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

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London County Council 1912

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

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Report of the County Medical Officer—General.
The statistics for the County of London are especially referred to as presenting considerable
variations from those for the country as a whole, and it is pointed out that in each 1,000 tenements,
541 are of less than four rooms, 324 of from four to six rooms, and only 135 of more than six rooms.
The corresponding figures for England and Wales are 255, 593, and 152 respectively. Again, comparing
London with the country generally, tenements of one room form 13.5 per cent. of the total as
against 3.2 and tenements of two rooms 19.2 per cent. as against 8.3.
In the 1911 census opportunity was taken to tabulate the number of children under ten years of
age in families and tenements of various sizes for the more important towns. With regard to London,
tables are given showing that while children under ten years of age form 20.7 per cent. of the population
of tenements of all sizes, they form 38.2 per cent. of the population of tenements where each room
contains more than two occupants. Incidentally it is mentioned that in six instances, a single child
was left alone in the tenement in the night of the census, in two instances 2 children, and in one
instance 4 children were so left.
The total number of families living in overcrowded tenements, that is, in tenements comprising
rooms occupied by more than two persons each was found to be 121,638, including 758,786 persons of
whom 289,802 were children under ten years of age. On this basis of overcrowding figures are given,
which enable comparison to be made of the conditions existing at the time of the censuses of 1901 and
1911. This information has been used in the preparation of the following table, from which it will
be seen that generally there has been a decrease during the last decennium in the percentage of the
total population living in overcrowded tenements of one and two rooms, with a corresponding increase
in the percentage living in overcrowded tenements of three and four rooms. The nett increase in the
percentage of the total population living in overcrowded tenements of one to four rooms is 0.04. It
is difficult to determine to what extent the increase shown in the overcrowding of three and four-roomed
tenements is real in view of the revised form of schedule used in 1911 already referred to in the first
Expressed as a percentage of total tenements, the table also shows an increased use of tenements
of one to four rooms in the census years 1901 as compared with 1891, and 1911 as compared with
1901 of 10.5 per cent., and 4.2 per cent. respectively. It may not be out of place here to mention that
tenements of less than four rooms contain 43.3 per cent. of the private family population of Lon don,
including 6.24 per cent. in single-roomed tenements, 15.84 per cent. in tenements of 2 rooms, and 21.2
per cent. in tenements of 3 rooms. As an interesting fact, it may also be noted that of the 1,023,951
private families enumerated in London, 95,724 or 9.3 per cent. consist of single persons in the proportion
of 58,594 females to 37,130 males.

The following table enables comparison to be made of the percentages of total tenements and of overcrowded tenements for the whole county in the several census years, 1891, 1901, and 1911. The details for each of the London boroughs for the two last-mentioned years only will be found in Appendix II.

Tenement ofPercentage of total tenements.Overcrowded tenements. (Tenements occupied by more than 2 persons per room.) Percentage of total population living in overcrowded tenements.
1891.1901.1911.Inc. ( + )orDec. (—)1891.1901.1911.Inc. (+) or Dec. (—)
1891-1901.1901 1911.1891-1901.1901-1911.
1 room 2 rooms 3 „ 4 „9.2 16.4 15.8 14.114.7 19 8 17.8 13.713.5 19.2 21.4 161+ 5.5 + 3.4 + 2.0 — 0.4— 1.2 — 0.6 + 3.6 + 2.45.10 7.84 4.57 2193.26 6.54 414 2072.58 614 4.93 2 40—1.84 —1.30 —0.43 —0.12—0.68 —0.40 +0.79 +033
1.4 rooms55.566.070.2+ 10.5+ 4.219.7016.0116.05—3.69+004

Study of the detailed tables forming Appendix II. of this report shows that increase in the percentage
of overcrowded tenements of less than five rooms, comparing the years 1901 and 1911, was
most marked in Shoreditch (4.10 per cent.), Fulham (2.78 per cent.), Finsbury (2.68 per cent.) and
Camberwell (2.64 per cent.). The largest decreases occurred in Holborn (5.72 per cent.), St. Marylebone
(3.37 per cent.), Westminster (2.92 per cent.), and the City of London (2.78 per cent.). In the
annual report for 1901 attention was directed to the increase of overcrowding in the eastern districts.
On the basis of overcrowding adopted in the tables, this increase is still to be observed except in the
case of Stepney, where the proportion of overcrowded tenements has diminished during the decennium
by 1.48 per cent. It should, however, be noted that the standard of overcrowding used in these tables
is the arbitrary one of necessity used by the Census Office, and the application of the statutory definition
of overcrowding based on a measurement of cubic space per head would undoubtedly give very
different results. For the whole county, moreover, the average number of occupants per room, which
declined between 1891 and 1901, still further declined between 1901 and 1911 for all tenements of less
than five rooms.
* These figures relate to the County of London as constituted at the date of the census, but the subsequent
changes in the county area do not seriously affect the value of the figures for the purposes of comparison with the
later years.
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