19th Century London Housing


Housing in 19th century London was highly dependent on the class an individual was a part of. Multiple room and single room housing was reserved for the upper and middle classes respectively, whereas the poor and working classes found themselves crammed into slums and overpacked apartment housing. The locations of these forms of housing played an integral role in the development of London society and also made a huge impact on the conditions of those living there as well.

Housing for the upper and middle classes was situated on the outskirts of the main city. This meant that there was not only room for their housing districts to grow, but enough space that the surrounding area could be kept clean. The houses of these families varied heavily; most upper class families had their own house with suitable ventilation and multiple rooms to inhabit, whereas middle class families could find themselves inhabiting one or several single large rooms. Either way, these families would have had enough room to allow them to live in comfort. It can be seen that these families also avoided being subjected to later 19th century housing inspections, unlike the poorer classes.

The slums and boardinghouses for the working and poor classes were built in the middle of the districts of London, often situated off of large factory areas. This location meant that they not only had to deal with the noise of the factories, but the filth as well. If they were not living next to a factory these structures would have been built right next to each other as a means of utilizing all the open space. They were also built in quick succession as the cities began to realize that they didn’t have enough housing for their population. As a result, they were not the most sturdy buildings or well thought out for ventilation, plumbing, etc. Crowded buildings on top of dirty streets did not make for the best living conditions, especially considering that the families inhabiting these buildings would be sharing a small open room or apartment with other families. These tight living conditions enabled disease and sickness to spread rapidly. It was not until the enforcement of inspections in the later half of the 19th century that prohibited large numbers of people in the same space and enforced proper cleanliness that these spaces became more habitable.

- Shannon Holland