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

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City of London 1936

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

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Certain secondary streets, including those in the vicinity of Billingsgate and Leadenhall Markets,
are washed every night, and streets in the vicinity of Smithlield Market three times per week.
Most of the street gullies are emptied as often as required by mechanical means, two machines
being employed for this purpose every night. After the gullies have been emptied, they are re-sealed
with clean water from the machines and the contents of the gullies removed to Lett's Wharf.
Gullies in courts and narrow thoroughfares, which are inaccessible to the machines, are emptied
by hand or flushed, as required.
During the year 1936, 64,985 gullies were cleansed and 25,383,000 gallons of water used for cleansing
streets, courts and gullies.
The Public Health (London) Act, 1936, came into operation on the 1st October, 1936.
This Act is a consolidating act, and as such there is practically no alteration in the procedure
or powers of the Corporation. The necessary detailed alterations in regard to formal notices
and orders which, in the past, were issued under the old Statutes, were effected by the City
Complaints of nuisance and damage caused by the congregation of pigeons in the City
continue to be received, and the contractor to the Corporation is continually being urged
by this Department to devote greater efforts to reducing their numbers. It will, however,
be readily understood that mere catching can have little practical effect so long as safe
nesting places, which abound in such places as the City of London, are available. No
sooner is one batch of birds destroyed than their nesting places are taken by others.
In view of this fact, it was considered desirable in the early part of the year to communicate
with the owners of large buildings, such as the City Churches, the Halls of the Livery
Companies, the Bank of England, the General Post Office, the Stock Exchange, the railway
stations hotels, etc., asking them to assist the Corporation in their efforts to reduce the
number of pigeons infesting the City, by eliminating nesting places or making them inaccessible
to the birds. This communication was received sympathetically, and in a number
of buildings netting of potential or actual nesting places was carried out. In some cases
there was no response to the suggestion, and in others it was contended that the practical
difficulties and cost of pigeon proofing were disproportionate to the degree of nuisance.
This contention can be appreciated in regard to such a building as St. Paul's Cathedral,
but unless the owners of property generally will ascertain whether pigeons are nesting on
or in their buildings, and if practicable, take preventive measures, there can be no permanent
reduction in the pigeon population of the City. This problem is closely comparable to the
rat problem. Pigeons and rats will both breed up to the limits of the nesting accommodation
and the food supply, and in this connection the feeding of pigeons in the City by certain
kindly and well-intentioned people is to be deplored. They are making the solution of
this problem unnecessarily difficult, and if they desisted the pigeons would not starve, but
would make their homes nearer to a natural supply of food, where they would not cause
the nuisance and damage they do in the City. Moreover, it would then be possible to discontinue
the catching and destruction of pigeons, which these same people so strongly resent
and with which they have constantly interfered.
During the year the Corporation Contractor was only able to catch 490 birds, and these
were all destroyed under my supervision. At the time of writing this Report, however,
increased efforts are in contemplation. Such ringed birds as were found were forwarded
to the Homing Union, in accordance with the undertaking given when the Act of Parliament
under which this action is permitted was placed on the Statute Book.
Every precaution is taken to ensure that the work of trapping is not attended by any
element of cruelty.
During the year, the bodies of nine persons buried at the City of London Cemetery,
Little Ilford, were exhumed under Home Office Licences and subsequently reinterred in the
same cemetery. In accordance with the terms of the licences, the work of exhumation and
re-interment in each case was carried out in the early morning and under the supervision of
the Medical Officer of Health.
12/15, Finsbury Circus.
During excavation work at 12/15, Finsbury Circus, a small quantity of human remains
was unearthed. The bones were very old and bore indication of previous disturbance.
With the consent of the Coroner and City Police, these bones were reinterred on the
site, with due decency and precaution.

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