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

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Bermondsey 1927

Report on the sanitary condition of the Borough of Bermondsey for the year 1927

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If people in these conditions could be provided with suitable
dwellings in suitable districts, I have no doubt that many of the
cases of tuberculosis would not arise. Hardly a day passes
that we do not get letters from people who have actually got a case
of tuberculosis in their own family, or in which one or more
members of the family has got into such a state of health that
they are recommended by their medical attendant to look, not
only for another house, but a house some distance from the centre
of London. Owing, however, to the present housing conditions,
the soil upon which the disease flourishes is left untouched with
the result that, sooner or later, the people become a burden to the
community.
Intimately bound up with the question of overcrowding is the
question of the clearance of slum areas. The connection may not
appear quite evident at first sight, but it is found in slum areas
that not only do the houses per acre come within the definition of
overcrowding as to the number of houses and the number of
persons per acre, but the houses themselves are so old and dilapidated,
and are, as a rule, let at such low rentals that they automatically
lend themselves to overcrowding because the worst and
poorest elements of the population rapidly gravitate into them.
Coming to the definition of overcrowding—that is over 12 houses or
100 persons to the acre—these slum areas generally run up to 40
or 50 houses or 300 persons to the acre. In clearing away slum
areas, therefore, we are automatically reducing overcrowding. To
remedy matters in Bermondsey, one area of 4 acres has been
cleared by the Borough Council and one of 6 acres is being cleared
by the County Council, and the clearance of another area is in
contemplation.
This, however, does not touch the large number of very old
houses still existent in this Borough, which have had their lives
and are practically ready to be pulled down.
There are several methods in which acquired land could be
utilised to provide housing accommodation at low rentals suitable
to the classes with which we have to deal and which are most in
need of the accommodation, namely: —