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Between the World Wars 1919 – 1939

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The poor

The New London Survey 1929-30 reported that the proportion of Leyton people it regarded as in poverty, 6.9%, was greater than in Stoke Newington (5.4%) and Lewisham (4.8%) but lower than the rest of the  Survey's Eastern Area : Bethnal Green, Shoreditch, Stepney, Bermondsey, Hackney, Poplar, Deptford, Greenwich, Woolwich, Barking, East Ham, Tottenham, Walthamstow and West Ham.  The birth-rate was the lowest in the Survey's Eastern Area.  


Forest House in the 1920s accommodated over 300 elderly poor men, with 200 sleeping in one room, said to be the largest bedroom in the country 1.  The Board of West Ham Union Guardians were disbanded in July 1929 and their responsibilities passed to the local councils.

1  Essex Workhouses by John Drury, Farthings Publications 2006

2  WFOHW interview reference number 70


Leyton in the early 20th century did include areas of considerable poverty.  One man recalls of that around Lansdowne Road (which was later demolished, and was north of Harrow Green) : “I used to count the houses when I went to school and there were 120 houses.  Out of those 120 houses there were only 3 men that had what we call regular jobs.  That was a policeman, a fireman and a milkman.  All the rest had part time jobs and unemployed and that sort of thing.  Very hard times they were.” 3

3  WFOHW interview reference number 339


“It wasn’t unusual for some one to be turned out of their home because they had not paid their rent.  To see their furniture in the front garden.  They would send the Bailiffs and they would just take the furniture out and put it into the front garden and shut the door, and that was that”. 2

Of the really destitute : “I remember Langthorne when the tramps used to line up outside the wall every day with a bundle on their backs, because they hadn’t got a home.” 2



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