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Small Dingy Slum Community called "China"

Miss Calder's Children, A Social History of Belper. Biography and Critique on Mondern Education, by Narvel S. Annable, Belper, 1997.

In this book (page 35) Narvel Annable sympathetically and vividly describes a "notorious yet celebrated small dingy slum community called 'China'. This slum community was not far from where little Narvel lived, it was "directly over the road", near the railway line. These foul poverty stricken cottages was removed in the late 1930's to make way for the construction of the oil refinery.

As a Chinese, I am quite sensitive to anything about 'China'. It's quite interesting that people in Belper called their city slum community 'China'.

Narvel Annable recorded several stories from this 'China'. In that time, people from different social classes seemed never to mix up, you might find the ugly faces of snobbery everywhere.

[A girl lived] at the family business in King Street, S.T, Clay Milliners and Drapers. One day she wondered in the direction of China and was intrigued by the strange dirty ragged urchins playing on the hard trodden soil. After an agreeable period of play and fraternisation with her newly acquired fetid friends, she was discovered by a customer and promptly returned to her anxious parents. They were horrified to learn that she had been within the depths of China!
It was a great sin to mix up and play with "strange dirty ragged urchins", and luckily this little girls was rescued by his father's customer!

Even a school headteacher has this kind of ugly face of snobbery.

[one day headteacher Mr Tunnicliffe held] an emergency assembly in a grim and angry mood due to an appalling insult to the dignity of his Herbert Strutt School!

The enraged Headmaster called the gathering for the purposes of an inquest.

"A boy from China has been seen wearing the Herbert Strutt School Cap! How has this happened? Was it stolen? Who is without his cap?"
For the higher class, it's quite normal to say, "Don't behave like a cottage child!" The living conditions in that little community might be much worse than that in other cottages. There was report which spoke of six in one bed, or even no bed at all. The very name of 'China' caused one to shudder! One poor child was burned to death at home due to primitive and dangerous lighting or cooking.

People in Belper called their neighbour slum community 'China', I wonder how were they thinking of the REAL China in Far East? How were they thinking of the inhabitants of China, What's their attitude like towards a Chinese whom they met on Belper street, if any adventurous Chinese ever went there?


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