Charles Booth, in his Poverty Map of London (1898-1899) characterised the core of the Parish of St Augustine Stepney in Mile End Old Town as Middle Class and Well to Do. Nevertheless, around its eastern edge, Romford Street, families were classed as Very Poor and subject to Chronic Want. On its western edge, around Union Street, families were considered marginally better off and were classed as, simply, Poor.
This variety in living standards reflected a variety of backgrounds of the parish residents. At 8 Union Row lived the Scheiffendesker family: father Uskar was a bookseller, and both he, his wife Minnie, and daughter Constance had been born in Germany, whereas his son Richard had been born in Mile End. They rented space in their home to a customs officer from Cork, Ireland named Jeremiah Lane, and Germans John Goarbe and Christian Owradel.
At 10, Union Row lived gold jeweller Marks Jacobinsky and his wife Rachael. Both had been born in Russia, whereas their four children were Londoners. The Jacobinskys rented space to Issac Epstein, a Hebrew teacher who had been born in Warsaw in Russian Poland. This pattern was repeated along Union Row and onto Union Street. The Woolfe family: parents born in Poland, and their children born in London. The Fisher family: parents and elder children born in Poland, and the younger children born in London.
At 11, Union Row lived the Habbes family. Father Louis was a 33 year old tailor from Germany, and he had married his wife Caroline in London in 1888. Caroline had been born in Eisenbach in Germany and moved to Britain at some point before the 1881 census, where she was recorded as working, under her maiden name Sattel (Saettele in other sources), as a domestic servant for the Lundy family at 72, Brecknock Road in Kentish Town. In 1891, she and Louis were sharing a home with their 2 month old son Ludovick.
In 1901, the Habbes family had moved to 39 Palmerston Road in Walthamstow. Louis by this point had chosen to Germanicise his hame to Haber, and Caroline is recorded as Karolina. Ludovick, however, is now named as Louis. Louis and Caroline have two more children, Joseph and Minnie. Moreover on the night of the 1901 census, a 3 year old boy named Willie Pritterman is listed as a visitor alongside Carolines niece, Hildred Sattele [sic], a 37 year old Tailors Assistant.
By 1911, the Habbes family are living at 84 Erskine Road in Walthamstow. Louis was running a tailoring business out of the home, and was employing Hildred (now Hildegard) as a Tailoress. Louis and Carolines daughter Minnie is employed as a Dressmakers Apprentice, and Louis the younger is described as a Provision Dealer working from home. Joseph is a Baker.
On the outbreak of the Great War three years later, the Habbes would no doubt have been subject to anti-German sentiment that manifested itself in Walthamstow. Local tradesmen of German extraction took out advertisements in the local paper noting that they were loyal British citizens. Nevertheless, this did not prevent instances of violence on one occasion during the Summer of 1914 a crowd invaded a local butchers shop near Markhouse Road and ransacked the premises, their efforts only limited by the fact that there was not much meat on sale. A large crowd gathered and lingered long into the evening with no clear purpose, except to exchange rumours. In such circumstances, one can only speculate if Joseph, as a local Baker, was also subject to discrimination by erstwhile customers, or whether Louis the elders tailoring business witnessed a decline in sales.
Whether they experienced direct discrimination or not, both Louis and his younger brother Joseph went on to serve in the British Army during the Great War. Louis enlisted at Stratford on 20 September 1917, and was assigned to 30th (Works) Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment. This, with its sister unit the 31st Battalion, the Middlesex Regiment, was composed of naturalised British citizens of alien parents.
Louis is described as Roman Catholic, 5 feet 7 inches tall, with a 36 inch chest, and weighs 138 pounds. Since the 1911 census he has changed his employment from a Provisions Dealer to a Button Maker no doubt complementary to his fathers tailoring business. He was posted to No. 5 Infantry Labour Company in France and therefore served as a labourer behind the Western Front, and was not demobilised until 17 January 1920. His brother Joseph similarly served in the Middlesex Regiment, as a Private in No.1 Infantry Labour Company, and served behind the Western Front. Both brothers were awarded the British War Medal and British Victory Medal.
The Habbes family remained in what later became Waltham Forest after the war: Louis the elder passed away in December 1943, and Caroline in December 1953. Louis the younger passed away in September 1967 aged 76. His brother Joseph married in 1922 and moved to Honiton in Devon in later life, and passed away there in 1986. Their sister Minnie married in 1918, and after living in Chingford, moved to Northamptonshire where she passed away in 1980.