Thanks to my neighbour John for pointing me towards Charles Booth’s Inquiry into the life and labour of the people in London, 1886-1903 (available online thanks to an award-winning project run by the LSE Library in 2002).
It’s a fantastic catalogue of observations, including comments on leisure, migration, employment of women, poverty, class, crime, public houses, prostitution, servants and the police force.
Here are the “General Remarks” at the end of Walk 53, the entry for the part of East Dulwich where I live:
This walk completed the East Dulwich section so far as the area included in the Paris map is concerned. As a whole East Dulwich may be described as a working class district with a fringe of middle class on each side. This is emphasised by contrast with West Dulwich which is entirely middle class. All the West Dulwich constables live in East Dulwich said Jones. They cannot get accommodation in their own district.
Very little crime in the district, practically none of a serious character. The number of charges is small and they mostly arise out of drink. Thinks the public houses are fairly well conducted and there is very little, if any, collusion between the police and publicans – certainly not in East Dulwich. He would not like his Inspector to know he drank whilst on duty for £20, nor would he like to be seen entering a public house. The Supt is very sharp upon men for this “and rightly so”. One man lost his pension a while ago.
Very little prostitution. Only place where prostitutes live on the ground is Rye Buildings. Some women from the Borough come to Peckham Rye. Very low class but not many of them.
PD Jones has a very good knowledge of East Dulwich and is thoroughly reliable there. Did not know Peckham and Denmark Hill so well and in this district his opinion is not so good.
George Arkell with PC ‘Taffy’ Jones
Friday 8th December 1899
You can see scans of the original notes and sketches for this walk here.