East and West Ham

East and West Ham by Joseph Pennell (1857-1926). 1899. Illustration for Walter Besant's East London (London: Chatto & Windus, 1901), p. 190. .

This is one of a pair of illustrations on the same page of Besant's Chapter VIII ("The Houseless"). It shows the industrial side of the East End, where people were not so much houseless as badly housed. East and West Ham were once neighbouring villages close to the Thames marshes, with West Ham having a number of Quaker families with lovely old estates. By now, however, according to Besant, East Ham had a population of 90, 000 and West Ham, incredibly, of 270, 000. "The results of the overcrowding are, as might be expected, deplorable in the extreme," wrote Besant. "Among other evils, it kills the infants; it dwarfs those who grow up among its eveil influences; it poisons the air; it deprives the house of comfort, of cleanliness, of decency; it drives the man to drink; and it makes the life of their unhappy wives one long-continued misery of hopeless battle with dirt and disease" (244-7). Pennell shows the filthy smoke pouring into his puffy white clouds, and the dark factories overshadowing the river here.

Scanned image and text by Jacqueline Banerjee [This image may be used without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]


Besant, Walter. East London. London: Chatto & Windus, 1901.

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Last modified 21 April 2008