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London in 1839

Part Eight - Revenues, Pauperism, Savings Banks

Revenues, &c.

The revenue of the corporation of the City of London is derived from various sources, the principal of which are rents of premises, dues, and market-tolls. The receipts and expenditure for the years 1831 and 1832, as given in to the Municipal Corporation Commissioners, were as follows :-




Rents and quit rents



Rents and navigation of Thames



Fines for leases



Markets, tolls, offices, and bequests



Brokers' rents and admissions



Freedoms sold



Casual receipts



Insurance of officers' lives



Interest on government securities



Sale of securities



Sale of premises



Balance of cash in hand



Freedoms and enrolments







Orphan's Fund



Rents and quit-rents



Mansion-house expenses



Expense on magistracy, police, & prisons



Conservancy of river Thames



Artificers' & tradesman's bills



Market charges



Law & parliamentary expenses



Return-duty on imported corn



Charitable donations



Salaries & allowances



Disbursements - Courts of Aldermen & Common-Council



Royal & reform entertainments






Insurance paid



Interest & annuities



Purchase of securities



Debts discharged



Money lent



Purchase for lord-mayor's household



Balance in hand






The first item in the above statement of expenditure requires some explanation. The court of the lord mayor and aldermen of London had from time immemorial acted as the guardians of the children of deceased citizens, and as trustees of their property. The corporation having advanced large sums to the government upon the security of Exchequer Tallies, which were totally lost to them upon the shutting of the Exchequer in 1672, this circumstance, with the losses occasioned by the Fire of London, occasioned a deficiency in the sum owing to its orphan wards and other creditors of £747,472. An act was accordingly obtained (5 and 6 William and Mary, c. 10), entitled “An Act for the relief of the Orphans and other Creditors of the City of London,” in the preamble of which the above mentioned deficiency is attributed to  “sundry accidents and public calamities,” which act established a fund for the payment of the interest upon the above sum, which payment of interest for ever was declared to be in full satisfaction of the debt. The fund created consisted of a charge £8,000 per annum on the lands and revenues of the city ; the profits of aqueducts, or the right of bringing water into the city ; £2,000 per annum to be levied by assessment on the inhabitant householders ; £600 per annum arising from the lease granted of the right of lighting lamps, as elsewhere explained ; a tax of 2 shillings and 6 pence on binding each apprentice to a freeman ; and of 5 shillings upon every person admitted to the freedom of the city ; 4 shillings per tun upon wine imported into London ; and 4 pence per chaldron on the metage of colas ; and 6 pence per chaldron upon all coals imported. The last tax was to commence in 1700, and to continue for 50 years ; after which the lands of the city were to be charged with £6,000 per annum more in favour of the orphans fund; but in 1759 the coal-tax was renewed for 35 years ; and in 1767 it was further extended to 1831 ; and it was afterwards continued to 1837. The debt for which these charges were originally made was fully discharged in 1820, the duties imposed having been rendered more productive than was expected, owing to the great increase of the city ; but it was found convenient to continue them in order to provide for the discharge of debts otherwise and subsequently incurred for various buildings and improvements, among which may be mentioned Blackfriars Bridge, Newgate prison, the Middlesex sessions-house, and improvements at Temple Bar and Snow Hill. More recently the coal duties have been continued on account of a million of money borrowed to make suitable approaches to the new London Bridge.

The total produce of the various charges and duties authorized by the act of 1694 produced between that year and 1829 is as follows :-

Payments from city revenues £1,324,750
Aqueducts £62,441
Assessments on inhabitant householders £203,907
Lights £21,000
Apprentice bindings £34,277
Freedoms £41,250
Duty on wine £363,442
Metage and duty on coals £3,718,059
Sale of ground, &c. £50,975
TOTAL £5,820 101

The passing of the bill through parliament (1694) to authorize the levying of these duties was accompanied by an extraordinary circumstance. Considerable delay having been experienced in the proceedings of the House of Commons, the city chamberlain was authorized to disburse such sums as should be found necessary for expedition. Through some want of caution the government came to suspect that bribery was used, and a committee of the House of Commons being appointed to investigate the matter, it came out that the Speaker had actually received 1000 guineas for services in expediting the bill through the house, and that two other members had been guilty of similar corruption. The three were consequently forthwith expelled from the house.

The freehold estates belonging to the corporation within the city are situated chiefly in and about Broad Street, Fenchurch Street, Aldgate, and the Minories. It has also a considerable estate in the parish of St. Georges, Hanover Square, and possesses five-sixths of a leasehold estate under the chapter of St. Paul's. This lease has been held since the beginning of the fourteenth century, and will expire in 1867. The net produce to the city arising from ground-rents is £7,500 per annum, but the annual value which will lapse to the church in 1867 is expected to amount to £50,000 or £60,000.

Most of the companies are in possession of real property and money in the public funds, but as many of them refuse to state the nature and amount of their property, it is not possible to speak more precisely on the subject. The Draper's Company made a return to the Municipal Corporation Commissioners, from which it appears that their yearly rents amount to £23,400 ; and the Fishmongers have in like manner stated their income from real property to be £17,973 per annum.  It is known that other companies, and particularly the Mercers, Goldsmiths, and Merchant Tailors, hold large landed estates within the city of London, and elsewhere, both for their own use, and on various trusts ; but the particulars of these estates are not made public.

The Irish Society is a corporation connected in a peculiar manner with the corporation of London. The origin of this connection was as follows. In the reign of James I a considerable part of the province of Ulster was forfeited to the crown, and proposals were entertained for establishing an English colony in that province. In pursuance of this scheme articles of agreement were executed in January 1609 between the lords of the king's council and a committee appointed by the common-council acting on behalf of the mayor and commonalty of the city of London for establishing corporations in Derry and Coleraine. It was arranged that £20,000 should be advanced by a London company, to consist of a governor, deputy-governor, and 24 assistants ; that the governor and five assistants should be aldermen of London ; that the recorder should be another assistant, and that the deputy-governor and the rest of the assistants should be citizens of London, to be elected annually by the common-council. The Society, being thus appointed, was soon after put in possession of the estates. The sum subscribed for the purpose amounted eventually to £60,000, and was chiefly furnished in different proportions by the most wealthy of the London companies. The Society was incorporated on the 29th of March, 1619, and the town of Coleraine and the county of Londonderry were granted to the Society and their successors for ever. By another charter granted to the Society by Charles II in 1662, power was given to the common council of Londonderry to make bye-laws for the government of the city, but to give them validity it was necessary that these bye-laws should be confirmed within a limited time by the Irish Society. The accounts of the Society since 1831 have been printed and laid before the court of common-council. The estates have been the subject of a suit in chancery ; which has confirmed the title of the corporation to all except the lands that had been granted to the companies.


Although employment may easily be obtained in London by persons in health, and adequate wages are paid, a considerable proportion of these wages are spent in intemperance, which adds largely to the amount of wretchedness owing to misfortune, sickness, and other causes. Under the orders of the commissioners for executing the act of 1833 for the amendment of the law relating to the poor, the metropolis, so far as it has hitherto been brought under the provisions of the new poor law, is divided into 26 districts or unions, as enumerated and described below, each of which is managed by a board of guardians, elected by the rate-payers of every parish within the union, in some cases the parishes are too large and populous to admit of their being satisfactorily united for this purpose ; and some parishes are governed under special and local acts of parliament, which oppose difficulties to such junction. The divisions, the amount of their population in 1831, the number of guardians elected in each, and the sums expended for relief of the poor in the year ending 25th March, 1838, are as follows :-

Population 1831

Number of guardians

Expended for Relief of Poor
in year ending 25th March 1838

Holborn Union




St. George's in the East




St. Leonard's, Shoreditch




St. Martin in the Fields




St. Matthew, Bethnal Green




St. Pancras




Strand Union








St. George, Southwark




















St. Olave, Southwark




St. Saviour, Southwark
















City of London (98 parishes)
























East London




West London




Begging is followed as a trade or profession in the metropolis perhaps more systematically than in any other city. The subject has at various times attracted the attention of the legislature, and considerable light has been thrown upon it by the Reports of committees of the House of Commons. In one of these Reports it was stated on evidence that two houses in St. Giles's parish (which is the principal resort of beggars) are frequented by considerably more than 200 persons, who hold in them a kind of club, from which all who are not of their profession are excluded ; that children are let out by the day, and that the hire paid for deformed children is sometimes as high as four shillings per day, and that a regular school is kept in the same district where children are instructed in the arts necessary to their success as beggars. It has been stated that the number of professional beggars in and about London amounts to 15,000, more than two thirds of whom are Irish ; but this statement rests upon no certain foundation, and has been variously considered as too high or too low, according to the views which different persons take of the condition of society. It is ascertained that few of the street-beggars who pretend to be husband and wife are really married.  The Mendicity Society was formed in 1818 for the purpose of remedying this evil, by affording relief to really deserving persons, and by exposing and punishing the professional beggar and impostor.  This Society has an office and establishment in Red Lion-square, Holborn, and has through the constant activity of its managers, been instrumental in moderating the evil, which however is too great in degree to be successfully combated by any merely private association.

Savings Banks

The various savings banks that are open within the limits of the metropolis are no doubt resorted to by some persons who reside beyond it and it is therefore not possible to ascertain with precision the amount of deposits made by the metropolitan population. After a careful examination of all the returns and other documents extant upon the subject, it appears that there were, on the 20th November, 1837, about 97,000 individuals resident within the metropolitan limits who had accounts open at the different savings banks, and that the sum standing at the credit of their accounts was about £2,450 000 being 18 per cent. of the total number of depositors in England, and 15 per cent. of the total amount of their deposits. It is supposed that the class of domestic servants, who are very numerous in London, forms by far the largest proportion of depositors in savings banks.