Living conditions in cities

  • Pollution - coal was used to heat houses, cook food and heat water to produce steam to power machines in factories. The burning of coal created smoke, which led to terrible pollution in the cities.
  • Overcrowding - due to large numbers of people moving to the cities, there were not enough houses for all these people to live in. Low wages and high rents caused families to live in as small a space as possible. Sometimes whole families lived in one room.
  • Disease - typhus, typhoid, tuberculosis and cholera all existed in the cities of England. Cholera reached England for the first time in 1830, and there were further major epidemics in 1832 and 1848. Overcrowding, housing of a low standard and poor quality water supplies all helped spread disease.
  • Waste disposal - gutters were filled with litter and the streets were covered in horse manure, collected by boys to sell to farmers. Human waste was discharged directly into the sewers, which flowed straight into rivers. In London, Parliament had to stop work because the smell from the Thames became too much.
  • Poor quality housing - houses were built very close together so there was little light or fresh air inside them. They did not have running water and people found it difficult to keep clean. Houses often suffered from damp due to their thin walls and roofs made out of cheap materials. Many households had to share a single outside toilet that was little more than a hole in the ground.
  • Lack of fresh water - people could get water from a variety of places, such as streams, wells and stand pipes, but this water was often polluted by human waste.