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

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St James's 1875

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

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may be the result of the delay, and this is notably
the case in St. James's, where, like every other
improvement, such improvements were originally
adopted. Some of the oldest or first constructed
sewers in the metropolis exist in this Parish, and
year by year become more and more dilapidated,
not from age, being constructed of good brickwork,
which age does not much affect, but from a
cause to which I have before alluded, and which
must not be overlooked—the exertions of the rats.
They cannot make much impression, if any, upon
our modern work, but the soft bricks in use a couple
of centuries since, and the imperfect manner in
which the house and gulley drains were connected
with the sewers, having given them what may be
called a fair start, they lose no opportunity of turning
the same to account, if not to their own advantage
to the most serious injury of the fabrics they
attack. They are the cause of much of the rapid
decadence of many of the sewers and drains of the
older parts of London, as well as undermining
houses. A very little reflection will show the
amount of mischief that will soon result from the
labours of such a prolific and really powerful little
animal, considering that they may be said as a rule
to have it all their own way, being but rarely disturbed,
and if they are, their means of concealing
themselves are in such inaccessible places that no
practical means of eradicature can be found. But
if drains and sewers are carefully constructed, and
with proper materials, they prove the most useful of