the guardian Fri 10 October 2008
A posh new edition of an old acquaintance - every time I've read this 1913 report of a social and economic expedition among the deserving poor, I've finished it in a state of incandescent anger, flared like a gas mantle. These are the lives and budgets of the inhabitants of Lambeth, weekly income 18 to 24 shillings, family size four to 10, home one or two rooms. Rent gobbled the first 30-40% of their earnings; damp, dark basements were cheapest, but thinned out weakling children fast. Diet: bread and scrape, underdone potatoes (fuel was expensive), meat once a week. Not much else. Flannelette clothes, never enough of them, laundered in washing soda; provision of boots always a worry. Pleasures: none as many of the men denied themselves tobacco or a half pint out of responsibility to the family. Security: minimal. Self-respect: dependent on the weekly payment (subtracted from the food allowance) of a penny per child to a burial insurance fund lest, when they died of deficiencies, they should be shamed by a pauper's funeral.