Sinks of London Laid Open provides a mid-19th century account of the 'crime and character' of London's lodging houses and their inhabitants. The anonymous author largely explores the St Giles district. During the 19th century this area was notorious for its poor quality housing, unhealthy living conditions and high levels of crime.
Today, St Giles no longer exists. Geographically, it falls under the boroughs of Holborn and Camden, and includes areas we know as Bloomsbury, Tottenham Court Road and Russell Square.
Fact or fiction?
This is one of several works that styles itself as belonging to the 'Age of Inquiry' - where a middle class author would travel to less affluent parts of a city, typically London, and report on how the 'other half' of society lived for the interest of fellow middle class citizens. These ‘findings’ were typically published in the form of books or newspaper articles, sharing a particular tone and stylistic quality.
Although the author states that this is a factual work, the truth is at times distorted to make it sensational reading. It also, perhaps, strives to reinforce middle-upper class views of the poor as an immoral and threatening criminal ‘mob’.
- Full title:
- Sinks of London laid open to which is added a Modern Flash Dictionary with a list of the Sixty Orders of Prime Coves
- 1848, London
- Book / Illustration / Image
- Unknown, George Cruikshank [illustrator]
- Usage terms
- Public Domain
- Held by
- British Library
- Article by:
- Philip Horne
- The novel 1832–1880, Crime and crime fiction, London
Dickens's Oliver Twist depicts the excitement as well as the danger surrounding the criminal underworld. Here Professor Philip Horne examines how Dickens’s portrayal of crime was influenced by public executions, contemporary criminal slang and other sensational literary works.
- Article by:
- Judith Flanders
- London, Poverty and the working classes
Judith Flanders examines the state of housing for the 19th-century urban poor, assessing the ‘improvements’ carried out in slum areas and the efforts of writers, including Charles Dickens and Henry Mayhew, to publicise such living conditions.