A Norwich Girls Trip To London

Reading some of the newspaper accounts of the experiences of many people, and particularly those of young girls and women, in London in the 19th century, you would think that people would give the Victorian metropolis a wide berth.

But, this was not the case.

Indeed, London held a strange allure for many people, and they would make the trip to London where they would disappear into the huge melting pot as they began new lives.

For many of those arrived here, they found work, and had soon settled in London. Others had less luck, and found their lives taking a downward spiral from which they would never recover, several of them ending in tragedy.

Others, such as the eighteen year old girl from Norwich – whose story was featured in the following article in The Thetford And Watton Times And People’s Weekly Journal on Saturday, 11th August 1883 – had brief stays before they realised that London wasn’t quite what they had expected.


“On Saturday afternoon, at the Thames Police Court, Inspector George Young of the H division came into Court to report to his Worship the result of some inquiries which he had been directed to make respecting a young girl named Alice Hansell.

It appears that, late on Friday night, a constable found the girl, who is apparently about eighteen or nineteen years of age, wandering listlessly along the Commercial Road.

Something in her appearance attracted the officer’s attention, and he therefore stopped her and spoke to her.


She at first seemed uncommunicative, but ultimately she said that she had come to London from Norwich, as she had heard so much of what London was like, to try and get a situation of some kind.

She thought that when she got to town she would get something to do directly, but she had found it much harder than she ever imagined, and was quite tired out by walking about.


The constable took her to the Arbor Square Station, where she was seen by Inspector Young, who sent her to a coffee-house opposite the Court, where she was provided with food and a bed.

Inspector Young now stated that he had made inquiries by telegraph and found that the girl’s tale was substantially correct.

She had now expressed a wish to go back home, as she had had enough of London, and found it a very different place from what she expected.


His Worship, under these circumstances, consented to pay the girl’s fare back to Norwich, for which she expressed herself as very grateful.

She also appeared to feel very thankful to Inspector Young for his kindness to her.”

You can see lots of photographs of London and the East End in the 19th century on our Facebook Page.