Life in the East End of London

Frederick Friend was the owner of the The Lovatt Arms, Burdett Road for whom Frederick Ennever worked for more than 25 years, he gave a description of life the East End of London in the 1890's.

The character of the neighbourhood is mixed, working class, lower middle and middle class. The mainstay of the Public House's business in the winter is the jug trade. There is also a regular group of people from the Whitehead works opposite and from Gold & Silver refinery in Thomas Street that make use of his house. In summer the proportion of passing trade is much greater, Burdett Road becomes crowded with those going up to the railway station for trains to Southend, with other going for an airing in Victoria Park and some bound for Epping Forest. In winter it is a deserted road.

Children come in great numbers for the dinner and supper beer, sent by their parents, the children are of all classes. Even quite well to do parents will send their children for beer which does look as if they don't fear the contamination of the Public House. Language is not so bad in the public house as in the street though at times it could be, though often not so bad as in their own homes. When a man is talking loud and a child comes in he quietens it down.. But it does not pay in a large public house to allow noisy customers in, they drive away more than they bring. He thinks that the best proof of the little harm children can come by is the fact that parents who might send a servant often send a child. He never remembers having seen a child drunk. He does not think there is much in the complaint against children being sent.

He opens the public house at 7.30 am. One house higher up the road opens at 5 & another lower down at 6. The time of opening depends on the situation. He thinks that more harm is done by early opening than by late closing. He says that the early rum and hot coffee or rum and hot milk is apt to keep a man away from work altogether, in any case it makes him lazy. At present licensed houses must be shut between 12 & 5, he thinks that the hours of opening might be extended.

He pays the police regularly 1/- per week to the man on the beat. He thinks that all the houses in the neighbourhood whether beer or public house pay the same. Its not quite our fault that we pay them, they practically insist on it, he said it was worth being on the right side of the policeman for he could prevent you getting into trouble in several ways. For instance a policeman who is friendly will tell you a man should not be served when he has seen him come rolling down the street. Some publican would probably have served the man without noticing anything wrong, for drunken men have a way of bracing themselves up and in a crowd it is difficult to the sure about their state. If the policeman is not friendly he lets the man come in and then serves a summons as soon as the man goes out. He said there was not much abuse of this sort because the magistrates were severe on policemen who did not have not a really strong case, but it might be done. Again when there’s a row and you want a policeman he is looking the other way, if you have not given him something. He thought the shilling was well spent.

What he did object to was the general notion of all public servants that they had a right to free drinks from the publican. About every month the postmen expect something; when the road sweepers pass they want a drink and are offended if you refuse. They don't go to other shopkeepers but seem to think the publican is fair game. He said the class of men who became publicans was higher now than formerly, the abuses less than they used to be, for instance it is not now the general custom to give beer to the police.

He employs 2 barmen and a housekeeper who has been with them since 1862. Barman seldom rise to be publicans, though they have more of a chance now than formerly because of the growth of brewery ownership of public houses and the manager system. He objected to the manager system because he though there was a much greater temptation to push the sale of drinks when you were a manager than when you were owner and had a personal reputation to maintain. He does not believe drinking would be increased by the increase in the number of existing public houses but it would decrease the value of present holding. In the same way he did not think that a decrease in the number would affect the amount drunk. Beer houses are rather more noisy then publics houses and appeal generally to a lower class. For instance musicians are allowed to come in and play in the bar and songs are sang. He will not allow this generally because of the annoyance to others: but on a Saturday evening he lets those who want to sing go into a special room at the back, drink and sing there.

In the local market there is great seriousness, most coming away with their purchases in large brown paper or newspaper wrapper, but a good number still buying as the market place thins out from its thickly crammed state that it had been a little earlier. Men never carried the parcels except where the woman had the child and not always then. Men wore caps & bowlers, collars, a few with black coats but most in ordinary suits. Women wore bonnets, cloaks, not quite in their best but like the men evidently dressed for the occasion. There were two or three labourers were in their working clothes but they were exceptions. The chief interest centred round the butcher's stall. Fair sirloins 6d lb, Canterbury Lamb 4 1/2d to 5d Meat, (not joint but not scraps 3d lb.

At Woolwich market, flower stalls were doing a good business in bedding out plants, flowers & vegetables. Other stalls were selling tools, fancy goods, purses, braces, cloths caps, oranges etc, it is a smaller and less busy market than Lambeth market but of the same character. Sober crowds exit from the market , the flow of the crowd was towards Powis & Hare Streets. These streets contain the best shops in Woolwich. Large drapery stores, grocers, public houses, boot shops, bacon & cheese shops. Fair small strawberries were on sale at 8d lb and good cherries at 6d lb. Cherries found more buyers than the strawberries. Lipton has a large new shop at the corner of Hare & Powis Streets. The crowd were good tempered, sober but there was more promenading than business. Such business as was done was rather done inside than outside the shops. After the butchers shops the boot shops were the best lit and made the best show. After them came the public houses.

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