In October on BBC2 a four part re-enactment of life in an East London Victorian Slum through 1860 to 1890. Hard to believe this was only 120 years ago. Living hand-to-mouth with no income for no work and no health provision. The whole family working at home doing piece work up to 20 hours a day. Being turned out for not paying the rent and moving to the doss house with a choice of coffin bed or hang-over rope. Eating bread dipped in fat for a meal. Next down was to do a runner or head for the workhouse. The population of London was rising fast and immigration, largely of Irish, was keeping wages down.
How did it compare to Preston? It is known that conditions in the mills were hard with people working long shifts from an early age in noisy and dangerous conditions. Yet it was warmer and dry and the terraced houses gave at least a small area of ‘castle’. Watching the programme it seemed those Londoners would have been better moving north. Although comparing Preston to life in London is perhaps unfair as big cities, including Manchester, have a much broader range of poverty and wealth.
It might be wondered how we got from there to where we are 120 years later. Whether there was a time that was better than now for more people. What we have now is amazing, the NHS has equipment and drugs costing millions of pounds available to every individual without charge at use. Schools and libraries have banks of computers available to every family without charge at use.