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

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St Martin-in-the-Fields 1858

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Vestry of]

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In this tank might be an absorbing and deodorizing
powder, to be increased from time to time, when required.
When the tank is nearly full, an iron cover
might be fixed so as to exclude any emanation, the
tank removed and replaced by an empty one. Some
such plan as this might be conceived, unattended with
any nuisance. Inconvenience of some sort we must
submit to in all human contrivances; but then, a scheme
of this kind would at once purify the river, save the enormous
expense of intercepting sewers, and restore to the
land the element of fertility. It would be better to have
recourse at once to some such expedient, than, after all
our expenditure on main drainage, to be at last compelled
to do so,as many who have deeply considered the question
are of opinion we shall at last be compelled to do.
In the formation of the accompany ing tables, my
object has been to show clearly, that a large number of
deaths in our parish are to be attributed to the evils
necessarily resulting from families living in small,
crowded rooms, in houses, old, ill-ventilated, and illdrained.
Such as are most of those in Bedfordbury
and its courts; and I would mention, in contrast with
these miserable abodes, the houses in Crown Court,
Duke's Court, Cross Court, Broad Court, &c., as
decent and fit habitations for the families of working
men. If any one will compare the proportion of deaths
of young children in crowded and narrow courts, with
those occurring in more open spaces, the reason will be
apparent why the death rate of St. Martin's is so high :
in plain English—why about a hundred human victims
are annually sacrificed to the existing system of house
accommodation for that portion of our working people
who are obliged to live in London.
From similar facts, to be gathered in every district of
the metropolis, and of other great towns, is it not selfevident,
that if the wealthier classes do not make a