St George's Fields, Southwark: From a grand 18th century suburb to 19th century inner-city slums

The decline to slums

The City had briefly and optimistically hoped to see St George’s Fields develop as a well-built, respectable and desirable suburb: they can only have been greatly disappointed in the result. Rather than the home of gracious civic villas eulogised by James Smith, by the last half of the 19th century St George’s Fields was one of the worst slums in London. The rapid downturn was an inevitable consequence of the area’s proximity to London, and in particular of the increasing industrialisation of the riverside district to the north and west. The prospect of jobs drew in a new population; much of the work was unskilled and casual, however, which made it vital that workers lived near their (potential) places of employment.