Bacup like many other towns and villages had a collection of Lodging Houses the vast majority of
these were in the areas of Temple Court, Irwell Street, Back Irwell street shown below and other
areas such as Newgate and Lower Newgate.
Quite often a lodging house would be attached to a small grocers store where the ledgers
could buy a few small things such as a pennorth of tea or sugar or an ounce of margarine, a
raw onion because a man need not starve if he can get a penny loaf and a raw onion and
squeeze someone's tea pot and thus get a drop of coloured water. In these shops or kens as
they are also known the landlord usually lives but leaves the work to a deputy. Going inside
you may ask for a bed for the night putting down the coppers for it, for there is no strap
given here. They will then give you a check with the number of your bed on it and if you
seem to a stranger they will show you into the big living room. You are then at liberty to use
the big fire, and washbasins, and pots and pans for one day and night. In the common room
you will meet with the various men and women who have drifted in and perhaps one or two
who are working in the district and perhaps staying in that particular ken for a day or two.
The inmates looking up when a new one goes in but soon getting back on with what they were doing. Sitting down
you take stock of your fellow travellers, in the corner sits a man with his head in his hands and looking at his hands
you see they are not used to hard work for he is one who is gifted for the telling of a tale or two, or when begging can
raise the sympathy of a householder with pitiful tales mostly invented. A few seats away is another man with a small
parcel which opens out into a book, and it has two shiny black backs and inside there are a few pins, collar studs,
shirt buttons, and a few packets of needles. This trade is known as Bible Hawking, and is supposed to be a honest
way to earn a living. Then comes a man with snakey looking eyes who will not look you in the face under any
circumstances, and who gains a living in any underhand way, by sneaking or stealing, and will get anyone in trouble
so long as he can save his own skin.
Down by the fire are several men grouped together, and they are discussing the latest news of Public Works, and telling of their chances of
work. A man a smiling face looks on his eyes are sad, he has been a schoolmaster but owing to ill health and the loss of his family he has been
thrown on that which is the human dustheap with no chance of returning to his former position a gentleman to his fingertips. There stands a
straight soldierly looking man who used to be prominent in medical circles but he made a mistake and then took to drink to help him forget. In
regards to the women and girls there is generally tragedy behind it for no woman would take up a life of such as this. In one corner a young
woman though to look at her she was middle-aged and the language she used was so bad that even the men looked at her, and nodded their
disapproval .A young girl in her teens a look of sadness mixed with bravado was pitiful to see. These are some of the effects of being men's
playthings then being let down. Behind some of these kens are some of the foulest places those known as furnished rooms, here you will find
the foulest of slum inhabitants, both young girls and young men's are enticed to these areas and a large number of these are then never to
return to their families but thrown on the human dust-heap.
Extracted from the Public Health Report 1849. In another house visited there are only two rooms appropriated to lodgers. In one room there were
6 beds containing 4 females 9 males and a dog. In one was a man and a woman, when asked as to his means of obtaining a livelihoods he
replied that she begged for them both because he could not face it. This was a fine athletic man apparently full of good living and about 38 years
of age. In another bed was a young man blind. He stated that he was begging, his wife and child, and dog were with him. He said he was from
Bradford in Yorkshire and had come from Todmorden that day, and was going to Blackburn the following day. In the other room were 4 beds
containing 3 females and 5 males. One of the women about 25 years old, and of handsome person, said she got married 6 weeks previously and
had parted from her husband, who had a home in Rochdale. She was going a hawking. Total 2 rooms 10 beds 21 persons.