Poor Children In Industrial England: 1881-1901

In the last two decades of the reign of Queen Victoria, large sections of the population of England still lived in abject poverty. This was especially true of the industrialised north of the country, where the increase in the population following people seeking work in factories caused overcrowding. This left orphaned children roaming the streets, and others left to fend for themselves by working parents.

Reformers, mostly wealthy people with social consciences, tried to do something about this and set up organised Chidren’s Homes and Care Homes For Children. They also employed photographers to document the condition of the children taken into care, and those still out on the streets. Most of the following photos were taken over a twenty-year period in and around the city of Liverpool. Some of the images are heartbreaking.

Young working girls at a cotton mill. Look at the expressions on their faces. No hope.

Three children taken into a home after being found wandering on the streets.

A girl found living alone in a loft in a deserted house. She had some kind of development issue, and had likely been abandoned.

A young girl singing and dancing on a pub table to earn money.

This child has malnutrition, and was close to death.

This boy was taken in a home after being constantly beaten by his parents.

Boys playing cricket in a main square in the city. They drew a crowd for their game.

Two brothers found living on the streets. They were taken into care.

Happier children posing on a large fountain in the city.

This girl was taken into care, and had to had her head shaved because the hair was crawling with lice.

Five children from the same family. The water in their home was unfit to drink, so they had been drinking Gin, and were all found drunk. They were taken away from their alcoholic mother and put in a home.

Children helping to sell all their family possessions in a street market.

A ‘Street Nursery’. Working women would pay the older girls to look after their children while they worked in factories. The girls had nowhere to take them, so they looked after them on the streets until their mothers collected them.

Children gather on the street to listen to a sermon from a religious missionary. They were hoping to be givem food after hearing what he had to say.

A group of children wearing the rudimentary ‘uniform’ of a Children’s Home. They had all been found alone on the streets.

38 thoughts on “Poor Children In Industrial England: 1881-1901

  1. I won’t pun this collection of photos. It would be interesting to learn what became of these children. Did any of them find happiness and prosperity in adulthood? Did those who succeeded in life look back on their childhood with horror? Or did they feel somehow fortunate to have escaped a wretched existence and to have learned how to cope with life’s most challenging adversities?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am sure some could be researched through the records of the Children’s Homes. Victorians were very good at keeping records. Many of the girls went on to become servants in the houses of wealthy people, and some of the boys would have been given apprenticeships in trades, or joined the armed forces.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. There’s some pretty horrifying data about prostitution and the selling of children during that time period as well. “Benefactors” would make the rounds of shelters, like shopping for any commodity. The age of consent was 13, though any kid who pass for that was acceptable, until 1885 when the age was raised to 16. Victorian England had more brothels than schools. Disposable kids. I am always reminded of Dickens when I see this stuff – “This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware of them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” Good stuff, an a timely reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Phil. I have featured a few child prostitutes in other similar articles. Ironically, they could be arrested and jailed for being prostitutes, but their ‘customers’ were rarely if ever of interest to the police. Victorian England really did have one law for the rich, and another for the poor.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Those are all so painful, but the first photograph sort of sums it up. There is such anger in the face of the girl in the centre and such despair in the others. To survive their infancy against the odds only to arrive at the age of young adults with no hope and most likely subjected to abuse…tragic and shameful.

    Liked by 1 person

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