Turns out that being a 19th-century London chimney sweep, costermonger or street urchin is even less glamorous than Charles Dickens made it appear.
As London’s economic boom in the Victorian Era brought prosperity to the upper and middle classes, many others suffered unimaginable living and working conditions in the East End tenement slums. The new five-part PBS series Victorian Slum House (premiering Tuesday) puts participants into a re-created slum to experience firsthand the desperation of the urban poor. Taking their places as shopkeepers, tailors, rent collectors, penniless immigrants or low-wage pieceworkers assembling matchboxes, the slum dwellers scrape by daily for food and rent money.
Victorian Slum House airs Tuesdays beginning May 2 at 8pm ET (check local listings).
Know your basic East End London lingo:
Doss-House: A cheap lodging house for the poor or homeless.
Twopenny Hangover: For two pennies, a lodger could sleep the night sitting on a bench and leaning on a taut rope.
Fourpenny Coffin: For four pennies a night, a lodger could sleep in a wooden box on the floor.
Black Monday: Rent collection day.
Shoddy: A cheap fabric material made from recycled rags.
Tick: A credit system customers arranged with shopkeepers.
Tramping: Walking the streets looking for work.
Slumming: Wealthy Londoners treating the slums as a tourist attraction.
Jellied Eels: Dinner. Mmmm.
— THIRTEEN (@ThirteenWNET) May 2, 2017