Booth maps a boon for London ancestors

I found this entry in the Charles Booth notebooks during my research recently:

Richardson’s Place, Greenwich:
‘At the entrance is a 3 storied house kept by a  ‘Chimney cleaner’. House well kept – flowers etc. Beyond this are 11 houses. 2 storied, 2 rooms, in courtyard with washhouses and 6 W.Co near entrance. Everything filthy. Rent 4/6 a week and have to buy key for W.C. Three navvies and gas stoker. DB [the classification is dark blue – very poor, casual income, chronic want]. Some girls (about 12 years of age) were playing schools in the court. It was a singing lesson. Before they noticed us, we were able to hear them sing two pieces, a negro melody and ‘The old folks at home’. They had good voices and sang the pieces well both as to time and tune. The only bright thing about the place, it was a tribute to the value of our Board Schools.’

Charles Booth undertook a survey of life and labour in London between 1886 and 1903. Every street in London was visited and notes were taken about the standard of living, types of property and types of people who lived there.

The original notebooks are available online for free, as is the poverty map of London. See Charles Booth online archive. The poverty map was produced in 1898-9, based on information gathered in the survey and each road is classified according to the income and social class of its inhabitants.

It can take a while to find the right street, but once you have, the information can paint a picture of the neighbourhood in a way that a census return or baptismal record rarely can.