Housing and public amenities

A major problem which blighted Victorian cities was the poor condition of the houses in which industrial workers lived. Overcrowded slum tenements with little or no sanitation were a hazard to public health and decency. As Begg observed, ‘How can we wonder that human nature, in such circumstances, is found at the lowest point of degradation, defying ordinary means of cure, and spreading moral as well as physical evil like a pestilence?’ The provision of decent housing became the social issue which Begg campaigned for more than any other over the course of his life. Through Dr Begg’s efforts a building society, the ‘Edinburgh Co-Operative Building Company Ltd.’ was set up in 1861 to finance the purchase of new houses for working class families. Several of these fine buildings are still standing today.

It was widely acknowledged that Begg’s campaign for the National Census to contain a question regarding the number of apartments in each dwelling was of the utmost importance in bringing to light the extent of overcrowding in urban areas. He spoke out against the ‘bothy system’ of accommodation for indentured farm labourers and ploughmen in the rural Lowlands which he believed to be a prime contributory factor in the high incidence of illegitimacy in these areas. Begg was also instrumental in having public parks such as Princes Street Gardens and the Meadows open free of charge for working class people in Edinburgh and he also campaigned for shorter hours for shop assistants and working men on Saturdays in order that they could attend to the duties of the Sabbath with due preparation.

Coming Events

Annual General Meeting

1 October 2011

Edinburgh, Saturday 1 October (DV). Speakers include Rev Maurice Roberts & Rev Trevor Kirkland.

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Pope Benedict XVI and the United Kingdom

A new book on the Pope’s visit to the UK called “Pope Benedict XVI and the United Kingdom” has been published by Free Presbyterian Publications.

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