Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 November 2021
London was a centre of vagrancy in the Victorian period. Its refuges, lodging-houses and workhouses ensured that large numbers of vagrants travelled to the capital, especially during the winter months when travelling on the open road could be difficult and dangerous. The first half of this chapter examines how these forms of relief structured the vagrants’ movement and resulted in what I call ‘metropolitan vagrancy’. This was a constrained form of movement, typically limited to the winter months, that was contoured by the resources that the vagrant poor were able to access and the mounting restrictions that were placed on them by the Poor Law. The second half examines an understudied depiction of homelessness that was, in part, a product of these restrictions: the queue outside the ‘casual’ or vagrant ward of the workhouse. This became an image that articulated anxieties about the difficult distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor, and also conveyed fears about the illiberality of the Poor Law and the potentially revolutionary response that it might provoke. This chapter examines works by Charles Dickens, Charles Kingsley and the painter Luke Fildes.