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

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St George (Southwark) 1869

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Southwark, The Vestry of the Parish of St. George the Martyr]

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31
Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health—1868— 9.
ready to perish. People similarly circumstanced as regards climate, occupation, and food,
have died, some at the rate of 17 per 1000 persons living, and others at the rate of 38 and
more per 1000 persons living. Two regiments, during the American war, were encamped
with no greater distance between them than a quarter of a mile: in one there wore about twelve
men ill; in the other two hundred and fifty. Sanitary arrangements made the whole difference.
It is the completion, or the want of completion, of sanitary arrangements that makes
the variance in the prevalence of sickness and rate of mortality. A mighty influence for good
is exercised by the weekly publication of the tables of mortality of the Metropolis, and of
some of the principal towns and cities of the country.
The tables drawn up and given in the various Annual Reports, and which I fear are
generally skipped, are nevertheless of groat importance, and worthy of serious attention.
They form indeed the basis upon which the Reports are made, and prove the source of any
instruction and warning which may bo offered. As an old writer on the Bills of Mortality
from 1057 to 1758, has quaintly said, "forasmuch as it is not good to let the world bo
lulled into a security and belief of impunity by our bills which wo intend shall not be only
as death's heads to put mon in mind of their mortality, but also as Mercurial Statues to
point out the most dangerous way that lead us into it and misery." This "most dangerous
way" is less thronged than formerly, for since the many great sanitary measures have been
carried out, wo find that the average length of 23 years of life in the 17th century, had in
the 18th century increased to 35 years; whilst in the present century it has reached to 45
years. But, what is still more interesting to us in the illustration of this truth, is what the
Registrar General tells us in his Summary of the Weekly Returns of Births, Deaths and
Causes of Death in London during the year 1868. After speaking of the mortality being
below the average ho goes on to say:— "The improvement is most striking in South London.
The mortality there was at the rate of 38 and 35 per 1000 in the years 1849 and 1854;
during the average of five years 1840—44 it was 25, of five years 1845—49 it was 28, and
during the five years 1850—54 it was 26; in 1855—59 it fell to 23; in 1860—64 it was 23;
and in 1865—68 it ranged from 22 to 24; in the last year it was 23. The mortality is now
lower in south London than it is in north London." It is also gratifying to find that in
spite of our position—low-lying; and that in spite of our condition—crushed by poverty,
"the mortality by cholera was very little above the mortality of the favoured districts of
west London."
In the year 1868-9 that ended on Saturday, 3rd April, 2172 births were registered;
1113 were male children, and 1059 were female children. They were 114 in excess of the
year 1867-8. The deaths registered were 1501; the deaths of the males were 742; and
those of females 759. Like the births the deaths were in excess, and to the number of 149.
The excess of births over deaths was 671.

TABLE No . 1.

Years1859186018611862186318641865186618671868
Deaths1335126313851457158417391479155113861495
Excess of births over Deaths706638583679540266703514728649
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