Ascending as best you can, you gain admission to one of the rooms. You find that although the front and back of the house are of brick, the rooms are