Jumat, 20 Maret 2009

The Adventures of the SCSSHBCDAC: the Case of the Lewd Lodgers

Previously, our heroes from the Sydney City and Suburbs Sewerage and Health Board Crowded Dwellings and Areas Committee (SCSSHBCDAC) exposed the horrors of late nineteenth century Darling Harbour-side housing, with special attention paid to the water-closets.

Now they encounter... the lewd lodgers of Clarence Street.


Episode 2: The Case of the Lewd Lodgers.

Third day, Wednesday 17 November, 1875
Clarence Street

Met at the Volunteer Club at 10 o’clock on Thursday, 17th instant, and continued our inspection of Brisbane Ward, Sergeant Larkins and Constable Mulqueeny accompanying us as before. Proceeded to Clarence-street and first inspected a lodging-house known as the ‘Lancashire Lass’, originally portion of Irvin’s estate, but since purchased by the Hon John Frazer, a brick house, rented at 21s a week. The same complaints met us here – ‘the landlord will do nothing to keep the place in repair.’ We noticed that the kitchen is not only used for domestic purposes during the day but converted into a bedroom at night, whilst one of the lodgers is accommodated with sleeping quarters under the stairs, in a close narrow receptacle, where he can only pass the night in a crouching position. This sleeping compartment reminded us of the cell called ‘Little Ease’ in which, in old times, refractory prisoners used to be placed in the Tower of London, and in which they could neither sit, stand, or lie at full length.

No 116 Clarence-street, belonging to the same owner, is rented at 22s 6d a week. We may remark here that in almost all the houses we entered we found the attics to be crammed; these are generally close enough, but they afford a slightly better chance for fresh air to enter, which is probably the reason they are in greater favour. In none of these lodging-houses is any provision made for the toilet; we saw no signs of lavatories and no towels; the bed and nothing but the bed is provided. Some of the inmates turn in with all their clothes on, probably for security sake, as we observed in one of these houses a notice that the landlord was not responsible for the goods and chattels of his lodgers; others who find the temperature unpleasantly close lie in a state of absolute nudity, while we noticed one man who had hit the happy medium by going to bed with a pair of Hessian boots and a cap on, but no other article of attire. Attached to this house there was no water-closet – only a common cesspit, exceedingly offensive; we were told that it had not been cleaned out for four months; we should have judged it to have been four years.

No 124, called Niagara House (why we were unable to ascertain) rents at 22s 6d per week. In one room, 13 ft 6 in square, and about 10 ft high, we found seven beds; on one of them was a man lying in puris naturalibus; in another room of similar dimensions there were six beds; and in the attic, which is not more than 6 ft 6 in height at the outside and only 13 ft 6 in square, there were eight beds.

The Temperance lodging-house, which was the next place we visited, afforded us an agreeable surprise, and we only mention it to state that it was an entire contrast to any of the houses previously inspected. Here cleanliness everywhere prevails; the beds have clean sheets; there is a nice lavatory, well supplied with jack towels, and every attention seems to be applied to the comfort of the inmates. That this superior accommodation is appreciated is evidenced by the fact that a higher scale of charges are made and a superior class of lodgers obtained.

From the Temperance Hotel we went to Mrs Connelly’s lodging-house – owner or agent, Mr Alderman Day – rented at 15s 6d a week. The landlady of this house, who had evidently been regaling herself in the company of three or four friends, was in a blissful state of semi-consciousness, and unable to give us much information. We noticed in one room with a flagged floor there were six beds occupied by women. The closet in the yard was directly connected and very offensive. On the same side of the court, off Clarence-street and next to Smith’s picture-frame factory, is a six-penny lodging house, occupied by Mrs Doolan – owner or agent, Mr Alderman Day; there were three beds downstairs and four in the attic – old fashioned ventilation – rooms very close. From this house we went to the ‘Full and Plenty’, a sort of eating-house, at the corner of Clarence and King Streets, rented at 30s a week, recently purchased by Macarthur & Co. We were told that from ninety to one hundred dinners are served here daily.

No 156 Clarence-street, owner Jones, North Shore, contains only double-beds, the price of which is 2s 6d, being in fact a brothel. Here again we found the provisions of the Water Pollution Prevention Act evaded by the construction of the cistern for supplying the closet; it had no compartment in it, the closet being therefore in direct connection with the main.

No 158 is a house of the same character, provided with double beds only, and used for the same purpose; the yard was clean and the closet provided with patent cistern in good order.

This was the last house we visited, our day’s inspection being over at 12 pm.

Next episode: a Tragic Tableau.