Tuesday, 17 April 2012

What Happened to Families Whose Houses were in the Railway's Path?

I have recently been writing a talk on Dickens and the railways, and have extensively used his book Dombey and Son, in which he talks about the coming of the railway to Camden. Years later, in his publication All the Year Round, Dickens relayed the story of a man whose house had been destroyed when the line to St. Pancras was being built:

"There ain’t such a thing to let, suitable to a man of my means, unless I went miles and miles away from my work. No, sir, I should not like to live out o’town. I like the country as well as any man, and on a Sunday, if one takes a holiday, theyre ain’t a better way of spendin’ it, to my mind, than taking your railway ticket and getting right away from the dust and smoke. But it ain’t in nature to want to travel miles every day when your work begins at six in the morning…So I’ve had to take apartments, and me and my wife and the four children are crammed into two rooms, and pay more for them than we kept four for, when I’d a place of my own."

Indeed, when railways arrived in a locality, and housing was at a premium rents went up considerably, as the article later discussed in the case of Kensington.

"No small buildings have been built in Kensington for many years, and rents have increased so materially, that for two small rooms which were let for four shillings a week, five shillings and sixpence is now paid."

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