London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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City of London 1920

Report, Medical Officer of Health, on rat repression in the City 1920

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(9) THE RIDDANCE OF PREMISES OF RATS.—It is obvious from what has
already been stated that any immediate attempt to bring all premises in the City up to
an ideal standard would be impossible. As it is, occupiers will be involved in
considerable expense, and I must confess that I find it, difficult to set out a uniform
course of procedure. Each case will require to be dealt with on its merits, and it will
be necessary for the district to be divided into areas and each to be under the charge of
an inspector, in order that satisfactory progress may result.
In addition to improvements in the matter of requiring buildings to be rat-proof,
other means are available, many of which are worthy of application. The particular
circumstances of each premises will determine the most suitable method to employ.
(10) TRAPPIN.G.—Various forms of traps are on the market and are more or less
useful. The best of these is the simple " break-back" trap, in which a spring is
released when the bait is gnawed and the rat killed by violence. Wire rat-traps seem
of very little use. Another useful device is the barrel trap. The structure of this trap
is as follows : a barrel is taken and into it are run a few inches of water. A brick
standing on its end is then placed so that some three or four inches of it stand above
the water. The barrel is covered with a drum-head of brown paper. For several
nights bait is placed on the middle of this paper. On this the rats feed. When
confidence has been gained, the central portion of the paper is cut through in the form
of a cross, leaving only a very feeble connection in the centre which will break with the
weight of the rat. On this the bait is again placed. The rat proceeds to the bait,
breaks the feeble connection and drops into the barrel. He then mounts the bricks, and
his squeals attract other rats in the neighbourhood; some of these rush on to the brown
paper and fall into the trap. Reports have reached me of as many as 40 rats being
caught in one barrel in one night in the City.
The "Figure of Four" trap is a contrivance whereby a rectangular piece of wood
or metal, bearing a weight (a large box will meet the case), is supported on the angle
formed by two thin pieces of wood only one of which is supported on the ground.
This vertical angle is locked by a third piece placed horizontally, forming the
figure 4. The horizontal strip is notched and slides down the angle of the wood, finally
forming a lock. On this horizontal piece is placed the bait, on the rat gnawing which
the lock is loosened, with the result that the weight above falls and crushes the rat.
This trap is useful for catching a single rat, and sometimes it receives great credit for
succeeding in catching the wary rat of large size, which is generally assumed to defy
rat-catchers, poisons, traps and other devices.
(11) LARGE TRAPS.—Perhaps the want of continuous success in trapping rats
is due to the smallness of the size of the trap used and the shyness of the rat to the
contrivance. The clicking noise which most traps make must also prove an objection.
For this reason it seems desirable that traps for use inside buildings should be of the
largest size convenient, and be made to resemble as little as possible a special
contrivance which is foreign to the room. It would appear, therefore, that if the room

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