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Vocapedia > UK > Economy > Poverty > The poor




Illustration: Bill Bragg



‘The holiday kitchen is on course

to serve more than 500 meals

in the next few weeks.’


Britain’s rich are thrust into the future.

The poor get kicked back into the past


Tuesday 28 July 2015    07.00 BST
















gap between the rich and the poor










Britain's north/south divide















mend the north-south divide










North / South gap






















poorer middle-aged men










the neediest








the underprivileged
















life expectancy gap

between rich and poor people

in England






inequality gap






Britain's growing financial inequality






the gap between rich and poor












low-paid Britain






disadvantaged people






wealth segregation






the poor

















the poor > health






'The poor middle classes'





paupers / paups









UK > born and reared in penury        USA






skint        UK






excluded young people /  marginalised youths






Citizens Advice Bureau at 70






pinchy feel





cannot afford a holiday






be unable to afford the basics





be unable to pay an unexpected bill



























the very poor








the poorest




















the poorest 10% of society










the fringes of society








social exclusion













social cleansing












the 'bottom 2% in society'










vulnerable people















be trapped in deep poverty










extreme poverty / destitution














live in destitution




















the destitute















the dispossessed








the riff-raff








"Skiver" v "striver"












misery > social and economic conditions in Manchester        1864


















Fighting Shame        G        25 January 2019





Fighting Shame        Video        The Guardian        25 January 2019


A group of women from Leeds share stories of poverty

through eight everyday objects

and the community initiatives they’ve launched

to fight the shame that surrounds it,

in a bid to start a dialogue with policymakers.


















I live in real poverty, and it's not what you think        G        24 February 2016





I live in real poverty, and it's not what you think – Kathleen Kerridge        Video        Comment is Free        24 February 2016


Kathleen Kerridge’s family food budget

is £40 per week – to feed five people.


She says there is a big gap

between the public perception of poverty

and what it means for people like her.


We should stop talking about poverty, she argues,

until we know what being poor in this country

really means





















UK > poverty        UK / USA






































watch?v=Bhx3jKEwbFA - G - 25 January 2019






































































































automating poverty













anti-poverty activist










poverty campaigner










eradicate poverty

















poverty wage

















child poverty











































eradicate child poverty








The child poverty map of the UK        UK        15 June 2012


How bad

is child poverty across Britain?


While Iain Duncan Smith looks

at different ways to measure poverty,

HM Revenue of Customs already

have a way of examining child poverty:


children who live in families where,

either the parents have

an income of less than 60% of the average,

or are claiming poverty-related benefits

such as income support,

job seekers allowance or tax credits.










grinding poverty





in relative poverty        UK






in absolute poverty        UK






poverty line





below the poverty line















impoverished old age






on the breadline





below the breadline






live below the breadline





The Guardian's

Breadline Britain Project

is tracking the impact

and consequences of recession

on families and individuals

across the UK.


As the cost of living rises,

incomes shrink,

and public spending cuts start to bite,

we'll be looking at how people

are coping (or failing to cope)

with austerity.


We'll be looking at areas like food,

housing, work, debt and money.


We'll be collating

a Breadline Britain basket of data indicators

to map the impact on society.


And we'll be talking

to people at the sharp end:

living on, or hurtling towards,

the poverty breadline
























deprived / deprived area / deprived boroughs

















deprived urban area


















run-down street




























good works











disadvantaged young people / youngsters






disadvantaged pupil





underprivileged student





rundown school





income ladder





scrimp and save






make ends meet









get by on £92 a week






lumpen prole





crap job





be permanently in and out of work





from rags to riches





UK > rags-to-riches-to-rags icon > Vivian Asprey    1936-2015        USA






Low Pay Commission






access to essential goods and services
















asylum seeker / refugee
























modern-day slaves

















pawn broker / pawnbroker















pawn shop










web pawnbroker





































street paper > The Big Issue



















2013 > global poverty        USA


More than a quarter of the world

has no electricity;

about half have no piped water,

2.5 billion have no piped gas.









































David Simonds

comment cartoon


Britain relies heavily on global balancing act

The Guardian        p. 25        18 April 2005
















A divided nation        2004


The richest...

Rank / Place / Postcode / Average income


1 / Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent / ME19 4 / £62,000

2 / Elvetham Heath, Fleet, Surrey / GU51 1 / £61,000

3 / Hammersmith, London / SW13 8 / £59,000

4 / City of London / EC2Y 8 / £58,000

5 / Epsom, Surrey / KT19 7 / £58,000

6 / Grange Park, Northampton / NN4 5 / £58,000

7 / Sevenoaks, Kent / TN15 9 / £57,000

8 / Wokingham, Berkshire / RG40 5 / £57,000

9 / Leatherhead, Surrey / KT22 0 / £57,000

10 / Bracknell, Berkshire / RG42 7 / £56,000






and the poorest...

Rank / Place / Postcode / Average income


1 / Newport Road, Middlesbrough / TS1 5 / £12,000

2 / St Matthews, Leicester / LE1 2 / £13,000

3 / Middlesbrough / TS1 2 / £14,000

4 / Possil Park, Glasgow / G22 5 / £14,000

5 / Trafford Way, Doncaster / DN1 3 / £14,000

6 / Haswell Drive, Knowsley, Merseyside / L28 5 / £14,000

7 / Everton, Liverpool / L5 0 / £14,000

8 / Birkenhead, Merseyside / CH41 3 / £14,000

9 / Parkhead, Glasgow / G40 3 / £14,000

10 / Lawrence Street, Sunderland / SR1 2 / £14,000


Source: CACI

The Observer

20 June 2004
















Poor in UK

dying 10 years earlier than rich,

despite years of government action

Department of Health and NHS criticised
for making too little progress
on tackling key barometer of inequality


Denis Campbell, health correspondent
The Guardian, Friday 2 July 2010
This article appeared
on p1 of the Main section section
of the Guardian on Friday 2 July 2010.
It was published on guardian.co.uk
at 00.05 BST on Friday 2 July 2010.
It was last modified at 00.05 BST
on Friday 2 July 2010.


The life expectancy gap between rich and poor people in England is widening, despite years of government and NHS action, a hard-hitting National Audit Office report reveals today.

Extensive efforts have failed to reduce the wide differential, which can still be 10 years or more depending on socio-economic background, says the public spending watchdog. While life expectancy has risen generally, it is increasing at a slower rate for England's poorest citizens.

In Blackpool, for example, men live for an average of 73.6 years, which is 10.7 fewer than men in Kensington and Chelsea in central London, who reach 84.3 years. Similarly, women in the Lancashire town typically die at 78.8 years – 10.1 years earlier than those in the London borough, who reach an average 89.9.

The gap in life expectancy between government-designated areas of high deprivation and the national average has continued to widen, so Labour's aim of reducing it by 10% will not be met, the NAO concludes. The failure to meet the target has cost an estimated 3,300 lives.

The report criticises the Department of Health and the NHS for making too little progress to tackle this key barometer of inequality. Although the DoH set a target in 2000 to reduce health inequalities and published a strategy in 2003, real NHS action did not begin until 2006, it says.

"The Department of Health has made a concerted effort to tackle a very difficult and long-standing problem," said Amyas Morse, head of the NAO.

"However, it was slow to take action and health inequalities were not a top priority for the NHS until 2006."

The service was also slow to apply three key policies, including giving more poor people drugs to reduce their blood pressure or cholesterol level. "These have yet to be adopted on the scale required to close the inequalities gap," the NAO said.

The report also highlights a continuing lack of GPs in poor areas with high health need, despite shortages having been identified as a problem in 2000. It is also unclear whether an extra £230 a head spent in some areas to improve health outcomes has had any real impact.

Professor Alan Maryon-Davis, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health, said the disparities showed the inequality of English society. "If we see ourselves as a civilised society, these gaps are an indication of unfairness, which shouldn't be there, and is an unfairness which costs lives, damages people's health and will eventually be a huge burden on the NHS if they aren't tackled," he said.

But the NAO report did contain good news about improvements in the health of England's poorest citizens, he added. "The health of the people in the poorest areas is going in the right direction – that's good news. We shouldn't regard that as a failure. But the bulk of the population are improving their health at a faster rate." He urged ministers to resist any temptation to cut spending on health inequalities in the tough financial climate.

Anne Milton, the public health minister, emphasised the government's belief in health equality. "Everyone should have the same opportunities to lead a healthy life no matter where they live. We want the public's health to be at the very heart of all we do, not just in the NHS but across government," she said.

"This report shows that efforts have been made to address health inequalities but that more needs to be done to tackle the deep-rooted social problems that cause ill-health. I want to see the NHS, doctors and local government acting at the right time to improve the health of those who need it most."

The NHS Confederation, which represents most health service organisations, admitted that more progress was needed. Jo Webber, its deputy policy director, said: "The NHS and its partners, especially in local government, have a responsibility to help stop people falling into and continuing in ill-health rather than picking up the pieces when it may be too late. Encouraging improved health requires a focus on all aspects of society, including economic inequality, and quality of life in early years."

Tammy Boyce, of the King's Fund health thinktank, said the NHS could only achieve so much. "Tackling health inequalities is not a task for the NHS alone. It requires a co-ordinated, long-term commitment across government to address the wider causes of ill health such as poverty and poor housing," she said.

"The first test of whether the coalition government is likely to succeed where the previous government failed will come in this autumn's spending review. It is vital that cross-cutting issues like health inequalities are not overlooked in the scramble to deliver spending cuts on a department-by-department basis."

Michelle Mitchell, charity director at Age UK, said the big gap in life expectancy had to be tackled in the light of the government's intention to increase the age at which people can draw the state pension. "With a 13-year disparity in life expectancy between different areas of the country, it's shocking that primary care trusts are still failing to use simple and effective treatments to help tackle the problem.

"This report follows the government's announcement last week to raise the state pension age further and faster, which will hit those with a shorter life expectancy in the poorest areas of Britain hardest," she said. "In this context, tackling health inequalities is more urgent than ever and the government must set ambitious targets to close the yawning life expectancy divide."

Poor in UK dying 10 years earlier than rich,
despite years of government action,






Baker who won £9m on lottery

dies penniless, five years on

Keith Gough spent much of his winnings
on racehorses, fast cars
and an executive box at Aston Villa


The Guardian
Jenny Percival
Saturday 3 April 2010
This article appeared
on p9 of the Main section section
of the Guardian on Saturday 3 April 2010.
It was published on guardian.co.uk
at 01.32 BST on Saturday 3 April 2010.


A former baker who claimed that winning £9m on the lottery ruined his life, leaving him penniless, alone and alcoholic, has died of a suspected heart attack.

Keith Gough, 58, won the jackpot with his wife Louise in June 2005, but spent much of his winnings on racehorses, fast cars and an executive box at Aston Villa. He died at the Princess Royal hospital in Telford, Shropshire. It is believed he suffered a heart attack.

Two years after his win, Gough split from his wife of 25 years and began drinking heavily. He then reportedly checked into the Priory rehabilitation clinic in Birmingham for treatment.

He said he slept in the spare room of his nephew's house and spent most of his time indoors, only venturing out for long walks alone in the Shropshire countryside.

"My life was brilliant. But the lottery has ruined everything. What's the point of having money when it sends you to bed crying?" he told the News of the World last year. "Now when I see someone going in to a newsagent I advise them not to buy a lottery ticket."

According to the paper the win made him a target for conmen, one of whom cheated him out of £700,000.

Gough, who lived in Brignorth, Shropshire, at the time of his win, said he and his wife, a secretary, had been very much in love and looking forward to retirement.

John Homer, who owns a newsagents in Broseley, Shropshire, said yesterday that he still remembered when "Goughie" bought his winning ticket. Homer, 65, said: "It was a Wednesday and a rollover from the previous Saturday. It all went downhill from there. He and his wife split. He did have a drink problem and it got progressively worse."

He added: "It's very sad because it should have made him a very happy man, but he didn't get the best out of it. You never expected any sorrow or problems, but he must have had some, although he never spoke about them to me."

Gough, who was driving a T-registered Skoda at the time of the win, said at the time he had to "pinch himself". "I have never had any dreams come true before and now I suppose I don't have to have any dreams."

Baker who won £9m on lottery dies penniless, five years on,






Unequal Britain:

richest 10% are now 100 times better off

than the poorest

• 1980s income gap still not plugged, say analysts
• Brown says equality panel report a 'sobering' read
• Datablog: get the numbers behind this story


Wednesday 27 January 2010
08.54 GMT
Amelia Gentleman and Hélène Mulholland
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 08.54 GMT on Wednesday 27 January 2010.
It was last modified at 08.57 GMT
on Wednesday 27 January 2010.


A detailed and startling analysis of how unequal Britain has become offers a snapshot of an increasingly divided nation where the richest 10% of the population are more than 100 times as wealthy as the poorest 10% of society.

Gordon Brown described the paper, published today, as "sobering", saying: "The report illustrates starkly that despite a levelling-off of inequality in the last decade we still have much further to go."

The report, An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK, scrutinises the degree to which the country has become more unequal over the past 30 years. Much of it will make uncomfortable reading for the Labour government, although the paper indicates that considerable responsibility lies with the Tories, who presided over the dramatic divisions of the 1980s and early 1990s.

Researchers analyse inequality according to a number of measures; one indicates that by 2007-8 Britain had reached the highest level of income inequality since soon after the second world war.

The new findings show that the household wealth of the top 10% of the population stands at £853,000 and more – over 100 times higher than the wealth of the poorest 10%, which is £8,800 or below (a sum including cars and other possessions).

When the highest-paid workers, such as bankers and chief executives, are put into the equation, the division in wealth is even more stark, with individuals in the top 1% of the population each possessing total household wealth of £2.6m or more.

Commissioned by Harriet Harman, minister for women and equality, the National Equality Panel has been working on the 460-page document for 16 months, led by Prof John Hills, of the London School of Economics.

The report is more ambitious in scope than any other state-of-the-nation wealth assessment project ever undertaken.

It concludes that the government has failed to plug the gulf that existed between the poorest and richest in society in the 1980s. "Over the most recent decade, earnings inequality has narrowed a little and income inequality has stabilised on some measures, but the large inequality growth of the 1980s has not been reversed," it states.

Hills said: "These are very challenging issues for any government because the problems are so deep-seated."

"But we hope that by doing this work, policy makers have now got information they never had before, to try and get at the roots of some of those problems."

Harman said the issues raised meant the government needs to "sustain and step up" action introduced by government over the past 13 years, such as children's centres and tax credits. "It takes generations to make things more equal," she told Radio 4's Today programme.

Social mobility was "essential" for the economy, she said. "..The government should take action to ensure everyone has a fair chance."

The panel found "systematic differences in equality panel economic ­outcomes" remained between social groups, and said many would find the "sheer scale of inequalities" in outcomes "shocking".

Inequality in earnings and income is high in Britain compared with other industrialised countries, the report states.

A central theme of the report is the profound, lifelong negative impact that being born poor, and into a disadvantaged social class, has on a child. These inequalities accumulate over the life cycle, the report concludes. Social class has a big impact on children's school readiness at the age of three, but continues to drag children back through school and beyond.

"The evidence we have looked at shows the long arm of people's origins in shaping their life chances, stretching through life stages, literally from cradle to grave. Differences in wealth in particular are associated with opportunities such as the ability to buy houses in the catchment areas of the best schools or to afford private education, with advantages for children that continue through and beyond education. At the other end of life, wealth levels are associated with stark differences in life expectancy after 50," the report states.

It echoes other recent research suggesting that social mobility has stagnated, and concludes that "people's occupational and economic destinations in early adulthood depend to an important degree on their origins". Achieving the "equality of opportunity" that all political parties aspire to is very hard when there are such wide differences between the resources that people have to help them fulfil their diverse potentials, the panel notes.

Researchers analysed the total wealth accrued by households over a lifetime. The top 10%, led by higher professionals, had amassed wealth of £2.2m, including property and pension assets, by the time they drew close to retirement (aged 55-64), while the bottom 10% of households, led by routine manual workers, had amassed less than £8,000.

Harman acknowledged in the report that the "persistent inequality of social class" was a large factor in perpetuating disadvantage, adding that the government would begin to address this with the new legal duty placed on public bodies to address socio-economic inequality, included in the equality bill.

The report follows research published by Save the Children which revealed that 13% of the UK's children were now living in severe poverty, and that efforts to reduce child poverty had been stalling even before the recession began in 2008.

The Hills report also found that: • Divisions between social groups are no longer as significant as the inequalities between individuals from the same social group; inequality growth of the last 40 years is mostly attributable to gaps within groups rather than between them.

• White British pupils with GCSE results around or below the national median are less likely to go on to higher education than those from minority ethnic groups. Pakistani, Black African and Black Caribbean boys have results at the age of 16 well below the median in England.

• Compared with a white British Christian man with similar qualifications, age and occupation, Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim men and Black African Christian men have an income that is 13-21% lower. Nearly half of Bangladeshi and Pakistani households are in poverty.

• Girls have better educational outcomes than boys at school and are more likely to enter higher education and achieve good degrees, but women's median hourly pay is 21% less than men's.

The significance of where you live is another theme. The panel says the government is a "very long way" from fulfilling its vision, set out in 2001, that "within 10 to 20 years no one should be seriously disadvantaged by where they live". The paper notes "profound and startling differences" between areas. Median hourly wages in the most deprived 10th of areas are 40% lower than in the least deprived.

    Unequal Britain: richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest,
    G, 27.1.2010,






Forced to choose eating or heating,

family burns furniture to keep warm

Demand for free parcels at food banks soars
as big freeze leaves many unable
to pay for both food and warmth


Sunday 17 January 2010
19.06 GMT
Paul Lewis
This article was published on guardian.co.uk
at 19.06 GMT on Sunday 17 January 2010.
A version appeared on p6 of the UK news section
of the Guardian on Monday 18 January 2010.
It was last modified at 19.07 GMT
on Sunday 17 January 2010.


Holly Billen sat perched on the edge of her sofa, holding the bump of her unborn child and nervously biting her lip. "It's nothing to be proud of to say you don't have the money to feed yourself," she said. "But I'm not ashamed to say it."

Aged 26 and eight months pregnant, she has had to endure most prolonged ­cold snap in her lifetime. The soaring ­heating costs mean the choice between going cold or going hungry has become a daily dilemma.

Food is sacrificed for warmth in her terraced cottage in Wilton, Wiltshire, not least because her eight-year-old son, Brandon, has contracted a succession of colds. "I've felt really bad some nights," she said. "He's in bed, and really cold. But there's no money for the extra heat. So its extra blankets and socks and vests under pyjamas."

Recently, she turned to a less conventional remedy for the sub-zero temperatures. Completely out of money for gas, she took apart a shelf unit to use as fuel in her fireplace. "I figured I needed it more for heat than storage," she said. "My boyfriend came into the garden because he heard me out there with a saw."

It may sound like a story set in the Victorian era, but Billen, a dancer, is not alone. She is among thousands of people who have begun relying on food handouts to free up money to spend on heating during what the Met Office is describing as the longest spell of freezing conditions since December 1981. While some areas had milder weather today, forecasters said fresh snow could arrive by Tuesday.


Empty shelves

Four miles from Billen's home, the depot for the largest food bank in the country is feeling the strain. In the cold weather, demand has doubled at the depot, on the outskirts of Salisbury, and the shelves that normally hold fruit juice, sugar and canned meat are nearly empty.

The Trussell Trust, a Christian charity that runs the depot and a network of 56 others across the country, said the cold has led to an unprecedented demand for its parcels, which contain enough donated items to keep a family fed for six days. To qualify for a box of food under the scheme, an individual or family needs to be provided with a voucher by a care professional such as a teacher, social worker or doctor. In December – when the freezing weather in large parts of the UK began to bite – demand more than tripled in some places. Some of the busiest banks have been in Scotland, site of some of the worst weather and lowest temperatures. A food bank in Ebbw Vale, south Wales, provided food to 118 families in December – up from 74 the previous month. During the same period, demand for tinned food and drink from the Suffolk bank jumped from 29 to 197 families.

The charity says initial feedback suggests there has been similar, if not higher, demand for handouts in January, an increase it puts down to the rising costs of heating homes.

There have been a raft of measures introduced in recent years to help people cope with financial cost of cold weather, and over 12.3molder people will benefit from winter fuel payments this year, totalling about £2.7bn. Already the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has paid out an additional £260m this winter to families under the cold weather payment scheme, which grants £25 a week to some vulnerable households when – as has happened across the UK – the temperature falls to zero for seven consecutive days.

"As temperatures plummet, I don't want vulnerable people to feel left in the cold," DWP minister Helen Goodman said recently. "The payments are automatic so everyone entitled will get them and should not worry about turning up their heating." But not every vulnerable family is entitled, and even those who receive the payments complain they do not absorb the spike in bills.

Research by Age Concern has shown that, despite government relief, one in five older people skip meals to save money for heating. Tonight the charity urged ministers to do more to ease pressure forcing elderly people into the "cruel choice" between food or warmth.

On Wednesday last week, Northamptonshire county council announced a serious case review into the deaths of Jean and Derek Randall, a couple believed to be in their 70s whose bodies were found in their frozen home. Their cause of death is unclear but neighbours told a local radio station the couple were relying on a single electric heater and the electric hob rings on their cooker for warmth.

"It's completely inappropriate in 21st-century Britain that pensioners should experience such an ordeal and die such tragic deaths," said the couple's Labour MP, Sally Keeble.

Chris Mould, director of the Trussell Trust, said people in poverty were more likely to use expensive electric heaters and pre-payment gas meters. Aside from higher bills, the Arctic climate has brought with it other expected costs, he said. "We're seeing a lot of people who are in a crisis triggered by the cold weather. Broken boilers. Broken cars. Things temporarily break down and cost money, and these incidents can tip people into crisis. It's sort of sadly obvious."

The government's cold winter subsidies do not apply to Billen who, instead of receiving income support, gets £140 in working tax credits plus child benefit. Still, she said her frustration is directed at her energy supplier, Southern Electric.

When she struggled to pay a £500 bill last year, the company encouraged her to sign up to a pre-payment meter that, she was told, would take a slice each time she paid her bill in order to recoup the money she owed. A failure when the machine was installed meant the debt was never paid, however, and Billen now finds that, when she puts £10 in, Southern Electric automatically takes £7 to pay the debt. That leaves £3, which pays for a few hours' heat. "I spent hours on the phone to the call centre," she said. "I said to them, I'm expecting a baby. I'm not working. I can't afford this. They basically said: 'Too bad'."

She was given a food bank voucher after explaining her predicament to her midwife. "I loved the fact I could eat a meal without feeling guilty about not spending the money on heating," she said.


Pre-payment meters

A spokesperson for Scottish and Southern Energy, which owns Southern Electric, encouraged anyone in Billen's position to contact them, and said it would provide an "individual, tailor-made package" to help people keep warm.

Hours after the Guardian told the company it would feature Billen's story, she received a call from the company. "They're coming as soon as they can to take the meter out," she said. "They're lowering the repayment of existing debt to a third of what it was. And I'm going to pay monthly. Really I'll end up paying a hell of a lot less."

But not every family struggling to pay their energy bills can benefit from what Billen thought was a brazen, though welcome, public relations stunt. Many feel ignored; they say the nightly television news bulletins about travel chaos, problems with gritters and school closures belie the more severe plight that cold weather has brought to people in poverty.

Mark Ward, who manages the Salisbury food bank, said he had seen "much younger" clients using it recently. . He recently delivered food to a young couple with a baby in the nearby village of Dinton. All three were eating, sleeping and living the single dowstairs room they could afford to heat.

Another beneficiary of the food bank, Donna Buxton, 38, a partially blind mother from Great Bedwyn, had a similar story. "I've been putting £30 a week in my meter and the heating wasn't keeping the place warm, so I brought the mattress into the living room," she said. "Me and my 11-year-old daughter, Libby, slept in there with two quilts and the cat."

A short walk from the Salisbury depot in Bermerton Heath, one of the poorest areas in the market town, there are similar stories behind most front doors.

Lucy and Mark Mitchell, food bank recipients in their 20s, said they had taken to sleeping in the same bed as their two young boys to keep warm.

Inside a cold flat on the edge of the estate, Mick Cutler, 56, an out-of-work van driver, explained how his wife, Julie, and 10-year-old stepson were making do with hot water bottles rather than radiators. They too have turned to the bank for food.

"Really you're begging, aren't you?" he said. "But it's bloody hard to be honest with you. I'm not too bad – I don't feel the cold as much as Julie and Matthew," he said. "He does go to bed with his clothes on sometimes. When he has a bath, he wants to have the heating on, but I have to say 'no'. I feel guilty. How can you tell a 10-year-old you can't keep him warm?"

    Forced to choose eating or heating, family burns furniture to keep warm,
    G, 17.1.2010,






Pretty poor

Winding country lanes, village greens,
charming, stone-built cottages ...
the British countryside
is seen as an idyllic place
- and perhaps it is for the commuters
and those rich enough to retire there.

But for many, the picture-postcard image
belies a life of poverty and hardship.
Stephen Moss investigates


Tuesday July 18, 2006
Stephen Moss


Karen Petford has helpfully brought along a copy of the Peak Advertiser. Not because she wants me to look at the headlines of the week's big stories - "Spectacular floral event planned for Bakewell parish church"; "Youlgrave children continue well-dressing tradition" - but because she thinks I should study the property section and the job ads.

First, all those sturdy, desirable grey-brick cottages. In Monyash, there's "an exceptionally pretty one-bedroomed cottage with delightful outlook across on to the village pond and the church spire" - £162,500. In Castleton - "located in a quiet little backwater just out of the centre of this historic village, a charming, beautifully appointed, two-bedroomed, double-fronted, stone-built cottage" - £199,950. Tideswell - "attractive, stone-built, four-bedroomed detached property conveniently situated close to the centre of this beautiful Peak District village" - £345,000.

Then, the less sturdy, less desirable jobs. Hope Valley College is looking for a caretaker - £12,747 for a 37-hour week. The Peak District National Park Authority seeks an office cleaner - "from £11,619 per year pro rata". The Felicini pizza chain is recruiting staff for a new outlet in Bakewell; it emphasises "employee discounts" as one of the attractions. Cleaners, carers, bar staff, and not much else. Felicini's does promise "career development and progression" and a Mrs Williams in Sheffield is offering great rewards for "ambitious hairdressers" and "highly motivated stylists", but Petford's point is well made - no matter how ambitious the hairdresser or progressive the pizza-maker, none of this army of ill-paid service industry personnel will be able to afford even the tiniest cottage.

"Round here it's all low-paid crap jobs," she says, "and you've got to try to find £220,000 to buy your house with two bedrooms that are too small to put your wardrobe in. The people who are buying houses here are commuters."

The defining characteristic of the Peak District is its proximity to the urban sprawl of Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds and Nottingham - a green lung in a wheezing body. Hence the sky-high house prices, the prevalence of second homes, the number of locals forced to look for cheaper accommodation in Buxton, Chesterfield and Sheffield, the distortions of local life.

Petford lives in the tourist village of Castleton in the Hope Valley, in the shadow of Peveril Castle and close to the caverns where "Blue John" - a mineral unique to the area which is used for making jewellery - is mined. She has made a list of local facilities: 22 tourist shops, six pubs, four hotels, six cafes, one small grocery shop. She calls the street filled with gift shops and cafes "Blackpool Mile". Older residents recall the time when the village had "real" shops - greengrocers, butchers, hardware stores, even a bank. Now the only cashpoint is in Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, charging £1.75 for a £50 withdrawal. Otherwise, there's a free cashpoint in the Co-op in Bradwell, three miles away, and two banks in Tideswell, a further five miles on.

Petford, who was born in nearby Bamford and married a "Castleton lad", is, in her understated way, a bit of a campaigner. She has worked part-time for the Peak District Rural Deprivation Forum for eight years; has just helped to set up a local food cooperative in Castleton that distributes fresh fruit and veg to local residents for £2.50 a bag; she even posed for the cover of a recent report from the Commission for Rural Communities that highlighted the deprivation that lies behind the picture-postcard view of village life.

The cover is in some ways a fraud - with her home-made almond muffins and can-do philosophy, Petford can hardly be classified as deprived. But it may have been that the truly disadvantaged were unwilling to appear. "For reasons of pride or just stoicism, people in the countryside don't want to advertise their disadvantage," says Brian Wilson, director of thematic studies at the Commission. "There's an element of keeping up appearances."

Wilson says many are in denial. "Almost half the people living in rural communities tick the box that says there is no disadvantage in their area," he says, "and yet we know that one in five households live below the government's official low-income line." He says the image of rural life is so powerful that the reality is often not allowed to intrude. "It's partly the rural idyll - the view we all have that it's village greens, windy country lanes and roses round the front door - and partly the fact that, by and large, you don't get big concentrations of disadvantaged people, so it's not obvious to the eye in the way that a rundown housing estate in an urban area is."

Castleton and the surrounding villages in the Hope Valley form one of five areas surveyed for the report and the place I chose for my own exploration of village life. Touristy Castleton, rough-and-ready Bradwell, more genteel Tideswell - three villages which, in their different ways, exemplify the battle rural Britain faces to accommodate itself to a changing, migratory world and create sustainable communities in which the less wealthy are not marginalised.

Heather Jones, who lives in Bradwell (the village with the cashpoint, three miles from Castleton) is one of those willing to own up to her disadvantage. Recently separated from her husband, she and her two small children live in a council house in the village. She says she gets by mainly on benefits but also does part-time work in the village chip shop. She has A-levels, is very bright, could be doing something more demanding than frying cod, but there just aren't any jobs. "There's nothing nearby that would fit in with the children," she says. "There are very few career opportunities unless I'm prepared to travel to Sheffield. That's an hour added to the day and there's no childcare in the village." But she puts up with the disadvantages, she says, because the village is such a good place to bring up children - healthy, safe, with low crime and a close sense of community.

Ian Rose, headmaster of Bradwell junior school, says he was surprised by the level of deprivation when he moved from Manchester. "I came here with the picture-postcard image of Derbyshire villages, but that's really something that's preserved by the National Park authority. We have all the problems they have on council estates in big cities. There are some people in the area who are quite poor, and who struggle to pay for school trips and things like that. When you talk to the children about what they have, they don't have very much."

He believes cultural deprivation can be as damaging for children as economic, especially among those in families without cars - a lifeline in rural communities where trains are infrequent and buses expensive. "We've taken children of 10 or 11 on trips into Sheffield [16 miles away] when it's been only about the third or fourth time they've been there," he says.

Rose doubts the indices by which school funding is allocated. In Bradwell, he says, aggregated figures are misleading because there are plenty of wealthy retired people living cheek by jowl with poor families. The locals who are likely to have children at school are much more likely to be poor; averages are misleading.

Because of the unusually high percentage of "social" housing in the village, Bradwell has a relatively large number of families and young people with somewhat tenuous means of support. "There's a big cross-section in Bradwell," says Jones, "the biggest cross-section of any of the villages around here. There are a lot of different people and, on the whole, they're all accepted. Sometimes in villages, if you are that little bit different and you don't fit the stereotype, you stick out and it's harder to get accepted."

Alison Benefield, who lives in the village and runs a community theatre that tours local schools and care homes, says she has found Bradwell welcoming, unlike more insular places that stick to the old rubric that only when you have "three generations in the graveyard" can you be classed as a local.

"I came and helped with the panto and that was a great way to meet people," she says. "I'm accepted and I'm not talked about - well, not to my face, anyway. I go into Castleton or Hathersage [a village further down the valley] and I'll be looked at when I'm in a pub. Here, I'm not, so I think I've chosen the right village."

Benefield is at the centre of what might be called bohemian Bradwell, although she is reluctant to accept the label. After much prompting, she agrees that by coming to live and work in a village, she is making a statement - "in a very low-key way". "I never saw myself moving out of Manchester, but now I'm here I don't see myself moving back. I've decided that I don't want to rejoin the rat race. I was in Manchester for 15 years, trying to do my drama and getting nowhere, but out here I'm getting funding from the council to do the work I want to do." Not quite enough funding, though. She has to clean to make ends meet.

Lucy Ridley is another member of alternative Bradwell. "Sorry about the mess, but this is the way we live," she says when she invites me in to her crowded, toy-strewn living room. "Everything you know is wrong" says a sticker on the front door. She has a teenage daughter, a two-year-old son and another child due imminently. Their two-bedroomed housing association home is just about sufficient for the present - and better than the caravan they used to live in. "Housing is a pain in the butt round here," she says. "Our landlady was selling the flat we were in, and finding somewhere else to live was monumental trouble. Rents are mentally high, and landlords and estate agents can charge what they want."

Ridley used to live in Liverpool but left when her daughter was four. "She was getting too streetwise far too young, and we didn't want to live in the city any more." She loves the country, but finds it tricky to get by financially. "You're much more skint. There are more jobs in the city and transport and childcare are also difficult in the country."

Whereas Castleton is a tourist "honeypot", as the man in the recently built visitor centre likes to describe it, Bradwell is a working (and, to a large extent, working-class) village. In Castleton, the kids on street corners are all on school trips; in Bradwell, they are all from the village and desperate for something to do. There is a touch of antipathy between the villages. One Castletonian tells me Bradwell is a "black spot"; for their part, Bradwellians see Castleton as a confection, a mock-community.

One of Castleton's problems, however, is that these days the honey is rather thinly spread. "We've never really recovered since foot and mouth," says Tony Cosic, who runs the local post office. Tourism is flat, yet the trappings of tourist success stop it functioning as one of the sustainable villages that Brian Wilson says his commission hopes to encourage - a mix of generations, people who both live and work in the village, a decent range of local services, organic growth.

Equally, though, does Bradwell - as its residents like to think - display those virtues? There is one big local employer: the cement works which has towered, white and cathedral-like, over the valley for more than 70 years. It is loathed by the National Park authority, which thinks it spoils the views, but loved by locals, because it is the one industry in the area that pays well. There are, though, far fewer jobs than there used to be, and many are now contract-based.

One local man, who prefers not to be named, tells me there is a poverty of expectation among young people in the village: too few, even among the brighter children, want to go on to university. For the villages, that is, in any case, a double-edged sword: the ones who do go on to higher education probably won't come back; the ones who don't and choose to stay are likely to get dead-end jobs, or no jobs at all.

"Village life is not what it used to be, says Stuart Froggatt, the articulate, ear-ringed landlord of the White Hart in Bradwell. "A lot of villages around here have become bedrooms of Sheffield. I grew up not far from here, and can remember when this village had lots of pubs, a fruit and veg shop, a baker's, a joiner's shop. That's all disappeared in the past 20 years."

Froggatt spent a long period in the navy and has only just come home. He tempers his view of the decline of village life with the hope that the worst may be over. He has, after all, returned to make his life here and invested in a pub - the old hub of village life that has itself taken a battering over the past couple of decades.

The notion that village life - or the lack of it - might be ripe for a revival is an attractive one. The long decades of rural depopulation are over, and there is now reckoned to be a net annual movement of 100,000 people from urban to rural Britain. A lot of the incomers are wealthy - far wealthier than those who traditionally lived in villages. But how will they use their money: to boost village life or to insulate themselves from it? Will people move to villages and market towns to sleep or to live? Will they shop at the local Co-op (or co-op), or at a distant Tesco or via the internet? Will they use local schools? Will the commuting or retired "haves" integrate with the indigenous "have nots"? And can the plight of the latter be eased by the provision of affordable housing and better-paid jobs?

There are a few straws in the Derbyshire wind. In nearby Litton, locals (including incomers) have started their own food shop, the sole grocery store in the village. Castleton is about to get a cinema club to go with its fruit and veg co-op - food for the brain as well as the stomach. And at a group of converted farm buildings at Blackwell, near Tideswell, Jen Bower is running the Farming Life Centre, to provide a focus for local farmers, who are socially isolated as well as economically depressed. Bower's is a defiant ethic of self-help.

"In villages, you have to provide services for yourself," says Bower. Her organisation aims to be a network for farmers to meet, swap information and develop ways to diversify their farms to provide extra income. "You've got to look at farming as a business if you want to keep that way of life," she explains. "We're trying to work with the farming community to help them see the ways in which they can be sustainable into the future in the face of all the problems that are being thrown at them. They have to accept the world is changing and then work with that, rather than against it."

At its heart, the challenge is, after a century of decline and dispossession, whether villages can be made to work again. And much of that will be up to the villagers themselves refusing to accept predictions either of their demise or of a dormitory future.

    Pretty poor, G, 18.7.2006,






October 10, 1924


The East End's poor

and teeming streets


The Guardian archive


Friday October 10, 1924
Karel Capek


It starts not far beyond the centre of the world - the Bank of England, the stock exchange, and a regular jungle of other banks and financial establishments. This golden shore is almost washed by the black waves of east London. "Don't go there without a guide," said the denizens of the West End, "and don't take much money with you." Well, that is decidedly putting it too strongly.

I regard Piccadilly or Fleet Street as a worse haunt of savagery than the Isle of Dogs or Limehouse of ill repute. Nothing happened to me, but I came back feeling depressed, although I have been through the abominations of the harbours at Marseilles and Palermo. The streets are very unsightly with their filthy cobbles, their swarms of children on the pavement, their drunken seamen, their Philanthropic Shelters; and with their stench of scorched rags.

Yet I have seen worse places. But it is not that. The horrible thing in east London is not what can be seen and smelt, but its unbounded and unredeemable extent. Elsewhere poverty and ugliness exist merely as a rubbish-heap between two houses, like an unsavoury nook, a cesspool. But here are miles and miles of grimy houses, hopeless streets, a superfluity of children, gin palaces and Christian shelters.

Miles and miles, from Peckham to Hackney, from Walworth to Barking, Bermondsey, Rotherhithe, Poplar, Bromley, Stepney, Bow, and Bethnal Green, the quarters inhabited by navvies, Jews, Cockneys, and stevedores, poverty-stricken and downtrodden people, intersected by dirty channels of deafening traffic.

And in the south, in the north-west, in the north-east again the same thing, miles of grimy houses, factories, gasometers, railway lines, clayey patches of waste ground, warehouses for goods and warehouses for human beings.

There are assuredly uglier quarters in all parts of the world; even squalor is here on a higher level, and the poorest beggar is not clad in rags; but good heavens, the human beings, the millions of human beings who live in these short, uniform, joyless streets, which teem on the plain of London. And that is the distressing thing about the East End - there is too much of it. Not even the devil would venture to say: if you will, I shall destroy this city, and in three days I will build it, not so grimy, not so mechanical, not so inhuman and bleak. If he were to say that, perhaps I would fall down and worship him.


· The Czech playwright is best known

as author of RUR:

Rossum's Universal Robots,

which coined the word robot

    The Guardian archive > October 10, 1924 >
    The East End's poor and teeming streets,
    G, Republished 10.10.2006,






March 29, 1911


The poor are morally inferior?


From the Guardian archive


Wednesday March 29, 1911


[On Monday last week we reprinted a leader deploring criticism of scholarships for poor children to secondary schools. These are two reactions.]

Sir - The real difficulty is not the social or pecuniary inferiority of the elementary boy, but his enormous moral inferiority. Most of the other boys that come to us have a very definite idea that certain actions and thoughts are "caddish" or "bad form" or "blackguardly." The knowledge of such terms help a master immensely. Their reasoning may be defective, but it is an incalculable advantage to feel that, if once you can convince a small boy that a certain action is a "blackguard" thing to do, that only a "hopeless cad" would think a certain thing, more than half your battle is over.

Now I have been dealing with a certain proportion of elementary boys for some years, and I have failed to find any parallel idea or word. I have to begin de novo. Your readers may hold up their hands in righteous indignation, but the sad truth is there for me and others that I know of my profession.

The virtues of the elementary boy are industry and obedience, which are, in our opinion, secondary virtues for a boy. For cribbing, meanness, cowardice, cruelty he has just as much feeling of abhorrence as for unpunctuality - perhaps rather less.

Yours &c.,



Head Master

Sir - I gather that it is with regret that you have noted the exclusion of Board School Boys from the University College at Hampstead - this is with no regard to the feelings of the paying boys in question. I wonder whether you have ever considered the matter from the side of a gentleman forced to come into daily contact with the innate vulgarity of the lower orders.

Is it not more probable that the sons of gentlemen will be levelled down rather than the sons of Pork Butchers levelled up by continual daily contact. The lessons of the gutter are more easily learnt than the traditions of caste.

The fact that by keeping particular secondary and Public Schools a reserve for a particular class keeps the higher walks of life in the professions and public services a preserve for the same class, is surely a great argument in its favour. The lower classes never were a Governing class and why should the master sit side by side with the servant.

Yours faithfully,

Public School Boy, Kensington, London

(Most people will be inclined to think that if his state of mind were to be taken as exemplifying the results of the system, nobody need regret not having passed through it. - Ed. 'Guard'.)

    From the Guardian archive > The poor are morally inferior?, G,
    Wednesday March 29, 1911,
    Republished 29.3. 2006,






March 10, 1870


Don Giovanni in the mean streets


From The Guardian archive


Thursday March 10, 1870


How prolific of vice the Deansgate quarter is, a few facts and figures will painfully demonstrate. There are 151 common lodging-houses, affording accommodation for 3,224 persons. There are also 46 houses registered as houses of ill fame, and 73 as the known resort of thieves.

In one house, we saw no fewer than six card sharpers, all of whom had been many times in prison, and who were evidently engaged in the concoction of some new trick.

It was a picture worthy of Teniers. The closely gathered heads, of villainous expression and many shades of dirt, lit by the fire and one guttering candle, were quite worthy of the Dutch master; and we found ourselves involuntarily criticising it as a work of art, till a strong oath woke us up to the reality of our position.

But the most startling feature of Deansgate is the enormous number of its ginshops, its public-houses, and its singing saloons. Here is a place opening out of the main thoroughfare. It is a ginshop and a singing saloon.

It was crowded with men and women - not respectable artizans taking their wives for a little outing, but young men scarcely of age, chiefly apprentices to trades, with here and there a young man from a warehouse, who, with a short stick, short jacket, and short hat, looks quite as great a snob as he thinks himself a gentleman. The women were of Deansgate.

There is a sodden, suffocating air of would-be gaiety in the whole thing, which is most intensely depressing. Song followed song in wearisome monotony. It was only when some particularly rampant chorus could be evoked that anything like a sense of animation exhibited itself.

Not far away is another singing saloon, a saloon boasting a drop scene and proscenium. A grey, dirty, blind old man is strumming away at a cracked piano, and a tolerable voice is singing, with considerable taste, an air from Don Giovanni.

His vocal efforts were not much applauded. They ranged much too high and he was succeeded by a faded, vulgar female, who brought down the house with innuendoes.

A box served as a green-room also. How proud the young fools were of this distinction; the entree to the green-room at the opera never sent the hearts of young shells bounding with more glee. As for the singing, it was admirably criticised by a slightly-inebriated habituee: "Anything," says he, "is good enough for a drunken man, but this is a'most too bad for that."


· This is one of a series of articles from 1870

on life in slum areas

Don Giovanni in the mean streets,
Republished 10.3.2006,






February 23 1870


A need for brandy and strong tobacco


From The Guardian archive


February 23 1870
The Guardian


Style-street and Back Mount-street run parallel to each other, but Back Mount-street is on a much higher level than Style-street, consequently the houses are built over one another. Opening out of Style-street, on the left hand coming townwards, between the houses, are here and there narrow entries.

There is only one outlet to these, and in the half-dark places thus formed are four privies in such a condition that it is almost impossible to enter them. The floor is a flood of urine and a mass of ordure.

The ashpit is overflowing with decaying vegetable refuse, and rendered more than usually disgusting by receiving the filth from Back Mount-street as well. What ventilation there is here is into the street, and immediately under the windows of inhabited dwellings. In order to exhaust at once the horrors of this place, we will go to Back Mount-street and look at the second storey of these latrines.

Here, to enter them, we descend into a cellar passage, and find a low range of privies with not a door nor a seat amongst them; often, too, with out the stone support on which the seat rested; and to add to all these horrors comes up the reeking stench from those below.

Our courage requires the aid of brandy, and our nostrils that of strong tobacco; yet this is all the accommodation afforded for 11 houses, in which dwell well-nigh 200 people. Very bitter and very deep is the outcry of the poor who are compelled to live here — live here, too, from year end to year end — at this enforced indecency; and, indeed, we learned to consider those as the most decent people who openly used the public street.

We have not done with this fever pit yet. Over it people live! Yes, there are houses over this, and the stench from this reeking mass of festering filth is the air they breathe, in which they sleep by night, and which poisons the little food they get by day.

We go into a house in Mount-street. On the ground floor, over the entrance to these latrines is a small room, occupied by a man, his wife, and their child. It is bedroom, kitchen, parlour, and all; and the wife and child must spend almost all their time in this atmosphere — an atmosphere, 'which is enough to knock you down of a morning,' as a visitor there says, and which even now, when the fire is burning and the door open, is much too strong for even our hardened lungs and nostrils. Up stairs more people live, and up stairs more stench goes, and fever follows it.

    From The Guardian archive > February 23 1870 >
    A need for brandy and strong tobacco, G,
    Republished 23.2.2007, p. 42,






On This Day - August 25, 1806


From The Times Archive


Abraham Goldsmid won over society
through his charitable acts
and financial support for the nation
during the Napoleonic Wars.
A financial scandal in 1810
led him to commit suicide.


THE entertainments given by Mr Abraham Goldsmid, at his fine seat at Morden on Friday last, formed a scene of the most splendid hospitality. All that taste could suggest, or wealth provide, was prepared to do honour to the illustrious visitors. The Prince of Wales, with the Dukes of Kent and Cambridge, and several persons of the first rank and distinction, were among Mr Goldsmid’s guests at this superb festival.

At seven o’clock, dinner was served to about fifty persons, and the table exhibited a rare display of abundant delicacies and culinary excellence. Several appropriate and loyal toasts were drank; and on the proposition to drink the health of the Prince, his Royal Highness returned his thanks in the most animated expressions.

In a few minutes the Prince rose again, and said that when he informed the company that he was about to propose the health of one of the best men living, they would all anticipate that it was Mr Abraham Goldsmid, who was associated with a band of brothers, all benevolent like himself. Mr Goldsmid had not only a heart to feel for the woes of others, but a hand always stretched out to relieve them. Added to this, he knew him to be the tried friend of this country; for he had done the State some service, and they knew it, and was ever zealous for the glory and prosperity of the nation.

From The Times Archives > On This Day - August 25, 1806,
The Times,










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