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
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.