10. Infant mortality rates in the slums remained shockingly high throughout the 19th century – 1 in 4 babies never lived more than 12 months!
Unsurprisingly, given the cramped conditions of the slums, child mortality rates were extremely high throughout the 19th century. Indeed, while the statistics show that the proportion of children surviving beyond their first birthday rose steadily over the course of the century in most London boroughs, this was certainly not the case in the inner-city slums. The statistics show that 1 in 5 infants died at 12 months or younger in the slums. What’s more, in Old Nichol Street, one of the city’s most notorious slums, 1 in 4 babies never made it to their first birthday. This number may have been even higher, since many births – and, therefore, infant deaths – simply went unrecorded, with the babies than not given a proper burial.
Even if you made it past your first birthday, the odds of making it to middle-age – or even to old age – were not good at all. For males, work was hard and dangerous. In fact, the best statistics we have suggest that the life expectancy for a casual laborer in 19th century London was just 19. And it was around the same for females. While teenage girls were unlikely to die on construction sites, falling pregnant could, and often did, prove fatal.