‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Quarry Pend (15 December, 1888)

The following is one of several articles on the poorest areas of Dundee which were published in ‘The Peoples Journal’ from the end of 1888. The area around Quarry Pend, Cowgate is the focus of this article.

The purpose of the journalist was to reveal the terrible problems facing those living in the slums (“rookeries”) of Dundee and is spelled out in the introduction to the first article in the series:

It is my purpose to direct attention to both classes of insanitary buildings—the old and the new—and to describe from personal inspection the hovels and “rookeries” of this city. The evil has grown so rampant that the Police Commissioners, on the repeated suggestions of the Medical Officer of Health, have at length begun to move in this matter, and my object is to assist them as far as possible in their investigations. In the course of these inquiries, I shall be able to reveal a side of social life and its environments the existence of which is little suspected by a great many people resident in Dundee.

“Quarry Pend,” said an intelligent police officer in answer to a question of mine, “is not the place it used to be. I remember when it was a rather lively locality. It was for many years the resting-place of thieves, robbers, and shebeeners, and many a time we had to visit the pend in search of those whom we suspected.”

“And was it difficult to lay hold of criminals who sought the shelter of the place?”

“Well, rather, I should say,” he replied. “You see there are three entrances to the place—one through Quarry Entry, another by a close from the Cowgate to the West of the entry, and a third by the staircase leading from King Street.”

“How did you manage to lay hold of those you were after, then?”

“Well, we had just to station men at the various outlets, and go in and search the place. I have seen many attempts on the part of guilty persons to escape, but in almost every case they were safely landed.”

Quarry Pend, as the officer said, is not so bad as it was, but still it is bad enough in all conscience. The entry leading to the pend is within a hundred yards of the East Port, where Wishart at one time preached. Probably the buildings hemming in the square are as old as the martyr; at any rate they are as hoary and antiquated-looking as the masonry of the East Port itself. The houses around the pend have a most tumbledown appearance; but that is not the worst of it. Enterprising capitalists have within the century built in the square a four-storey land of house and building now occupied as a hackle shop. On the East end of the hackle shop is a common privy and ashpit, and that is the sole sanitary convenience for the people in the pend, who number 208 souls.

In the pend there are 31 one-roomed houses, 39 two-roomed houses, and 2 three-roomed houses. Of these the following are without tenants:—Four one-roomed houses, ten two-roomed houses, and one three-roomed house. The land within the square is decidedly the best in the neighbourhood, and it is the only place where the houses are supplied with water inside. The houses on the East side of the entry are miserably bad as regards sanitary conveniences, ventilation, and light. There is also a small building between the land in the court and the staircase leading up to King Street which is a disgrace to any landlord who may claim it. The entrance to the upper story is by a narrow stair covered with filth open upon a couple of the dirtiest and dreariest homes in Dundee. Continue reading “‘The Dens and Hovels of Dundee’: Quarry Pend (15 December, 1888)”