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         School and Home - Homes and Health

Wealthy families didn't usually live in the centre of the city. Often they lived outside the city or on the edge of the city where there were parks, fields and cleaner air.

In the streets of Scotland's larger cities, the contrast between wealth and obvious poverty was striking. By 1861, one third of Scotland's population lived in houses of one room.

Family life in the Nineteenth century was very different from that of today. By the end of the century, the average life expectancy for the working classes was still only 47 years of age. Large families were the normal thing to have and many children died young, families of over 10 children were commonplace.

Poor families lived in slums that were built close together and as a result, hardly any daylight came into the houses. The houses were often damp and smelly. Opening windows to get fresh air was thought to be bad for you. The slums had no gardens, the people in a tenement shared one outside toilet and they collected water from a tap in the street.

Keeping clean was difficult until homes had piped water and drains. For clothes washing, the better tenements had outside washhouses and some towns later built public laundries. These hot, humid communal wash houses were known as steamies. Washing was the responsibility of women, who took pride in hanging out clean white linen. New products and equipment helped to ease the labour.

Massive immigration and bad housing, were the ingredients for chronic public health problems. By the end of the 18th century, smallpox was responsible for almost 19 per cent of deaths in Glasgow.

Not surprisingly children were the worst affected with 50 per cent of the deaths of those under 5 years of age being attributed to the disease. Serious typhus and cholera epidemics from 1817 onwards had a devastating impact.

With much of Glasgow's drinking water drawn from the polluted waters of the Clyde, cholera struck even better-off households. Between 13 February and 17 May 1832 there were 1,281 reported cases, of whom 660 died.

The response to disease and destitution was both public and private. The rich could buy good medical help, but many others depended on charity. The poor and the mentally ill, from 1857, were helped through public funds, and were often lodged in poorhouses and asylums.


Glasgow Slums
Glasgow Slums
Laundry in the Slums
Laundry in the Slums
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