Charles Booth drew the poverty maps of London, a detailed house by house assessment, marking the map of the most impoverished in black and the most wealthy in yellow.


When the maps are re-drawn today, the pattern of colours remains depressingly consistent. Inequalities rose sharply in the 1980s, and are rising again now.

These disparities are felt. A man born into and living in a deprived community will live nine years less than one in an advantaged community (for a woman the gap is seven years).

This list of iniquity is much longer.

On the other hand, the poorest houses in urban U.K today are rich compared to the poorest houses in urban U.K. in the Barnetts’ day. Life expectancy in 1880 was around 43 years for a man, and 47 years for a woman. Thirty five to 40 years of life have been added since then. The contemporary challenges of a place like Walworth, home to the Pembroke House Settlement, are quite different, gentrification for example.


Every child today has access to universal education to 18 years, every citizen can call on free health care, and there are social benefits to help families through hard times. None of this existed in 1880.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *