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

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Marylebone 1961

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for St. Marylebone, Metropolitan Borough]

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Section 121 of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936, empowers the Council to arrange for the
seizure or destruction of pigeons in excess of such numbers as the Council consider reasonable.
Pigeons cause nuisance through fouling, defacement and damage. Where they congregate in
flocks their droppings, apart from being unsightly, produce stench and fly nuisance, and many walls
and roofs of houses where these birds nest are similarly fouled. The remains of food fed to them by
the public attracts rats, mice and flies and it is known that pigeons can be vectors of diseases affecting
mankind. Additionally, incessant cooing during nesting gives rise to noise nuisance.
Public opinion, however, is sharply divided upon the question of destroying these birds. Whilst
some people regard them as an intolerable nuisance others look upon them as pets and by putting
down food regularly cause them to congregate. Such people object most strongly to any attempt
to reduce the number of these birds. It is also found that some people who otherwise have no particular
interest in pigeons resent the operations of the pigeon catcher, whose methods are approved by the
Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and sometimes do all they can to interfere
with his work however discreetly he may try to go about it. One lady who was asked not to attract
pigeons by putting down food took the line that although she did not particularly like them, whilst
they existed she was going to do her best to see that they were properly fed.
During the year, seven complaints were received and upon investigation it was found necessary to
refer four of these cases to the pigeon catcher.
Although at two blocks of flats and two office buildings water is obtained from private wells, the
chief source of a constant supply throughout the Borough is from the mains of the Metropolitan Water
Board whose Director of Water Examination has kindly provided the following information:—
"The water supplied to your Borough by the Board has been satisfactory both in hygienic
quality and quantity during 1961. The water is derived from the River Thames, purified in the
Board's reservoirs at Staines, Littleton and Walton and filtered and chlorinated in the Board's
works at Hampton, Ashford Common and Barn Elms. The average results of the chemical and
bacteriological quality of the water are set out in Tables 8 and 9, page 35. There were no
sources of supply instituted by the Board during the year nor any important extensions of trunk
mains, but 146 yards of service main was laid in the Borough during the year."
In the event of a complaint of contaminated public mains water the Metropolitan Water Board is
informed, investigations are made and, if necessary, samples are taken for examination. Complaints
are few and normally refer to unusual taste—which is often due to temporary super-chlorination following
works on the mains. In various properties in the Borough drinking water is derived from private
storage tanks supplied with water from the public mains. A Borough Council Byelaw requires these
tanks to protect water adequately from the risk of contamination and to be cleaned at least twice a
A complaint about the supply from a storage tank referred to "slimy water", but bacteriological
and chemical examinations showed that the water was satisfactory. The occupier of a house, the sole
occupant, complained that the drinking water contained foreign matter. On investigation the water
was found to be satisfactory, but work had been carried out to the water main in the locality and it is
possible that this was an isolated case where the water was temporarily affected.
The number of dwellings supplied from public water mains is 24,491, with an estimated population
of 67,214. No stand-pipes are in use and the remaining dwellings, namely two blocks of flats comprising
230 units with some 476 residents, obtain water from private wells. It is the practice of the Department
to keep these wells under observation and sample their waters every six months. The Council's
Bacteriologist's reports for 1961 indicated the water to be satisfactory.
The Metropolitan Water Board sent four notifications of premises where the water supply had been
cut off, in three cases for non-payment of rates and in the other for wastage of water caused by a defective
service pipe. At the first three premises the supply was restored quickly when the rates were
paid, the other house was vacated and remained unoccupied. It was not necessary for any notices
to be served.
Four certificates relating to the provision of a proper and sufficient supply of water in dwelling
houses were issued under the provisions of Section 95 (2) of the Public Health (London) Act, 1936.

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