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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of the sources of disease and death. This is not
only seen in the neglect of attention to drainage,
but also in the neglect of ventilation. In the
present arrangement of our houses, which in the
great majority of cases are constructed with
great disregard to the comfort or health of their
inhabitants, the best mode of ventilating sitting
and sleeping rooms is by the letting down of the
upper sash of the window. In all cases where
provision has not been made for this arrangement
in the dwellings of the poor, I have directed that
it should be done by the landlord, on the ground
that an unventilated room is a nuisance injurious to
health. But whilst this has been done for the poor,
there are scores of houses occupied by the middle
and upper classes in this Parish in which none of
the windows open from the top, and in which
the heavy atmosphere indicates the moment you
enter them that a current of fresh air has never
passed through them since the time they were
built. It is in houses of this sort that the health of
the inhabitant is silently undermined, whilst the
outbreak of disease, or the occurrence of death,
is regarded as the visitation of a mysterious
Providence. "The curse, causeless, does not
"come," and it should ever be remembered
that disease and premature death are the punishments
society has to bear for breaking God's laws.
In August 1860, an Act passed the Legislature,
entitled "An Act for Preventing the Adulteration of