Faith and Belief

Chloe Marriott | Emma Faulkner | Jessica Thorne 

Mitchell Dagley | Zoe Handley

The growth of industry in the nineteenth century saw a wide variety of groups, including Irish and Polish Catholics, migrate to Britain’s ever-expanding slums. [1] This caused religious organisations to venture into the poorest areas, in their mission to combat the effects that urbanization and industrialization had on the labouring poor, causing them, ‘to forget, or suppress their religious selves’. [2] This religious movement into the slums reflected the social values of the time, which emphasised morality and faith.The period saw a rise in the middle classes establishing their role within society.

P1920888218This triggered them to think about how they could differentiate themselves from their working-class counterparts and further reinforce their moral superiority. Despite deeming their lifestyle more respectable than that of the working class they still attempted to embrace slum culture from arms-length. Middle-class missionaries meticulously documented their involvement and experiences with slum dwellers. as they sought to rehabilitate their lifestyle and religious beliefs. For instance, the reverend D. Rice-Jones of the London Diocesan Missionary Society used his religious beliefs and support of the Temperance movement to encourage abstinence and the reintroduction of religion within slum life. [3] Another way the middle classes preached their ideas was through the training of working-class women; allowing their ideas to be translated in an accessible manner. The Parochial Women’s Association in particular used this approach, to effectively allow women to push the boundaries of their position within society to become more involved with religious charity, which focused on the development of moral character and conditions. [4]3450dde8-e7f3-4757-bc00-56acfd767f0a_Street+preaching

The rise of William Booth’s Salvation Army in the late nineteenth century brought with it a new way of approaching the religious awakening of the working classes. [5] This radical new approach lay the foundation for future organisations such as the Church Army, who, according to Montague Chamberlain, ‘improved upon the scheme of the Salvation Army [and] adapted the many methods, including some which General Booth borrowed from the Methodists’. [6] Many missionaries exploited the increased religious presence in order to preach their own agenda, for example the Evangelical Gypsy Smith used bribery to encourage increased attendance to his sermons. [7] The rise in evangelical religion in the nineteenth century brought with a variety of organisations and beliefs to ‘the slum’, all vying for their voice to be heard.



  1. Gilley, S., ‘Catholic Faith of the Irish Slums: London, 1840-70’, in Dyos, H.J. and Wolff, M. (eds.), The Victorian City : Images and Realities (London: Routledge, 1973), p. 35.
  2. Matthews-Jones, L., ‘Lessons in Seeing: Art, Religion and Class in the East End of London, 1881-1898’, Journal of Victorian Culture, 16:3 (2011), p.387.
  3. Jones, Rev. D Rice, ‘Pages of a Note-book of a London Diocesan Home Missionary’, in Jones, Rev D. Rice, (ed.), In the Slums (James Nisbet & Co: London, 1884), pp.116 -119.
  4. Hatherley, W., ‘The Parochial Women’s Association’, (unknown). Available online:
  5. ‘The Salvation Army. Work in the Slums’, Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 10 February 1887, p.6.
  6. Dickens, C., ‘Church Army’, in Dickens, C. et al. (eds.) Dickens Dictionary of London: An Unconventional Handbook (London: E.J. Larby, 1908). Available online:
  7.  O’Mara. P., The Autobiography of a Liverpool Slummy (Liverpool: Bluecoat Press. 1994), pp. 61-62.