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[-65-] SUMMARY OF THE PRECEDING SKETCHES AND ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE PARISH OF BETHNAL GREEN.
LOCATION AND STRUCTURE OF DWELLING-HOUSES,
SPACE ALLOTTED TO DWELLING-HOUSES.
WARMING AND VENTILATION OF HOUSES.
VENTILATION OF PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
- BY DRAINAGE.
- BY REMOVAL OF REFUSE.
PRIVIES AND CESSPOOLS.
SICKNESS AND DISEASE, AND MORTALITY.
TABLES ILLUSTRATING SICKNESS AND MORTALITY.
[-66-] LOCATION AND STRUCTURE OF DWELLING-HOUSES.
"If these places are left to the casual or capricious
amelioration of the humane even, ages will pass away, and, with them, a rapid
succession of miserable generations, the most destitute of their species,
perishing from corroding want, ere the decay of the buildings gives room for
arrangements suitable to the accommodation of human beings."
-Martin.-Report of the Health of Towns' Com.
These words applied to the towns of Nottingham, Coventry, Leicester, Derby, Norwich and Portsmouth, are unhappily not applicable to them alone, but apply with a truth the most profound, and a force the most powerful to the dwellings in many parts of Bethnal-Green.
It is lamentable to observe, in this extensive and populous parish, the enormous number of dwellings which have been constructed in defiance of every law and principle on which the health and lives of the occupants depend. In a vast number of instances, the dwellings have been planted, or stuck on the ground, with scarcely any foundation; great numbers have the clay, or damp ground, immediately below the wooden floors; they are very often below the level of the front or back-yards, or streets-from the first cause the rooms are excessively damp, and, in an extraordinary number of instances, truly uninhabitable; from the second cause, they are liable to be flooded, either on the occurrence of showers of rain, or when the water-pipes are left running. The dwellings are, in innumerable instances, considerably below the level of the whole of the surrounding neighbourhood, and are thus rendered very damp, as well as dark. House-drainage is almost an impossible thing under these circumstances;-for instance, all the houses behind Crabtree-row, and the filthy courts and dens abutting on it,-and those miserable remains of cabins and huts between Hackney Road, and the open space fronting Crabtree-row. The dwellings are often built of the worst materials, and thus become very speedily out of repair, a state in which they are allowed to remain as long as a tenant can be found for them. The roofs of the rooms I found, in a great number of instances, stained by the water which had percorated [-sic-] through the roofs of the houses; the inhabitants being thus exposed to the injurious effects of damp as well from above, as below. A very large proportion of the houses in this parish consist of two rooms, generally on the ground-floor; but in some instances they are placed one above the other. The door opens into one of these rooms, which is generally used by the occupants as a day-room and kitchen; the other is generally used as a sleeping-room for the whole family; the bed always takes up a great part of this room, and unfits it for habitual use.
The houses of the weavers generally consist of two rooms on the ground-floor and a workroom above; this workroom always has a large window for the admistion [-sic-] of light during their long hours of sedentary labour. Whole streets of such [-67-] houses abound in Bethnal-green, and a great part of the population is made up of weavers. There are some, but not a great number of, dwellings consisting of one room alone. Such dwellings are always of the worst description. Some parts of the parish, as districts, Nos. 3 and 4, abound in houses constructed in the French fashion, flat upon flat. There is not any very great number of houses placed back to back; but those that are so placed are of an inferior kind, and are characterised by dirt and disease. For an example refer to Alfred-row, and Beckford.row, Devonshire-street, than which a more disgraceful, and unhealthy state of things can scarcely exist.
From the natural character of the soil in many parts of Bethnal-green, consisting of a stiff clay superimposed on a bed of gravel, or of alight, loose, porous surface, with water reached at the depth of a few feet, it would have appeared especially requisite that some efficient means should have been taken in the construction of houses to prevent the natural decay of the wooden floors often placed on, or within an inch or two of, the wet clay, and absorption by the walls of the wet. But the great majority of the houses occupied by the poorer classes in the Green and Church districts, and partly, also, in the Hackney-road district are so carelessly constructed and so indifferently maintained that they become prolific sources of disease. These kinds of houses afford the chief part of the occupation of the parochial medical officers.
The places which chiefly require animadversion, although the observations equally apply to numerous rows of houses called streets, are, in District No. 1, Whisker's-gardens, Martha-court, Helen's-place, James-place, and the courts and places attached to the various streets; in District No. 2, Gale's-gardens, Holly-bush-gardens, Camden-gardens, Smart's-gardens, Pleasant-row and place, Beckford-row, Thomas-row, Manchester-passage, Wilmot-grove,George-gardens, George-row. Falcon-court, Punderson's-gardens; in District No. 3, Granby-row, Swan-court, Busby-square and Busby-court; in District No. 4, Willow-walk, Greengate-gardens, Miring's-place, Hepworth-place, Smith' s-place, Garden- place, Seven-step-court, Weatherhead-gardens, and many of the other courts and alleys; in District No. 5, several of the houses in Ann's-place, those in Chapman's-gardens, Pain's-gardens, Accidental-place, Nelson-place, Amy's- place, several of the houses in Barnet-street, most of those in Barnet-grove and Cross-street, all those in Willow-walk, and in Bourn's-gardens, and the observations are applicable in a great measure to Baden-place, and Ion-square.
SPACE ALLOTTED TO DWELLING-HOUSES.
Except in districts Nos. 3 and 4, where large houses and flats are common, and where space is comparatively valuable, back or front yards are attached to the great majority of the houses. It is very uncommon for the dwellings to be provided with both front and back yards; where the one is, the other is generally wanting. The immense majority of the back yards are extremely small, and are often greatly encroached upon by a privy. In the better class of houses a kind of washhouse is added to the dwelling, which still further encroaches upon [-68-] the scanty space, usually allotted as a back yard. This space is generally the breadth of the house, by three or four feet deep. The front yards are common to a class of dwellings which are exceedingly general in Bethnal-green; namely, those which are termed gardens. These front yards usually occupy a space equal to that on which the house is built, and, in some gardens, are sufficiently large and convenient. They are, however, nearly, if not quite, peculiar to those kinds of dwellings. No inconsiderable number of the smaller houses in the parish have no back or front yards whatever, and are totally destitute of even the commonest conveniences; they are generally either in narrow streets or alleys, or else in courts.
The dwellings of the poor, in this parish, are, with very few exceptions, destitute of most of those structural conveniences common to the better classes of houses. There are never any places set aside for receiving coals; dust-bins to receive the refuse of the houses are exceedingly rare, and cupboards or closets are nearly altogether unknown. The privies (where there are any attached) are either close to the houses, or at a distance from it, exposed to the public view, or common to large numbers of houses and families. There are never any sinks. The fire-places are constructed without the slightest regard to the convenience or comfort of the inmates, and are altogether unadapted to successfully fulfil the purposes for which they were intended.
I am not aware of any lodging-houses being
situate in Bethnal-green. Nearly all the small public-houses and beer-shops,
however, take in lodgers; and thus, on a small scale exhibit the evils common to
That places of protection should be found for the vagrant population, and for that portion of the inhabitants of large towns, who, plunged in poverty, have no fixed home, is proved to be an essential duty of a well-constituted Government. This duty is essential, not less to protect the unfortunate, or abandoned, than to preserve the rest of the population from the physical disease and the frightful moral vices of which, in their present neglected condition, such dens of filth and moral degradation are foci. And, although in Bethnal-green such evils do not exist on the grand and comprehensive scale, nevertheless, each petty beer-shop, and public-house, especially in the Town, and part of the Hackney- road divisions, constantly exhibit the slow nurture, growth, and development of the same evils. The parochial medical officers complained to me, especially in No. 4 District, of the perpetual disease existing in these retreats of poverty and vice. Retrea s [-sic-] and dens which, in any measure which duly regards the public health, must be placed under public supervision. The keepers of such places must be required under a penalty, to give information to some duly constituted authority of every case of illness which confines an inmate to bed for [-69-] twenty-four hours, so that fever and the diseases which arise in them may be prevented from becoming sources of destruction to the neighbourhood, and of wasteful expense to the public. A power must likewise be given to shut up such places when their condition is such as to be injurious and dangerous to the public health.
Without such powers mere registration, or inspection, will be useless in checking disease.
By the kindness of the proprietor of the "POOR MAN'S GUARDIAN," I am enabled to insert the accompanying Wood-cut of a Lodging-house in Field-lane, which originally appeared in that periodical. It exemplifies the miserable conditions of such dens, which, in one form or another, are common to all crowded and poor localities.
WARMING AND VENTILATION.
Warming is necessarily connected with
ventilation; no arrangements can be made for the one which do not necessarily
complicate the other. In the construction of the dwellings of the poor, regard
must be had as to some means of getting rid of the products of combustion, and
of the air vitiated by respiration and by other causes, more efficient than the
present imperfect fire-flue alone; and some efforts are imperatively demanded to
adapt the present chambers of the poor, so that more perfect
ventilation may take place. Whether these efforts shall partake of governmental
interference, or shall be confined to example and precept; those, only, who are
fully aware of the difficulties inherent to the subject can determine. But that
to maintain and preserve the health of the great mass of the poor, who dwell and
work in doors, more efficient means of ventilation are absolutely required, it
would be a waste of time, to attempt to prove. Probably ventilation is not in a
worse state in Bethnal-green than in all other similar districts, but as the
parish contains a proportionately greater number of persons who derive their
livelihood by in door occupations, the subject of ventilation becomes of more
importance to them than to their neighbours.
The air which is breathed within the dwellings of the poor is often most insufferably offensive to strangers. It is loaded with the most unhealthy emanations from the lungs and persons of the occupants, - from the foecal remains which are commonly retained in the rooms, - and from the accumulations of decomposing refuse which nearly universally abound. It is still further defiled by the products of combustion. In numerous instances, I found the air in the rooms of the poor, for instance, in Alfred-row, Beckford-row, Elizabeth-place, Collingwood-place, &c., so saturated with putrescent exhalations, that to breathe it was to inhale a dangerous, perhaps fatal, poison. Already some tables have been given of the time at which death, it is presumed, would take place were there no change of the atmosphere in the rooms of the houses of some of the poor. Further illustrations are given by my friend Mr. Taylor, in the First Report of the Metropolitan Sanitary Commission.
[-70-] To accomplish ventilation it is necessary that the air from without should be pure. Effective drainage, cleansing, and prevention of nuisances must precede all attempts to secure perfect ventilation. Examples abound where the inmates prefer the stench from within, to the stench from without; and it is a question, whether the free admission of air, loaded with emanations from drains, and cesspools, and decomposing refuse, is not much more dangerous than the continued and repeated respiration of the same air. Numerous cases of disease attest the impropriety of ventilating rooms by apertures which admit air loaded with impurities.
Wherever the greatest destitution is prevalent, there likewise ventilation is most defective. An insufficient supply of food renders the system less capable of bearing those changes of temperature, and currents of air, which would otherwise be agreeable. Protection from cold, therefore, becomes an especial primary object with the poor. They economise their fuel in their management and application of it, so that the air shall impinge gently upon their persons; and this management becomes the more marked, as the means of the inmates are reduced. This practical management of fuel extends to those rich persons whose bodies, enfeebled by disease, inertion, or a foul atmosphere, are placed in the same position as if they had suffered from a scanty supply of food.
The greatest importance is to be attached to the respiration of pure air. This will be the more readily acknowledged when we recollect that we breathe 28,000 times in one day and night. After those sanitary arrangements, therefore, which secure a pure atmosphere, the greatest benefits may be expected to flow from those great improvements which shall provide for every apartment an independent ingress for fresh air, and an egress for vitiated air, which, though small, shall be in constant operation, and capable of regulation.
It is true, that such an arrangement may not be so perfect as machinery, furnaces, and showers of water may command, and that it may be somewhat deranged by the action of high winds; but it will not induce severe draughts, the great and almost insurmountable objection of the poor; and it will remove an enormous and most oppressive evil - an evil which not only enfeebles a vast proportion of our town population, especially the poor weavers, but which likewise induces much disease, and destruction of life. This is the result which society is most interested in bringing about.
VENTILATION OF PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
The only public buildings in Bethnal-green
are churches and schools; they present the most defective arrangements with
regard to warming and ventilating. Some of the churches have galleries near the
ceiling, with most defective arrangements for the egress of the vitiated air;
others, again, have no arrangements whatever, either for the admission of pure
air, or the egress of foul air. The occupants of the galleries necessarily
suffer, either from a highly vitiated atmosphere, or from violent currents of
cold air, when the windows behind them are [-71-] opened. In some churches the
arrangements for warming are conducted with the same perfect and profound
ignorance of the laws of heat, as of ventilation. (In one of them e.g. an
enormous open stove, like a cast-iron furnace, is situate in the middle of the
centre aisle. It broils those near by its radiating heat, while the strong
currents of air, required to feed it, chill those at a little distance.) This
state of things is the more to be regretted, as few places so readily admit of
improvements in ventilation as churches. No improvements, however, are to be
anticipated, till a qualified person shall point out the defective state of
churches as to ventilation, and shall require the execution of those
simple and effective alterations which are so greatly needed for the comfort and
health of the worshippers. It is to be remembered, that twenty-four gallons of
noxious fluid are given off from the lungs and skins of 1,000 persons during the
two hours that Divine Service occupies.
The ventilation and warming of the greater number of the schools in this parish are most defective, and urgently require efficient superintendence. The following remarks from Dr. Reid are so extremely apposite as to deserve introduction here:- If any buildings should be subjected to inspection, in reference to their arrangements for ventilation, school-rooms pre-eminently present themselves for consideration, not only from the powerful effect which ventilation must have upon the health of pupils, but also from the influence which the maintenance of a pure atmosphere, and from the example of the simple manner in which it may be sustained, must exert in disseminating widely throughout the whole community a practical knowledge of means that are equally applicable to the habitations of the higher classes and the dwellings of the poor. Whatever liberty be given to builders to construct, and to masters to employ workmen in, and to inhabitants to occupy, dwellings unfit to preserve and maintain health. It would be a most unpardonable neglect in any government preparing measures to preserve the health of the people, to omit some efficient means of controlling the ventilation of public buildings, more especially places of public worship, and instruction. When it is recollected that in churches, from their generally ill- contrived means of warming and ventilating, much disease is produced, and thousands have their coughs, and colds, and trifling illnesses converted into serious maladies, and sometimes fatal diseases, and that the general dread of the inconvenience likely to result from a two hours' exposure to agencies so dangerous and distressing as cold, and damp on the one hand, and a hot and foul air on the other, prevents numbers of weakly and indisposed persons from availing themselves of the benefits of public worship; and when, in addition, it is known that of all the sources of injury to the health of the young, none is more powerful than foul air, and that the chief cause of the excessive prevalence of scofula [-sic-] among children is to be found in the constant respiration of the same air; the exemption of such places of public resort from a just, and beneficent supervision, and control becomes almost criminal. It cannot be sufficiently impressed on authorities, teachers, and individuals, that in two hours, the period usually continuously devoted to divine service, and to education, more than four hogsheads of [-72-] pure air are required for each person, in order to convert 900 pints of blood into a state fit to sustain life, and that every individual is constantly pouring forth with his breath a poison, which, supposing he occupied a room ten feet square, that is containing 1000 cubic feet of air, would at the low estimate of sixteen respirations in a minute, produce death in twenty-four hours. But, when we find six and seven, and in some instances, eight or nine persons occupying a room six feet and a-half high, by nine feet and a-half broad, and deep, the ordinary size of the rooms in which the poor families of Bethnal-green live, and this space still further encroached upon by tables, chairs, beds, furniture, and litter, and the bodies of the occupants themselves, 500 cubic feet of air, alone, in the latter case, at the utmost, will be found to remain to supply the vital demands of the family, and hence, that sleep, occupying seven hours, will, with these persons, produce seventeen and a-half times as much poisonous gas as would, in the case of the single individual occupying a room ten feet square, have sufficed to produce death; what wonder then, that unhealthy bodies, and weak minds, stunted growth, impaired strength, scrofula, consumption, and other ills that flesh is not heir to, should devastate so miserable a population, so violently outraging the natural laws. And, yet, deploring such inevitable, but most common results, how can a government omit the subject of the ventilation of the present existing public buildings and schools, and submit, without a strong effort, its adult population during four or six hours a week, the period occupied in divine service, and also, an immense proportion of its young, for thirty hours a week, the average period occupied in the education of the young, to causes of disease the same, and nearly as powerful as those thus fearfully illustrated.
All the clergymen with whom I have spoken, and all teachers, and those interested in the education of the young, have universally manifested a great desire for enlightenment on the subjects of warming and ventilation, and no boon would be received by them with more thankfulness than an improvement on the present ignorant and pernicious system. In none of the churches, schools, or places of public resort in Bethnal-green, does it seem to be at all understood, that combustion produces foul air, for no attempts, except in St. Matthew's Church, and there only partially, are made to get rid of the products. This is not to be wondered at, for nowhere, almost in this parish, is it apparently known that a candle is as injurious as a human being in deteriorating the air, or that two fourteen-hole Argand burners consume as much air as eleven men.
The better to illustrate the necessity of supervision, to improve the sanitary condition of schools, those attached to St. Matthew s and St. James-the-Less may be selected. The St. Matthew schools, consist of the Charity, National, and Infant Schools, they were built in 1846, and consist of two large rooms, for scholastic purposes; there are other rooms, for other purposes. The building is situate in the north western corner of the church-yard, which is filled to repletion with corpses, the underground portion of the building consists of a central passage 49 feet long, and a side entrance. This passage is branched with seventeen brick vaults, or law cellars, which are used as catacombs, four of these are public cel-[-73-]lars, in these last I counted ninety-six coffins piled one on the other, like so many bales of goods. I could not ascertain the number of bodies deposited in the other vaults, one only of which was bricked up. There is a large aperture at the end of the passage, for the emission of air from this place, the aperture is right under, and close to, the back entrance to the school, as well as to a most abominably filthy privy used by the children. On endeavouring to examine the state of this place, I was overcome by the most distressing nausea I have ever experienced during my sanitary investigations; whether this nausea should be entirely attributed to the filthy cesspool, or was partly due to the escape of foul air from the catacombs, I did not stay to inquire. I presume, however, that it was chiefly attributable to the former cause. How the children can use, and remain in, such a place, is almost incomprehensible.
There is no supply of water whatever for the wants of the children, and the warming is accomplished by a common stove in the centre of the room, utterly insufficient to diffuse either an equable, or a sufficient heat; the children must therefore suffer greatly during winter from cold. The upper room is 75 feet long, by 32 and a-half broad, at the sides the walls are ten feet four inches nigh, but the roof being triangular, reaches in the centre a height of twenty-two feet six inches. Allowing nothing for the cross beams, desks, and raised platform, the bodies of the children, &c., this room contains 40037 cubic feet of air. It is occupied from nine a.m. till twelve noon, and from two till four p.m. by, on an average, 275 boys and the master. This number of persons, in the three hours of morning teaching, calculating eighteen inspirations to the minute, and twenty cubic inches of air to each respiration, generate 398 cubic feet of carbonic acid gas, or foul air, exactly one part in 100 of the whole contents of the room; consequently, unless there be some provision for the egress of the foul air, and the admission of pure air, the usual consequences arising from the respiration of a poisonous atmosphere, must be produced:-as wherever the proportion of carbonic acid gas is increased from scarcely one part in a thousand, the natural proportion of carbonic acid gas in the atmosphere, to one part in one hundred, its deleterious effects begin to be obviously manifested in man, by headache, languor, general oppression, and more or less stupor; these are the obvious and immediate effects. But, besides the foul air generated in the room itself, the children have the air they breathe still further contaminated by the hot and foul air which ascends by a staircase, from the lower school-room, and which will be presently spoken of: moreover, during the three hours of teaching, they have poured out from their lung d skins in the form of vapour, nearly fifty-two pints of noxious fluid; which noxious fluid is held in solution in the air, and still further defiles and contaminates it. Now the only means of ventilation, and of getting rid of this great amount of poisonous air, consist in opening the small windows on either side, and even this can scarcely be done except during the periods when the room is not used, but if the windows on the south side be opened, an atmosphere loaded with grave-yard emanations sweeps into the room, if on the north side, a nearly as bad result follows, for, but a short time since, a slaughter-house [-74-] where a great number of cattle were usually killed, is close bye, and though the slaughtering has ceased, still foul smells, and most offensive effluvia arise; it will not then, under these circumstances, be deemed a matter of surprise, that the children constantly suffer from headache and sickness, from languor and listlessness, that they doze and are inattentive, and that fainting and vomiting is a nearly daily occurrence. The master and pupils alike complain of the most distressing sensations, from this wholesale respiration of foul air, which they themselves term very offensive.
The lower room is forty-nine feet long, thirty-four and a-half broad, and eleven feet 4 inches high; it consequently contains 19.018 cubic feet of air: this space is encroached upon by a staircase, benches, the bodies of the children, &c. In this room, on an average, 135 girls are taught for the periods already specified. They and the mistress consequently generate 196 cubic feet of carbonic acid gas during the matinal hours; a quantity in the proportion of one part in every ninety- seven of the aerial contents of the room. A proportion sufficient to produce sensations and effects even more distressing and deleterious than those above referred to, but there is likewise poured out from the lungs and skins of the children during the same period, more than twenty-five pints of noxious fluid which is held in solution in the air they breathe.
Between the morning and afternoon hours the windows are generally opened to procure ventilation, but it has always been found that by four o'clock the sense of heat and oppression has become as marked as at noon, thus proving that a considerable quantity of foul air is present, when afternoon teaching begins.
The day school attached to the church of St. James-the-Less consists of the upper room of a cottage, built in 1843; the size of the room is 27 feet in length by 15 feet in breadth and 10 feet in height; from 70 to 120 children are there daily taught for the periods specified, supposing the average attendance to be 95; these 95 children, excluding the master, would require 3,568 cubic feet of perfectly pure air to be supplied to them during the three hours, but the room itself only contains 4,050 cubic feet of air, and during these three hours 137 cubic feet of carbonic acid gas are produced by respiration, or one part in twenty-nine and a fraction of the atmosphere of the room, and if the space occupied by the bodies of the children were deducted from the aerial contents of the room, the proportion would be still more frightful. Moreover, during the same three hours there are thrown out from the skins and lungs of the children nearly 18 pints of noxious fluid, which intermingles with and remains in solution in the air.
Although no complaints are made as to the general health of the children, yet when the attendance is great, it is stated by Mr. M'Rae, the Master, that the heat has been most oppressive, notwithstanding the whole of the four windows in the room were opened. As this oppressive heat is, in reality, not a sensation arising from simple elevation of temperature, but from the respiration of impure air, and the impossibility of excreting the carbonic acid gas which has been formed within the body, it is sufficient to indicate that foul air accumulates to such an [-75-] extent as to exert a depressing effect on the various organs of the body, and a most injurious influence upon the health of the young.
HOUSE CLEANSING BY DRAINAGE AND REMOVAL OF REFUSE, BY DRAINAGE.
"Among the evils which appear to operate with the
greatest severity on the condition of all, and especially on the labouring
classes, are those arising from the absence of a proper attention to drainage.
They prevail almost universally, to an extent altogether incompatible with the
maintenance of the public health." (Second Report Com. Health of Towns.)
House drainage is nearly entirely awanting in Bethnal-green; except in a very small number of cases, the houses, when they are provided with drains, drain only into cesspools; the number that drain into sewers is very small indeed. An immense number of the houses of the poorer sorts, and nearly all those in gardens, are unprovided with drains of any kind. The inhabitants, therefore, are compelled to get rid of their fluid refuse, by throwing it on the gardens, yards, or streets. Sometimes holes are dug in the gardens, or yards, to receive the refuse water. These holes are frequently closely adjacent to the wells whence the occupants derive their supply of water.
Three years ago, 1,000 yards of sewer were made from Pollard's-row to Shoreditch Church, yet not a dozen houses have formed any connexion with it. This fact sufficiently proves that it is necessary to make it compulsory on owners of houses to form drains in connexion with houses.
A great number of the courts and alleys are altogether unprovided with house-drains, or where they do exist, they are mere surface-drains, and are nearly always choked up, and thus become great nuisances. A great portion of the disease in the parish is to be found occurring in these filthy, undrained courts and alleys.
It is the more essential that house-drainage should be perfect, inasmuch as the houses and streets in this parish have generally been built without any regard to levels; when the streets and footpaths, therefore, are properly made and levelled, the houses are frequently placed below the level of the streets, and thus become excessively damp, Numbers of houses were observed to be so much below the level of the neighbouring streets, that the ground-floors greatly resembled under ground cellars, and were, really, and truly, in a state, both as regarded light and dryness, incompatible with healthy existence; and yet these are the houses which generally are altogether unprovided with house-drainage.
It is unnecessary to enter very fully into the economical arrangements of house drainage; these have been fully exemplified in the First Report of the Metropolitan Sanitary Commission. It may, however, be necessary, in order to prove the general want of house drainage, to advert to some of the facts with regard to the drainage under the late Sewer Commission: Mr. Beek, the surveyor, has stated that instances of 2,000 or 3,000 feet of sewerage have been carried out and not [-76-] half a dozen communications made; that the late commission was not in the habit of draining courts and alleys, but of introducing sewers in that situation; that such sewers were of half-a-brick, 3 feet 6 inches by 2 feet 3 inches in size; and that the expense of building it is under 6s. a-foot, but that he would estimate it at 7s. or 8s.
Alderman Musgrove has given evidence to the following effect, which, to ensure perspicuity and brevity, I have put in a tabular form.
TOWER HAMLETS COMMISSION OF SEWERS.
It thus appears that of every 100 feet of extension of
sewerage one person only was found to avail himself of the work, and throughout
the whole districts there was only one communication in every sixty-four and
a-half feet. When the nearly utter want of sewerage shall he exemplified, the
wretchedly defective state of the houses in Bethnal-green, as regards house
drainage, must be most obvious.
In consequence of the want of efficient sewerage, and of the drains, now in common use, passing through the property of various persons, it continually happens that the greatest difficulties arise in keeping them clean, however free the drain from a house maybe; if, at its extremity, or in its course, it is dilapidated, or blocked up, where, in another person's ground, it becomes a source of never ending annoyance, and expence, and a great nuisance. I have twice in the course of 6 years, been compelled, at considerable expense, to open through its whole extent and cleanse the private drain leading from my house, while the real cause of the obstruction was at a considerable distance, and in another person's property. Moreover, the like expense was lately entailed on my neighbour. Already, in New Tyssen St. 58, and Garden Place 59, District No. 4, are exemplified the evil results of such abominations as filthy and choked drains.
[-77-] A further illustration of these evils is afforded in the fact, that of four houses in Elizabeth Street, Hackney Road, namely, No. 5. 6. 7. and 8. three have a drain under the floor, constantly emitting the most offensive smells, and that the bad results which thence arise might be avoided if the landlord of the corner house would permit a drain to be carried across his back premises ;-whereas he will not allow one already existing. belonging to No. 9, to be cleansed out. My informant states he is prepared to prove, that the families occupying these houses are far from well, that one, in particular, has frequently been visited with fevers, and illness, during the last six years, and that the mother and eldest child, have died in consequence; that the smells were so intolerable that the doors and windows required to be frequently opened, and that the walls are soaked with the damp from the drains, to the height of several feet; the children slept in the ground room. At No. 8 two of one of the families living there, have been laid up for months with ague and fever; and I have constantly observed in some of the houses close by, in the main road, renting at 40l. a year, effluvia dangerous to the health, arising from foul drains.
Some powers, then, to prevent private drains, through no fault of the occupiers, becoming pestilential nuisances are obviously required, and must farm a part of any efficient Sanitary Bill.
BY REMOVAL OF REFUSE.
"Filth and the absence of facilities
for its removal depress the energies and engender disease and death. "The
great moral results consequent upon an increase in the means of cleanliness,
have not yet received the attention which their importance merits; the domestic
comfort of a poor man's abode, and his own self-respect, are mainly dependent
upon this. (Second Rep. Com. Health of Towns.)
The importance of a ready and efficient means to get rid of the more solid refuse from houses is second only to efficient sewerage and drainage. No per. son accustomed to the common decencies of civilisation, can have any conception of the amount of filth usually in, and surrounding the poor man's dwelling, unless indeed he has gone into their houses and inspected their small and dirty yards. The exterior appearances of the streets, inhabited by the poor, may, perchance, through the operation of paving and scavenging appear tolerably cleanly, but in scarcely any instance, when the houses themselves are visited, and the yards inspected, are not collections of all kinds of refuse, garbage, ashes, dirt, decomposing cabbage leaves, and other offensive vegetable remains, oftentimes dung, and sometimes putrescent animal remains, to be found either abundantly distributed over the surface of the dirty yard, or piled into a heap in a corner., In either case the heap is exposed to the action of the rain which soaks into it, hastens decomposition, dissolves the putrescent, foetid matter, washes it over the surface of the yard, and causes it to form an intimate union with the soil. Truly does such a soil sow the seeds of disease and death, every rain which falls augments the quantity and power of the poison, every sun that [-78-] shines raises a vapour charged with deadly poison. It is the general practice to condemn the poor for the filthy state of their dwellings, in sweeping accusations that, "the poor are naturally dirty;" that, "they love dirt," and would not, if they could, be clean. Before replying to these accusations, let us ascertain what means the poor possess to get rid of their solid refuse. The parish contracts with a dust-man, from whom at present it receive 60l. per annum, to remove from the houses (excluding private property) all collections of ashes; the contractor is nominally bound to go into the back yards of the houses, and remove thence the collection, he is likewise bound to remove all refuse, in the general use of the word, dust heaps, or rather heaps of ashes. The times at which the contractor's cart goes round is not certain, no provision, therefore, can he made to have the refuse in readiness for him. In name, he is bound on complaint to remove collections of ashes, &e., but in practice it is not so. Practically, therefore, the dust and garbage heaps of the poor must either remain on their premises, or they must themselves remove them. But they can only remove them from the yards to the streets: there then the refuse is deposited to rot and to putrify, and mingle with the dust and mud, and to be scattered on the pavement, and to defile the passengers. The filthy streets remain uncleansed till their foulness startles the eye of the scavenging department. During all this period, whether the refuse be on the premises, where it is continually accumulating, or on the streets, it is giving off vapours loaded with unhealthy emanations. Wherever I went, I found the most loud and bitter complaints against the dust contractor, for the filthy state in which the inhabitants were compelled to remain, in consequence of his never, or very rarely, removing their dust heaps. These complaints in many places assumed the tone of the deepest indignation, and evidently arose from an earnest conviction of a great outrage being committed upon them, and of a cruel negligence or indifference to their wants and necessities, actuating the authorities. "The people never die here, they are murdered by the fever," was the exclamation of one inhabitant in Half Nichol-street. I could not deny the assertion; the state of the back yards, and the state of the street, were enough to breed and nourish, and mature a pestilence. Truly, indeed, are such convictions at the bottom of much discontent, truly do they endanger the fabric of society, and the danger is the greater, as the convictions are founded on truth and bitter experience. It is impossible but that habits of cleanliness, decency and self-respect, must be sacrificed by the condition of things which at present exists with regard to house cleansing by drainage, and the removal of refuse. It is impossible but that discontent, and disputes should arise, and that working-men, finding their homes made wretched and uncomfortable, and surrounded with nuisances, should leave them for the public-house, there to learn, and soon to indulge in, habits of intemperance, which indulgence soon leads to vicious propensities which, in their turn, give rise to a large class of crimes. It is perfectly true, that, on analysis, numbers of crimes are clearly traceable to the low state of physical comforts of the poor, to the filth which surrounds their dwellings, and to the absence of facilities for its [-79-] removal; these agencies depress the energies, and lead to intemperance through the desire to impart false strength to a debilitated physical and nervous system, to a disregard to all moral and social ties, to disease and premature decay. From my personal investigations into the state of the dwellings of the poor, I am more and more convinced that the sum of wretchedness, of misery, of destitution, of slow corroding care, of wasting disease, and early death, which they endure through a neglect of cleanliness - a neglect cruelly attributed to them, but which might be thrown back as a bitter taunt to those who really cause it, namely the middle and upper classes, - forms a most serious charge for which these last are answerable to Him who placed them in their various positions in society. As a people we deserve to be visited with pestilence, it we longer neglect the great social duties which we owe to the poorer classes congregated in our towns.
PRIVIES AND CESSPOOLS.
"The deficient number of privies in
the poorer quarters of towns, and the large number of inhabitants resorting to
them, deprives them of any right to be considered private, and render it
absolutely necessary for the safety of the public health, that some alteration
should be made in the law regarding them."- (Second Rep. Com. Health of
It is scarcely possible to conceive the utter degradation of the human mind which permits it, at least, to tolerate the disgusting offensiveness of these abominable nuisances, which exist in the form of common privies, in the poorer neighbourhoods. One open necessary for numerous families, and for 20, 30, or 50 persons, is surely most objectionable, but it is quite a common occurrence. It is true that Bethnal-green is not so bad as Sunderland, where there is only one necessary for every 76 persons, but there is a vast amount of moral degradation entailed upon the inhabitants by their being compelled to make use of such a scanty number of such filthy receptacles.
In the preceding tables the condition of the privies, so far as I could learn, was given, but it must by no means be inferred that those places which have not p.f. attached to them do not deserve the characteristic letters. This is the only part of the table which is incomplete.
The generality of the privies in this parish are full, and most offensive, great numbers are overflowing. The cesspools attached are, in the majority of instances, in no better condition. Many of the privies are wooden sheds erected over holes from which a surface hollow conducts off the fluid refuse to some other part of the ground. Many are most dilapidated, and some are dangerous to make use of. In numerous instances the soil has infiltrated the walls, percolated through them, and spread itself over the surface of the neighbouring yard; the soil has likewise percolated through the walls, and into the houses, and in some instances, the floors have been saturated, and have been rendered very quagmires of filth; the flooring, in such cases, has become rotten. In numerous instances, the inhabitants have piled either in their yards, or in their houses, or [-80-] in the alleys fronting the houses, collections of dust and cinders, to conceal from the eye the soil which has oozed from the neighbouring privies or cesspools.
The soil from the privies and cesspools is very rarely removed, it is an expensive process, and its occurrence is reckoned on as a disgusting event, necessary to be postponed as long as possible. The landlords of the poorer tenements very rarely indeed remove the contents of the cesspools or privies, and often neglect to do so, till compelled by the devastations which the exhalations from the soil produce, in the form of fever, and alarmed lest their property should get a bad name, and be thus rendered untenantable. The poor, left to rot in their filth, sometimes attempt to rid themselves of this nuisance, and fancy they effect it by burying the soil in their yards. Not unfrequently it happens that the supply of water to such houses is by a well in these yards; the water necessarily becomes tainted, and a slow or active poison according to the amount of soil which has percolated into it; the poor inhabitants who have gardens near or attached to their dwellings, generally manure the ground with the soil from their privies. Not only do the poor find the removal of night soil an expensive process but even those inhabiting the better class of houses and public institutions are known to remove the soil from their privies and bury it in their gardens. Often this burying consists in merely sprinkling earth over the surface of the soil so as to conceal it from sight. In some parts of the parish the privies of whole rows of houses drain into black ditches, and thus render these ditches horrible nuisances; the effects of such modes of dealing with animal refuse are daily exemplifted, - head-ache, indigestion, nausea, loss of appetite, debility, pallor, wasting, diarrhoea, dysentery, cholera, fever and zymotic diseases, in a malignant form, are the every day consequences, and whenever an epidemic attacks a place, those localities, where such abominations exist, suffer the most; the influenza in Bethnal-green has chiefly exhausted its virulence in prostrating and destroying the unfortunate inhabitants of such filthy abodes. While there has been little increase in the usual mortality in the healthy, and clean streets, the mortality has been quintupled in the unhealthy and dirty streets. These dwellings are indeed reservoirs of pestilence, that only require the match to be applied to cause enormous destruction of life. In some places, as in Shacklewell-street, food cannot be retained a single night without becoming tainted, and leather rapidly becomes covered with green mould.
The disgusting and abominable state of the open and common privies, proves a source of much disease and domestic discomfort in another way; women and children find these places so repulsive that they avoid them, and retain, in their ill-ventilated rooms, their refuse; the utensils are seldom emptied on account of the trouble thereby occasioned; the air of the rooms, therefore, becomes most offensive, and deleterious, and the walls absorb the emanations, and render the abode permanently unhealthy.
The nearly total want of efficient house drainage, and the general absence of sewers, necessitate, to some extent, the present state of things. This is proved by the fact that in the new buildings in Hackney-road, duly provided with [-81-] house drainage, water closets are attached. Probably there are more water- closets to these few houses than in all the 13,000 houses in the parish. Certainly there are not fifty water-closets for the 82,000 inhabitants.
The present customary method of emptying cesspools and privies by hand labour, and removing the soil by cartage, is excessively offensive, and occasionally the cause of serious accidents. The expense, moreover of the removal of the soil in this way, acts as an insurmountable obstacle to the riddance of this pestilential refuse from the dwellings of the poor. When it is considered that the usual cost of cleansing cesspools in London, is 1l. each time, and that the rents of the dwellings of the poor range from 1s. to 3s. 6d. and 5s. a week., it it can readily be understood, that the poor cannot cleanse their cesspools and privies, and that the landlords consider the expense very oppressive, and consequently neglect the operation. In the evidence of Mr. Beek before the metropolitan Sanitary Commission some contradictory evidence is given, to the effect that the expense of emptying the cess-pools of common tenements varies, probably, from 7s. to 10s.; but that if the man who does the work is allowed to come to the house and charge, he will charge perhaps four or five times that amount. He states, likewise, the average cost of cleansing to amount to 15s. but that that is not allowing the nightman to use his own discretion about it. It is, therefore, clear that the average as stated by the nightmen themselves, of £1 is more near the truth. But besides the expense, the offensiveness of the operation causes the process to be much neglected. Science, certainly, has made rapid progress in presenting us with chloride of manganese. A waste product of the manufacture of chlorine; procured in very large quantities (probably 160 tons a day,) and at present applied to no useful process, and consequently very cheap. This agent almost immediately destroys the disgusting odour of night soil and other animal substances in a state of putrecence, [-sic-] even when used in very small quantities, such as a pint to about a ton, in winter; and would consequently remove two difficulties in the way of riddance of the soil by the process of hand labour and cartage, namely: the offensiveness and the danger. But when conjoined with the new method of flushing and cleansing cesspools by means of the common fire engine and hose, the remaining difficulty, namely-the expense is surmounted, the expense is only one-sixth that of the old process.
The surfaces of the streets, and their proper inclinations for the speedy removal of surface water, are sadly neglected in many parts of this parish. Many of the streets are in the worst condition possible, without any pavement, or harder substance for their protection, than what the natural soil affords. In this condition, they have long remained, with gradually increasing inequalities on the surface, which form basins, not only for the reception of the rain and refuse water, but for the refuse from the adjoining houses which the occupants invariably distribute on the streets. Pleasant-row in the Green district, affords [-82-] an example of the ne plus ultra of street abomination. Within the last 10 years the greatest change has taken place in many of the streets of Bethnal Green places which were formerly in a state indicating the most disgraceful neglect, and characteristic of the most primitive barbarism, have been paved and converted, so far as paving without efficient drainage can convert such places, into comparatively clean and pleasant roadways. It is now possible to pass along the chief roadways without unusual personal uncleanness, but nearly all the byeways are still deplorably filthy. With about two or three exceptions, all the courts of this parish are unpaved.
"The effect which a due attention to
this important branch of the good government of towns may produce on the
physical condition of a population is second only to sewerage." -Dr. Arnott.
There are sixty Commissioners appointed to superintend the paving, lighting, cleansing, and improving the parish. The facts with regard to the cleansing afford satisfactory proof, either that the commissioners cannot sufficiently cleanse the parish, that they will not, or know not how to do the work.
Undoubtedly they deserve commendation for the efforts they have made to pave the streets, and for the great improvements which they have effected during the last ten years; much, however, still remains for them to do.
But the shamefully negligent way in which they superintend the cleansing of the parish, sadly derogates from the praise due to them for their paving efforts. On account of the high charge of the contractors for cleansing the parish, the commissioners have taken that work into their own hands, and appointed their own paid agent to perform the work. The work consists in cleansing thirty-three miles of streets, and nearly one hundred miles of byeway. It is executed by thirteen decrepid old men, nine horses, and five carts, at an expense of nearly 800l. (it is true that about two miles or two miles and a-half of roadway are under the metropolitan commission. This part is the cleanest and best attended to in the parish.) This exposition of the means adapted to the end sought to be accomplished, is sufficient clearly to point out the utter impossibility of preserving any thing like cleanliness, especially among a people who make the streets the common reservoir and receptacle for refuse of every kind, and where the cry of "Gardez l'eau", of the olden times should be momentarily uttered. It is calculated that 1000 yards form the amount which can be effectually swept by an able-bodied scavenger in one day, now as there are thirty- three miles of streets, and 100 miles of byeways in the parish which require sweeping, they must contain 1,168,640 superficial square yards; on the assumption that none of the streets are wider than twenty-four feet, and none of the byeways wider than twelve feet ;- it follows that, with the whole thirteen scavengers employed by the parish, supposing them to be all able bodied, and all employed in scavenging, (they have the care of five carts and nine horses [-83-] besides) according to this estimate of a man's labour, all the streets and byeways cannot be more effectively gone over than once in ninety days, including Sundays:-
In cleansing the streets, it is the practice to shovel the mud on the streets, into heaps by the roadside; these heaps frequently remain several days before the cart comes round to receive them. in the meantime they have been broken up and much of the mud redistributed over the road by passing vehicles. A considerable quantity of mud therefore is never removed from the streets. Another mode of cleansing the streets consists in brushing the fluid mud and filth from the centre of the roadway, into the gutters, and upon the paved footpath. From the nearly total absence of efficient drainage, this fluid mud remains in this position till again spread over the surface of the streets by traffic, or partly washed away by the accidental agency of heavy showers. I have also seen the muddy refuse on the streets swept to the centre of the street, but I have never seen the mud thus heaped up removed. The operation of sweeping or brushing the streets is performed in a careful manner, so as to leave the prominent parts of the stones or surface bare, but to fill up every hollow and rut with the fluid, foetid slime. The first shower of rain renders such streets as filthy and dirty as ever. The streets which are regularly cleansed twice a week (the greatest amount of cleanliness thought necessary) are Bethnal-green-road, Brick-lane, Hare-street, and John-street. The other streets are cleansed once a fortnight, "or as soon as they become dirty." The courts and alleys in this parish may, with great truth, be said to be never cleansed. In two or three instances, where there is a good water-supply and paving, the courts are, through the indefatigable exertions of the occupants, tolerably clean; but, with these exceptions, the abominably filthy state of the courts and alleys can scarcely be surpassed. The observation of the Health of Towns Commissioners peculiarly well applies to this district:- It might have been expected, they say, " that the power with which the local authorities are invariably invested by their Local Acts had been exercised freely, as the best compensation that could be made for deficiencies in other respects. The fact is exactly the reverse of what it ought to be."
The Commissioners of Cleansing seem to be unaware of the economical, as well as the other, advantages which an efficient system of scavenging produces to a community. It has been proved most satisfactorily that the daily cleansing of a large city - of its innermost courts and closes - is not unattainable on account of pecuniary expense; and that the charge upon the public amounts to about 2,000l. a year; and this principle is well established, that all parts of a town require cleansing every day, and the portions inhabited by the poor more frequently than those occupied by the rich.
For a few additional hundreds of pounds annually the parish could be effectually cleansed, and kept clean, in all its streets, alleys, and courts, every day.
Bethnal-green has thirty-three miles of
streets, and at least 100 miles of byeways, not including the length of courts
and alleys, which require drainage.
The whole length of sewers which is laid down in this parish amounts to less than seven miles and three quarters (13,565 yards), of which one mile and a half and sixty yards skirt the north and south of the parish, and are as much in the adjoining parishes as in Bethnal-green. A very considerable part of this limited extent of sewerage has been recently constructed by the Woods and Forests, close by the Victoria Park, at present this extension of the sewage does not communicate with a single house. Bethnal-green-road, the main road in the parish, has no sewer (with the exception of two small patches) for 1,600 yards. Hackney-road, another main road, has no sewer for 390 yards. Cambridge-road, including Bethnal-green and the Dog-row, the next and most important road, has no sewer for 800 yards. Brick-lane, densely populated, and where there is much traffic, has no sewer for 770 yards, and would require 450 more out of the parish to communicate with the main sewer. If such be the condition of the main streets, where, hitherto, sewers have almost exclusively been laid down, it will readily be believed that the bye-ways are utterly neglected. The filthy, abominable state of the streets, courts, and alleys in Bethnal-green, is readily accounted for when the above facts are considered. The prefixed MAP of the SEWERS has been copied from that of the late Tower Hamlets commission, published in 1843, and all the additional sewerage which has been completed up to the present time has been kindly inserted for me, by Mr. Bainbridge, the surveyor of the parish. A glance at this map will demonstrate the dreadful and deplorable want of sewage, especially in the densely crowded Town district, and will explain, to a great extent, the lamentable state of the parish, as to uncleanness, sickness and mortality.
In the First Report of the Metropolitan Sanitary Commission is to be found such a mass of conclusive evidence as to the waste, ignorance, indifference, and neglect of the late Tower Hamlets Commission of Sewers, as must appal even the stoutest friend of the late Commissioners. Their doings are now matters of history, but the results of their conduct are to be found in the misery and wretchedness of thousands, and in the poor-rates at 1s. 6d. in the pound, or 30 per cent, per annum. It is possible to submit, for a short time, to the present state of things, because the new Commissioners are pledged by the history of their lives, by their reputation, and by their position and power, to ameliorate the frightful and deplorable results brought about by former ignorance, waste, and neglect. The inhabitants patiently, but most anxiously, await the change. It is of importance, however, that it should be known that the only method used by the late commission to cleanse their sewers, was to open them and remove the deposit by cartage, this they did at an annual expense of from five to six hundred pounds a year. They had sixteen outlets into the Thames, but for seven hours in every twelve, the sewers are shut up, and are mere reservoirs of filth. It is stated in the Report of the health of London Association on the Sanitary condition of the Metropolis, that "in the district of the Tower Hamlets Com-[-85-]mission of Sewers, there were, within the last few months upwards of 10,000 feet of open sewers, many of which were in the crowded neighbourhood of Mile- end, New-town, and Bethnal-green, and the last printed report of the Commission demonstrates, in addition to the ignorance and negligence of the Commission, as to the works executed by them, a most wasteful and extravagant expenditure in the working of the commission: for, - whereas the rate-payers had the benefit of ill-constructed, costly, and inefficient sewers bestowed on them at an expense of £7864 10s. 4d., they had £3152 5s. 4d., charged to them for working the commission. That is to say, for every £100 contributed by the rate-payers, to these irresponsible gentlemen, £28 12s. 0d. was spent in ascertaining how the other £71 6s. should be expended.
Interments in this parish take place to a great extent, in
the crowded graveyards of Shoreditch Church (which is partly in this parish), of
St. Matthew, and of Gibraltar Chapel, and in the Jews' burying-ground. There are
no great number of interments in either of the cemeteries in the Green District.
In Shoreditch and in St. Matthew's the ground has been very considerably raised
by the numerous bodies which have been interred. I regret to state, that at no
very great distance of time it was the practice to burn the coffins in one of
the church-yards; it would be needless to inquire what became of the corpses. It
would be greatly to the credit and advantage of the Christians, if they would
follow the practice of the Hebrews, who never, upon any account, reopen a
grave, or inter more than one in it. They bury at a depth of four feet below the
surface, and when the ground has been fully occupied, they cover the whole
surface with a fresh layer of earth, to a height of four feet, in which they
again bury as before. This process has been twice followed in the Jews' burying-
ground, so that three persons are interred in every 21 feet (3 feet by 7 feet),
at a depth of 4, 8, and 12 feet below the surface. This practice is to be
preferred to sinking a deep grave, as is the custom in some grave-yards, burying
in it, filling it up a few feet, and leaving the grave open for the next
occupant, when the same process is carried on, till the last coffin reaches a
few feet sometimes a few inches from the surface.
The practice of the Hebrews proves that interment in towns is not necessarily accompanied with desecration of the dead. It is the practice in St. Matthew's to bury in vaults, in the church, and as lately as last week a body was thus deposited. This practice is most abominable and reprehensible, and imperiously demands immediate abatement, as an offensive, dangerous, and disgusting nuisance. The smells and exhalations from a dead body are quite as offensive, and deleterious, as those from a dead ox or horse. Yet vaults, and grave-yards are less thought of than knackers'-yards, and slaughter-houses, which probably will be removed long before attention shall be bestowed on the evil effects which arise from neglecting to provide appropriate places for the decomposition of the remains of the human species. Proh pudor.
It is earnestly desired that the whole subject of' interment in towns should receive the early attention of Parliament, and that the practice should be abolished.
It is exceedingly curious, and not a little indicative of the very slight progress which has been made during the last half century, in the practical and scientific means of averting disease and improving the health of communities, that in the First Report of the Board of Health, dated 30th April, 1845, entitled "An Outline of a Plan to Prevent the Spreading of the Plague, or other Contagious Diseases, &c." Page 11, it is stated that "It becomes a Duty of the Magistrates likewise to appoint Burial-grounds," and "the bodies ought to he deposited at a depth of not less than six feet below the surface." Whereas, under Lord Morpeth's present Health of Towns' Bill, a depth of thirty inches has been considered sufficient to prevent the escape of the pestilential gases which arise from the putrefaction of the bodies of the human species. This retrograde movement is of the most discreditable kind, and betokens either the greatest indifference to the facts which have been so long prominently before the public, with regard to the horrid and pestilential state of the intramural burial grounds, or the greatest subservience to existing interests.
The nuisances arising from foul streets,
filthy privies and cesspools, and collections of garbage, &c., in the
dwellings of the poor have already been adverted to. The nuisances which are
most prominent in the parish are, the nightmen's yards in Digby-street, in
Turk-street, Tyssen-street, and by the canal, near Ann's- place. These
abominable and disgraceful nuisances have been described. The other nuisances
are smaller dustmen's yards in James-street, and some other parts of the parish,
the filthy, pestilential lake in Lamb's-fields; the filthy pond, called
Wellington-pond, behind St. Peter's Church; the large lake behind Ann's- place;
the black ditches parallel with arch 89 of the railway, and behind Ion-square,
and covering the low grounds opposite the canal, close by Chapman's-
gardens-vacant spaces where refuse, garbage, and filth of all kinds are
deposited such as the triangular hollow at the foot of Mape Street; the large
undrained vacant space opposite Crabtree-row, covering an area of at least five
acres, and formed by the erasement of a vast number of the most vile and
abominable of wretched dwellings, greatly below the level of the surrounding
neighbourhood, a marsh, in wet weather, and a resort for all the idle, the
abandoned, and the vagabonds of the neighbourhood, the vacant space opposite
Teale Street, and the passage beneath the archway near the railway terminus,
&c., all these have been described in the preceding sketches. The
occupations which give rise to nuisances are Ragmens yards, such as those in
Bethnal Green-road, Contractor's yards, as in Rook's Place, Dairies, such as
those in Cambridge Road, and in Strout-place, which is greatly complained of,
and in numerous other places; pig styes which abound everywhere, and collections
of dung and manure such as those in Pleasant-Place, and in Thomas-place;
slaughterhouses which are scattered all over the parish, and most abound in the
most densely populated districts. The slaughter-house in Mount-square, has been
shown to have been exceedingly deleterious to health. Besides these, there are
[-88-] many other offensive and noxious occupations carried on, such as the
preparing, in different ways, and for various purposes of the intestines of
animals ; the boiling of tripe, and the preparation of cats meat, the
melting of tallow, especially the remelting of the " dabs," &c.
The most injurious occupations to the workmen which are carried on are a Lead Manufactory in Hollybush Gardens, and Lucifer Match making. I have no particulars of the true amount of disease produced by the former, but am aware of numerous cases of disease arising from the latter, which shall be elsewhere taken notice of.
It is absolutely incumbent on the commissioners for cleansing and improving the parish, if the wish to retain the confidence and respect of the inhabitants, that they should at once proceed to remove nearly all the forementioned nuisances, through the powers conferred upon them by Lord Morpeth's act 9 & 10, vic. It is likewise incumbent on government to regulate both the situation and the manner of conducting those industrial pursuits which are found to be deleterious to the health and lives of the workmen.
The quantity of water supplied by the East London Water
Company is in general good, but in wet weather the water is highly coloured,
deposits much sediment, and becomes hard. The supply is, as usual, thrice
weekly, and for two hours at a time, and at low pressure; the great majority of
the houses are supplied with water, but, in an immense number of instances, the
water is not laid on to the houses, but is supplied by a stand pipe in the yard.
Frequently there is a stand pipe in the street, or alley. Sometimes, there is a
stand pipe to two houses, but it is much more common to find a stand pipe
supplying every three or four houses. In the courts, and alleys, and gardens
there is, generally only one stand pipe to every 8, 12, 20, or even 30 houses.
To many houses there is no water supply whatever, and the inhabitants require to
beg it, or procure it as they best can.
The receptacles to receive the water in the better houses, are generally butts. There are very few proper cisterns. With the poor, tubs, pails, earthen jugs &c., supply the place of cisterns. A very large proportion of the poorer tenements, those, namely, where there is only one stand pipe to many houses, have no receptacles of any kind, and the inhabitants preserve water in small jugs, open pitchers or wooden vessels, in their houses, or rooms. Thorold-square, and the Crescent, Hackney Road, have pumps and sunk tanks communicating with the main. The inhabitants, therefore, have a constant supply, but in a very inconvenient mode. I found three open wooden cisterns common to many houses, the one contained the remains of fish, in a putrescent state; the wood of the second was rotten, covered with green, slimy mould, and the surface of the water iridescent from the scum floating on it; the third was an open kind of horse trough adjacent to a privy. In some instances, as in George Gardens, the barrels to receive and preserve the water are sunk in the ground. by which means the water is preserved from the deposition of dust, dirt, and ashes, &c., floating in the air, and is kept [-89-] coo1, but it is nearly impossible to cleanse such receptacles; and yet we have it on the authority of the Engineer to the East London. and to the Kent and Vauxhall Water Works Companies that unless the butts are cleansed once a fortnight it is impossible to preserve the water in a state of purity. In only two instances among the poorer tenements, namely in Hammonds Gardens, and in Grove-row did I find efficient butts properly situated and adapted as cisterns.
The consequences which result to the community from water being supplied to them of bad quality, are, firstly, its hardness, producing an extreme waste of soap; (the degree of hardness of the water supplied to London entails a needless expenditure of 300,000l. in soap, of which ,sum Bethnal Green bears its proportion). secondly its had quality, creating and fostering a desire for more pleasant beverages, and thus leading to the pernicious habit of beer and spirit drinking. In Edinburgh where the water is very pure in quality, the use of beer is comparatively unknown. Unquestionably, the impurity of the water supplied to London is a very important item in the causes which produce intemperance.
The consequences of an intermittant supply of water, are, firstly, the necessity for receptacles to receive the water, and preserve a sufficiency till the next supply. This entails a very considerable expense upon the inhabitants. The cost of receptacles to London is calculated at 2,000,000l. which is certainly below the truth, Bethnal Green shares in this waste. Secondly, in the receptacles themselves deteriorating the quality of the water. The reservoirs are in very few instances efficient. Firstly, they are generally improperly placed, so that the sun's rays heat all day upon them, and thus render the water hot, and prone to putrefaction. from the vegetable matter usually held in suspension or solution. Secondly, they are, frequently, from the same cause, cleansed with great difficulty; where they are buried in the earth they can scarcely be cleansed at all :-Thirdly, the receptacles themselves are frequently rotten, and thus impart an offensive quality to the water, and hasten the decomposition of the vegetable matter in it :-Fourthly, they are generally open at the top and consequently readily receive and have deposited in them, the impurities in the atmosphere, the dust, dirt, ashes constantly floating in the air of such neighbourhoods, besides the foul matters which may be thrown into them, such as vegetable and animal remains of all kinds ;-Fifthly, from their usual proximity to the privy, (they are generally placed under one and the same roof) absorption of the poisonous exhalations which arise from the decomposition of the soil takes place, still further rendering the water unwholesome. This is an exceedingly common occurrence, I would almost say universal. When the water is taken in doors, which it necessarily is in in all those very numerous cases where there is a common stand pipe and no receptacle, the case is still worse. Firstly, the water is exposed to a high temperature, and is thus rendered prone to decomposition ;-Secondly, it is preserved uncovered, and thus absorbs the foul, and almost pestilential gases, and exhalations which are mixed with, or suspended in the air of the close ill-ventilated rooms of the poor.
An intermittent supply, more especially as is the case in the poorer neighbourhoods where there are no receptacles to preserve it, till next supply day, neces-[-90-]sarily curtails the quantity of water, renders it scarce, and important carefully to preserve the amount that is on hand. Water thus becomes stored and preserved, is niggardly applied to the common purposes of life. Firstly, it limits, and in same cases prevents house cleanliness;-secondly, it discourages personal cleanliness; water is not thrown away as useless until it has been defiled beyond using, and until it can no longer cleanse; thirdly, it prevents food being properly washed before cooking, and limits the quantity used in cooking; fourthly, it prevents the clothes being properly washed, and necessitates the same water being used repeatedly, even although foul.
The intermittent supply by stand-pipes, when there are no receptacles to receive the water, acts as a barrier to domestic and house cleansing. Firstly by entailing on the inhabitants the necessity of being present when the supply comes on, otherwise, they must lose their supply of water for two days. This necessity constantly arising, interferes seriously with the arrangements of the poor. Secondly, when there is a receptacle, the man or woman tired and overcome with the days labour dislikes, and regards as an intolerable burden, to he compelled to go to a distance, or out of doors to fetch water, it may be in the wet, or in the snow.
The supply of water, at low pressure, is likewise productive of numerous evils. Firstly, it entails upon the rich, the expense of force-pumps, if they wish water carried up to the upper floors of their houses. Secondly, it entails on the rich, who have not force pumps, and on the poor, who live on the second, third, and fourth floors of houses, the necessity of carrying up all the pure water they require, and of carrying down again all their refuse water. This heavy labour falls most oppressively on the poor, and is a grievous burden. Women and children generally suffer most. Oftentimes, the poor mother is compelled to carry a child in her arms, while she descends and ascends several flights of stairs, to procure water. When the labour is transferred to children, it often tasks their capabilities beyond their physical powers. In one instance which lately came to my knowledge, a child died from this very cause, and while in the act of carrying the burden up stairs.
The laborious task of obtaining water in this way, leads the poor to preserve their water in tubs in their rooms, and as their rooms are very small, these tubs, to be out of the way, are generally thrust below the bed, and consequently expose the water in them to certain very deleterious exhalations. Not long ago, a child, on being left by its mother in bed, was found by her, on her return, drowned in the water-tub, which had been only partly thrust below the bed.
The stand-pipes are seldom supplied with taps. When the water comes on, therefore, the water continues to flow until turned off from the main. When the courts are paved, of Which I know two or three instances, this flow of water may be advantageous, as it effectually cleanses the court, and scours the drain, (when there is one,)-but, where, as in nearly all the courts, gardens and alleys, there is no paving, and the ground is altogether undefended, and where [-91-] there is inefficient drainage, the flow of water becomes a great nuisance by rendering the footpaths muddy, or even quagmires, by inundating the neighbourhood, and by rendering the houses that are placed on a low level, either very damp, or positively uninhabitable.
In consequence of quarrels between the landlords of small houses, and the water company, I found numerous houses without any supply of water whatever. Shacklewell-street, for instance. The inhabitants therefore were abruptly deprived of one of the necessaries of life, from no fault of their own. They were at once plunged into great distress through causes over which they had no control, and which they were quite incompetent to remedy. The water company in cutting off the supply of water, did not punish the landlord, but the unoffending poor.
It is unnecessary here to advert to the increased security from fire, which a constant supply of water at high pressure would afford. It is necessary however to observe, that the price at which water is supplied, on the present highly objectionable plan, is excessively high, and that water, forming one of the main necessaries of life, being more important even than food, should be provided by the public, to the public; on the most economical terms possible, and that no principle of justice can countenance the exorbitant prices now charged for water, defective in quality, deficient in quantity, intermittent in supply, and at low pressure, when it has been abundantly proved, that a sufficient supply of pure water at a very cheap rate can readily be obtained.
The supply of water by wells is inconsiderable, still a much larger number of houses are supplied by wells, than would readily be supposed. This mode of supply, in the majority of instances, is most objectionable, inasmuch as the well derives its supply of water from fluid, which has percolated through a soil, covered, and sometimes saturated, with refuse and decomposing matter, often intimately mixed up with dung and night soil. Generally the privies and cesspools are within a few feet from such wells. In scarcely any instances are the wells sunk deep enough to get rid of surface drainage, and superficial springs. In Whisker's-gardens, some of the worst examples of such wells are to be found. There are, however two or three deep wells in the parish, which furnish a plentiful supply of good water.
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