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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8
The construction of drains and sewers was formerly
very inconsiderate, and the inhabitants of many houses
have now to pay the penalty in the unwholesomeness
of their habitations. In many of the oldest parts of
our parish, as the south part of the Strand and the back
streets of the Haymarket, the drainage is very bad.
We shall not have done all we ought to do in this
matter until every house has a separate and distinct
drain into a good sewer in front of each house. Nor
will any house be well or healthily drained until all old
brick drains are replaced by hard impermeable pipes.
Brick drains are so liable to be out of order by age, by
the destructive power of rats, &c., that there are few
which do not leak into the adjoining soil, causing smells
in the house, and engendering disease in its occupants,
the diseases so engendered being often insidious, and of
a character not commonly attributed to such causes. It
would be good economy in all instances to remove
brick drains and substitute earthenware pipes; the very
complicated and tortuous drainage under the old system
might then be reformed. But we cannot hope to make
a neighbourhood healthy while the drainage of one
house passes under another, and often a second and a
third, before it reaches its proper destination—a common
sewer. The death rate of the parish of St. Martin is
4 per 1000 higher than it ought to be; and to bad
drainage much of this superfluous mortality may be
attributed.
The establishment of Drinking Fountains is very
gratifying to all who are alive to the physical and
moral improvement of mankind. No one thing will be
more conducive to health and happiness than the substitution
of good water for much of the beer with which
all classes of the community lay the foundation of
numerous diseases. I believe that beer-drinking in
excess—and all beyond a pint a day is excess—does


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