Backgrounds by T. Charles Erickson, Mike McCormick and Jann Whaley.
Victorian London was a bustling metropolis of activity.
On an average workday, 125,859 vehicles traveled through the city’s streets. The dust from the pavement coated everything with grime and turned into mud when it rained. The filth was so bad that etiquette books instructed men accompanying a woman to walk along the outside of the pavement to protect her from the muck of the streets. Crossing sweepers lingered on major street corners offering their services. For just a few pennies, these children would sweep clean the pavement where their customers wished to cross the street.
In Dickens’ lifetime, Britain saw grand-scale urbanization and growth. Countless young men and women flocked to major cities in search of work. Since agriculture in England had been in steady decline for some time, many farmers abandoned the countryside in search of better work in the city.
While many were changing residences, others contributed to Britain’s growth differently. The railroad allowed poor clerks to commute to work and greatly inflated the foot traffic of the city. Six years later, 5,000 miles of railroad stretched throughout the country.