Penny Dreadful: From True Crime to FictionThe Madding Crowd: 18th Century LondonBloodletting: Barber Surgeons and Early MedicineThe Play's the Thing: From Melodrama to Musical

Unplanned Housing
Streets & Alleys
Water and Waste
Coal, Fog and the Smell of the Grave
Untimely Death
Learned Pigs and Other Diversions
Law and Disorder
Thief Taker, Constable, Police
Trial and Punishment
Liver and Lungs and Everything Offal
Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in Concert
Streets and Alleys

London was filled with the smell of wet horses and the waste materials associated with them. Sanitation was unheard of. Water was unpurified, and raw sewage ran down city streets in open drains. It was common practice for people to empty their chamber pots out of their windows, and to leave garbage out in the street to rot. C.P. Moritz wrote in 1782, "Nothing in London makes a more detestable sight than the butchers' stalls, especially in the neighborhood of the Tower. The guts and other refuse are all thrown on the street and set up an unbearable stink." (4)

An amazing variety of filth slopped down London's cobblestone streets. Along with dirt, dust and animal manure, there was the ever-falling London rain to add to the mess. Cesspools of human waste collected in puddles everywhere. Dead animals (dogs, cats, rodents, even horses) were left to decay in the streets. In darker corners of the city, an occasional human corpse might even be found. To add to all this, horse-drawn carriages with heavy metal wheels often splashed through puddles, slopping the street's putrid muck all over strolling pedestrians.

Additional Resources

Visit an Interactive Map of Charles Dickens's London

Water & WasteNext


Home  -  I. Penny Dreadful  -  II. The Madding Crowd  -  III. Bloodletting
IV. The Play's the Thing  -  Recipes

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