The 19th century saw London’s population grow from one million to nearly seven million inhabitants. There was huge immigration, notably Irish, and people flocked to the great metropolis seeking work. Initial building development along key main roads sprawled to become a mass of built-up areas while, further afield, the suburbs expanded rapidly as improved transport facilities allowed workers an easy commute. New bridges attracted wealthy businessmen and merchants to the south of the river; large villa-style houses in London’s ‘villages’, such as Balham, Barnes, Hampstead and Richmond, were occupied by the prosperous, and growing, middle-class. In the east, the docks drew thousands of workers to new housing; in the west, fragments of original open spaces were retained to create parks. The swell in population, however, created a huge class divide between rich and poor, and put the city’s infrastructure under strain. Coal-induced fog, overcrowded churchyards, unmanageable sewage, spiralling crime and extensive slum districts were just some of the challenges faced by the expanding city.
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