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

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Rotherhithe 1859

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Rotherhithe]

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On the 4th of the elapsed mouth, a deputation from the Vestry
of Rotherhithe waited on the Metropolitan Board.
On the 25th of February last, a letter was addressed by the Vestry
Clerk of Rotherhithe to the Clerk of the Metropolitan Board, requesting
the latter to appoint a day for the reception of a deputation,
which letter was never answered. It was only by the accidental
circumstance of one of the Clerks in the office at Rotherhithe looking
over the Agenda Paper of the Metropolitan Board, in the
afternoon of the 3rd of March, that it became known that the
deputation was to be received by the Metropolitan Board at noon on
the following day.
This unbusiness-like neglect, and want of courtesy on the part of
the officials of the Metropolitan Board, was complained of by the
member of the deputation who addressed that Board, and his statements
were not satisfactorily answered by them.
The member then recapitulated in a few sentences all that had
been stated by the Medical Officer of Health of Rotherhithe in his
reports to the Vestry, relating to the foul effluvia and grievous
nuisance produced by the opening of air-shafts into the sewer in
Paradise-row. The Chairman of the Metropolitan Board answered
him to the following effect, viz.:—“That the said sewer was formerly
under the control of the Commission of Sewers for Surrey
and Kent, who used to attend to it and regularly cleanse it; that
it afterwards fell into the hands of the authorities in Rotherhithe,
who had neglected it; and that the process of cleansing, which
was, at the moment he was speaking, in active operation, under
the direction of the engineers of the Metropolitan Board, would
do away with the nuisance complained of.”
Such assertions from such an authority quite astounded the
deputation, for they were all incorrect, and quite contrary to the
real facts of the case, and clearly showed that the Metropolitan
Board were expending the public money and cleansing the sewer,
with no knowledge whatever of what had previously been done to
it. The allusions of the Chairman to the past were as unfortunate
as his prognostication of the future.
The sewer was constructed in the year 1842, and remained under
the supervision of the Commission of Sewers till January, 1856,

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