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

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Whitechapel 1869

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Whitechapel]

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Nuisances caused by the accumulation of dung and other offensive
matter, and from stopped privies, are very numerous. These are not
recorded in the books of the Inspectors, unless official notices are served.
In addition to this return, the Inspectors report that they have forwarded
to the police authorities several notices of dangerous structures,
and have also given intimation to them of all the rooms which they have
found, on a house-to-house visitation, or on private information, to be
occupied by more than one family. The Act requires that all rooms so let,
must be registered under the Common Lodging House Act.
A memorial, signed by 114 inhabitants of Pleasant Row, Mile
End New Town, and its vicinity, was presented to the Board on
the 11th February last, in which it was stated that a most offensive
smell was emitted from the sugar refinery premises of Messrs.
Schwartz, situated in Pleasant Row, producing sickness and ill health
to the persons living in the vicinity of the factory. The nuisance was
said to be caused by the bringing to, and exposing on, the premises,
a considerable quantity of "dead oil or creosote," and burning the
same in the furnaces, " instead of, or in conjunction with, coal." On
the 12th February, the day after the memorial was received, I visited
the premises of Messrs. Schwartz, and I was satisfied that the complaint
of the memorialists was well founded, not only from the smell of the
creosote on the premises, which I experienced, but from the general expression
of opinion of the inhabitants, who stated that the effect of the
nuisance was to cause headache, nausea, and sickness. Mr. Champneys,
the Medical Officer of the Workhouse, stated that the nuisance from
Messrs. Schwartz's premises was injurious to health, and it was complained
of by the patients in the Workhouse, when the wind blew from the
factory towards that building.
My second visit was made on the 26th February, in company with
Dr. Letheby and Mr. Schwartz, when inquiries were again made of the
inhabitants in the neighbourhood as to the injurious effects of the nuisance,
and from the information then obtained, the statements made in the memorial
were confirmed. So soon as Mr. Schwartz was made acquainted with the
complaints of the inhabitants, he expressed his willingness to do anything
in his power to abate the nuisance, and he requested Dr. Letheby to make
a report to him upon the subject, with which request Dr. Letheby complied.
In this report, Dr. Letheby suggested that coke should be used
instead of coal. In order to obviate the escape of the vapour from the cistern
or tank, in which the creosote is stored, Mr. Schwartz says that he has