4 Gunthorpe Street

1886, built as lodging house, Sir George's Residence for Respectable Girls, later flats (St George's Residences); built over Inkhorn Court

Describing the Residence for Respectable Girls
Contributed by Survey of London on April 17, 2018

East End historian and guide David Charnick recounts some of the history of the former Sir George's Residence for Respectable Girls

"This was the Residence for Respectable Girls and respectable, this is one of those very loaded Victorian terms. It doesn't mean that they were sort of prim and proper, what it means is, basically, they weren't prostitutes. These were young women who maybe came to London for work or whatever and fell on hard times and had no repose, and so could be accommodated here. It's a kind of hostel. They offered accommodation but they also had people coming in who would actually give talks and so on to the women here. They will have a sort of programme of events I suppose we'd call it.

I suppose we're looking at young women, possibly 20’s, because you have to remember that in the 19th century, London was growing hugely. It was attracting a lot of immigrants from other parts of the country. People were leaving their country life or their provincial towns and coming to London because of the growth of industry on the back of the growth of the docks. A lot of people were coming to London and then finding it wasn't quite so easy to find the work, and that’s the way that people have come to London ever since, really.

They would find themselves, if they couldn't find work or indeed if they lost work because there was no sort of trade union setup as we understand it today, and so employment conditions could be difficult and you might end up losing your job and not being able to afford your rent. Again, rents were notoriously higher in private sector as it were.

[At this time in the East End we] have a large number of refugees and hostels for varieties of people from different social strata all the way from the people with absolutely nothing to people up to who are just in financial straits but are not as if were vagrants.

Again, like with rest of George Holland's work, there's very little information [about the building] available at the moment. I'm sure [it is] in archives somewhere that could be ferreted out and put back together.

They stopped operating here with the death of George Holland himself [in 1900]. It was very much a one-man mission.

It carried on for a while [as a hostel] but by the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, it was deteriorating into a slum. You got a lot of poor people living here. As with a lot of buildings in the area, with the poverty among the Jewish population particularly here, a lot of Jewish people were living here.

I imagine it probably was bought by someone or rather who then ran it as slum accommodation. It was cramming people in, really.

The mission died with George Holland himself."

David Charnick (www.charnowalks.co.uk) was speaking to Shahed Saleem on 23.02.18. The text has been edited for print.