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

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City of London 1925

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for London, City of ]

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In the majority of cases these external drains were brick-barrel drains, in which rats had
their breeding places, and were, undoubtedly, a source of much annoyance to the occupiers
of the houses to which they were connected.
The Sanitary Committee has had under consideration the question as to the steps which
can be taken to abate the damage and nuisance caused by the increasing number of pigeons
which are to be found in the City of London.
These pigeons congregate principally in the undermentioned places where, undoubtedly,
the deposit of excreta on window ledges and similar places is offensive, not only to the
occupiers of adjoining property, but as a factor contributing to general air contamination, in
an area in which general interchange of air is restricted by the height of buildings and the
narrowness of streets. In addition, occasional serious local nuisance is created, as recently
observed in the disused tower of St. Mary Somerset. The pigeons had free access to the
tower and excreta passed between the floor board spaces to the space beneath with
results, after an interval, which can be imagined.
Another example of the nuisance is observed in Leadenhall Market. Pigeons collect
round the Market and nest in the girders and higher places which are inaccessible without
special provision. It is not necessary to describe the effect of overhead pigeons on the stalls
beneath, and, although every endeavour has been made by the Market Authorities to deal
with the problem, such as by destroying nests, wiring over open spaces in the roof, and so on,
it is practically impossible to effect any permanent improvement unless power to kill the
birds is obtained.
Principal Places where Pigeons Congregate:—
St. Paul's Cathedral. Customs House, Lower Thames Street.
Guildhall and St. Laurence Jewry. Aldgate Station.
Royal Exchange and Bank. Crutched Friars.
Carpenters' Hall, London Wall. Fenchurch Street Station.
General Post Office. Cannon Street Station.
Leadenhall House, Leadenhall Street. Butchers' Hall, Bartholomew Close.
Leadenhall Market. Mansion House.
America Square. Rolls Buildings, Fetter Lane.
Blackfriars Bridge.
In addition to the above, pigeons are to be found in the neighbourhood of the majority
of church towers in the City.
It has been found impossible for the Corporation to take any action with a view to
reducing numbers since ownership cannot be asserted, and although the birds do not
appear to belong to anybody in particular, they cannot be described as wild birds. They are,
therefore, protected by Section 23 of the Larceny Act, 1861, which imposes a penalty on
whoever unlawfully and wilfully kills any house dove or pigeon under such circumstances
as do not amount to larceny at common law.
In these circumstances, and acting on the recommendation of the Ministry of Health,
the Corporation has approached the London County Council and the Metropolitan Boroughs
Standing Joint Committee, and it is probable that legislative powers will be obtained to
deal with the matter.
It may be remembered that this question has previously received the consideration of
the Sanitary Committee as far back as 1903. At that time it was estimated that there were
not less than four thousand pigeons within the City boundary. The number of birds now
to be found in the City is, I think, more than four thousand, and this is the more surprising
in view of the fact that horse traffic in the City area has been so much reduced, with a consequent
loss of nose-bag droppings, &c. Presumably, the increase can only be accounted for
by the fact that many persons provide pigeon food, which they purchase from street vendors
in the neighbourhoods where these birds congregate.
I have suggested that a protective clause be obtained which would enable a local authority
to take steps to reduce the number of pigeons when, on the report of the Medical Officer
of Health, the number of birds had so increased as to have become a nuisance. I think
everyone would regret the total disappearance of these birds from our midst, and the power
to act, notwithstanding the restrictive statute already quoted, should be safeguarded by
allowing the right of slaughter to be granted only to a local authority and within its own area.

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