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

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St James's 1860

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for St James's, Westminster]

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house of the poisonous contents of the drains or
It was from a conviction of the necessity of
ventilating the sewers without discharging the
gases immediately into the street, that I recommended
having recourse to ventilating shafts, to be
carried high up into the air, where the discharge of
the gases would not be injurious. Two such shafts
already exist, one in Peter Street, and one in
Heddon Passage, and in a limited way have served
to relieve the sewers without annoying or injuring
human beings. A system of this sort has been
carried out under the direction of Dr. Letheby, in
the City of London, and from an examination of
one of these shafts in Philpot Lane, I believe it has
effectually relieved the neighbourhood from the
smell of the sewer. Dr. Letheby has adopted the
plan of allowing the sewer air to pass through a
filter of animal charcoal before it passes into
the atmosphere, and this seems to have had the
effect of removing any impure smell from the
escaping gas. There has been at present no further
erection of ventilating shafts in this Parish, but
I am prepared to recommend them where the
inhabitants complain of the smell of the sewers.
With our present knowledge of the consequences
of trapping gullies, and closing ventilating shafts,
I think it unsafe that this practice should be carried
any further. In fact, I believe that, as far as the
public health is concerned, that it would be better