9. Common Lodging Houses and Surrey Towns

Common lodging houses in Surrey towns

Common lodging houses were very different from public schools and lunatic asylums – they were commercial enterprises that let beds to the poor by the night. But in the Victorian period they became partly institutionalised through state regulation. The Common Lodging Houses Act of 1851 required that they be licensed by the police in an attempt to deal with the filthiness, overcrowding and semi-criminal nature of the worst of these ‘doss houses’.

In London they were usually older houses with a common kitchen and beds in shared dormitories upstairs. Outside the capital, public houses often doubled up as common lodging houses. In Surrey, these served people travelling between towns in search of work, or hawking small wares such as boxes of matches, or earning a few coppers by entertaining the crowds.

The accommodation was always basic, but standards of cleanliness and comfort varied. London had many streets notorious for its common lodging houses and Surrey was not without its more disreputable establishments.


Young and old congregate around the lodging-house kitchen fire; a woman nurses her baby nearby. ‘Kitchen of a common lodging house’ from The Quiver, Jan 27 1892, p. 85.


Some lodgers are resting, others ply their trade. ‘Kitchen of a common lodging house in Spitalfields’ from Vol II of Living London (ed. G. R. Sims) about 1902, p. 155.


This clean and well-ordered lodging house contains dormitories for single men and separate ‘doubles’ for married couples. The bedding is printed with the word ‘stolen’ to deter theft. ‘Singles and Doubles in a Common Lodging House,’ from The Graphic, April 24 1886, p.447.


Many of the ‘waifs and strays’ who moved Dr Barnardo to set up his first children’s home in 1870 lived in common lodging houses. Mary B was subsequently accepted into one of Barnardo’s Homes. From Barnardo’s magazine, Night & Day, June 1900, p. 30.


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One thought on “9. Common Lodging Houses and Surrey Towns”

  1. Denise Smith says:

    I recently came across a census record from 1930 in England, for Chertsey in surrey, On the record it says place of abode was KITCHEN RYDE. the person living there would have been approx 70 years old. the poling district was POLLING DISTRICT 1 Parish CHERTSEY, (OUTER WARD). could some please explain the meaning of the address, was it some sort of Common lodging house or state run institution etc. this info is for my family records. Thanking in anticipation

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