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

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London County Council 1896

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London County Council]

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It will be observed that the number of persons has in each part of the district decreased in each
decade, except in the Liberty of Saffron-hill, Hatton-garden, Ely's-rents and Ely-place, where, during
the interval 1881-1891, a slight increase occurred both in the number of persons and the number of
inhabited houses. This is probably accounted for by the erection of large blocks of model dwellings
in the place of smaller houses and other buildings which were demolished in the construction of the
main thoroughfare known as Clerkenwell-road.
The population contains a fair proportion of shopkeepers, small tradesmen and a few caretakers,
but is chiefly made up of artizans, labourers, and persons engaged in connection with cabyards and
mews, with a small proportion of very poor persons in some of the smaller side streets. It would
appear that the number of foreigners is not an inconsiderable proportion of the population, but it is
not possible to give the exact number of those residing within the limits of the sanitary district. A
large number of the foreigners are of Italian nationality, and these congregate to such a degree in a
part of Holborn and the adjoining part of the district of Clerkenwell as to have given rise to the
designation of the neighbourhood as the " Italian colony."
During the decade 1881—1891 the average number of persons to each inhabited house has
undergone a decrease, thus in 1881 there was an average of 11 1 persons per house, in 1891 9.7
persons per house. More definite information as to the density of the population in dwellings may
be gathered from the fact that when the census was taken in 1891, more than 35 per cent, of the
population were living in tenements having more than two occupants to a room. The proportion of
the population so situated in Holborn is only exceeded in the metropolis by that in St. Luke 44'.4 per
cent., Whitechapel 43.50 per cent., St. George-in-the-East 39.83 per cent., and Clerkenwell 38.78 per
cent., the proportion in Holborn being 38.08 per cent.

The following table shows the age and sex constitution of the population in comparison with that of London at the time of the 1891 census—

Age period.0-5-10-15-20-25-35-45-55-65-75-
Holborn— Males5-264.754.495.034.838.856.594.912.961.470.45
London— Males5.925.364.904.694.617.925.854.112.351.200.37

These figures bring out the fact that in Holborn there is a smaller proportion of persons under
25 years of age than in London generally. This defect being most marked at ages under 15 years.
Between 25-75 years the proportion is greater than in London owing to an excess in the proportion of
males. This is probably in great measure due to the population being largely made up of artizans and
The following statistics as to the births and deaths do not relate to exactly the same area
as that under the jurisdiction of the Holborn Board of Works, because the figures which are obtainable
include births and deaths occurring in Lincoln's-inn, Gray's-inn, Staple and Furnival's-inn, and the
Liberty of the Charterhouse, but do not include those occurring in the Liberty of Glasshouse-yard.

The general death rates are corrected for age and sex distribution, and for comparison the London rates are also given.

Birth rate per 1,000 living.General death rate per 1,000 living.Zymotic death rate per 1,000 living.Infantile death rate per 1,000 bom.

* Smallpox, measles, scarlet fever, diphtheria, whooping cough, fever and diarrhoea.
During these years the general death rate and the infant mortality have been much in excess of
the rates prevailing in London generally.
During the course of my inquiry into the sanitary condition of the district of Holborn I inspected
280 separate houses including tenements in blocks of artizans' dwellings, and in these a large
number of defective conditions were found to exist. The defects noted include the following, viz.:
dirty condition of walls in rooms and passages in 106 instances; dampness of walls in 20 instances;
defective walls, plaster, or ceilings in 50 instances; defective roofs or floors in 53 instances; and
defective stack-pipes or guttering in 17 instances. Water-closets were found defective, or supplied