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Victorian England

Updated on November 3, 2010

Life for the poor


Life in the Victorian time for poor people was very hard, and in no way rewarding. The poor lived their diminutive lives working extremely hard every day. The poor people were always on the struggle for food and shelter. The only housing options within limit of the poor peoples expenses was either the slums or the workhouses. They lived in damp, filthy conditions. Pollution, filth and diseases such as cholera contributed to the harshness of the ever day life on the poor in the Victorian times. Cholera and other dangerous diseases were easily spread through the cramped living conditions. Many people believed that the ‘poor were improvident, they wasted any money they had on drinking and gambling’. This statement from the rich wasn’t necessarily true as there was no proof that the poor made these actions and it was just a stereotype that the poor were ‘worthless’ and ‘not worth living’. The Rich treated the Poor with no respect, and nor did they show any sign of affection or sympathy towards their different lifestyles.


Workhouses where were poor people who had no job or home could live. But it was for a cost! The Poor earned money in the Workhouse by doing jobs. The main people that lived in the Workhouses were orphans, abandoned children, physically and mentally sick people, disabled, elderly and unmarried.
In the workhouses, families were split up. They were also punished If they tried to make any contact between each other. Also, the workers were made to wear a uniform. The food provided for the poor was tasteless. Whether you were young or old, they still had to pull their weight and do back-breaking and life threatening work. The workhouses were ran by the Parishes, and they were given money by the government to maintain and support the business.  The Parishes were instructed to make rules and regulations for the poor as strict as possible, because they wanted the poor to leave the workhouse, therefore on the street again, battling for survival.


Many poor children were forced into child labor from very early ages to support themselves, or to help earn money for the family. Children from the  ages of 4 to 16 were required to work a hard 16 hours of work a day under atrocious conditions. Children had to work in iron and coal mines, and generally died before the age of 25 from the toxic gas and fumes inhaled while working. Children who didn’t work in the mines, were sent into factories. Children earnt minimal wages, and were beaten if they stepped out of line. The children that were younger and smaller, were sent in between the machines to either fix them, or they were paid to clean up the machines. These jobs were very difficult, as most children ended up losing fingers, hands  and very serious cuts. The law of using poor children to do hard labor was not considered unfair or unjust from the governments point of view. They encouraged the idea as it would be more helpful for the owners of the factories.


Charles Dickens life growing up was mixed with emotions and different experiences. Charles Dickens was of a wealthy family, he was educated and smart. When Dickens was twelve years old, his father was sent to jail for being in great debt. Dickens life was turned around dramatically. Dickens was withdrawn from his Rich Private school and sent to work in the workhouses and factories.
Charles Dickens was kicked out of his house, into a small poor neighborhood in London called Camden town. For several months Dickens lived away from his family working in factories. He made many friends with boys his age of a low working class. This was a very horrible turn in Dickens life. Eventually, once his father’s debts were paid off, Dickens returned to school and pursued his talent of being a writer. His stories and experiences of being a poor and rich boy, inspired him to write about his memories describing to the readers that the Poor people don’t deserve to be treated badly. “My whole nature was penetrated with grief and humiliation.”


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      6 years ago


    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina Crawford 

      8 years ago from Dartmoor

      Interesting hub and choice of subject


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