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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unwholesome from the lowness of the water, which causes a quantity of filthy mud to
be exposed to the sun's rays.
The pools of water which exist in the bed of the old Lewisham stream must be unhealthy
from the same cause; and if the population were more thickly placed would,
I have no doubt, be a serious cause of disease. These might be filled in, as there is
abundance of waste earth from the cuttings for the new sewer now in course of construction
in Stanstead Lane.
Some cottages at the back and near to the " Black Horse Inn," are in an undrained
and dirty condition, and require opening into the sewer.
Penge.—The drainage of this locality requires attention. The sewage running along
the open ditches and stream here is most offensive; and although the mortality is not
very great just now, a great deal of sickness prevails. Many of the houses here are
without water supply, which is the more necessary as some of the wells are contaminated
with sewage. One well in a court yard, near the " Crooked Billet," reported in January,
is still receiving drainage from a dung heap, which is a nuisance to the neighbouring
Sydenham.—The portion of the old canal, near the Forest Hill Station, which up to
within a very short period received drainage from Forest Hill, is about to be converted
into a reservoir to contain water conveyed from Croydon to be filtered and supplied to
the engines at New Cross. Having been informed that it was the intention of the
Directors of the London and Brighton Railway Company to empty the canal and throw
the stagnant mud upon the banks, I wrote to the Directors, and am in receipt of a note
from their Secretary informing me that this is not now to be done.
A case of ague has just shown itself opposite the banks of this canal; this is a most
unusual disease in Sydenham, and if it can be produced by the action of the sun upon the
malarious banks, the result of emptying this piece of water during the hot weather could
scarcely be otherwise than alarming.
The state of the waste land and ditch at the back of Dartmouth Row and Raglan
Street requires that the ditch should be cut to let off the accumulated sewage, and some
lime, or chloride of lime, placed there frequently to prevent noxious effluvia, in anticipation
of the new sewer.
The same may be said of portions of a very offensive ditch containing drainage in
Stanstead Lane, Brockley Lane, and Wells Road; all these places are dangerously
offensive and unhealthy.
The gully holes in West Kent Park require trapping; many of the inhabitants have
placed clods of earth over the gratings to prevent the exit of the most noxious effluvia.
This only increases the evil in other parts.
The cottages situated in a yard, opposite the " Dolphin Inn," Lower Sydenham,
require drainage, being in a most filthy state; Dr. Corbould, the Dispensary Surgeon,
has requested me to mention this again.
The gas works still throw their refuse liquor into the ditch and Pool River; this
cannot be necessary with the sewer in such close proximity.
Meteorological tables arc appended as usual.
I have the honour to remain, Gentlemen,
Tour obedient servant,


Week ending.Weight of air. Barometer corrected. Mean inches.Temperature op Air. Thermometer.Prevailing winds.Rainy days.Amount of rain in inches.
Highest.Lowest.Mean of daily readings.
Aug. 2.30.00689 853 467 6S.W.&S. E.20.22
9.29.86087 949 866 1S. E.10.21
16.29.76387 048 566 9s. w.0.00
23.29.47271 845 057 8N. E.41.54

Sydenham, August 28th, 1856.