The streets were mostly made up of old, irregular and run-down houses. Great Peter Street was mainly occupied by tradesmen, small shopkeepers, labourers, mechanics, and those with irregular or uncertain earnings. In Perkin's Rent, Duck Lane and Old Pye Street 10 to 12 people frequently lived in one room and the houses were mostly occupied by what a contemporary described as "mendicants, hawkers, costermongers, lodging house keepers, thieves and abandoned females of irregular and intemperate habits".
An census of the common lodging houses on Old Pye Street, which was the centre of the Devil's Acre, describes the occupation of 20 lodgers in one house as: five "beggars", two "beggar bricklayers", one "labourer beggar", one "needlewoman beggar", one "hawker", one "labourer bricklayer" and one "errand boy". Initially the birthplace of 15 of the 20 was noted as unknown and they were later identified as Irish.
From the s onwards the area around Westminster, including the Devil's Acre, became the focus of a new movement of social housing, largely funded by George Peabody and the Peabody Trust. This movement had a lasting impact on the urban character of Westminster and many of the philanthropically funded social housing estates have survived into the 21st century en.
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