A century after the start of the Industrial Revolution the Victorians finally began to turn their attention to matters of social conscience. The remarkable achievements of the entrepreneurs who had prospered as they developed new factories, railways and docks overshadowed a deprivation among the working classes that had hitherto been unseen in Britain.
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There had been destitution and hardship in the rural communities but as people sought work in the new industrial heartlands they encountered appalling disease, poorly constructed housing and little sanitation. Nonetheless high rents still had to be paid, invariably to unscrupulous landlords. There was little concern for the long working hours or child labour, and unguarded machinery and uncaring overseers caused serious accidents after which casualties were given little or no assistance other than the prospect of ending their days in the workhouse.