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

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Acton 1936

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Acton]

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Prowse then wrote, "only one owner has been summoned during
the past year for this offence (overcrowding). It has been my
desire to prevent as far as possible this evil, but it is difficult to deal
with these cases as strictly as could be wished, as, owing to the present
large population of the poorer districts, overcrowding becomes
almost necessary a condition."
The same tale is disclosed in the Census Reports. The
Census Reports contain tables which give the number of occupants
in the different-sized tenements, the size of families, &c. Certain
items differ in the census tables from those in the survey tables
owing to the difference in the interpretation of certain terms. A
structually separate dwelling has been defined for the census as
"any set of rooms, intended or used for habitation, having separate
access either to the street or to a common landing or staircase."
Any person or group of persons included in a separate return
as being in separate occupation of any premises or part of
premises is treated as a separate family for census purposes, lodgers
being so treated only when returned as boarding separately and not
In the survey, on the whole, we adopted a wider interpretation
of a separate dwelling, and included as a separate tenement many
which were excluded at the census, because they had no separate
access. On the other hand, our interpretation of a separate family
was a narrower one than that adopted at the census, so that many
lodgers who made a separate return at the census were not considered
separate families in the survey.
In the survey, tenements and separate families are practically
one and the same thing. In making a comparison between some
of the figures obtained at the survey and those of the census returns,
these facts must be borne in mind; when comparing one
census return with another, the same objections do not apply.
A study of the census returns shows that overcrowding
slightly increased in each of the periods 1911 and 1921, but in the
intercensal period 1921 to 1931, there was a marked decrease in
overcrowding based on the standard of over two ner room density.

This will be made clear by the following; table:—

Year.Total Families.Number OvercrowdedPercentage Overcrowded.