Wednesday 29 April 2015

Teenage Nights

‘I spoke to my sister, who is married, about going to these singing rooms. She said it was very wrong for married people to go, but there was no harm for single young chaps ... I told her if it was wrong for married people to go, it must be wrong for single people ... I’ve seen enough going to singing rooms .... Just before my father died, he went to live with some woman who had five children – that, you may say, was through singing rooms. My father used to say the “Effingham” was a very comfortable place; you could sit and have your pipe and your pint very comfortable. It was a noted place of mine to go. He used to let us go as we liked. .... These singing-rooms are generally at beershops – at some places you can go in if you are only 14. At most all the beershops the admission is free – some charge a penny, some a halfpenny. Some places they put a penny a pot on the beer; they charge 5d. for porter, and 6d. for ale, for which you pay 4d at the bar; they knows how to do it; don’t matter to them who drink as long as they get the money. I have seen a boy with a girl laying hold of his arm, go up enough to make you laugh to look at them. If you were to wait outside the ––––, you would see boys and girls coming out between 12 and 1 o’clock in the morning; their language is awful; bad in the extreme. There are more go to these places on Saturday and Monday nights. Saturday is pay night ... A great many go on Sunday night, but there is no singing then – the law won’t allow it. I could take you to almost every singing room in Bethnal-green-road; there are very few but what I have been to. If you notice, you will see put up “Select harmony this evening, admission free.” some have written up “Select concert – Monday, Wednesday and Saturday evenings.” The chairman sits at one end of the room and the deputy at the other. The Judge and Jury clubs are open on Sunday night: they are generally held at beer-shops, sometimes at public-houses. Boys and girls are admitted to these as well ... If either the complainant or the prisoner or any of them don’t speak the words right, they are fined ½d; the fines are kept on till they get to 1s. which is spent after it is over in liquor – sometimes the money is saved up for a supper once a quarter. If they see a stranger come into the room they will knock his hat over his eyes, and if he swears he is fined 2d. It is all done to pass the evening away. I was asked to belong to a Judge and Jury Club lately, by a man I know, the fines are to go to an excursion.'

Daily News, 23 May 1850

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