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1637 - Large numbers of poor people are settling in St Giles
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Not long before, St Giles in the Fields was a small country village in Middlesex. But despite regulations against building, London grows and grows. St Giles is becoming part of the metropolis.

More worrying for the people who live there, it is turning into a slum. Landlords are letting out houses a room at a time. In some cases, whole families are living in cellars. More and more very poor people are flocking into the parish to take advantage of the cheap accommodation.

It is probably around this date that poor Irish immigrants begin to settle in this area. Many Irish people also settle in nearby Drury Lane. Most of them are Roman Catholics, and this gives a clue as to why they choose this area.

As early as 1629 Drury Lane was noted for the very large numbers of Catholics living there. The likely reason is that it is not far from the two chapels, one in Somerset House and one in St James's Palace, where King Charles the First's queen, the Catholic Henrietta Maria, is permitted to worship. These are among the very few places in London where Catholic worship is tolerated, and many ordinary people worship there with her.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, St Giles will develop a reputation as one of the main areas of Irish settlement in London. One of London's most notorious slums, the Rookery, will be located there.



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