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

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Clerkenwell 1856

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Clerkenwell, St James & St John]

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It will be of interest to compare the general mortality of Clerkenwell with
that of the other districts of the Metropolis, which can be done by examining
the following table, the results in which have been obtained by dividing the
average mortality of each district for the ten years 1847-56 by the number
of inhabitants, so that the figures in the table represent the number of persons
living to one death:—


Showing the number of persons living, to one death, in the districts of the Metropolis:—

Hampstead56St. Maitin's in the Fields39
London, City56Stepney39
Hanover-square (St. George)46Newington38
Westminster (St. James)40St. George's in the East30
Clerkenwell45St. Giles36
St. Luke42Westmiuster35
Bethnal Green41St. George (Southwark)34
London, East41St. Saviour29
Pancras41London, West22
Camberwell40St. Olave10
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Now, here we meet with a striking circumstance. Here we find that
Hampstead—with its pure atmosphere, its beautiful trees and fields, its open
gravelly soil, its great elevation, and its population of only five persons to an
acre (see table)—has the same mortality as the City of London, with its
atmosphere of smoke, its population of 128 persons to an acre, its impervious
stone surface, its low elevation, and its proximity to a large ditch—the Thames.
Here is a city, which formerly was overwhelmed with the plague, the scurvy,
the most malignant fevers, the ague, the most virulent small-pox, &c., and
where a casual observer would consider that all the elements of health were
wanting, enjoying the same rate of mortality as a town which, in every
respect, is naturally a most healthful spot. Here is a lesson of what sanitary
measures can effect; and there is no question that the healthy state of the
City of London is even greater than that of Hampstead, because in the case
of the former there are many localities which increase out of proportion the
general rate of mortality, as their sanitary state is not so good as that of the
rest. There is no country place nor city in the world where the general
sanitary condition is so good as in the City of London, and its low mortality
is the reward of this.
According to the table, Clerkenwell is below the City of London in the
scale, i. e. its mortality is proportionately higher.
Now, it is true that the population per acre is somewhat greater in Clerkenwell
than in the City, but we may well set off against this the high level of
our district, which is undoubtedly a most important element. But the fact
is that in many parts of Clerkenwell the general sanitary arrangements are

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