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

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Holborn 1919

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Holborn, Metropolitan Borough]

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After the passing of the Housing, Town Planning, etc., Act, 1909, the
Council at once made arrangements for the detailed inspection of the less
sanitary houses. Regulations respecting underground rooms habitually used
as sleeping places were also prepared and finally adopted, and a very large
number of houses were dealt with, the worst of which were closed, either by
Closing Order, or, in many cases, voluntarily, after communications with the
owners, and the remainder made fit for human habitation, either under this
Act or the Public Health Act. All the less sanitary houses are carefully
inspected annually, and are dealt with from time to time, in accordance with
the requirements. Unfortunately on account of the War, and in accordance
with the instructions of the Local Government Board, it was often impracticable
to stringently enforce some of the requirements.
The Housing Act of 1919 has received very careful attention by the
Council. With a view to the erection of additional houses for the working
classes, the following four sites were inspected, plans and estimates of
expenditure and receipts were prepared, and carefully considered by the
Housing Committee:—The Italian Colony which was represented by me in
1905, and, after a Local Government Board Inquiry, was very much improved
by the closing and demolition of the houses in all the small courts, and other
sanitary defects remedied.—A vacant site at the corner of Coram Street and
Herbrand Street.—Another vacant site in Herbrand Street and a vacant
site in Short's Gardens, which had been purchased by the Council for housing
and plans and estimates prepared in 1914. These sites, however, were finally
not approved by the Ministry of Health in the early part of this year
Although from a purely public health point of view there is at present
necessity existing in the Borough for better housing accommodation for
members of the working classes, many other factors have to be taken into
consideration by the Council. These factors have to be considered not only in
connection with Holborn in particular, but with the housing question of
London as a whole. They include the outward movement of the population
from Central London districts; cheaper and better housing accommodation
in suburban districts; increased facilities for cheap travelling and locomotion;
the increased importance of Holborn as a business centre, with its large
increase of factories, workshops, and other business premises, and its
convenient position as a centre for Official and Societies' Offices, and for
visitors to London. The probable changes that will take place in the
Borough, and the cost of the erection and maintenance of working class
dwellings, especially as many of the large dwellings in central districts of
London on account of the high value of the sites—have led to heavy charges
on the rates.
On account of these various factors, very many of the houses that
originally were generally well constructed for and occupied by one family
are now occupied by many families. In Holborn we have a very large