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The London County Council (LCC) was created in 1889 as a result of the 1888 Local Government Act. The LCC was the first metropolitan-wide form of general local government. Elections were held in January 1889 and the Progressive Party, won seventy of the 118 seats. The new council met under the chairmanship of the Earl of Rosebery. Members of the ruling group included Sidney Webb (who became chairman of the Technical Instruction Committee), Will Crooks (chairman of Public Control Committee), John Benn, John Burns and Ben Tillett. Influenced by the radical members the LCC took a leading role in school reform and town planning.


In brief – Early-20th century London

County Hall, offices of the London County Council, opened in 1922 on the south side of Westminster Bridge. At that time it was unfinished, hence its lack of symmetry in this photograph. It was built on the site of the earlier Metropolitan Board of Works offices and various wharves and factories. It served as the headquarters of local London government until 1986.

London County Council Bomb Damage Maps

The Bomb Damage Maps were annotated extensively with the use of colour keys by the Architects Department of the London County Council (LCC) to indicate, building by building, bomb damage in London during the Second World War. This is the most detailed record of damage to the capital&rsquos built environment caused by aerial bombardment. An iconic and multi-layered source for London&rsquos experience of war and its aftermath, it conveys complex survey data in the tradition of Leake&rsquos Great Fire map, Milne&rsquos land use map, Mylne&rsquos geological maps and Booth&rsquos poverty maps.

Used frequently by architects, surveyors, town planners and local and family historians seeking information on the precise degree of damage suffered by properties across the 117 square miles of the London Region 1940-1945, the maps are a symbol of Londoners&rsquo resilience in adversity and highlight the enormous effort and forethought of the LCC to serve London and Londoners in their &lsquohour of need&rsquo. Used by Patrick Abercrombie and John Henry Forshaw in drawing up the County of London Plan (1943) and the Greater London Plan (1944) to rebuild the capital in the post-war period, the maps are a key source for studies of post-war town planning in London and the UK.

The bomb damage maps have been inscribed onto the UNESCO UK Memory of the World Register.

The Bomb Damage maps are available for consultation at LMA as colour facsimile copies or as digital copies on our &lsquoMagnifying the Metropolis&rsquo application in our Mediatheque area.


London County Council - History

London is a world itself, and its records embrace a world history. (Garwood viii)

Introduction

The origins of London slums date back to the mid eighteenth century, when the population of London, or the &ldquoGreat Wen,&rdquo as William Cobbett called it, began to grow at an unprecedented rate. In the last decade of the nineteenth century London's population expanded to four million, which spurred a high demand for cheap housing. London slums arose initially as a result of rapid population growth and industrialisation. They became notorious for overcrowding, unsanitary and squalid living conditions. Most well-off Victorians were ignorant or pretended to be ignorant of the subhuman slum life, and many, who heard about it, believed that the slums were the outcome of laziness, sin and vice of the lower classes. However, a number of socially conscious writers, social investigators, moral reformers, preachers and journalists, who sought solution to this urban malady in the second half of the nineteenth century, argued convincingly that the growth of slums was caused by poverty, unemployment, social exclusion and homelessness.

The Slums of East London

Two of Phil May's depictions of life in the East End: East End Loafers and A Street-Row in the East End .

The most notorious slum areas were situated in East London, which was often called "darkest London," a terra incognita for respectable citizens. However, slums also existed in other parts of London, e.g. St. Giles and Clerkenwell in central London, the Devil's Acre near Westminster Abbey, Jacob's Island in Bermondsey, on the south bank of the Thames River, the Mint in Southwark, and Pottery Lane in Notting Hill.

In the last decades of the Victorian era East London was inhabited predominantly by the working classes, which consisted of native English population, Irish immigrants, many of whom lived in extreme poverty, and immigrants from Central and Eastern Europe, mostly poor Russian, Polish and German Jews, who found shelter in great numbers in Whitechapel and the adjoining areas of St. George’s-in-the-East and Mile End.

Whitechapel

Two views of Whitechapel by Joseph Pennell: An East End Factory and Whitechapel Shops .

Whitechapel was the hub of the Victorian East End. By the end of the seventeenth century it was a relatively prosperous district. However, some of its areas began to deteriorate in the mid eighteenth century, and in the second half of the nineteenth century they became overcrowded and crime infested.

Whitechapel from the 1849 Illustrated London News .

Many poor families lived crammed in single-room accommodations without sanitation and proper ventilation. There were also over 200 common lodging houses which provided shelter for some 8000 homeless and destitute people per night. Margaret Harkness, a social researcher and writer, rented a room in Whitechapel in order to make direct observations of degraded slum life. She described the South Grove workhouse in her slum novel, In Darkest London :

The Whitechapel Union is a model workhouse that is to say, it is the Poor Law incarnate in stone and brick. The men are not allowed to smoke in it, not even when they are in their dotage the young women never taste tea, and the old ones may not indulge in a cup during the long afternoons, only at half-past six o'clock morning and night, when they receive a small hunch of bread with butter scraped over the surface, and a mug of that beverage which is so dear to their hearts as well as their stomachs. The young people never go out, never see a visitor, and the old ones only get one holiday in the month. Then the aged paupers may be seen skipping like lambkins outside the doors of the Bastile, while they jabber to their friends and relations. A little gruel morning and night, meat twice a week, that is the food of the grown-up people, seasoned with hard work and prison discipline. Doubtless this Bastile offers no premium to idle and improvident habits but what shall we say of the woman, or man, maimed by misfortune, who must come there or die in the street? Why should old people be punished for their existence? [143]

Whitechapel was the venue of murders committed in the late 1880s on several women by the anonymous serial killer, called Jack the Ripper, who probably lived in the environs of Flower and Dean Street. The national press, which reported in great detail the Whitechapel murders, also revealed to the reading public the appalling deprivation and dire poverty of the East London slum dwellers. As a result, the London County Council tried to get rid of the worst slums by introducing several slum clearance programmes, but by the end of the nineteenth century few housing schemes for the poor were implemented. Jack London, who explored the living conditions of the poor in Whitechapel for six weeks in 1902, was astounded by the misery and overcrowding of the Whitechapel slums. He wrote a book about its miserable inhabitants and gave it the title The People of the Abyss .

Spitalfields

Spitalfields, which received its name from St. Mary's Spittel (hospital) for lepers, had been once inhabited by prosperous French Huguenot silk weavers, but in the early 19th century their descendants were reduced to a deplorable condition due to the competition of the Manchester textile factories and the area began to deteriorate into crime-infested slums. The spacious and handsome Huguenot houses were divided up into tiny dwellings which were rented by poor families of labourers, who sought employment in the nearby docks.

Three of Leonard Raven-Hill's depictions of life in the East End: A Corner in Petticoat Lane , The Hooligans , and A 'Schnorrer' (Beggar) of the Ghetto" .

In the second half of the nineteenth century Spitalfields became home for Dutch and German Jews, and later for masses of poor Polish and Russian Jewish immigrants. Brick Lane, which passes through Spitalfields, was inhabited in the 1880s mostly by Orthodox Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. By the early 1890s a number of shuls (synagogues) and chevrots (small places of worship) had been opened in Spitalfields and the neighbouring areas. The Jews' Temporary Shelter was created in 1886 at Leman Street for new immigrants arriving in London from Eastern Europe.

Many philanthropic institutions were active in Spitalfields in the second half of the nineteenth century. In 1860, Fr. Daniel Gilbert and the Sisters of Mercy opened a night refuge for destitute women and children in Providence Row. The American banker and philanthropist, George Peabody, created a foundation, which built the first improved dwellings for the &ldquoartisans and labouring poor of London&rdquo in Commercial Street in 1864. However, all these ventures were inadequate for the improvement of the living conditions of the poor. Arthur Morrison described the Brick Lane slums and its environs in The Palace Journal as places of darkness where &ldquohuman vermin&rdquo lived:

Black and noisome, the road sticky with slime, and palsied houses, rotten from chimney to cellar, leaning together, apparently by the mere coherence of their ingrained corruption. Dark, silent, uneasy shadows passing and crossing – human vermin in this reeking sink, like goblin exhalations from all that is noxious around. Women with sunken, black-rimmed eyes, whose pallid faces appear and vanish by the light of an occasional gas lamp, and look so like ill-covered skulls that we start at their stare. [1023]

Bethnal Green

Bethnal Green was a place of small-scale manufacturing and shabby working-class housing. The local major employer was Allen & Hanbury's, one of the biggest factories in the East End, which produced pharmaceutical and medical goods. In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, it became an area of extreme poverty and overcrowded slums. In 1884, Keble College, Oxford University, established Oxford House Settlement in Bethnal Green as part of its philanthropic activity, which consisted in providing religious, social and educational work as well as healthy recreation among the poor of East London. The Settlement housed a boy's club, gym and library. Working-class inhabitants could listen to lectures, Bible readings and concerts. The residents of Oxford House were socially-conscious members of the upper classes who wanted to get acquainted with the sordid living conditions of the poor and, simultaneously, establish better cross-class relationships based on Christian brotherhood and benevolence.

The Old Nichol

The Old Nichol, situated between High Street, Shoreditch, and Bethnal Green, was regarded as the worst slum of the East End. It consisted of 20 narrow streets containing 730 dilapidated terraced houses which were inhabited by some 6,000 people. The London County Council (LCC) decided to clear the Old Nichol slums in the 1890s, and the first council housing development in Britain, called the Boundary Estate, was built in its place shortly before 1900. The deplorable conditions of the Old Nichol were immortalised by Arthur Morrison in his slum novel, The Child of the Jago .

Slumming

In the late Victorian era London's East End became a popular destination for slumming, a new phenomenon which emerged in the 1880s on an unprecedented scale. For some slumming was a peculiar form of tourism motivated by curiosity, excitement and thrill, others were motivated by moral, religious and altruistic reasons. The economic, social and cultural deprivation of slum dwellers attracted in the second half of the nineteenth century the attention of various groups of the middle- and upper-classes, which included philanthropists, religious missionaries, charity workers, social investigators, writers, and also rich people seeking disrespectable amusements. As early as in 1884, The New York Times published an article about slumming which spread from London to New York.

Slumming commenced in London […] with a curiosity to see the sights, and when it became fashionable to go 'slumming' ladies and gentlemen were induced to don common clothes and go out in the highways and byways to see people of whom they had heard, but of whom they were as ignorant as if they were inhabitants of a strange country. [September 14, 1884 ]

In the 1880s and 1890s a great number of middle- and upper-class women and men were involved in charity and social work, particularly in the East End slums. The national press covered widely shocking and sensational news from the slums. Anxiety and curiosity about slums could be heard in many public debates to that extent that, as Seth Koven writes:

By the 1890s, London guidebooks such as the Baedeker’s not only directed visitors to shops, monuments, and churches but also mapped excursions to world renowned philanthropic institutions located in notorious slum districts such as Whitechapel and Shoreditch. [1]

In fact, for a considerable number of Victorian gentlemen and ladies slumming was a form of illicit urban tourism. They visited the most deprived streets of the East End in pursuit of the 'guilty pleasures' associated with the immoral slum dwellers. Upper-class slummers sometimes spent in disguise a night or more in poor boarding houses seeking to experience taboo intimacies with the members of the lower classes. Their cross-class sexual fellowships contributed to diminishing class barriers and reshaping gender relations at the turn of the nineteenth century.

However, slumming was not only limited to odd amusement. In the last two decades of the Victorian era a rising number of missionaries, social relief workers and investigators, politicians, journalists and fiction writers as well as middle-class ‘do-gooders’ and philanthropists made frequent visits to the East End slums to see how the poor lived. A number of gentlemen and lady slummers decided to take up temporary residence in the East End in order to collect data on the nature and extent of poverty and deprivation. Some slummers were disguised in underclass drags in order to transgress class boundaries and mix freely with the poverty stricken inhabitants of the slums. Written or oral accounts of their first-hand observations arose public conscience and motivation to provide slum welfare programmes, and prompted political demands for slum reform.

The last two decades of the nineteenth century witnessed the upsurge of public inquiry into the causes and extent of poverty in Britain. Some of the most outstanding late Victorian slummers were Princess Alice of Hesse, the third child of Queen Victoria Lord Salisbury, and his sons, William and Hugh, who resided temporarily in Oxford House, Bethnal Green William Gladstone, and his daughter Helen, who lived in the south London slums as head of the Women's University Settlement. (Koven 10) Even Queen Victoria visited the East End to open the People’s Palace in Mile End Road in 1887.

Benevolent middle- and upper-class women went to slums for a variety of purposes. They volunteered in parish charities, worked as nurses and teachers and some of them conducted sociological studies. Such women as Annie Besant, Lady Constance Battersea, Helen Bosanquet, Clara Collet, Emma Cons, Octavia Hill, Margaret Harkness, Beatrice Potter (Webb), and Ella Pycroft explored some of London’s most notorious rookeries, and their eye-witness reports gradually changed the public opinion about the causes of poverty and squalor. By the turn of the nineteenth century thousands of men and women were involved in social work and philanthropy in London slums.

Slum Exploration Literature

In the second half of the nineteenth century, London slums attracted the attention of journalists and social researchers, who described them as areas of extreme poverty, degradation, crime and violence, and called for an immediate public action to improve the living and sanitary conditions of the working classes. &ldquoSlums ceased to be regarded as a disease in themselves and gradually came to be viewed as a symptom of a much larger social ill.&rdquo (Wohl 223) A number of contemporary accounts about subhuman life in the slums aroused public concern. Some of them helped prepare the subsequent slum reform and clearance legislations.

Out of a great number of publications that dealt with London slums, mention should be made of Hector Gavin's Sanitary Ramblings: Being Sketches and Illustrations of Bethnal Green (1848), Henry Mayhew's London Labour and London Poor (1851), John Garwood's The Million-People City (1853), John Hollinghead's Ragged London (1861), J. Ewing Ritchie's The Night Side of London (1861), James Greenwood's The Seven Curses of London (1869) and The Wilds of London (1874), Adolphe Smith's Street Life in London (1877), Andrew Mearns' The Bitter Cry of Outcast London (1883), George Sims' How the Poor Live (1883), Henry King's Savage London (1888), Walter Besant's East London (1899), Charles Booth's monumental report, Life and Labour of the People in London (17 volumes, 1889–1903), and B. S. Rowntree’s Poverty: A Study of Town Life (1901). All these reports are valuable social documents which provide background information about the deplorable slum conditions in late Victorian London. They are available in an electronic form on the Internet.

Conclusion

There is little doubt that late Victorian slums were the consequence of the rapid industrialisation and urbanisation of the country, which led to a more dramatic spatial separation between the rich and the poor, known as the two-nation divide, with incomparably different lifestyles and living standards. Slumming, which became a way of getting immersed in slum culture, contributed to the development of public awareness that slum conditions were not providential and deviant, but rather afflicted by the economy and circumstances, and could be improved by an adequate economic, social and cultural policy.

Related Material

References and Further Reading

Ackroyd, Peter. London: The Biography . London: Vintage: London, 2001.

Chadwick, Edwin. Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population of Great Britain . 1842. Ed. & Intro. M.W. Flinn. Edinburgh: University Press, 1965.

Chesney, Kellow. The Anti-society: An Account of the Victorian Underworld . Boston: Gambit, 1970.

Cobbett, William. Rural Rides . London: Published by William Cobbett, 1830.

Dyos, H. J. and D. A. Reeder. &ldquoSlums and Suburbs,&rdquo The Victorian City, ed. H. J. Dyos, and M. Wolff, 1:359-86. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973. ___. &ldquoThe Slums of Victorian London, &rdquo Victorian Studies , 11, 1 (1967) 5-40.

Koven, Seth. Slumming: Sexual and Social Politics in Victorian London . Princeton University Press, 2004.

Gordon, Michael R. Alias Jack the Ripper: Beyond the Usual Whitechapel Suspects . Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2001.

Garwood, John. The Million-Peopled City or, One Half of the People of London Made Known to the Other Half. . London: Wertheim and Macintosh, 1853.

Haggard, Robert F. The Persistence of Victorian Liberalism: The Politics of Social Reform in Britain, 1870-1900 . Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 2001.

Harkness, Margaret. In Darkest London . Cambridge: Black Apollo Press, 2003.

Kellow Chesney, The Victorian Underworld . Harmonsworth: Penguin, 1970.

Lees, L. H. Exiles of Erin: Irish Migrants in Victorian London . Manchester: Manchester UP, 1979.

London, Jack. The People of the Abyss in: London: Novels and Social Writings . New York: The Library of America, 1982, also available from Project Gutenberg.

Mayhew, Henry. London Labour and the London Poor . 4 vols. 1861-2. Intro. John D. Rosenberg. New York: Dover Publications, 1968.

Morrison, Arthur. &ldquoWhitechapel,&rdquo The Palace Journal , April 24, 1889 also available at: http://www.library.qmul.ac.uk/sites.

Olsen, Donald J. The Growth of Victorian London . New York: Holmes & Meier 1976.

Porter, Roy. London: A Social History . Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Ross, Ellen, ed. Slum Travelers: Ladies and London Poverty, 1860-1920 . Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2007.

Ross, Ellen. &ldquoSlum Journeys: Ladies and London Poverty 1860-1940,&rdquo in: Alan Mayne and Tim Murray, eds. The Archaeology of Urban Landscapes: Explorations in Slumland . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

Scotland, Nigel. Squires in the Slums: Settlements and Missions in Late Victorian Britain . London. I.B. Tauris & Co., 2007.

Stedman Jones, G. Outcast London: A Study in the Relationship Between Classes in Victorian Society . Oxford: Peregrine Penguin Edition, 1984. &ldquoSlumming In This Town. A Fashionable London Mania Reaches New York. Slumming Parties To Be The Rage This Winter, &rdquo The New York Times , September 14, 1884.

Wohl, Anthony S. The Eternal Slum: Housing and Social Policy in Victorian London . New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, 2009.

___. Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain . Cambridge, Mass: Harvard UP, 1983.

Yellling, J. A. Slums and Slum Clearance in Victorian London . London: Allen & Unwin, 1986.


London In Pictures – A London County Council 1937 Guide

The London County Council (LCC) along with the metropolitan boroughs, transformed London.

The LCC was responsible for the coordination and provision of a wide range of services across London, for example the growth of council provided housing, education, provision of medical services, parks and gardens, infrastructure and consumer services. The LCC, along with authorities such as the Metropolitan Water Board, the London Passenger Transport Board, the London Fire Brigade and the Metropolitan Borough Councils transformed London from the 19th century city to the city we recognise today.

The London County Council produced a considerable number of publications on almost any aspect of the running and organisation of a major city that you could imagine. Within these publications there is a common theme – a considerable pride in the city and the services that the LCC provided to Londoners.

Much of this can look strange from a 21st century viewpoint – too intrusive, too organising, too much “authority knows best”. However with austerity, drastic reductions in council services, library closures, funding challenges for the NHS, Police and Education, the past can look deceptively attractive, but dig deeper and comparisons are never simple.

I have collected a wide range of LCC publications over the years, they provide considerable insight into the development of the city from the formation of the LCC in 1889 until the transfer to the Greater London Council in 1965.

For this week’s post, I would like to feature a publication which provides an overview of all the services provided by the LCC and other London authorities. A snapshot in one specific year – 1937.

This is London In Pictures – Municipal London Illustrated.

London in Pictures is a guide-book, but a guide-book with a difference as the foreward to the book describes:

“Many London guide books are published every year and many picture books illustrating the external beauties of London streets and street scenes and buildings of architectural and historic interest. None of these publications, however, devotes adequate attention, even if any notice at all be given, to the municipal interests of London”

The guide-book was targeted at visitors to, and those on holiday in London, and the foreward goes on to explain that if the visitor can understand the government of the city and how London is delivering municipal activities, they can take back this knowledge to help solve problems in their own town or city. Possibly a very limited readership, but again, this demonstrates the LCC’s pride in the way that London was administered and the services provided to the city’s inhabitants.

The book is divided into sections focusing on a specific aspect of the LCCs services, so lets start with – Block Dwellings built by the Council.

In 1937 the LCC owned around 25,000 flats across London. These were typically in estates with blocks of flats to a common design, however many designs were unique and still look good today.

One of these was the Oaklands Estate in Clapham. This estate occupied around 3 acres and provided 185 dwellings with a total of 582 rooms. The estate was built between 1935 and 1936 and the following photo is of Eastman House on the Oaklands Estate.

The Clapham Park Estate is of the more traditional London County Council design. This is a view of Lycett and Cotton Houses on the estate which was built between 1930 and 1936, with the overall estate comprising 759 dwellings.

The LCC also developed Council Cottage Estates. These estates consisted of houses and smaller flats, providing a low-rise appearance and reduced housing density. This is the Old Oak Estate – the estate which is located between Westway (the A40 road) and Wormwood Scrubs.

In 1937 the Old Oak Estate consisted of 1,055 houses and flats.

Occupying around 202 acres of land across Chislehurst and Sidcup districts was the Mottingham Estate. In 1937 the estate consisted of 2,356 houses and flats with further growth planned by the reservation of space for a cinema, shops, schools and a church and 25.5 acres of open space.

Londoners also needed education and the London County Council designed new school buildings with large windows for natural lighting, assembly halls, gymnasium, libraries and rooms designed for specific subjects such as science and art. The book highlights that LCC schools were provided with hot water facilities (with the implication that earlier schools lacked this feature).

This is the King’s Park School in Eltham. The senior school in the two storey block with the single storey infant school to the right.

As well as education, health care was important, and in 1937 the NHS was still a distant dream. In 1930 the LCC took over responsibility for hospitals controlled by Boards of Guardians and the Metropolitan Asylums Board. This allowed the council to start a programme of modernisation and standardisation of health services across the city and in 1937 there were 43 general hospitals and 31 special hospitals controlled by the LCC.

This is the Operating Theatre and X-Ray Unit completed in 1936 at St. Mary Abbots Hospital, Kensington.

As with new schools, LCC designed hospitals also featured large windows to maximise natural lighting and a belief in the importance of fresh air to aid recovery. This is the Sun Balcony at St. Olave’s Hospital:

One of the departments within the London County Council was the rather 1984 Orwellian named “Public Control Department”.

This department had a wide range of services which today would be included within the scope of departments such as Trading Standards.

The Public Control Department was responsible for services such as for weights and measures, testing of gas meters, control and storage of petrol, licensing employment agencies and massage establishments, administration of the Shops Act, diseases of animals, sale of fertilizers and animal feed stuffs and the registration of theatrical employees.

The following three photos from the book show the type of activities carried out by the Public Control Department. The first is testing a weighbridge:

Measuring the weight of a sack of coal to ensure that the contents met the specified and charged for weight:

Checking the weights and measures in a shop:

The London County Council became the local education authority for London in 1904, and was responsible for:

  • To co-ordinate the activities of its predecessors, the School Board for London and the Technical Education Board,
  • To place those elementary schools provided by voluntary bodies on the same basis as regards maintenance as those provided by the Council itself,
  • To establish a system of secondary schools linked to the elementary schools by a scholarship scheme,
  • To reorganise the former ‘night schools’ into a comprehensive system of continuative education,
  • To expand technical, commercial and art education,
  • To build up a system of school medical inspection and treatment, and of special schools for children with physical and mental defects.

In 1937 the LCC was responsible for nearly 800,000 pupils. 512,000 under the age of 14, with 125,000 between 14 and 18 and a further 163,000 in adult education.

An annual nativity play by junior boys and girls:

Mid-morning milk at a junior school:

Practical work – Domestic Subjects:

Residential schools in camp:

The scope of education covered by the London County Council included training colleges which focused on specific subjects and skill sets. These colleges included teacher training colleges and in the photo below, poultry farming:

A teacher training college:

The London County Council was also responsible of the main drainage services for London, which in 1937 meant servicing the needs of 5.5 million people.

The main treatment works were at Beckton, which dealt with 280 million gallons of sewage a day, with effluent being discharged into the river, and 2 million tons a year of solid matter being dumped at sea by a fleet of four, wonderfully named “sludge vessels”.

This view is of part of the 7.5 miles of aeration channels at Beckton:

An example of the tunnels that transported sewage for treatment – 10 foot and 11.5 foot diameter sewers:

Included within the wide range of infrastructure services for which the LCC was responsible were ferries, tunnels and piers, including the Rotherhithe Tunnel:

And the Woolwich Ferry, which in 1937 carried 4,000 vehicles and 7,000 pedestrians daily between the weekday hours of 6 a.m. and midnight.

Originally, fire brigade services had been built up across London by private enterprises such as insurance companies, however by the 1860s, the costs of providing the service were escalating and the insurance companies requested that the Government took over the service.

This was achieved by the 1865 Metropolitan Fire Brigade Act which consolidated the individual services into a single, London fire service.

In 1889 the London County Council took over the Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and in 1904 the name was changed to the London Fire Brigade.

In 1937 the new headquarters building and fire station for the London Fire Brigade on the Albert Embankment had only just been completed. The fire services moved from this building a few years ago, and it is currently being redeveloped, however it will retain a link with the fire service as the London Fire Brigade museum is planned to return to a new and upgraded facility within the building.

In 1937, the London Fire Brigade were equipped with a range of leading edge appliances, including a Hose Lorry:

The London Docks were a high fire risk, due to the dense storage of large amounts of inflammable materials, with probably a lack of attention to fire prevention measures. The following photo from the book shows a typical fire that the London Fire Brigade had to deal with, a large fire in July 1935 at Iceland Wharf, Old Ford.

The Municipal Hospitals of London were the responsibility of the London County Council, with 74 hospitals taken over from the Boards of Guardians and Metropolitan Asylums Board.

In 1937, these hospitals contained at total of 38,500 beds. This was before the establishment of the NHS, so treatment was not free for all. The book explains that “Admission may usually be secured on the certificate of a private doctor, without any suggestion of poor law ‘taint’, and except in certain circumstances, patients are required to contribute according to their means.”

The Children’s Ward at a LCC hospital:

A London County Council hospital operating theatre:

The London County Council also ran medical inspections and treatment of school children. Children would be ‘inspected’ at the ages of 7, 11 and between the ages of 13 and 14. This included dental inspections with the possibility of follow-up treatment at 74 medical and dental treatment centres across London.

Probably a nightmare for most children – school dental treatment:

The London County Council set-up the London Ambulance Service in 1915, initially to focus on street accidents. There was a separate ambulance service run by the Metropolitan Asylums Board, which was used for the transfer of patients with infectious diseases, and another service run by the Boards of Guardians. All these services came under the central control of the LLC in 1930 under the Local Government Act of 1929.

The interior of a 1930s ambulance:

Control of ambulances was from County Hall and an ambulance could be summoned by calling WATerloo 3311.

in 1937 there were 153 ambulances covering London. These were based at 6 large ambulance stations and 16 smaller stations. By comparison in the financial year 2017/18 the London Ambulance Service consisted of over 1,100 vehicles based at 70 ambulance stations and support offices across London. In the same year the service dealt with 1.9 million 999 calls – a truly extraordinary number.

If you needed an ambulance in 1937, this is the vehicle that would arrive:

Parks and Open Space were also the responsibility of the London County Council, with a total of 6,647 acres of space managed by a staff of 1,500.

The LCC provided and managed parks such as Battersea Park, as well building and managing facilities within parks, such as the open-air swimming pool at Victoria Park:

One of the responsibilities of the LCC, in the terms used in the 1937 book was the “Care of the Mentally Afflicted”. The LCC had started to change how mental health was treated with a move from the custodial approach to proper nursing care, however it was a very institutionalised approach with 20 hospitals and institutions providing treatment for 33,600 patients from a staff of 9,000.

This is Forest House, the admission and convalescent villa in Claybury Hospital:

In the same hospital, the Needleroom where “many patients can still do useful work”.

The guide-book also included the other governance authorities within London, including the City of London Corporation. This included the City markets, with this superb aerial view of the London Central Markets at Smithfield:

And a very quiet Spitalfields Market:

The other key element of London governance were the Metropolitan Borough Councils. These were formed by the 1899 London Government Act and were responsible for a number of local services such as the collection of refuse and the maintenance of streets.

In 1937, 16 out of a total of 28 borough councils were still electricity supply authorities, having their own local generation and distribution capabilities. These services would not consolidate further until after the war with the creation of the Central Electricity Generation Board and the regional distribution boards, such as the London Electricity Board.

The establishment of the Metropolitan Borough Councils resulted in the building of impressive Town Halls across London. The book includes a night view of St. Marylebone Town Hall:

Municipal Borough Councils also provided local facilities, for example, local parks and playgrounds, libraries and swimming pools.

One impressive example in 1937 was the Poplar Swimming Bath and the books show how the same building could support very different uses:

In 1937. the London docks were still major centres of trade. Containerisation and the shift of ports from inland rivers to coastal centres such as Southampton and Felixtowe was still decades in the future.

The Port of London Authority was responsible for the management of the ports and river. In 1937 the Port of London dealt with more shipping than any other UK port and over a third of UK overseas trade passed through London. In 1937, approximately 43 million tons of goods were managed through the London docks.

A ship entering the King George V Dock:

The Wine Gauging Grounds operated by the Port of London Authority:

London County Council publications are always fascinating and London in Pictures provides a really good overview of the governance of London and the breadth and depth of the services provided by the LCC.

Two years after the guide was published, the Second World War would bring devastation to the city, but would also mark one of those break points in history with, for example, the coming NHS taking over the provision and considerable expansion of health services.

The London Docks would soon start their gradual decline which would end in the closure of all central London docks. The population of London would also reverse the centuries long expansion and would go into a decline that would only start to recover in the 1980s.

Council house provision would reduce to almost nothing and “right to buy” would transfer council owned accommodation into private ownership.

The 1937 guide therefore provides a snapshot of LCC services at the end of an era.


London’s East End

The image many people have of the East End of London in Victorian times is one of being street after street of slum dwellings inhabited by Jack the Rippers, prostitutes, beggars and thieves, all in an environment of filth, smoke and destitution.

Whilst there were many pockets of slums where people tried to desperately survive and feed their family there were many areas where, although far from pleasant, honest people managed to make a living and bring up families. The East End developed into a close-knit community (or, more accurately, communities) where hardships were shared and people fought together against poverty, landlords, bosses and sometimes themselves.

The Booth poverty map of 1900 for the East End clearly shows that the slums were in pockets, with many having relatively well-to-do housing only a street away. The black and dark blue areas are the bad slums.

Even though the Booth map above may indicate the East End was not as deprived as many films and television programs make out, it was still a very dirty, smelly and crowded place with old and sub-standard housing where most people struggled day-to-day to earn a decent living. In such a crowded and competitive environment it is not surprising to find the beginnings of racism creeping in. Immigrants were perceived to be taking housing and jobs, and the Jews were the main target. By 1900 the Jewish immigrants had replaced the Huguenot weavers of the previous two centuries and become the target of some ill-placed press articles. But the Jewish immigrants had not created the slums, although they had displaced gentiles from areas around Whitechapel, as can be seen in the map below when compared with Booth’s map above.

The Jewish community were very much self-organising, with new immigrants from east Europe being looked after by the close-knit Jewish community. Their main trades of tailoring, shoe making, furniture and baking were tightly managed by a few established Jewish families.

All the workers of the East End, whether long-established in the area or a recent immigrants from the surrounding countryside or abroad, needed housing but that housing needed improving and the slums needed removing. From the 1860s the only people building new housing specifically for the working classes were a few philanthropic organisations. Some organisations did not last the course, whilst others were very successful. All the successful ones had a requirement to make a small annual profit on rents to enable further schemes to be built and existing buildings managed. The typical profit was 5% and this became known as 𔄝% philanthropy”. The main organisations were: The East End Dwelling Company Improved Industrial Dwelling Company Peabody and (from 1889) the London County Council. The inclusion of the latter may surprise many readers but the early years of the LCC is marked by programmes of improvement and beneficiary for everyone in London. No history of Victorian social housing is complete without mentioning Octavia Hill.

The philanthropist builders
Octavia Hill
Octavia was a philanthropist, but not a builder. She developed the standard method of managing working-class housing through a combination of astuteness and force of character. She was from a middle-class family and obtained funds from wealthy benefactors and then used the money to purchase existing housing that was usually in bad condition. She installed female managers who interacted with the “lady of the house” to build up a relationship with tenants such that they improved their behaviour and were rewarded with repairs and improvements to the building. Good tenants would be further rewarded with better housing and bad tenants would be evicted. She also arranged to have some new housing built (usually cottages). Octavia Hill’s influence of East End housing is fairly minimal but her legacy of tenant-management is one that needs to be re-learnt by modern authorities. For more information on this redoubtable lady go to: http://www.octaviahill.org/

The East End Dwelling Company (EEDC)
As the name suggests, this organisation operated mainly in the East End of London. They built housing from 1885 until 1906. Below is the Booth map overlaid by the location of the EEDC buildings. The tenants were typically the experienced or mature family men. Many of the buildings still stand – a testament to their quality and the on-going management of them.

Peabody Trust
Peabody is probably the most well-known of all the philanthropic housing developers. The trust built estates of blocks all over London. The map below is the location of those in the East End. The housing was aimed at the slightly better off family man who had regular income.

Improved Industrial Dwelling Company (IIDC)
This rather poorly-named organisation was founded by London printer and one-time Mayor, Sidney Waterlow. His blocks were similar to Peabody’s but generally slightly up-market from them. As a result they were a little dearer to rent than Peabody and attracted the artisan class.

Below is a map showing the location of Peabody and IIDC buildings in the East End.

The London County Council
The county of London was formed in 1889 and the Council dates from then. They took over much of the responsibilities (and staff) of the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW). The leaders were elected and the Progressives (Liberal-aligned) ran the Council until 1907 when the Municipal Reform Party (aligned to the Conservative Party) took over. The LCC built a large amount of housing before WW1, much of it still standing.

The pre-WW1 estates in the map above are described in detail under the “London County Council” section of this website. The largest LCC estate in London was Boundary Street in Bethnal Green.

Overcrowding and racism
One of the most famous areas of the East End is around Flower & Dean Street in Whitechapel. It is highlighted in yellow in the LCC map above.

It’s fame comes from being central to the Jack the Ripper murder stories and myths, and for being the main immigrant Jewish area. It could be considered a ghetto, but that is a negative term and would be doing a considerable injustice to the residents. The Jack the Ripper story is of no concern to this article and is very well covered in many books. What is of interest to this article is the effect the Jewish immigration had on the area, and the claims of overcrowding by press and local politicians.

The Flower & Dean Street area consisted of the following buildings:
– 4% Industrial Dwellings Company: Charlotte de Rothschild Buildings, 1887 – 1974
– 4% Industrial Dwellings Company: Nathaniel Buildings, 1892 – 1974
– East End Dwellings Co.: Lolesworth Buildings, 1885-1979
– East End Dwellings Co.: Strafford Buildings, 1889-1979
– Abraham Davis: Helena, Ruth, Irene, Godfrey, Josephine & Winifred Houses, 1897 – ??
– Dolley & Abraham: Keate, Spencer & Henderson Houses, 1908 -??

The 4% Dwelling Company was Jewish owed, and Abraham Davis and Dolley & Abraham were Jewish. The East End Dwellings Company had little Jewish management or control, and nor did the LCC. This would, on the face of it, have the potential to cause problems. But this was not the case. All the housing was managed along similar lines and there was overcrowding in all the buildings and no obvious racial or social tensions between them.

The map below summarises the demographics of the buildings in the Flower & Dean Street area. The post-WW1 LCC Holland Estate has been added for interest. Things to note are the actual capacity (from the census returns) and the theoretical maximum capacity. The latter was calculated at the time by multiplying the number of rooms (bedrooms and living rooms) by 2, giving the adult capacity. The term “adult” was not fixed at the time so I have taken the liberty of basing the term “adult” as any child 8 and above, and therefore taking significant space in a bed.

The trend clearly shows that the Jewish-owned buildings were very predominantly occupied by Jewish people. The surprise is with the non-Jewish owned Strafford and Lolesworth Buildings. Lolesworth has a mix of Jews to gentiles as would be expected, but Strafford is tenanted mainly by Jewish people. The reason lies in what is on the ground floor of the building – shops. The Jewish people occupied all the shops and “lived upstairs”. Note that the 4% Industrial Dwellings Company employed ex-military NCOs as building managers. Rothschilds and Nathaniel were managed by ex-Marine NCOs who were definitely not Jewish. All the buildings, apart from Strafford House, are officially overcrowded and this would have come to the attention of the Borough of Stepney, the LCC and the press.

The racial tension created by the Jewish immigration and blatant overcrowding is best illustrated by press articles and LCC investigations into the tenants of its Boundary Street Estate in Bethnal Green, just a little way to the north of Flower & Dean Street. For more details, go to the paper on that estate elsewhere on this website: <LCC’s Boundary Street Estate>.

This part of London continues to be a centre for immigrants. There is still a strong Jewish presence in the area but subsequent influxes have includes Bengali’s and Somalis. Brick Lane is a very multi-cultural street, and is none the worse for it.

Robin Hood Gardens – still failing to meet the needs of the honest workers?
In the fast eastern edge of London’s East End is Poplar. This area has always been associated with docks and ship building and has been home to many low-paid workers for the last 2 centuries. One small area near the docks known as Wells Street, but now known as Robin Hood Gardens, has always had a reputation for slum housing. The area is now adjacent to the northern portal of the Blackwall Tunnel and also has busy roads on two other sides. The feeling of being isolated is very strong to any visitors today.

The reputation of the area in Victorian times can be seen from this report in the 1880s:
“……. Generally the houses were very old and dilapidated, without back yards, and no back ventilation. The ground floor of many of the houses was sunken below the level of the pavement, and the rooms were exceedingly small. No water was laid on to the existing closets, which were inadequate in number and situate at some distance from the houses to which they belonged. …..” An estimated 1,029 persons were displaced and new dwellings were required to house a minimum of 1,030 people. The freeholder of the land was Sir Edward Colebrooke whose manor was at Ottershaw in Surrey. The clearance of the slums was carried out by the Metropolitan Board of Works in 1884 under the “Wells Street Scheme” and cost London rate-payers £59,119. The site was sold to James Hartnoll for just £5000, but had to be used for the construction of new working-class housing..

James Hartnoll built Grosvenor Buildings in 1886. He was an experienced semi-philanthropic builder of working class blocks in London, but this building was his only unsuccessful one. It consisted of 542 dwellings and a total of 1102 rooms (= theoretical maximum of 2204 persons). 160 at 1-roomed 204 at 2-roomed 172 at 3-roomed and 4 at 4-roomed. Tenements were hard to let initially despite the area being very crowded. In 1911 it was occupied by approximately 1400 adults and 400 children under 8. It had a reputation for being overcrowded, but census returns show it to be no worse than others in London. It seems to have never been managed well as there were rent strikes in 1915, 1939 and early 1960s. In 1911 the building was managed by just one live-in 28 year old clerk to handle 542 families. This clerk/manager had no military background (as was typical in similar buildings). The majority of tenants were of the labouring classes, working in the docks, on ships and in local industry. That, allied to many single-roomed tenements, gave a poor mix that the young clerk was probably unable to handle. The building was purchased by the Greater London Council (LCC’s successor) in 1965 and, despite being structurally sound, demolished and replaced by Robin Hood Gardens. The map below shows the area in 1892 and the picture shows that some of the blocks of Grosvenor Buildings were 6 storeys.

Grosvenor House was replaced by Robin Hood Gardens (1967 – 2017?) and designed by Peter and Alison Smithson as a “city in the sky”. It is one of the more famous London buildings from the Brutalist Movement and was designed 5 years after the similar Park Hill in Sheffield, but without learning from the mistakes, and even adding more. The design also ignored the successful “scissor section” layout advocated and successfully applied at the time to blocks of flats by LCC architect David Gregory Jones. The two blocks consisted of 214 dwellings with all but the ground floor being maisonettes on 2 floors with the rooms split inconveniently between them. The site was surrounded on three sides by busy roads. The walkways only went to the stairs and lifts at each end, not to other levels or the ground, and were too narrow to be “streets” and also too open to the elements. Balconies overlooking the inner grassed space were too narrow to sit on and acted as emergency walk-through fire escapes, so needed to be kept clear. Concrete construction made maintenance and modifications difficult. The slab-sided blocks made the green space in the middle a tranquil place but it was deliberately landscaped (using spoil from the foundations) to prevent it being used as a play park.

The building was never liked by the tenants and this is illustrated by the lifts being vandalised a mere year after the building was opened. Some architects (who have never lived there) wanted the building to be listed by English Heritage, but common sense prevailed and it is due for demolition and replacement by a larger private-social housing development for the wider area of Poplar. Will the residents of Poplar finally get the social housing they want?


Greater London

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Greater London, metropolitan county of southeastern England that is also generally known as London. A brief treatment of the administrative entity follows. An in-depth discussion of the physical setting, history, character, and inhabitants of the city is in the article London. Descriptions of London from early editions of Encyclopædia Britannica and from the Book of the Year writings contemporaneous with World War II can be found in BTW: London Classics.

The present metropolitan county of Greater London constitutes nearly all of the historic county of Middlesex (which comprises the bulk of Greater London north of the River Thames), parts of the historic counties of Kent, Essex, and Hertfordshire, and a large part of the historic county of Surrey.

Until 1889 the only part of London that had an administrative existence apart from the historic counties was the historic City of London, which was confined to the area of the medieval city. During the period 1889–1965, the County of London, carved from parts of the historic counties of Middlesex, Surrey, and Kent, administered an area that comprised present-day Inner London plus the outer boroughs of Newham and Haringey. The 1889 boundaries had been adopted in response to the rapid development of suburban areas in the 19th century. By the mid-20th century, however, the suburban population of London had spread far beyond the boundaries of the County of London. In an attempt to address that shift, the present boroughs were established in 1965 by amalgamating several existing boroughs and districts, at the expense of the surrounding counties, to form the new metropolitan county of Greater London.

The present-day City of London covers an area of 1.1 square miles (2.9 square km) at the heart of Greater London and is a centre of world finance. Greater London forms the core of a larger metropolitan area (with a proportionately larger population) that extends as far as 45 miles (70 km) from the centre. Area 607 square miles (1,572 square km). Pop. (1991) 6,679,699 (2001) 7,172,091 (2011) 8,173,941.

An overview of selected statistics and cultural features of Greater London borough by borough is provided in the table.


The Metropolitan Board of Works & London County Council

The Victorians were visionary during this period. In response to the poor sanitary conditions, they designed and created a network of sewers to alleviate the foul conditions within the Capital. At times, raw sewage was even pumped straight into the River Thames. It got so bad that during the summer of 1858, a terrible smell of human waste literally hung over London. This phenomenon was named 'The Big Stink'.

As London grew and more people came to settle in the city, it became necessary for some sort of authority to take charge and oversee all the development of infrastructure that was needed to keep pace with the population's needs. At the time, the system of government was largely chaotic, with parishes and vestries mainly taking charge but they did not communicate with each other or co-operate much, so development was very disjointed.

In 1855 the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) was created, this was the first ever metropolitan government body for London. The MBW's first task was to oversee the construction of London's sewer system. It was the engineer Joseph Bazalgette's design that was put in place and it consisted of over 1,304 miles (2100 km) of pipes and tunnels which are still serviceable today.

The effect of the new sewer system was to reduce the incidence and spread of water-borne diseases such as cholera and the death rate in London was dramatically cut as a result of this innovative infrastructure. Bazalgette's design represents the largest civil engineering project of the 19th century.

Over the next few decades, the MBW became highly unpopular because it was run by unelected people whom the public perceived to be making unpopular decisions. As a result, the MBW was dissolved in 1888 and a new, elected body was created. This new type of government for London was called the London County Council (LCC) and it was the first time that London had an organisation that represented the entire metropolitan area. Right at the end of the 19th century, the first designated London boroughs were established, heralding a new era in local government for the city.

© 2021 CSE. All rights reserved. London Online is a city guide for London and in UK. The content of the London Online website is provided in good faith but we cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies, omissions or visitors' comments.


20th century London

The terrific population growth of the late Victorian period continued into the 20th century. In 1904 the first motor bus service in London began, followed by the first underground electric train in 1906, but perhaps more notable was the spate of new luxury hotels, department stores, and theatres which sprang up in the Edwardian years, particularly in the West End. The Ritz opened in 1906, Harrod's new Knightsbridge store in 1905, and Selfridges in 1907.

New entertainment venues sprouted like mushrooms with the London Palladium the largest of some 60 major halls for music-hall and variety shows.

Several major building projects marked Edward VII's reign. The long, broad sweep of the Mall was designed by Aston Webb. Webb was also responsible for Admiralty Arch, the Queen Victoria memorial, and the east front of Buckingham Palace.

Although the hardship of London during the Second World War is well known, it is easy to forget that WWI brought hardship as well to the city. In the autumn of 1915 the first Zeppelin bombs fell in London near the Guildhall, killing 39 people. In all, 650 fatalities resulted from bombings during the "War to End All Wars".

Population surged after the war, to about 7.5 million in 1921. The London County Council began building new housing estates, which pushed further and further out into the countryside. Unemployment was high, and labour unrest erupted in the 1926 General Strike. So many workers joined the strike that the army was called in to keep the Underground and buses running, and to maintain order.

In the 1930s large numbers of Jews emigrated to London, fleeing persecution in Europe, and most of them settled in the East End. The year 1938 saw movement out of the city the threat from Germany was great enough that large numbers of children were moved out of London to the surrounding countryside.

The outbreak of WWII precipitated the defining moment of the century for Londoners - the Blitz. During the dark days of 1940 over a third of the City was destroyed by German bombs, and the London Docks largely demolished.

Some 17 of Christopher Wren's London churches were badly damaged. The area worst hit was the City itself, but strangely, St. Paul's Cathedral suffered only minor damage.

Some 16 acres around the area that now houses the Barbican development and the Museum of London were totally flattened, and numerous historic buildings were destroyed. The death toll was heavy 32,000 dead and over 50,000 badly injured.

In the post-war period heavy immigration from countries of the old British Empire changed the character of the city. Notting Hill acquired a large Caribbean population, Honk Kong immigrants settled in Soho, Sikhs in Southall, and Cypriots in Finsbury.

The Festival of Britain took place in 1951 on the centenary of the Great Exhibition of 1851. Whereas that first exhibition had left the legacy of the extraordinary Crystal Palace, the Festival left behind it the universally reviled concrete mass of the South Bank Arts complex.

Heathrow airport opened to commercial flights in 1946, and the first double-decker red buses (dubbed the Routemaster) appeared on London roads in 1956.

The London Docks declined after the war, and the formerly bustling area around the Isle of Dogs fell into disuse until rescued by modern development in the last decade.

Between 1972-82 the Thames Barrier was built to control flooding along the river. This amazing engineering feat consists of 10 moveable underwater gates supported by 7 shining steel half-domes strung across the river.

The last great building project of the century was the controversial Millennium Dome, an exhibition centre beside the Thames in North Greenwich. The Dome, which opened on January 1, 2000, is a massive complex, built at a cost of over 750 million GBP. It houses, among other things, sponsored exhibits on the human experience of life, including Faith, Science, and biology.

What to See:
Harrod's
London Transport Museum
London Museum
Notting Hill Festival
South Banks Arts Centre
Dockland
Thames Barrier
Millennium Dome

London History
Roman | Anglo-Saxon | Medieval | Tudor | Stuart | Georgian | Victorian London | 20th century London

English History
Also see "English History" and our award-winning "English Culture" section.


London County Council - History

Parts of these maps are used for non-commercial purposes in the website by permission of the London Metropolitan Archives. The LMA are also happy to allow schools to make further copies of the maps, again providing that they are for educational purposes only. Commercial reproduction is prohibited without prior permission from London Metropolitan Archives.

These invaluable maps were made by the London County Council immediately after the Second World War. It became the basis for the Abercrombie Plan for the Rebuilding of London.

Coloured areas show the widespread bomb damage while the different colours indicate its severity. Some houses were repaired others patched up temporarily. Even those houses not bombed, deteriorated because there could be little maintenance during the war and were in need of care an attention.


This map and other smaller sections reproduced elsewhere,
are taken with permission, from

The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945.

Copies of any particular area can be obtained, for private or school use,
from London Metropolitan Archives who own the copyright.

Comparing these coloured Bombing Maps
with my original back and white photo-copies.

Over forty years ago I found these maps in the lower basement at County Hall, where the sharks now swim. The Architects Department kindly made me black and white photocopies and I used them in several books. Architects, alerted by my bomb maps, have used them to explain why houses built on forgotten bomb sites, have begun to subside, so the photocopies have been of practical use. In one case an architect, who contacted me, called in to explain a subsiding house, was fifteen feet down and still bringing up complete window frames. Clearly the site had become a huge bomb crater which had been used as a rubble tip, levelled and forgotten.

However, I now realise that my maps can tell a false story. The originals are coloured and unfortunately the old photocopiers did not copy the reds. They showed red as white. Therefore areas which were-

  • Dark Red Seriously damaged doubtful if repairable
  • Light Red Seriously damaged, but repairable at cost,

came out on the photocopies as white. The centres of damage are marked on the maps in Black, Purple and Dark Red, with rings of lighter colours around them. Areas which I have been ignoring for years because they were white, had been, in fact, very badly damaged. Often the coloured maps give a completely different account of any particular bombing incident from my old black and white copies.

The new book called The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps, 1939-1945, ISBN 0 902087 51 7, pub. 2005, is a splendid production and will be consulted as long as London lives. The area on the map around any particular school is only a few centimetres square, but explains the old and new houses on the school doorstep as no other map or writing can do. Walking along the road becomes a never-ending detective story.

Example: The Bombing of Albion Road

The whole area was very heavily bombed from September 1940. Incendiary bombs and high explosives early on, and a land mine fell on Albion Road at the junction with Hawkesley Road. Later, between 23 rd June 1944 and 10 the January 1945, there were no fewer than ten flying bombs and three V2s in the Finsbury Park to Albion Road area alone. Three local flying bombs fell on Defoe Road, Londesborough Road and the triangle by the shopping parade in Albion Road. The damage from these and other smaller events spread blast damage to other houses nearby, so that few houses escaped some effect of the bombs. Many houses were patched up and later repaired properly, but the major incidents led to the building of completely new blocks and even new estates. This bombing map is a key to the reason for many later developments.

The Flying Bomb on Albion Road Triangle


Flying Bomb Damage
at Albion Rd Triangle


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