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

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Lewisham 1856

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Lewisham District]

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drainage merely requires your order for its removal; in other instances works would
be necessary, and would require time and consideration as to the best mode of carrying
them out.
The mortality of the District has somewhat decreased since I had the honour of
addressing you. 81 births and 39 deaths were registered between the 21st of April
and the 26th of May; of which
17 births and 10 deaths were registered in Blackheath;
22 births and 15 deaths „ „ in Lewisham;
9 births and 6 deaths „ „ in Penge;
33 births and 8 deaths „ „ in Sydenham.
A case of smallpox has terminated fatally at Perry Hill, Sydenham. The ditches in
this neighbourhood are almost all in a filthy condition from sewage.
The recent warm weather has affected the mortality in some of the bad localities of
the District; 6 deaths having occurred in King Street, Regent Street, and Essex Place,
to which places I called your attention in a former Report, and which require measures
for their sanitary improvement.
Appended are meteorological tables and table of mortality for the Month.
I have the honor to be, Gentlemen,
Your faithful servant,
Grote's Buildings and Elliot Place.—The drains from these houses have an outfall
into the ornamental water of Mr. Brandram's grounds.
Near Lee Bridge.—Drains from Mr. Owen, Butcher, and Limes Villas, discharge
into the Quaggy stream. As this drain is close to the new sewer, it could be immediately
Lady Well.—A house belonging to Mr. Holdsworth, and 12 others, including a
cowkeeper's, the property of Mr. Couldery, drain (including the privies) into a ditch
communicating with the river. This is very bad. The sewer is close at hand.
In the rear of Mr. Hadley's premises, extending from the Vicarage to Mr. Penn's, is
a very offensive black ditch, with scarcely any fall, receiving drainage from the houses.
This is a most dangerous nuisance.
The passage of horses and carts through the stream at Lewisham Bridge, is another
source of contamination to the river, and several complaints on this matter have reachcd
Lewisham.—I have to call your attention to the state of the privies in St. George's
Infant Poor-house, Lewisham, to which my attention was attracted from measles having
been endemic, and several deaths having occurred.
Some months ago part of the drainage was carried into the common sewer, but leaving
several offensive privies still remaining. When the drain was opened into the sewer, it
was found that the water from the well drained away; consequently it was deepened,
and a pretty good supply of water as to quantity is obtainable from this source. I have
examined the water from this source, and find that there is appreciable contamination,
doubtless from percolation. It is, in my opinion, absolutely necessary that proper closets
should be constructed, and the privies emptied, properly cleaned, and filled in with a
certain amount of charcoal, &c., and earth.
The bed of the old stream, now nearly dry, in the Village, I think it right again to
mention. It is now in many parts most offensive and very dangerous to the health of the
inhabitants. Many houses still drain therein, such as Frederick Place, Brook House,
and others, and it is becoming a receptacle for rubbish and offal.
It would be advisable attentively to remove direct drainage, and convey it into the
sewer, arch it over, allowing it to remain as a drain for the surface water, and to
intercept its communication with the Ravensbourne, at Lewisham Bridge, by turning
it into the sewer which runs immediately under its bed at this point.
Penge.—At the back of the Anerley Industrial School, several pieces of undrained
marshy land exist, which should be attended to, as they are undoubtedly a source of
disease among the children of that establishment.
The drainage of this District is most offensive in many parts, and requires your
serious consideration for its removal into proper covered channels.
Sydenham.—The drainage at Hindsley's Place, Forest Vale, is complained of, the
closets and drains being very offensive.
The privy and cesspool at Swiss Cottage, in the occupation of Miss Clarke, Perry