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'The Truth About Dorset Street'- McKenzie's Other Article On 'Worst St. In London'

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  • 'The Truth About Dorset Street'- McKenzie's Other Article On 'Worst St. In London'

    Hi everyone. I’m not sure if this article has been posted before, but a search didn’t turn it up, so I thought I'd go ahead and share it.

    It was written by Frederick A. McKenzie, author of the famous July 1901 Daily Mail article ‘The Worst Street in London’.

    This article, titled 'London's Alsatia- The Truth About Dorset Street, Spitalfields', is written in a similar vein but contains some interesting variations. It was published in the July-September 1901 Toynbee Hall Record.

    I’m not sure which article was written first, or if they were written at the same time for publication in two different periodicals. According to John McCarthy, who took offense at McKenzie’s scathing opinion of Dorset Street, McKenzie lived at Toynbee Hall.

    Further information will be very welcome.

    Best regards,
    Attached Files

  • #2
    'Worst Street In London- Mr. McCarthy's Reply' Casebook Transcription

    Here's a link to the Casebook transcription of a lengthy 1901 pamphlet titled:
    'The Worst Street In London; Mr. McCarthy's Reply'.

    Best regards,


    • #3
      Meaning of the Phrase "London's Alsatia"

      For those of you unfamiliar with the phrase ‘London’s Alsatia’, it refers to an area once occupied by the Whitefriars Monastery which was one of the last locations in London to enjoy the medieval privilege of ‘Sanctuary’ or 'Right of Safe Refuge'. This Right of Sanctuary was based upon the inviolability of holy places.

      The area of London called Alsatia eventually became known as a haven for criminals and was referred to as a place
      beyond the reach of law.” By terming Dorset Street "London's Alsatia", McKenzie is describing it as a place similarly beyond the reach of law.

      Here's a link to an excellent website created by historian John Levin called 'Alsatia: Liberties and Sanctuaries of London'.
      The site contains multiple pages and links exploring the history of London's Alsatia and is well worth a look around.

      Excerpt from 'Alsatia: Liberties and Sanctuaries of London' blog:"Alsatia was not the only anomalous territory in London; there had been a number of religious spaces within the City granting sanctuary, many of which had been thrown into doubt with the reformation. There were liberties, where the residents had special privileges and exemptions, and peculiars governed by outside authorities. There were also ‘Mints’ around the Tower of London and in Southwark. Houses of detention such as Bridewell, Newgate and The Clink on the south bank had special positions within the legal system right into the nineteenth century. And suburbs deliberately grew up outside the walls to escape the powers of the City but benefit from the opportunities it offered. As London grew, it encompassed fields and pastures that had common rights attached to them.

      This combination of overlapping authorities and customary rights opened up quasi-autonomous spaces, of which Alsatia is the most famous to the point that the word has entered the English language."

      Wikipedia entry for Alsatia:

      Best regards,


      • #4
        Excellent stuff.

        Thanks Archaic.

        The Ripper's Haunts/JtR Suspect Dr. Francis Tumblety (Sunbury Press)


        • #5
          McKenzie's 'Worst Street In London' Daily Mail Article

          Hi Mike. Thank you.

          I was looking for the text of McKenzie's 'Worst Street In London' July 16, 1901 Daily Mail article, and I found a transcription of it on Richard Jones' "Ripper Tour" website.

          Best regards,


          • #6
            The area sounds quite godforsaken. No one in their right mind would willingly have wanted to live there.


            • #7
              'THE WORST STREET IN LONDON' Full Text.

              Here's the full text of McKenzie's 'The Worst Street In London' Daily Mail article. It's here on Casebook on the same page as the text of "McCarthy's Reply" (link above) if you scroll down. I knew it was around here somewhere!

              Reprinted from the "Daily Mail," July 16th 1901.


              Where our Criminals are Trained.

              Dorset Street, Spitalfields, has recently sprung into undesired notoriety. Here we have a place which boasts of an attempt at murder on an average once a month, of a murder in every house, and one house at least, a murder in every room. Policemen go down it as rule in pairs. Hunger walks prowling in its alleyways, and the criminals of to-morrow are being bred there to-day.

              BLUE BLOOD.

              The lodging-houses of Dorset Street and of the district around are the head centres of the shifting criminal population of London. Of course, the aristocrats of crime - the forger, the counterfeiter, and the like do not come here. In Dorset Street we find more largely the common thief, the pickpocket, the area meak, the man who robs with violence, and the unconvicted murderer. The police have a theory, it seems, that it is better to let these people congregate together in one mass where they can be easily be found than to scatter them abroad. And Dorset Street certainly serves the purpose of a police trap.

              If this were all, something might be said in favour of allowing such a place to continue. But it is not all. No criminal centre is wholly criminal, and to represent even the lodging houses of Dorset Street as wholly inhabited by the utterly depraved would be wrong. There are many men in them who are simply "down on their luck." There are many boys there whose sole desire is to lead a free life, and who have not yet known the policeman's clatch on their shoulder. There are even a few women, though but a very few, who have not yet shared in the almost inevitable rain which comes on their sex in such a place.

              Here comes the real and greatest harm that Dorset Street does. Respectable people, whose main offence is their poverty, are thrown in close and constant contact with the agents of crime. They become familiarized with law-breaking. They see the best points of the criminals around them. If they are in want, as they usually are, it often enough a thief who shares his spoils with them to give them bread. And there are those who are always ready to instruct these new-comers in the simple ways of making a dishonest living. Boy thieves are trained as regularly and systematically around Dorset Street to-day as they were in the days of Oliver Twist.


              There must seem, I am well aware, an air of unreality about this to follow who read it in comfortable surburban homes or bright country houses. It seems impossible that in our new century these things should continue. But perhaps those who think it unreal will look over for their own satisfaction the indictments of any of our great criminal courts. They may notice there the number of petty thieves, and brutal assaulters, of burglars, even of murderers at every session. These men have to learn their business. You do not become a burglar without training, and even the art of the knuckle-duster requires a little practice. Where are these folks trained? Many of them are from Dorset Street.

              The chief harm the common lodging-houses do is in the free association of criminals with those who have not yet learned the ways of crime. The mixed houses where men and women go together are, of course, infinitely the worse, and the authorities might well consider it worth while to secure the more rigid enforcement of elementary laws for good morality in such houses. But common lodging-houses there must be, and to close the present places without giving better accommodation in their stead would be to do more harm than good. London to-day has a sad lack of good temporary shelters for poor folks. Lord Rowton in his admirable homes has supplied a great want for some of the better class.

              The County Council has made a very small endeavour, but its house, too is not for the really poor. We want in London places like the great Municipal or Burn's Homes in Glasgow, where for 3½d. Or 4d. A night a man can secure a simple cubicle and the use of the common rooms. This experiment has been enormously successful in Glasgow. It yields fair returns on the money invested in it; it has swept away innumerable criminal dens; it is giving the poorest and the worst a chance of honestly re-starting again. But a still greater need is a good lodging-house for women. I understand that the curate of Christ Church, Spitalfields, has started in that neighbourhood a small home for respectable girls. This is admirable, but he himself would probably be the first to admit that something very much more is wanted. Those of us who know the enormous difficulties in the way of running a successful common lodging-house for women yet believe that with really good management the difficulties which have frightened so many off this thing would vanish.

              FURNISHED ROOMS.

              The lodging-houses are bad, but they are the best side of a bad street. They at least have certain official inspection, and a certain minimum amount of sanitation and decency is there secured. But the furnished rooms so-called are infinitely worse. Farming furnished rooms is exceedingly profitable business. You take seven or eight-roomed houses at a rent of 10s. Or 11s. A week, you place on each door a padlock, and in each room you put a minimum amount of the oldest furniture to be found in the worst second-hand dealers' in the slums. The fittings of the average furnished room are not worth more than a few shillings. Then you let the rooms out to any comers for 10d. Or 1s. A night. No questions asked. They pay the rent, you hand them the key. If by the next night they have not their 10d. or 1s. Again ready you go round and chuck them out and let a new-comer in.

              But for mere want we find here "depths below the lowest deep." There are some to whom even the common lodging-house or the penny shelter are unobtainable luxuries. In the summer months they do not mind. A seat on the Thames Embankment is in many ways to be preferred to a bed in a big dormitory in Dorset Street. But on winter nights, when well-fed and well-clothed citizens shiver over their roaring fires, then it is that the lot of these poor souls is truly pitiable. I have seen them on such nights lying on the stones of the doorways, or crouched asleep by the half-dozen on the damp brick passage-ways of the furnished houses.

              They tell me it is a poor look-out for the School Board officer who pokes his nose into unwanted quarters of Dorset Street, The children are trained in the gutter, their first lessons are in oaths and crime. They learn ill as they sip at their mother's gin, and you can see them at six and eight years' old gambling in the gutter-ways.

              The County Council showed what it could do in Boundary Street. Surely here, under such needs, it might make a special endeavour. For every pound spent in reforming this street would mean many pounds saved on our prisons and legal machinery to-morrow.

              FRED A. McKENZIE "

              It does sound dreadful. But one can also see why the local business owners reacted so strongly to McKenzie's article, even if it was all true.

              Best regards,
              Last edited by Archaic; 09-04-2011, 04:43 AM.


              • #8
                Excellent article; I'd not seen it before. Quite a read! Thanks, Archaic



                • #9
                  Thanks so much for that Bunny -it really is fascinating ! I was particularly interested to read it in tandem with McCarthy's reply. A few thoughts occurred to Me , pell mell :

                  -'plus ça change..' The article in the Daily Mail could have been printed in the Daily Mail today concerning some notorious council estate containing gangs, drug dealers and muggers. No doubt a one-sided vision that many of the people living there would object to, not taking into account individual 'stories' and not taking into account the situation that many of those people would be in if they didn't have the possibility to live in a council flat -but nonetheless containing some truths.

                  -What a fab orator McCarthy was...his appreciation of the un-named clergyman he cited as a "grand elocutionist. I looked upon him as MORE OF AN ACTOR than anything else" could apply to himself.

                  -I thought that McCarthy's comparison between Birbeck Bank Buildings and Dorset Street, and showing the differences in describing the same behaviour
                  was pure genius. I know that I'd rather have lived in Birbank Buildings than Dorset Street though !!!

                  -McCarthy tripped himself up when citing all the 'good' clergymen though
                  (and there was a list)...why would they have been so keen on helping the people of Dorset Street if it wasn't such a desperate place ? These clergymen must have seen it as the place where they felt they were most needed.

                  -I was very interested in 'the furniture' bit. I'm sure 'Maples' was still a place to buy furniture when I was younger. The way of refuting the criticism over the buying of the cheapest furniture by the slum landlords, was brilliant.

                  -I loved the 'capitalist landlord's' gripes against 'administration' and the clumsy
                  attempts by society to make conditions a bit better :"The authorities re-measured the house and I lost several beds, but I might tell you this always takes place when a lodging house is transferred from one person to another. No children are allowed in those houses, but I hope there is no law to stop poor people having children". It's impossible for me to take a side.

                  In the end , I think of the photographs of Dorset Street that I've seen, and other people's descriptions of the street, and the witness statements in the Ripper case, and I believe that MacKensie probably made a good portrait of the place. McCarthy hit him a great 'broadside' though , with his description of MacKensie escorting a woman down the street 'unprotected' (if it's true, and not just for effect).

                  I would dearly love to know other people's 'immediate' thoughts on the texts.
                  Last edited by Rubyretro; 09-04-2011, 07:06 PM.


                  • #10
                    'Mr. McCarthy's Reply': Full Transcript

                    Here's the transcription of McCarthy's reply to McKenzie's articles, copied and pasted in full from the Casebook page. I think it does help to be able to read all of these related articles side-by-side, as Ruby remarked.

                    *Note that McCarthy's reply was in the form of a pamphlet, which means that he and perhaps others went to the trouble and expense of writing up and then printing their "rebuttal" argument against McKenzie's doleful characterization of Dorset Street. I wonder how many they printed, and who read them? I also wonder if all the laughter and applause occurred as reported in the pamphlet?


                    (FROM CASEBOOK): The following is a transcription from a pamphlet titled "The Worst Street in London", published in the summer of 1901. Our thanks to Richard Jones for sharing this pamphlet with us. He recently discovered it while conducting research at the Tower Hamlets Archives. We'd also like to thank Nina Thomas for transcribing the full text.

                    "THE WORST STREET IN LONDON.

                    MR. JACK McCARTHY'S REPLY.

                    AN ARTICLE appeared in the "The Daily Mail," of July 16th, describing Dorset Street, Spitalfields, as "The Worst Street in London," and mentioning that its inhabitants are Thieves, Murderers and Burglars. It also stated that the criminals of London, were trained in this street and that it was the home of Prostitutes and everything that was bad. This so enraged the inhabitants of Dorset Street and this adjoining neighbourhood, that Mr. Edwin Locock (one of the inhabitants) hastily convened a meeting, to protest against this false article published in the "Daily Mail," and signed F. A. Mackensie. This meeting took place on Wednesday, July 17th, but as the room was not large enough to accommodate all that attended, the gathering was adjourned until Monday, July 22nd. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood was posted with bills, stating that a meeting would be held, to protest against the article in the "Daily Mail," at the "Duke of Wellington," Shepherd Street. The only name on this bill was that of MR. JACK McCARTHY, a gentleman who holds a considerable amount of property in the neighbourhood and whose name was published to reply to what appeared in the "Daily Mail." The meeting was called 8:30 p.m. and by that time the large hall was packed, many being unable to gain admittance. Among those present were the following gentlemen - Mr. W. Crossingham, who owns considerable property in Dorset Street, Mr. A. Bull, who has a paper warehouse in Dorset Street, and employes a good many hands, the Rev. Mr. Davies, Rector of Spitalfields, Mr. Raymond of "The Brittania," Dorset Street, Mr. Clark, Mr. Turner, Mr. J. McCarthy sen., Mr. T. McCarthy, Mr. W. Maney, Mr. H. Goodson, Mr. W. Marr, a reverend gentleman whose name did not transpire, Mr. George Munro (George Yard Mission), Mr. Merick, Mr. Williams, Mr. Maguire, Mr. Sagar (East End Mission) and among others Mr. F. A. McKensie the writer of the article. EDWARD LOCOCK the chairman, explained that they had met there to protest against the scandalous article published in the "Daily Mail," of July 16th, and he described the article as a gross libel on everybody living in Dorset Street. After a few introductory remarks, he asked those present to listen to all that was said and called upon MR. ARTHUR BULL. Mr. Bull said that he had a business (a paper warehouse) in Dorset Street and that he was in the street from seven in the morning until seven or eight in the evening, very often later. He wished to say that there was not a particle of truth in the article published in the "Daily Mail," and he came there, as a respectable man, to enter his protest against the article in question, MR. JACK McCARTHY was then called upon and drawing the "Daily Mail" from his pocket addressed the meeting:

                    "Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I was very much surprised on reading the article in the "Daily Mail," and I may tell you that I immediately put it in the hands of an eminent council. Now, gentlemen, I intend to take this article, piece by piece, and prove to you that there is not a particle of truth in it from beginning to end. I hope, that in the course of my remarks, I shall not say anything to hurt the feelings of anybody present and I will confine myself solely and wholly to the article in question. I should like you to notice while reading this article, that every time Mr. Mackensie refers to the lodging houses in Dorset Street, he calls them dosshouses, but when speaking about Glascow or Lord Rowton he describes their lodging houses as admirable homes, although Lord Rowton's houses are simply common registered lodging houses the same as those in Dorset Street. The same medical officers, the same inspectors and the same superficial measure for every bed. Now, gentlemen, I had an idea that Mr. Mackensie, who wrote this article, who knows all about the rickerty tables, who knows everything about crime, etc. Would live in a very dismal place himself. After careful enquiry I found out that his business place was Toynbee Hall, and that all letters received there were sent on to his private address, 602, Birkbeck Bank Buildings, Chancery Lane. A friend and myself went last Saturday night to have a look at 602, Birkbeck Bank Buildings, Chancery Lane, facing the street there is a public house and a constable and the potman were persuading a man, who was rather unruly, to leave, of course, had this been in Dorset Street, it would have been said he was drunk and was chucked out, but round by Birkbeck Bank Buildings, it is said he was slightly inebriated and requested to leave. Gentlemen, the language this man used was worse than anything I ever heard and in fact, it was impossible to hear worse, even in Dorset Street. We went further on towards 602, Birkbeck Bank Buildings and at the side of a boarding, saw an officer pushing a lady and gentleman along, had they been near Dorset Street, of course, the lady would have been a prostitute, but they are not to be found near Birkbeck Bank Buildings, but I leave you my friends to infer what they were doing in such a quiet spot. Dorset Street is better lighted than this spot, close to Birkbeck Bank Buildings and thus, "The Worse Street in London," is a credit to the Local Authorities. Gentlemen, the heading of this article is in very large type, "The Worse Street in London," and under that, also in large type, "Where our Criminals are Trained." (Cries of lies, lies, lies). Dorset Street, Spitalfields, has sprung into undesired notoriety; here we have a place which boasts of an attempt at murder once a month (a voice said, why, he ought to be smothered, of a murder in every house) (Lies, wicked lies) and one house a murder in every room (what lies he tells, surely he his the champion at telling 'em), as a rule, Policemen go down it in pairs, hunger walks prowling in its alleyways, and the criminals of to-morrow are being bred there to-day. (Cries of lies, lies, where does he get his information from). Now, gentlemen, is there an attempt? at murder once a month? (No, no, that there a'nt, does he take us for cannibals). Is there an attempt at murder in a year, or even two, three, four, five or ten years? (Cries of no, he knows there a'nt). Does it not compare favourably with any street in the world? (Of course it does and is as good as any other place). Has there been a murder in every house? (No, make him prove it, Jack). And is there one house in the street in which a murder has been committed in every room? (He knows there a'nt, he his the champion liar). Policemen, he says, go down it in pairs, but I stood at my shop door last Saturday afternoon and I saw Mr. Mackensie, walk from the top of the street to the bottom, with a young lady, he then walked back, laughing and chaffing with this handsome young lady, until he saw a bill in a window, notifying the inhabitants that a meeting would be held to protest against the scandalous article he had written. I might here say that the men, four or five hundred strong had made up their minds to break the windows of the "Daily Mail" offices. (Cheers). But "thank God," wiser counsels prevailed. Fancy a man from Dorset Street having the check to say "thank God," why, a man from Dorset Street has no business to live at all, according to Mr. Mackensie. (Loud laughter). However, while he was looking at the Bill, a satanic smile came over his features and he only wanted the red cloak and typical pitchfork to be a grand representation of an old gentleman that none of us ever wish to meet. (Laughter). Now, I ask you, was it manly (to say the least of it) for Mr. Mackensie to take that handsome young lady down Dorset Street, after calling the inhabitants Thieves, Murderers and Agents of Crime, without even a police officer or any other protection, unless he looked upon the young lady to do so, was it sticking to his own facts to go with only a handsome young lady down a street that he says the police patrol in pairs, after almost causing a riot. (Cries of shame, cowardly, he's no man at all). Well, gentlemen, we will pass that over as it proves that Mr. Mackensie knew what he had written was untrue. His next words, typed again, are "Blue Blood," and he describes the lodging houses of Dorset Street and the District around as the headquarters of the shifting criminal population of London. (Cries of shame, shame, all lies). He says that the aristocrats in crime, etc., etc., do not come here at first but we have the common thief, the pickpocket and the unconvicted murderers. (Shame, shame, what lies he does tell). Mr. Maackensie tells you that the police have a theory, that it is better to let these people congregate together where they can find them when they want them. (Loud laughter). What an acquisition Mr. Mackensie would be to Scotland Yard, as the knowledge he possesses would be very valuable. (Laughter). I challenge Mr. Mackensie to prove what he has said about the police, but there, that is on a par with everything he writes. Where, in the name of goodness, does this aspirant to journalistic honors get his supposed knowledge from, some day I suppose, providing he is not snapped up by Scotland Yard, I may have the pleasure of seeing him Editor of "The Times." Mr. Mackensie goes on, if this were all, something might be said in favor of allowing such a place to continue, but it is not all, no criminal centre is wholly criminal and fancy this, he says they are not all bad people in lodging houses. (Now he's using soft-soap, cried aloud voice). There are some good boys in the street and there are honest men, who are simply down on their luck. There are, even to Mr. Mackensie, a few good women in Dorset Street, though, he says, but a very few. Well, gentlemen, after Mr. Mackensie, this aspirant to journalistic honors, has called everybody the worst names it was possible to find, he then says, there are some good respectable people there. Gentlemen, this puts me in mind of two friends in a public house bar, one suddenly called the other every bad name it was possible to lay his tongue to and otherwise abused him. The friend was surprised, but noticing that his companion was slightly elevated, let it pass over until he saw him again. The next day he asked him what he meant by calling him all those beastly names and the offender said "my dear old pal, although I was shaking my fist at you, I did not mean you, but those other men in the bar." Now, that is exactly what Mr. Mackensie is doing, he tells you there are respectable people, down Dorset Street, whose main offense is their poverty, but they are always in company with Law breakers and Agents of crime. If those people are in want and he tells you that poor people are in want, at times, it is the thief who shares his spoil with them to get them bread. (Laughter). Now, friends, doesn't this put you in mind of good old "Dick Turpin," that we read about, who went out into the highways and byways and gave his spoils to the poor. Well, I will pass that over for what it is worth and in common with everything else it shows what a lot Mr. Mackensie knows. (Loud laughter). He says there are people here who will always teach others the simple ways of getting a dishonest living. Mr. Mackensie evidently knows that it is easy to get a dishonest livelihood and that is more than the people who live in Dorset Street know, and I wonder how he knows. He goes on to say that boy thieves are trained systematically around Dorset Street, as in the days of "Oliver Twist." So he includes all round Dorset Street in his sweeping ascertion and that around goes a long way, even Birkbeck Bank Buildings, being, at a distance, around Dorset Street. I challenge Mr. Mackensie in reference to his "Oliver Twist" theory. You, my friends, may not know who "Oliver Twist" was, but he was simply a character created in a book of fiction, by "Charles Dickens," but of all the fiction I have ever read, none is a patch upon this tale from the pen of Mr. Mackensie. (Loud laughter). Here, this aspirant to journalistic fame puts in large type "The Cancer of the Dosshouse." Of course, friends, you know what a cancer is and that it is incurable and thus you will see that Mr. Mackensie tells you that there is no cure for the Dosshouse. Here, Mr. Mackensie shows himself in his true colours, as he says that he knows it is hard for people to live in the comfortable suburban homes and bright country houses, to believe that these things take place. (But they don't shouted one of the men at the back). But if they doubt his word they are to go to the sessions and look over the records of burglars, murderers, etc. Does Mr. Mackensie mean to say that all these come from Dorset Street, if so, it shows his ignorance on the subject he writes about, not to know that these cases are down from every police court in the metropolis. I wonder how many people that reside in Dorset Street, would be found there (none at all was shouted) and whether it would be impossible to find anybody's name, living near Birkbeck Bank Buildings. (Cheers). It is manly of Mr. Mackensie to say so, but this is simply on a par with everything he writes. Now, he mentions the art of the knuckleduster, for the life of me, friends, though I have lived a good many years, I am afraid to say how many, in Dorset Street, I could not describe, what a knuckleduster is, but this aspirant to journalistic honours, knows everything in reference to crime, nothing in that line comes amiss to him and it is really a pity, that, with the knowledge he possesses, he should hide his light under a bushel, I wonder Superintendent Swanson does not send for him to overlook everything at Scotland Yard. He goes on to say that the greatest harm lodging houses do, is with those who have not yet learnt the ways of crime. The mixed houses, where men and women go together, are, he says, infinitely the worse and the authorities may well consider the more rigid enforcement of elementary laws, for good morality, in such houses. Now, gentlemen, I will explain in reference to those houses for men and women. I have one that was advertised for sale as a going concern, I bought it and after my character was investigated, the register was transferred from a very respectable gentlemen to myself. The authorities re-measured the house and I lost several beds, but I might tell you this always takes place when a lodging house is transferred from one person to another. No children are allowed in those houses, but I hope there is no law to stop poor people having children. (Loud laughter). Not even a woman with a babe at her breast is to live in a double lodging house. So that does away with Mr. Mackensie's theory on the breeding of criminals and on a par with everything else in this article he writes upon, what he knows nothing about. Those houses are under The London County Council, whose medical officers and the health and housing committee, have the power to visit them day or night, whenever they think fit. In addition, there are day-inspectors, as well as a superintendent, who hold certificates for everything connected with buildings; who go through a very strict examination BEFORE THEY ARE APPOINTED inspectors of common lodging-houses. Well, so much for Mr. Mackensie's idea of the of the rigid enforcement of elementary laws. Now, I want to explain that a man and his wife can, if suitably attired,

                    GO TO ANY HOTEL IN LONDON

                    and take a bed as long as they possess the necessary £ s. d. They simply PUT THEIR NAMES IN A BOOK, go to bed, and there is an end to the matter. If they require a cheaper bed they go to one of the thousands of coffee-houses to be found all over London, but they are lucky if they can get a bed for 2s. 6d. Or 3s. (Laughter.) Now, what becomes of the poor couple who only earn 3s. or 4s. a day. This poor man and his wife will go to THE COMMON LODGING-HOUSE, where they

                    WILL GET A CLEAN BED FOR 9d.,

                    with use of the kitchen and wash-houses thrown in. Well, that is why the local authorities REGISTER THOSE HOUSES, and it will be seen that they are a pressing necessity for the poor working-man. Mr. Mackensie here mentions LORD ROWTON'S ADMIRABLE HOMES. I have nothing to say about Lord Rowton. I admire him as a business man, and I am certain that he is well able to look after himself and desires none of Mr. Mackensie's spoof. (Loud laughter and cries of "Hear, hear!") THIS ASPIRANT TO JOURNALISTIC HONOURS,

                    MR. MACKENSIE,

                    here talks about homes in Glasgow. I thought, when I first read the name of Mackenzie - good old Mae! - that it was a nom-de-plume; but when HE MENTIONS GLASGOW, and the good they are doing there, that Mackensie and Glasgow go together, and that Mac is his right name! Mackensie goes on to say that there is a great need of a lodging-house for women, and says that the Rector of Spitalfields has started a home for respectable girls. Well, gentlemen, I live in the neighbourhood, and it is news to me. IF THERE IS A HOME started by the Rector it is a great surprise, and I should like to know where it is. He further states that those of us who know ("What does he know about it?" cried one of those in front) the enormous difficulties of

                    RUNNING A LODGING HOUSE

                    for women believe that, with good management, it could be done. Friends, anybody would think there wasn't a house for single women in the neighbourhood, but Mr. Crossingham has two, Mr. Smith one, and there are several gentlemen overcoming THE GREAT DIFFICULTY of running a home for respectable young women. The Rector, Mr. Davies, here rose to a point of order, but the chairman told him to sit down, as Mr. McCarthy was perfectly in order, and being the only name on the bill was justly entitled to reply to what appeared in the "Daily Mail." (Cries of "Hear, hear!" "Sit down!" "Chuck him out!" etc., were heard.) Mr. McCarthy then, to the surprise of everybody present, said, I don't see any reason why I SHOULD APARE THOSE PEOPLE, and I would not, but for this interruption, mention the things which I will now allude to. Whenever THE SLIGHTEST LITTLE THING occurs in Dorset Street, the Rector of Spitalfields and

                    THE TOYNBEE HALL PEOPLE

                    pounce on it like A HUNGRY MAN ON A DINNER. This I can say without fear of contradiction, that, bad as the last Rector was - AND GOD KNOWS HE WAS BAD ENOUGH! - he was an angel compared to the present Rector. When the Rev. Mr. Scott was here there were 2d., 3d., 4d., and 6d. tickets GIVEN TO THE POOR - (terrific cheering) - and every shop in the neighbourhood would exchange then for food. Excuse me describing the church as A PLACE OF BUSINESS, but when Mr. Davies came on the scene the poor had to do WITHOUT THEIR TICKETS ALTOGETHER. Why, he cannot afford to clean or light the clock - (laughter) - and this is not the kind of man to open, at his own risk, a lodging-house for single women. (Laughter.) Possibly, if he or Mr. Mackenzie received an anonymous thousand or two, ONE MIGHT BE OPENED. (Terrific applause.) The Rev. Mr. Davies got up, and,

                    LOSING ALL CONTROL OF HIMSELF,

                    said, I have NOT SEEN MR. MACKENSIE FOR TWO YEARS, and did not know he was going to be here. I have nothing to do with him or Toynbee hall, and don't wish to. I think IT IS VERY UNFAIR of you, Mr. McCarthy - But he was called to a point of order amidst cries of "Chuck him out!" "Shut up!" "Go on Jack, we came TO HEAR YOU!" and various other remarks. But we have had GOOD CLERGYMEN in the neighbourhood, such men as the REV. FATHER JAY. Many a lad to-day, who has a good position, blesses the name of FATHER JAY, who lifted him out of the gutter and gave him a chance to succeed in life. FATHER JAY, to keep the young folks happy, opened AN ATHLETIC CLASS, and by this means strengthened the bodies of many of our friends. (Loud cheering.) Another good man, the Rev. Mr. Billing, afterwards Bishop of Bedford. (Terrific applause.) This gentleman never had anything to say against Dorset Street or Spitalfields, and was always ready and willing to give kindness and sympathy, A WORD OF ADVICE, OR MONEY IF IT WAS WANTED. ("Hear, hear!") Another good man was the Rev. Father Carney, who was always A TRUE FRIEND TO THE POOR of the neighbourhood. He never said anything bad about Dorset Street, and was always ready with advice and kindness. Another gentleman I MUST MENTION who has led along and useful life in the district - who has always had a word of advice for those who wanted it, and if it was required he was THE FIRST TO DO ANYTHING ELSE. Day after day ha has passed through Dorset Street, but He does not insult poor people. (Cheers.) I allude, my friends, to the well-known friend of the poor, MR. CORNELIUS BARHAM. (Terrific applause.) Then taking up THE "DAILY MAIL" again he went on with the article. Here we have in large type, FURNISHED ROOMS. The lodging-houses, he says, are bad enough, but they are THE BEST SIDE OF A BAD STREET. They have a certain amount of sanitation and decency as well as official inspection, while the furnished rooms have neither. Mr. Mackensie says, you take a seven or eight roomed house at a rent of 10s. or 11s. A week. (Cries of "Where are they?" "Is the man mad?" etc., were heard.) He says you put a certain amount of the oldest furniture to be found in the slums in them, and then you let them out to the first-comers at 10d. a night. (Loud and prolonged laughter.) No questions are asked, THEY PAY THE RENT, and you hand them the key. (Laughter.) If by the next night they have not got their 10d. or 1s. ready you go round and CHUCK THEM OUT (IT IS ALWAYS "CHUCK" in Dorset Street) and let a new-comer in. (Laughter.) McCarthy went on, WHAT A MARVELLOUS MAN this Mackensie is! Why he actually knows where we buy the furniture, what we pay for it, what rent we pay for our houses, and the next time I want any furniture I will commission Mr. Mackensie to get it for me. Anybody might guess we don't.

                    GO TO MAPLE'S

                    for it; but what's the matter with Savage's - (loud applause) - and the hundreds of private and public sales THAT TAKE PLACE IN LONDON every week? Mr. Mackensie must have a poor opinion of the BUSINESS ABILITIES of the proprietors of furnished rooms. For the information of Mr. Mackensie, furnished rooms ARE REGISTERED for poor people who have no homes and yet have one or two children. There is a medical officer and inspector who hold FIRST-CLASS CERTIFICATES for sanitation, etc., etc. These men go through a searching examination, the facsimile of that of the

                    COUNTY COUNCIL INSPECTORS,

                    and they ARE QUITE AS COMPETENT to do their duty. They have the power to visit furnished rooms, NIGHT OR DAY, and, in fact, though under the local authorities, have the same powers as the London County Council inspectors have to visit lodging-houses. (Cheers.) Thus it will be seen that they are A PRESSING NECESSITY to the poorer class of working-men. Mr. Mackensie says we throw the oldest furniture, always, as he says in the "Toynbee Hall Record," A RICKETY TABLE AND ONE CHAIR, into the room, and leave them to put themselves in order. Now, then, I will try to prove that what

                    MR. MACKENSIE

                    INTENDS AS A SLUR is really a compliment to the proprietors of the furnished rooms. Considering what THIS ASPIRANT TO JOURNALISTIC HONOURS has written, they must be very kind-hearted, simple people, for, as Mr. Mackensie tells you, after going ROUND THE SLUMS and buying the worst furniture at the lowest possible price (always a FEW SLILLINGS), he leaves them about, trusting to the honesty of the first person that comes along with 10d. (Loud and prolonged laughter.) I must call your attention to the fact that every time Mackensie mentions LODGING-HOUSES AND FURNISHED ROOMS he couples them with that un-English word "chuck." Well, this is simply upon a par with everything he says. ("Hear, hear!") Mr. Mackensie now dives into POETICAL LANGUAGE:

                    But for mere want we find here
                    Depths below the lowest deep.

                    When I first read this I tried hard to think where I had read it before, and I think it is taken out of a novel I read IN DAYS GONE BY. He says there are some to whom even the common lodging-house and PENNY SHELTER are unobtainable luxuries. He says the people would rather SLEEP ON THE THAMES EMBANKMENT to a bed in Dorset Street. (A voice said, "Let him try the Embankment for a night!") Now, challenge Mr. Mackensie to tell me where THERE IS A PENNY SHELTER, and I will bet him £1 TO A BUTTON that he cannot show me where there is one. Can anybody here to-night tell me where there is a penny shelter? (Cries of "There ain't one; it's only his gab!") You can always tell the man

                    THAT BACKS HIS FANCY,

                    as he generally comes out with the expression, £1 to a button. (Loud laughter). Now, I want you to notice that this ASPIRANT TO JOURNALISTIC HONOURS gives you the true motive of why he wrote this article. He says that when, on winter nights, well-fed and well-clothed citizens SHIVER OVER THEIR ROARING FIRES - (a voice said, "Have they no windows or doors!") - then it is that the lot of those poor souls is TRULY PITIABLE. He says, I have seen them on such nights lying on the stones of the doorways - asleep on the

                    DAMP, BRICK PASSAGE-WAYS

                    of the crowded houses. Now, said Mr. McCarthy, I want you to understand what Mr. Mackensie is saying to these people. He is saying, as plain as possible, how dare you live in THOSE COMFORTABLE COUNTRY HOUSES, and sit before those lovely roaring fires, eating and drinking THE BEST OF EVERYTHING, when I, Mr. Mackensie, tell you that there are poor souls in Dorset Street who are actually starving! Send ME whatever you can spare; THE SMALLEST DONATION WILL BE THANKFULLY RECEIVED, and I will give it to those poor souls. (Loud laughter.) I will tell you something that happened some time ago. I went to hear a clergyman preach, as he was a grand elocutionist. I looked upon him as MORE OF AN ACTOR than anything else. In the midst of

                    A GRAND PERORATION -

                    what a word for a man from Dorset Street to use! (Laughter.) I cannot help repeating the words. In the midst of a grand peroration he suddenly stopped and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, at my last meeting A LADY LOST HER PURSE. Now, if there are any of the light-fingered gentry about, please don't perform any of those legerdemain tricks until the collection is over." (Loud and prolonged cheering.) Well, that is what Mr. Mackensie is saying to those people in their lovely country houses. He now gives the SCHOOL BOARD OFFICER a turn, and also says that THE CHILDREN ARE TRAINED IN THE GUTTER. Their first lessons are in.

                    OATHS AND CRIMES.

                    They learn to sip gin in their mothers' arms, and you can see them at six and eight years of age gambling in the gutter ways. Now, said Mr. McCarthy, does it not seem very inconsistent that while THE GROWN-UP PEOPLE cannot find a penny for the shelter that exists only in Mr. Mackensie's mind, yet these children six and eight years of age can find money to gamble with in the gutter. Why they pick out the gutter, when there is a well-paved road and a broad pavement on each side, both being


                    is a mystery to me, but Mr. Mackensie says it is so, and he knows everything. He says that the County Council showed WHAT IT COULD DO in Boundary Street, and that surely here, under such needs, it might make a special endeavour. For every pound spent in REFORMING THIS STREET would mean many pounds saved on our PRISONS AND LEGAL MACHINERY to-morrow. Now, said Mr. McCarthy, what a wonderful man this Mackensie, this aspirant to journalistic honors, must be! (Loud laughter.) In addition to his other qualifications, he is a political economist, and why Lord Salisbury, Mr. Balfour, or Sir Michael Hicks-Beach do not at once commission him to take

                    THE CONTROL OF THE EXCHEQUER

                    is past my knowledge. Perhaps THIS PRINCE OF LIARS would rather write an article for the "Toynbee Hall Record" or the "Daily Mail." Gentlemen, Mr. Mackensie boasts of what they are DOING FOR THE POOR in Glasgow; but for his information I will explain what they do, not only in Dorset Street, but all over the metropolis, for THE POOR OF LONDON. To illustrate what I mean, I will ask you to go with me through ANY GREAT STREET in this City. You will see those men - men that I call ANGELS ON EARTH to the poor man out of work. He may be a publican, a butcher, a hatter, a grocer, or even one of

                    THE LODGING-HOUSE KEEPERS,

                    but he is a sportsman, and in the quiet time of the day puts his pony in to drive round and see his pals. He never goes far before he pulls up, and THE POOR OUT-OF-WORK holds the horse's head. If the governor, barmaid or barman tells him A NICE TALE (and it is long odds on it) he comes out on GOOD TERMS WITH HIMSELF and everybody else. He is certain to give the poor out-of-work SIXPENCE AT THE LEAST, and the man looks at it and says to himself, "WHAT SHALL I DO WITH IT!" He first pays 4d. For his nights lodging, which gives him a right to the kitchen, and he can have a wash if he desires it. He then buys a farthing'sworth of tea, a farthing'sworth of sugar, one halfpennyworth of bread, one halfpennyworth of butter, and then is not broke. He receives half a pound of bread, makes some tea, and sits down and enjoys a satisfactory meal. Next morning he gets up refreshed, and goes down to one of the markets or docks to try and GET A DAY'S WORK. Can Mr. Mackensie tell me where,

                    IN ANY PART OF THE WORLD,

                    Glasglow included, THEY can do anything like this? Now this is done, not only in Dorset Street, but ALL AROUND SPITALFIELDS, and the very people Mr. Mackensie RUNS DOWN and cannot say anything bad enough about are the people that really do more for the prevention of crime than any other class of people in the world. These men, I should have mentioned, do not boast of their philanthropy. Now, gentlemen, I should like to explain, for the benefit of the Press, that there are twenty houses on each side of Dorset Street. ("There ought to be more," said a man in front, "considering HOW WE want 'em.") There are five lodging-houses, TWO BELONGING TO MR. CROSSINGHAM - ("Good luck to him; he's a toff!") - one to Mr. Oyler, and I OWN TWO. (Half a dozen voices were heard together saying, "Wish it was twenty-two!") Now, if any one of Mr. Crossingham's lodgers has not got his money, does he CHUCK YOU OUT? ("No; he would let you stop a week and give you a bit of grub!" was shouted.) There are four shops - one fish-shop and three general shops and it is a REMARKABLE COINCIDENCE that the three shops are all of THAT SAME HISTORICAL NAME, "McCarthy." ("Good luck to the lot of em!") Though

                    THIS IS THE CASE,

                    they belong to three separate and distinct families. ("God bless them all!" shouted Bill Mazey.) There are nine houses REGISTERED AND LET as furnished rooms, one warehouse, four stables, and the other houses are let to people WHO HAVE THEIR OWN HOMES. Now, gentlemen, this is the street, and I CHALLENGE MR. MACKENSIE to prove that any one of those people are not AS RESPECTABLE AS HIMSELF. (Loud cheers.) In conclusion, gentlemen, I must say that this is A GROSS LIBEL on the MEDICAL OFFICERS, sanitary inspectors, London County Council inspectors, as well as A GROSS LIBEL on the H Division of police, a body of men who, for intelligence, tact, and unlimited resources, can hold their own with any police-off ricers

                    IN THE WORLD.

                    I may say that A LYING ARTICLE like this does not increase the value of property anywhere around Dorset Street or the neighbourhood. ("Hear, hear!") I thank you very much for the courtesy and attention you have shown me while I was speaking." And then, amidst a perfect volley of cheers, MR. JACK McCARTHY sat down. He had been speaking 1 hour 50 minutes, without a note to enliven his memory, and, though in trying places, never lost himself. He kept a tight grasp of his subject, and though his attention was called away (principally by the Rector at Spitalfields) he took up the subject at the same point without an instant's delay. He thoroughly thrashed out, piece by piece, every point in the article, and proved them to be untrue from beginning to end. The cheering after this great speech was deafning and fully ten minutes passed before the next speaker was called upon. MR. RAYMOND of the "Brittania" beer-house, spoke a few words and entered his protest against what was a false and ruing account of Dorset Street. Mr. Munro (George Yard Mission) said, that he had in company with his wife, visited the street for thirty-eight years and always received the greatest courtesy possible, he had gone down this street, where thieves are said to be trained and his gold watch and chain, money and valuables had been as safe as in his own home. MR. SAGAR (East End Mission) said, that for years he had been going through Dorset Street and the whole article was false from start to finish. MR. PLANTIDE said, he lived in the street for a large number of years and was a barrow hawker, he considered it was a gross libel on a body of working people and entered his protest against it. After a few others had spoken, a vote of thanks was made to the Chairman and another to MR. JACK McCARTHY, who had made a great speech for nearly two hours and after another cheer for MR. JACK McCARTHY, which was repeated again and again, the meeting quietly broke up and a little while later no one would have known that a meeting had been held near."


                    • #11
                      McCarthy Family Rising Socially In 1901 vs. Status In 1880's?

                      Heinrich, Claire and Ruby, thanks for your comments.

                      Ruby, I enjoyed your very thoughtful and well-reasoned post. Lots of food for thought there!

                      McCarthy reminds me of a politician playing to his constituents- and very astutely too. The phrase "rabble-rouser" comes to mind.

                      I too was struck by his attack on certain "clergymen". Canon Samuel Barnett- who founded Toynbee Hall and encouraged many people to work for better conditions for the poor of Whitechapel- seems to have been one of McCarthy's targets, though unnamed. Barnett did write numerous impassioned articles in his attempt to draw attention to the dreadful living conditions in the East End and effect real change for the inhabitants.

                      It was a bit surprising to me that McCarthy responded so vigorously to the criticisms of Dorset Street and went to the trouble of printing a pamphlet.

                      I wonder if part of McCarthy's motivation was that by 1901 his family was rising both economically and socially, so being branded the equivalent of a "slum landlord" stung him more in 1901 than it would have done back in the 1880's?

                      I also wonder if McCarthy attempted to get the Daily Mail or the Toynbee Record to print his lengthy reply, but they refused, so he printed it himself?

                      Best regards,


                      • #12
                        It was a bit surprising to me that McCarthy responded so vigorously to the criticisms of Dorset Street and went to the trouble of printing a pamphlet.

                        Maybe, McCarthy gives you the answer himself !

                        "I may say that A LYING ARTICLE like this does not increase the value of property anywhere around Dorset Street or the neighbourhood".


                        • #13
                          Re: Dorset Street Property Values

                          Originally posted by Rubyretro View Post
                          [B]Maybe, McCarthy gives you the answer himself !
                          "I may say that A LYING ARTICLE like this does not increase the value of property anywhere around Dorset Street or the neighbourhood".
                          Hi Ruby. Yes, and the fact that McCarthy was so conscious of property values in 1901 seems to be another indication of his family's "upward mobility".

                          For decades property owners and landlords like McCarthy and Crossingham made a significant profit from their rental properties in the area of Dorset Street. Buildings were rented very cheaply then divided up into as many units as possible and rented by the night or by the week for cash. Their renters were a bit of a captive audience in that those who lacked the funds necessary to rent higher-qualities lodgings or to relocate to a different area had little choice but to pay whatever price was asked or live on the streets. We know that there were always more prospective lodgers and renters waiting to replace them if they couldn't pay and were evicted.

                          We've all read stories of the dreadful conditions of the rooms in the vicinity of Dorset Street. One way for a landlord to raise property values would of course be to make practical improvements which would help relieve some of those dreadful conditions, but that would involve a monetary expenditure; an investment in fact. I suspect that the landlords justified their lack of improvements with the convenient argument that the improved lodgings would soon be trashed by their renters anyway, so why bother?

                          - Which attitude, if true, would only go to reinforce McKenzie's criticisms regarding the nature of Dorset Street and its inhabitants!

                          Maybe in 1901 the local property owners were already thinking ahead to a time when the area around Dorset Street would be razed and redeveloped? Miller's Court and other nearby properties were sold off and demolished the 1920's. It would be interesting to know what kind of profits the local property owners made at that time.

                          - And what in the world happened to the poor people who had lived in the demolished lodgings?

                          Best regards,


                          • #14
                            Rippercast: 'The Worst Street In London'

                            Here's the Rippercast on the history of Dorset Street. Most of you will have already listened to this episode more than once, but I thought I'd post it for the sake of those who haven't.

                            It's a really interesting podcast featuring Fiona Rule, author of the book 'The Worst Street In London', Coral Kelly, Robert McLaughlin, and Jonathan Menges.

                            I've listened to it several times and enjoyed it very much.

                            RIPPERCAST- 'The Worst Street In London':

                            Best regards,


                            • #15
                              Dorset street etc

                              Very interesting Archaic. Thank you!