Hints from the Health Department. Leaflet from the archive of the Society of Medical Officers of Health. Credit: Wellcome Collection, London
[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Paddington]
of nuisances, these places are described in strong language,
as "atrocious nuisances, "abominable nuisances," "intolerable
nuisances," and by myself as "virulent nuisances"—words
that can be fully substantiated by anyone who frankly describes
what he finds and sees in its true light. The following is a summary
of defects found upon inspection of twenty-eight slaughterhouses
visited by the Sanitary and Public Health Committee
of Paddington in 1872, when previous notice had been given
of their visit, and it might naturally be expected every effort
was made to show the slaughter-houses as decent as possible,
in order to have a renewal of the license.*
What are these defects and objections? They may be
classed under three distinct heads.
1. As to Site.—Nearly all the private slaughtering places
have no air space surrounding them; they are close to, instead
of being detached and away from inhabited dwellings; they are
mostly old premises converted into a makeshift place. Stables
in a mews, a cart shed, coachhouse, washhouse, kitchen, back
yards, or vaults may be seen; often the entrance is through a
shop, or passage of the house, or down steps into an area
2. As to the condition. —In hot weather slaughter-house
nuisances are the worst, when the polluted air attracts swarms
of bluebottle flies, which infest larders of adjoining houses;
rats come up from untrapped drains, seeking blood and offal; a
saturated subsoil reeks from leaking of joints in the paving;
traps of drains are left up, or taken up to wash down as much
refuse as possible, including blood, which contaminates the sluggish
current of a sewer for miles in its course; the loading or
carrying of blood and manure for removal in badly constructed
uncovered carts; then come tallow melters' carts to collect fat
which, by being kept several days, stinks, and so makes the
* Twenty-four had defective paving, either in the floor of the slaughterhouse,
or the cattle-pens. Scarcely any were defective in lime whiting
or washing down, because the visit of inspection was daily looked for.
Thirteen had untrapped drains, the cover being left up, or thrown aside
Twenty were situate within twenty or thirty feet of inhabited dwellings.
Fourteen were in mewses, or used as stables, or in a court. Three were
approached through a public shop. In fourteen the killing and removal
of offal could be witnessed from adjoining or opposite houses. Five had
living rooms above formerly but not now occupied. Eight were in very
confined positions, most of them a covered yard or premises at the back.
One had a blood-well composed of porous bricks in an offensive state—
since abolished. One was found where pigs were kept in the cattle-pens.
One had a dust-bin in the slaughter-house itself. One had the sheep-pen
roof only three feet from the floor.