Buildings of Irwell Street an area at one time of alleys and ginnels. Back Irwell Street once a mass of lodging and doss houses. The Lodging House Home Early Days Transport & Work Services Wartime Entertainment Memories & People News & Weather Links
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.