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Print - Bethnal Green as it is: I.--A Sketch in Reform Square
  • Bethnal Green as it is: I.--A Sketch in Reform Square
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Bethnal Green as it is: I.--A Sketch in Reform Square

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    London (made)

  • Date:

    3 November 1890 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    process engraving

  • Credit Line:

    Given by the Hon. Arthur Villiers

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level F, case TOPIC, shelf 10C

Physical description

Illlustration of Reform Square from an article in The Graphic newspaper titled 'New Bethnal Green.--Is it to be?'.

Place of Origin

London (made)


3 November 1890 (made)



Materials and Techniques

process engraving


Height: 3.5 in approx, Width: 5 in approx

Object history note

This set of engravings (E.4932-4934-1923) illustrate a letter from Sir John Williams Benn, a London councillor, published in The Daily Graphic, London's first daily illustrated newspaper, on 3 November 1890. The letter relates to the recently passed Housing of the Working Classes Act (1890) and the proposal to begin making improvements in the slums of Bethnal Green. The illustrations show the current state of housing and living conditions in the area: 'In Myring's Place, the proximity of the dustbin to the public water supply indicates the class of sanitary ideas which prevail. The ground-floors of many of the houses in the area are considerably below the level of the street, in some cases eighteen inches, and from the damp filth beneath the flooring there arises a pestiferous odour which decimates the unhappy population. Indeed, upon viewing and smelling such places it is easy to understand how it comes about that the death-rate is doubled...In this disease-stricken district nearly twice as many children die as in the whole of Bethnal Green. The density of the population is equally suggestive. The whole of Bethnal Green shows 168 persons per acre, but this area has upon it 373 persons per acre. 107 of the rooms have five or more inhabitants each, and many of the dwellings are without backyards. Some of the houses present features which are rare even in the worst parts of London. In one of the sketches I show the way in which the residents have to reach such backyards they possess, namely, by descending a dark staircase into a low, mouldy cellar, and crossing that before they can get at the rear of the premises. The condition into which these cellars get may be imagined rather than described.'

This object was part of the John Edmund Gardner collection of topographical prints and drawings of London. After Gardner's death the collection passed to his son Edmund Thomas, but was sold to Edward Coates MP in 1910. The collection was sold again in 1923 after Coates' death, and was split between various institutions and private collectors. The portion connected with Hoxton, Homerton, Hackney and Bethnal Green was bought by the Hon. Arthur Villiers and donated to the Bethnal Green Museum.

Descriptive line

'Bethnal Green as it is: I.--A Sketch in Reform Square', process engraving from The Daily Graphic, 3 November 1890

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Taken from departmental handlist


Paper (fiber product)



Subjects depicted

Poverty; Urban areas


London history; Periodicals; Prints


Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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