George Godwin (1813 – 1888)

Under George Godwin’s watch, The Builder addressed the plight of poor housing conditions.

by M. J. Joachim

As a writer, I understand well the need George Godwin must have had when he used his position as editor of The Builder, one of London’s premier architectural magazines, to expose the plight of human suffering in his midst. According to Government Information Leaflet No 22, “The Builder was the foremost English architectural and building periodical of the nineteenth century. It remains a valuable source of information for the architectural controversies of the age, the history of individual buildings and the wider debates on the social crises caused by rapid industrialization and urban growth.” Under George Godwin’s watch, The Builder addressed the plight of poor housing conditions, illustrating detailed accounts of the depravity and hopelessness caused by something that should never be, and could so easily be fixed, if the appropriate powers that be and citizens with the means to do so, joined forces and refused to let these type of living conditions be a stain on their culture.

George Godwin followed in his father’s footsteps as an architect, eventually taking over the family business with one of his brothers. His love of architectural history and writing combined proved to be invaluable assets. He is the author of several architectural volumes relating to London churches, their masonry and style of construction – primarily gothic. He is well-known for his architectural designs of numerous public buildings and housing projects in and around London, among them Redcliffe Square, Elm Park Gardens and Earls Court.

 As if that were not enough, George Godwin wrote plays and many other works as well, including London Shadows. The following excerpt gracefully and tactfully explains the conditions of the times and provides reasons for their existence; further on in this work, possible solutions are offered to help remedy and ease the burden of the poor.

“It is a certain and melancholy fact that this dangerous, and to the State, expensive class of persons is alarmingly increasing in London and all other large towns; and this is easily to be accounted for. Many of the poor Irish who flock to these places are either unable to get employment, or are careless in looking for it. The women and children either beg, sweep crossings or exist (for it is nothing better) on the profits of the sale of such trifling articles as they can procure.”

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