Greedy Landlords Are Nothing New... As This Cartoon From 1909 Shows

Will Noble
By Will Noble Last edited 27 months ago
Greedy Landlords Are Nothing New... As This Cartoon From 1909 Shows

The tentacles of capitalism mercilessly strangle London's renters, as they struggle to survive against the monstrous 'Landlord Octopus'.

"Landlordism causes unemployment" runs the motto.

Click to enlarge

It's the kind of edgy cartoon you might expect to see in 2018 — a comment on the suffocating greed of some of London's richest, most uncharitable landlords. Except this illustration is the work of 20th century social justice campaigner William Bacot Northrop, who published it in 1909.

Among the wealthy landowning targets in this gloriously melodramatic lampoonery are Lord Portman (Marylebone), the Duke of Westminster, and Lord Cadogan (Kensington and Chelsea). A cartouche reads:

Octopium Landlordicuss (Common London Landlord). This Fishy Creature lives on RENT. Its Tentacles grasp 5 Square Miles of London. This Absorbant Parasite sucks £20,000,000 a year from its Victims, giving Nothing in return. The People must destroy It — or be destroyed.

Many of these estates still own vast tracts of London, including Lord Portman, whose Portman Estate still possesses 110 acres of Marylebone; Bedford Estates (now the largest private landowner in Bloomsbury); and Cadogan Estates, which owns 93 acres of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, including prime retail and residential areas in Sloane Street, Sloane Square and the King's Road.* Seems that Northrop's rally to 'destroy or be destroyed' fell on deaf ears.

The illustration is for sale at the London Map Fair in June. You might need a bit of dosh to buy it. Probably helps if you're a wealthy landlord.

*We should point out that these days, the estate also do much charitable good.

Last Updated 04 April 2018