So why did people do so many nasty and dangerous – not to mention illegal jobs on the Victorian streets? The main reason is poverty.
Whilst many people became very wealthy indeed during the 1800s, there was also extensive poverty – that means not having enough to eat, or any clothes to wear, or somewhere safe to live. If you’re starving, you’ll do almost anything to keep yourself and your family alive.
Another reason is a bit more complicated. We are used to having rules and regulations and laws to keep us safe. Even the cars on the roads have their own rules!
The Victorians didn’t think it was necessary for the government to make lots of rules.
It was common to think that you had to look after yourself and if you were poor it was your own fault. Even if you were a child, and starving hungry, there weren’t laws to look after you in your parents couldn’t – or wouldn’t.
As such streets were lawless places – there weren’t even policemen until the 1830s and even then they were few and far between.
People would do whatever they could to scrape together money to feed their families, and if that meant climbing into a sewer or picking a pocket – well, that was better than starving, and so what if you did break the law?
Chances are you’d not be caught or punished.
One of the things people used to do was to search through muck and poo in the hopes of finding some coins! These people were called Gong Scourers and it was perhaps the most grim of all the Victorian jobs we’re learning about…
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