Buxton Street sign for MOLA archaeology traineeship

Living on Spicer Street in 1881

Matt Hoskins

Matt Hoskins is a trainee archaeologist. In this blog he tells us about his historical research into Allen Gardens, a site he recently excavated for the Archaeology Traineeship.

As trainees we have recently finished our training excavation in Allen Gardens. The site itself was located off Buxton Street, originally known as Spicer Street, where All Saints National School once stood. During the excavation we discovered the foundations of the school, as well as artefacts relating to it, such as ink wells and writing slates.

During post-excavation research I came across the 1881 Census for Mile End New Town. I concentrated my research  on Spicer/Buxton Street, Spital Street and a nearby housing block called North Place, to discover what the lives of the local people were like when the school was in use.

The area was well known for the weavers and tailors that worked there, although by 1881 the area was dominated by brewery workers for the local Truman, Hanbury and Buxton brewerys. There were still a significant number of tailors, but the weaving profession seems to have diminished. There was also a high number of ‘carmen’, which usually meant someone who worked for the railway companies as a delivery man, as well as also a general labourers and a small number of dock workers.

It would appear that the Polish tailors were the wealthiest residents in the area, most owning entire homes, which were usually shared by two or more families. Some also had servants that were mentioned in their family census.

This complete database of the census records of 1881 Spicer Street, Spital Street and North Place provides the name, occupation and country of origin of all the residents.

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