Edwin Waugh’s portrait of Preston

The Lancashire writer Edwin Waugh visited Preston in the 1860s and recorded his impressions in a book, Home-Life of the Lancashire Factory Folk During the Cotton Famine. He was shown round the town by charity workers. One of them recounted the following sad tale:

In the course of his round, this visitor called upon a certain destitute family which was under his care, and he found the husband sitting alone in the house, pale and silent. His wife had been ‘brought to bed’ two or three days before; and the visitor inquired how she was getting on. ‘She’s very ill,’ said the husband. ‘And the child,’ continued the visitor, ‘how is it?’ ‘It’s dead,’ replied the man; ‘it died yesterday.’ He then rose, and walked slowly into the next room, returning with a basket in his hands, in which the dead child was decently laid out. ‘That’s all that’s left of it now,’ said the poor fellow. Then, putting the basket upon the floor, he sat down in front of it, with his head between his hands, looking silently at the corpse.

Waugh’s book contains dozens of similar distressing accounts that reveal what life could be like for the working class in Victorian Preston. Waugh’s verdict on the plight of the town’s poor was that Preston ‘… has seen many a black day [but] it has never seen so much wealth and so much bitter poverty together as now.’

The Preston sections of his book are here

Map of places Edwin Waugh visited in Preston Lancashire UK in 1862
The places Edwin Waugh visiited in 1862

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