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

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Ilford 1962

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Ilford]

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Poor relief was administered by Cure Alimentorium who distributed
portions every month to needy poor from funds granted by
state and public spirited freemen.
These Sanitary Officers were strictly local and not central
government officers.each city being quartered and having Aediles and
assistants to carry out the various sanitary police duties.
The Dark and Middle Ages in Britain provide no record of real
Sanitary Officers, despite the extant gross insanitary conditions.
Few people washed, let alone bathed. Most womens heads were
alive with lice and people refrained from entering cloisters of
monasteries as the monks were so filthy and verminous. It was
leprosy, which afforded an example of true sanitary legislation.
Ordnances of the thirteenth and fourteenth century required the
appointment of discreet persons to investigate cases of suspected
leprosy and secure the removal to isolation or obtain a certificate
from a medical practitioner of freedom from this dread disease.
Imported infectious diseases produced the quarantine laws and
a Plague Order ofl543 introduced searchersin each parish to inspect
for and report on cases and deaths of plague.
A Patent of Edward I ordained that specified noblemen inspect
all lime furnaces burning coal instead of wood and prevent smoke
nuisances from them which rendered houses unfit for habitation and
if necessary to remove them.
The construction of buildings in London was regulated after
the Great Fire when common sewers and drains were to be provided
by the City of London Corporation and sanitary officers were appointed
and paid from rates authorised by the Statute. 'Scavengers'
or'Necessary Officers'were appointed in the 17th century to investigateinto
nuisances and other insanitary conditions and report thereon
to the Commissioners. These were unpaid civic dignitaries; the
actual work was done by paid 'Rakers'. Thus was created an unpaid
Public Health Inspector.
The great 'Sanitary Era' of 1840 to 1885 which produced many
Royal Commissions and Parliamentary Committees of Enquiry, to
investigate into the extant sanitary evils, produced much sanitary
legislation empowering the appointment of Sanitary Inspectors but
without success for the executing authority failed to make the
necessary appointments generally on the grounds that these officers
would affect members own properties and increase rates for salaries.
Private local Acts of Improvement contained powers to appoint


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