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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that our sewers should be perfectly open, than that
their gases should be allowed to pass off either
in a concentrated form into our streets, or poison
the air of our houses. Open sewers in fact have
certain other advantages over closed sewers, and
one of these is, that you can see the abominations
that are allowed to accumulate and fester in the one
case, which you cannot in the other.
The condition of drains is one that cannot be
so easily ascertained as that of sewers. They
cannot be brought under public inspection, and
a knowledge of their condition can only be obtained
by visiting the particular houses to which they are
attached. Wherever complaints are made of the
condition of drains as nuisances injurious to health,
they are either renewed or repaired under the power
given to the local authorities, either under the
Nuisances Removal Act, or the Metropolis Local
Management Act, as the case may be. At the
same time I would call attention to the great
amount of ill health which arises amongst the
more opulent portions of the community, from
the neglect of the state of the drains in their
houses. For the last two or three years, the
worst cases of neglected drainage have not been
in houses inhabited by the poor, but by those
inhabited by the wealthier classes of the community.
It is to me frequently matter of great astonishment
to find how regardless those classes are whose
circumstances can command every comfort of life,