From 1820 to 1914, British history entered a period subsequently known as the Victorian Era.
These were the years that roughly corresponded to the reign of Queen Victoria, hence the term. Thanks to imperial holdings and intensive industrialization, Britain was a powerful expanding franchise.
The economy was stable and growing, supported by working-class people who made up 80% of the population. London was the capital, the hub of commerce, and the industrial center of the greatest empire ever known.
Throughout the 19th century, the people of London underwent a massive growth from 1 million to around six times larger. London was exceedingly wealthy but at the same time disgustingly filthy.
The infrastructure of London, which had pretty much been unchanged in centuries, was not quite ready for such growth of population and all its byproducts.
Toxic black mud covered the streets, dense smoke from the factories filled the atmosphere, rotting garbage clogged the alleys, cesspools were overflowing, and the flowers in the cemeteries gave a stench as awful as the corpses underneath.
For the citizens, rich and poor, even maintaining personal hygiene was a genuine endeavor.
10 /10 The Bumbledom
It wouldn’t be much beyond reason to say that Victorian London became a victim of its growth and success.
Take the rubbish collection program for example. The responsibility for city streets’ cleanliness fell upon the vestries, also known as the Bumbledom, named after Mr. Bumble – the meddlesome self-important official in Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist.
These committees appointed private contractors to do the cleaning, a job many were willing to do at no cost because they could make money from the rubbish.
They sold dead cats to furriers, old iron to luggage makers, and manure for food.
9 /10 A Phoenix City
The most valuable waste of them all was cinders and ashes for sale to brickmakers whose products were constantly in high demand in a city growing as rapidly as London.
It was a popular joke that London was a Phoenix, an immortal bird of Greek mythology that rises from its ashes. Bricks made from recycled cinders and ashes became sought-after commodities.
Charles Dickens likened the business model to the Golden Dustman (from Our Mutual Friend), who made a handsome profit from an otherwise unflattering work.