The following text is extracted from Dickens's Dictionary of London 1888:
The immense extension of late years of the metropolitan railway system has thrown open to those in search of lodgings a much wider field than heretofore, even when sight-seeing is the object, and time pressing. To those who are very hard pushed in the latter respect, or who contemplate being out late at night after the trains have ceased running, a central situation is, of course, still of importance; and those would do well to confine themselves - if economically disposed - to the streets between the river and the Strand, where they will get tolerable accommodation at about 30s. to 50s. a week, or to those on either side of New Oxford Street, where the charges will run a few shillings lower.
In Bloomsbury, again a little farther north, but still within easy reach of the amusement centre, will be found a whole region, the chief occupation of which is the letting of lodgings, and where the traditional bed and sitting room can be obtained at almost any price from one guinea to two and a half. Those who wish to be central, and are not particular as to the price they pay, should prosecute their search in the streets between Pall Mall and Piccadilly, including the former, where they will find as a rule small rooms, often shabbily furnished, but good cooking, first-class attendance, and a general flavour of "society." Prices here are a good deal influenced by the "season," this being the special resort of fashionable bachelors who live at their clubs; but the weekly rent of a bed and sitting room may be taken at from three to six or eight guineas; "extras" also, of course, being in proportion.
On the other side of Piccadilly, prices are much the same, or, if anything, rather higher; but you get larger rooms for your money, the increased distance from the more fashionable clubs rendering them relatively somewhat cheaper. Beyond Oxford Street, again, there is a considerable drop, becoming still more decided on the farther side of Wigmore Street, where very good lodgings can be had for 30s. to 40s. a week. We have here, however, got beyond the region of male attendance, and must be content with the ministrations of the ordinary lodging-house "slavery." The streets running immediately out of Portland Place may be taken as belonging to the category of those between Wigmore Street and Oxford Street, averaging, say, from about 30s. to 60s. per week.
Turning southwards, again we have the large districts of Brompton and Pimlico; a good deal farther off in point of absolute distance, but with the advantage of direct communication with the centre both by rail and omnibus, and the houses are newer and of better appearance. Visitors, however, having families with them will do well to make enquiry either of some well-informed friend or some respectable house-agent in the neighbourhood before settling down in any particular street. The prices here will be found much the same as in the two districts last mentioned, varying of course with the accommodation, which has here a greater range than in most districts.
Those who desire still cheaper accommodation must go farther afield, the lowest-priced of all being in the north-east and south-east districts, in either of which a bed and sitting room may be had at rents varying from 10s., or even less, to 30s. In the extreme west, south-west, and north-west, rents are a little higher, 15s. a week being about the minimum. In all cases, except perhaps that of the Pall Mall district, these prices should include kitchen fire, boot-cleaning, hall and staircase gas, attendance, and all extras whatsoever. It will, however, be necessary to stipulate for all these things individually. The mere word "inclusive" means nothing, or less, being very commonly taken as an indication that the enquirer either does not know what extras mean, or is too shy to formulate his requirements categorically. Set everything out in plain terms and in black and white. Stipulate also at the same time and in the same way as to the prices to be charged for gas and coal for private consumption; the former being usually charged at the rate of 6d. per week per burner, and the latter at the rate of 6d. per scuttle. It may be as well to remember, too, if bent on rigid economy, that scuttles vary in size.
Finally, you will find it necessary, if in the habit of dining late - i.e. after 1 or 2 p.m. - to make distinct stipulations to that effect, not only generally, but, if you so desire, with special regard to Sunday. In the first-class districts this does not apply, though even in them there is no harm in mentioning it. But in houses of the lower classes, this will almost invariably be found a difficulty, a very large proportion flatly declining to furnish late Sunday dinners on any terms. The usual mode of hiring lodgings is by the week, in which case a clear week's notice, terminating on the same day of the week as that on which possession was taken, is necessary before leaving. If you wish to be at liberty to leave at shorter notice, or to give the week's notice from any other day, it will be necessary to have an express stipulation to that effect in writing.
LODGING HOUSES (COMMON)
Every establishment of this kind throughout the metropolis is now under direct and continual police supervision; every room being inspected and measured before occupation, a placard being hung up in each stating the number of beds for which it is licensed, calculated upon the basis of a minimum allowance of space for each person. Every bed, moreover, has to be furnished weekly with a complete supply of fresh linen, whilst careful provision is made for the ventilation of the rooms, the windows of which are also thrown open throughout the house at 10 a.m.
In its way there are few things more striking, than the comparative sweetness of these dormitories, even when crowded with tramps and thieves of the lowest class. The common sitting-rooms on the ground floor are not, it must be confessed, always equally above reproach. In all cases the men's and women's dormitories are separate; rooms devoted to married couples being partitioned off in the fashion of the old square-pewed churches, and into separate pens upon about the same scale. The mixed lodging-houses - or those at which both sexes are received - are comparatively few, the general practice being for each house to confine itself to one class. All have a common sitting-room on the ground floor, with a fire at which the lodgers can cook their victuals. In a few instances these supplies can be obtained in the house itself.
About the best sample of this kind of establishment extant will be found at St. George's Chambers, St. George's Street, London Docks (vulgo, Ratcliff Highway), a thorough poor man's hotel, where a comfortable bed, with use of sitting-room, cooking apparatus and fire, and laundry accommodation (soap included) can be had for 4d. a night; all kinds of provisions being obtainable in the bar at proportionate rates. To anyone interested in the condition of the London poor, this establishment is well worth a journey to the East End to visit. On the other hand, the following is a list of streets or places in the metropolis in which common lodging houses of the lower class are situate:
Format: Street or Place, ParishPolice Division A
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