A Letter On East End Poverty

Poverty had a constant presence in the East End of London during the late Victorian period, and one of the things that the Jack the Ripper murders did was draw the attention of the press and public at large to the grinding poverty under which many residents in Whitechapel lived on a day to day basis.

As more and more journalists arrived in the area to report on the Whitechapel murders, they began to take notice of the conditions under which many of the people lived.

However, the philanthropically minded had been trying to draw attention to the conditions for many years prior to the onset of the atrocities.

The Hackney and Kingsland Gazette published the following letter from a dedicated clergyman of the area in its issue of Wednesday, 25th January 1888:-



I venture with extreme hesitation to solicit the favour of a brief insertion in your columns of the needs of this neighbourhood, as it affects the really deserving poor.

During the thirty years of my residence and work in this one district as a Christian minister, I have only once made an appeal through the press for assistance on behalf of those who need and earnestly plead for help and succour during the season of physical want, which has for some time been prevalent throughout this locality.


The district is inhabited, as a whole, by a self-reliant, hard-working, frugal population.

It is not one of the worst centres of that helpless mass of misery which seems to admit of no remedy but the union, but, during my somewhat lengthened experience, I have never seen so much real distress to call for practical and generous commiseration.

The red box with Remember The Poor's Box written in white lettering on its front.
The Remember The Poor’s Box, St Bartholomew’s Hospital.


The object of this appeal is to ask such as have the ability to enable me to render timely assistance to persons and families, who, if encouraged in this, the hour of special need, may be enabled to maintain their manhood, and so be preserved from swelling the numbers of those who have lost heart and hope.

My sympathy is now specially directed our most destitute Board school children, who cry aloud for food as well as clothing.

I am able to trace very much of the silent and heroic sufferings of the poor (which I forbear to mention in detail, lest I should travel into the region of sensationalism) through the work connected with our Mission Hall in the Old Ford Road.


Should any of your readers entrust me with funds on behalf of this class of deserving poor, I promise to bring to bear upon its distribution my intimate knowledge of the people, not giving relief in doles merely, but striving to establish them in a manner to prevent similar misfortune, mainly helping those who need genuine sympathy, to keep them in a position of “self-help.”

This class of distress is seldom heard of till it is too late to apply prevention instead of cure. I may be allowed to mention that the best years of my life have been given to the work of my church and the locality, without having accepted any remuneration for my labours, which I have always given as a labour of love.

(REV.) E. SCHNADHORST, St. Stephen’s road, North Bow.