Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]
case, in which a summons was dismissed, proceedings were taken against the owner of the Fulham
Pottery " for so negligently using the furnace as that the smoke arising therefrom is not effectually
consumed or burnt." The magistrate, however, held " that although the existence of the nuisance
was shown, it was for the vestry to prove that the furnace was so constructed so as to consume or
burn the smoke arising therefrom, otherwise there could be no conviction for negligence."
Regent's and Grand Junction Canals.
During the year 1892 the Vestries of St. Marylebone. St. Pancras, and Paddington appointed
a joint committee to consider the condition of the Regent's and Grand Junction Canals in these
districts. This Committee caused inspection to be made of the canals, and a report containing the
following recommendations was adopted—
1. That the three vestries should each in their respective districts take measures to prevent
objectionable solid or liquid substances from fouling the canal, and to prohibit the
discharge into the canal of all drainage other than unpolluted surface water.
2. That a sewer be constructed for the Zoological gardens, and that the Crown and the
Zoological Society be requested to join with the vestries of St. Marylebone and St. Pancras in
defraying the expense.
3. That the canal companies should be required by the vestries to systematically scavenge
the surface of the canals and the banks thereof thrice a week on alternate days during June,
July and August, and twice a week throughout the rest of the year.
4. That the canal companies should be required to cleanse the bottom of the whole of the
canals, including the basins and lay-byes annually.
5. That the canal companies be required to concrete the basins, lay-byes, &c., where
mud or other deposits are likely to accumulate.
6. That an overflow should be constructed by the Canal Company at the southern end of
Cumberland basin, and that existing sluice valves in the basins should be opened far more
often than hitherto.
7. That the County Council be requested to make by-laws pursuant to section 16 of the
Public Health (London) Act, 1891.
The Public Health Committee of the Council procured copies of the joint report and communicated
them to other London sanitary authorities in whose districts the canals are situated, and
asked to be informed of the condition of the canals in these districts. In reply the Committee received
the following information—
Hammersmith.— Letter from the vestry clerk, dated 16th November, stated that the medical
officer of health of the district reported that the canal was not in a state of nuisance, and had not
heretofore been so found. When rubbish and dead cats and dogs, &c., which have been
collected from the surface of the canal, have been found to be burning in heaps on the banks,
the company have been called upon by the vestry to remove the offensive matter and to cease
to allow such rubbish to be burned.
Kensington.—Letter from the vestry clerk, dated 10th December, stated that the canal
appeared to be in a satisfactory condition at that time, and not to call for any action on the
part of the vestry.
Chelsea.—Letter from the vestry clerk, dated 19th November, enclosed copy of reports
by the medical officer of health of the district from which it appeared that the principal
nuisance was due to the floating carcases of dead animals, but there was also at places a very
considerable deposit of thick black mud which is liable to cause offence in warm weather.
St. Luke.—Letter from the vestry clerk, dated 21st December, enclosed copy of report of
the medical officer of health of the district, dated 13th December, in which it was stated that
that portion of the canal known as the basin, and situated within this parish, was in a very
unsatisfactory condition from a health point of view, and in which it was recommended that
notices to abate nuisances as they arose be served on the owners and occupiers of the several
wharves, and where they occurred at frequent intervals, that application be made for recurring
orders. The letter of the vestry clerk further stated that the vestry had adopted the course
suggested by the medical officer.
Shoreditch.—Report of the medical officer of health and surveyor of the district, dated
December 8th, in which it was stated that the towing path was in a dirty muddy condition,
and that its surface drainage, with horse droppings, urine, &c., flowed into the canal. The
water generally was muddy and discoloured. The laden barges passing up and down kept
much of the mud in motion; in the basin, lay-byes, and angles formed by the bridges the
water was clear, but there were large accumulations of black mud which on being disturbed
gave off offensive smelling gases. The report gave a detailed account of the conditions along
the banks, and contained recommendations similar to the 1st, 3rd, 4th, and 7th of the conference
of the three vestries already referred to and a further recommendation that the canal company
should be required to protect the canal and towing path by proper and efficient walls or close
palings. The General Purposes and Sanitary Committee of the vestry adopted these recommendations,
and also resolved that the canal company be required to macadamize the towing
Hackney.—Letter from the clerk to the district board, dated February 24th, 1893, forwarded
a report of the medical officer of health which contained reference to pollutions of the
water from wharves, and from the floating population and barges. The report also referred to
the presence of offensive mud varying in depth from a few inches to two feet in the bed of
the canal, and to carcases of dead animals floating on the surface. Recommendations similar
to numbers 1, 3, 4 and 7 of conference of delegates were submitted to and approved of by the
Sanitary Committee on the 5th January, 1893.