…am besten in London.

Throughout the nineteenth century, economic migrants arrived in Britain from Germany in search of work. Usually single men from rural districts, the new arrivals headed for London looking for openings as tailors, waiters, bakers and clerks. The 1861 census returns recorded around 16,000 Germans in London. The 1911 census returns show this figure had risen to around 27,000. By the late nineteenth century the German diaspora in London had established schools, churches, unions, shops, hospital and social clubs – including a German branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association or YMCA. With the outbreak of the First World War entirely altering how Germans were viewed and treated in Britain, their story of arrival and settlement has never received the attention it warrants from historians. This selection of advertisements from 1901 offer a reminder of a time when the Germans were a significant minority presence in London, possessing a range of spaces within which to drink, shop, read, eat, learn and socialise with their fellow countrymen and women. 

With thanks to Luke Parks for sharing his unpublished MA thesis with me, ‘Integration or Alienation? London’s German Community 1901-1918,’ Open University, January 2013. Thanks, too, to Bishopsgate Institute for allowing me to reproduce these images from ‘Fuhrer durch London’ (1902) from the London Collection, Bishopsgate Library and Archive.

A German Hotel in the East End of London.The hotel advertises itself with the tagline question: 'Wo wohnt und speist die Deutsch am best in London?' This translates roughly as 'Where do Germans live and eat best in London?'
A German Hotel in the East End of London.The hotel advertises itself with the tagline question: ‘Wo wohnt und speist der Deutsche am besten in London?’ This translates roughly as ‘Where do Germans live and eat best in London?’
A German Catholic Church and school in Whitechapel in the East End.
A German Catholic Church and school in Whitechapel in the East End.
A home for German girls and children in Bow in east London. Numerous charitable initiatives were set up by Germans in London to support new arrivals or those fallen on hard times. Perhaps the most ambitious scheme was the workers' farm colony established by the German YMCA in 1900 at Libury Hall near Ware in Hertfordshire. Within ten years more than 5,000 Germans had found work on the farm. The aim was to provide them with the necessary skills and experience to find employment in the 'real' world of work. Alternatively, they might save enough of their salary to buy a ticket to return to their homeland.
A home for German girls and children in Bow in east London. Numerous charitable initiatives were set up by Germans in London to support new arrivals or those fallen on hard times. Perhaps the most ambitious scheme was the workers’ farm colony established by the German YMCA in 1900 at Libury Hall near Ware in Hertfordshire. Within ten years more than 5,000 Germans had been employed on the farm. The aim was to provide them with the necessary skills and experience to find jobs in the ‘real’ world. Alternatively, they might save enough of their salary to buy a ticket to return to the homeland.
A German delicatessen on Tottenham Court Road in the West End.
A German delicatessen on Tottenham Court Road in the West End.
The Heart and Hand Club in the West End offered recreational spaces and opportunities for self-education.
The Heart and Hand Club in the West End offered recreational spaces and opportunities for self-education.
'Gesellenverein' were Catholic-sponsored journeymen's unions.  The programme set out here (of lectures, classes and convivial conversation) was typical of a movement aimed at providing religious, moral, and professional guidance to young men, particularly  those who lived peripatetic existences or found themselves far from home. First established in the mid nineteenth century, by 1900 there were more than 1,000 branch unions, with a membership of 80,000 journeymen and 120,000 master-workmen. These were mostly situated in Germany but some had been established abroad – including this outpost in the East End.
‘Gesellenverein’ were Catholic-sponsored journeymen’s unions. The programme set out here (of lectures, classes and convivial conversation) was typical of a movement aimed at providing religious, moral, and professional guidance to young men, particularly those who lived peripatetic existences or found themselves far from home. First established in the mid-nineteenth century, by 1900 there were more than 1,000 branch unions, with a membership of 80,000 journeymen and 120,000 master-workmen. These were mostly situated in Germany but some had been established abroad – including this outpost in the East End.
Established in 1880, this was the self-proclaimed 'biggest and best-loved family club in the East End of London'. Apart from offering beer and billiards, the club also acted as the headquarters of the Tower Cycling Club.
Opened in 1880, this was the self-proclaimed ‘biggest and best-loved family club in the East End of London’. Apart from offering beer and billiards, the club also acted as the headquarters of the Tower Cycling Club.
Two branches of a German pharmacy in the City of London and the inner East End.
Two branches of a German pharmacy in the City of London and the inner East End.
The Royal Mail, a German restaurant and beer hall. Located near to the City (roughly where the Barbican is today), the Royal Mail was open from 7:00am until 11:30pm.
The Royal Mail, a German restaurant and beer hall. Located near the City, the Royal Mail was open from 7:00 am until 11:30 pm.
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