Cholera Inquiry Commission 1854 - Part 2
51. That it has been suggested to us by the Corporation, that the power of the Local Act of 1846 was insufficient for the purpose in view; but that we not only have been unable to elicit in what respects it was so, but also have been unable to discover that any serious attempt was ever made to take advantage of it; to which we may add that the avowedly sufficient power of the Local Act of 1853, (passed the 4th August,) was never put in force until the day after the late outbreak had reached its climax (the 17th September), and then only at the instigation of the officers of the General Board of Health.
52. That by an analogous clause of the same Local Act of 1846 it was enacted, "that when it should appear to the Council conducive to the public health, and might tend to prevent or check infectious or contagious disease, it should be lawful for the Council from time to time, if they should think it expedient, to order the occupier of any dwelling house within the said borough, to whitewash, cleanse and purify the same in such manner and within such time as the Council might deem reasonable," with penalities for non-compliance, and with this provision superadded, "that when on account of the poverty of such " occupier or other special circumstances, it should appear expedient to the Council to pay the whole or any part of the expense of such whitewashing, &c. it should be lawful for them to do so;" that the sub-committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association for the west ward of All Saints, in their report, June 1847, recommended that "the walls of the entries, as well as those of the houses situated in them, should be whitewashed at least twice a year, if not oftener, more especially in the lodging houses;" but that this power appears never to have been exercised and enforced, except under the pressure of developed epidemics, and to have been allowed to fall into disuse immediately after.
53. That under the same Local Act of 1846, the Town Council further obtained power "from time to time to make byelaws for making regulations for the registering of lodging-houses, and for maintaining cleanliness therein, and keeping them in a wholesome condition," and "to ascertain and fix what pecuniary penalties should be incurred by persons breaking such laws;" that the first among the various suggestions submitted to the Town Council in 1847, by the committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association, appears to have been "the immediate preparation and enforcement of byelaws for the regulation of lodging-houses;" and that at a later period of the same year the honorary secretary to that Association publicly drew attention to the fact, that the powers of the Town Council for that purpose had been allowed to remain "wholly inoperative;" that on the 16th October, 1848, during the then outbreak of cholera, the medical men associated with the Board of Guardians into a sanitary committee (many of the members of the Board of Guardians being also members of the Town Council), pointedly adverted to the evils resulting from the overcrowding of lodging-rooms, and "strongly recommended that all the lodging-houses be placed, if possible, under the supervision of the police, to the end that no more than a certain number of lodgers should be allowed to sleep in each room;" that in 1849, on the occasion of his official inquiry in Newcastle, Mr. Rawlinson was informed by a then late member of the Town Council, that the clause conferring this power had been allowed to remain "a dead letter," and by the medical committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association, that they would desire to see "the registration and sanitary regulation of lodging-houses," with a view to the removal of causes of disease then existing in the town; that in March 1851 Mr. Newton, a parochial medical officer, in a letter to the Board of Guardians, suggested to that body to "request in the proper quarter the application of byelaws to public lodging-houses, and to what may be denominated private lodging-houses, if the law extends to them;" that in the latter part of 1851 the Common Lodging-houses Act, 1851, came into operation, conferring on the Town Council very important powers in respect of common lodging-houses; and that the Board of Guardians are stated to have been anxious for the carrying out of that Act, and to have brought the matter before the Town Council; that in the early part of 1853 the same parochial medical officer, then become a member of the Town Council, "in his place in the Town Council brought before the notice of the Corporation the fact that the Common Lodging-houses Act had been left nearly a dead letter," and "was at the trouble of supplying one of the members of the committee" of the Town Council having charge of such matters "with a copy of the byelaws, which the Secretary of State had certified in other towns;" but that, in spite of all these suggestions and efforts, the compulsory clauses of the public Statute (as to the bare registration of lodging-houses) seem alone to have been enforced no byelaws or regulations for the better management of lodging-houses having been made, and (if we except a vague surveillance said to have been exercised over them by the police in the absence of such regulations,) no advantage whatever having been taken of the discretionary powers either of the general or local Act, until the second day before the mortality from the late outbreak reached its maximum; a circumstance which, in its results, unquestionably contributed to aggravate the virulence of that outbreak.
54. That it has been suggested to us by the Town Council, in respect of the non-exercise of these, as of other powers, that the powers themselves were insufficient; that of course, as regards the Common Lodging-houses Act., the same (but no greater) difficulties of construction will have arisen in Newcastle as in other places, in which, nevertheless, the powers have been used and enforced with great advantage; and that, considering the entire neglect by the Town Council of their apparently unlimited power as to "cleansing filthy and unwholesome dwellings," it would seem superfluous to go further into the difficulties arising in respect of the far more limited powers as to "lodging-houses."
55. That "the preservation of any unoccupied ground belonging to the Corporation, and its allotment on favourable terms to any persons, who may undertake to build houses suited to the requirements of the working classes," was one of the suggestions submitted to the Town Council in 1847 by the committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association; that the provision of "suitable dwellings for the working classes, on the plan of those erected by the London Association," was one of the desiderata publicly adverted to by the medical committee of that body in their report to Mr. Rawlinson, December 1849, and also by the Committee of the Working Man's Sanitary and Mutual Improvement Society there; that in 1851 the Labouring Classes' Lodging-houses Act, 1851, came into operation, conferring on all Town Councils, Local Boards of Health, &c., discretionary powers highly valuable for such a purpose; and that under the peculiar circumstances of Newcastle the exercise of these powers would have been peculiarly desirable; but that no advantage has ever been taken of them.
56. That, with a view to ascertain whether, in the various parishes or townships of Newcastle, any relation or approximate relation could be discovered between the rates of mortality from cholera during the late outbreak and the relative proportions of the families therein respectively occupying self-contained houses or tenements consisting of three or more., of two, or of but a single room each, - especially, when taken in connection with the densities of the population or the average numbers of persons in each family or inhabiting each house, tenement, or room, - the first Commissioner has prepared (from documentary information furnished to him by the clerk to the Board of Guardians in Newcastle) the following table:-
|Parish or Township||Number of Tenants or Families||Population||Average Number of Persons in each Family||Percentage of Tenants or Families Occupying||Rate of Mortality from Cholera in Sept. and Oct. 1853|
|Self-contained Houses||Tenements consisting of three or more rooms each||Tenements consisting of two rooms each||Tenements consisting of a single room each|
|St. John||1,725||9,858||5.68||23.7||1.||23.||52.2||1 in 45 *|
|Byker||1,386||7,040||5.03||9.1||-||84.4||6.5||1 in 53|
|St. Nicholas||1,075||5,361||4.98||20.||.9||18.5||60.4||1 in 56 #|
|Westgate||3,759||16,479||4.38||31.9||5.6||37.6||24.8||1 in 57|
|All Saints||7,443||26,110||3.5||36.8||2.||8.7||52.4||1 in 58|
|St. Andrew||2,924||15,639||5.34||48.6||1.6||12.4||37.4||1 in 62|
|Elswick||1,036||3,538||3.41||43.6||7.||37.4||11.8||1 in 82|
|Jesmond||396||2,089||5.25||72.7||-||12.8||14.4||1 in 189|
|Total||19,744||86,114||4.36||34.7||2.5||23.5||39.2||1 in 57.|
* Including that in the Infirmary, the mortality of St John's was 1 in 43.
# Including that in the Vagrant Ward, the mortality of St. Nicholas was 1 in 47.
The corresponding statistics in respect of Heaton have not been obtainable, owing to no deaths having occurred there from cholera.
57. That from this table it appears that in 3 out of these parishes or townships, (St. John's, St. Andrew's, and Jesmond,) as the number of families, occupying self-contained houses, increases from 23.7 to 48.6 and 72.7 per cent., and as the average number of persons in each family, house, tenement or room, decreases from 5.68 to 5.34 and 5.25, so also does the rate of mortality decrease from 1 in 45 to 1 in 62 and 1 in 189.
That in 5 out of these districts (St. John's, Westgate, All Saints', St. Andrew's and Jesmond), as the number of families occupying self-contained houses increases from 23.7, 31.9, 36.8 and 48.6 to 72.7 per cent., so also does the rate of mortality decrease from 1 in 45, 57, 58 and 62 to 1 in 189.
That in 6 out of these districts, (St. John's, Westgate, All Saints', St. Andrew's, Elswick and Jesmond,) as the number of families, occupying either self-contained houses or else tenements consisting of 3 or more rooms each, increases from 24.7, 37.5, 38.8, 50.2 and 50.6 to 72.7 per cent., so also does the mortality decrease from 1 in 45, 57, 58, 62 and 82 to 1 in 189.
That, though in these particular figures a decrease of cholera mortality seems to accompany an increase of self-contained houses, no regular proportion can here be shown between a decrease of the one, and an increase of the other.
That other illustrations of, and also some exceptions to, the conclusions above suggested of indicated, may be discovered by a further examination of the above table; but that we do not consider it requisite to dwell at any greater length hereon; no exact proportion, of course, being traceable between successive final results (of epidemic mortality) and the successive variations of but one or two causal agencies, (conditions of house occupation and of crowding), which are only approximately co-indicative of several other concurring ones, (such as the presence or absence of adequate sewerage, drainage, paving, scavenage, domestic accommodation, cleanly and temperate habits, &c. &c.); especially when traced through districts so different as the in-parishes (St. John, St. Nicholas, All Saints, and St. Andrew) and out-townships (Byker, Westgate, Elswick, Heaton, and Jesmond) of an old-walled borough, occupying sites varying as much as from 20 or 30 to 200 or 300 feet above the river level, and having their inhabitants in some cases comparatively widely scattered, and in others closely packed together.
58. That, with reference to the sewerage of Newcastle, it appears that the conclusion to which Mr. Rawlinson, C. E., was led in the course of his official inquiry in 1849, and which confirms the report previously made in 1848 by Mr. Baynes, C. E., was "that in respect of main sewers Newcastle was very well provided, but that in respect of branch sewers or house drains into main sewers, it was very inadequately provided;" that the joint committee of the Town Council and of the Board of Guardians, in October 1853, reported, that "of late years there had been a large expenditure in the formation of common sewers, but that the benefit derived from these sewers had been comparatively trifling, for want of an underground communication between them and the dwellings of the inhabitants;" that, on the average of the last five years, sewer rates to the amount of about £1,200 per annum appear to have been levied and expended by the Corporation in the making of public sewers, over and above a sum of perhaps £200 per annum expended in making private branch sewers; that the length of main and branch sewers existing in the town at the time of our visits appears to have amounted to about fifteen miles; but that the extent of house-drainage, or the number of house-drains leading into those sewers, (and by means of which alone any great sanitary benefit could be expected to arise from them,) appears to have been lamentably small.
59. That of the 9,453 houses or thereabouts in the whole borough of Newcastle, only 1,421 or thereabouts even now have water-closets or faecal house-drainage; the remaining 8,032, or more than five-sixths of the whole, being still entirely unprovided in that respect.
That of the 9,453 houses in the borough only 5,461 are drained in any way or to any extent; 3,992, or more than two-fifths of them, being utterly and entirely without drains of any kind or sort, even for carrying off rain floods.
60. That in the early part of 1848 the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association in their first annual report expressed a hope, "that ere the expiration of another year a proper survey would have been made of that district, and that plans of sewerage, on a scale commensurate with the requirements of the town, would be in active progress;" that in September 1848 Mr. Baynes, C.E., reported that "there was no map, to any sufficient scale, of the existing sewers; that their falls were not registered, nor their levels in any point determined:" that on the 20th November 1848, during the then outbreak of cholera, the sanitary committee, consisting of the board of guardians and others, unanimously resolved, "that the Corporation be memorialized on the subject of a general drainage throughout the borough, and that they be requested to supply the board with a map of the drainage," and that a memorial to this effect was presented to the Town Council by a magistrate and alderman; that several applications to the Town Council for such a map have since been made by at least one member of that body; and that some efforts have been made, and considerable materials in respect of the shapes, sizes, levels, falls, &c., of the sewers collected, with a view to such a map; but that down to the time of our inquiry there was none such in existence: - nor indeed was there any map even of the town in existence, of scale sufficient to allow of the deaths from cholera during the late outbreak being dotted down upon it in their appropriate localities, so as to constitute a proper cholera map, such as has been prepared for us by the authorities of Gateshead.
61. That in 1843 Dr. Reid in his report appears to have commented on the absence of any proper drainage system in Newcastle; that in 1846 the Town Council, under a Local Improvement Act, obtained authority, not to compel, but to "empower" persons to carry private drains into the common sewers; that in September 1848, Mr. Baynes reported that "the general systematic evils, which Dr. Reid in his report had spoken of, still continued to injure the sanitary condition of the town;" that during 1847 and 1848, the attention of the Town Council was pointedly and publicly drawn in a variety of ways, to the defectiveness of the existing drainage, and to the necessity not only for some more comprehensive system, but also for some power "to compel" the drainage of private streets and courts; that in 1849, on the occasion of Mr. Rawlinson's official inquiry, "the absence of any covered drains in many of the public streets and in nearly all those narrow entries, courts and alleys, which contain a very large proportion of the poorer population," was publicly commented on, and the importance of a complete and comprehensive system of drainage adverted to both by the Medical Committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association, and also by the Association at large; that in 1850 the Town Council, under another Local Improvement Act, obtained power to compel in certain cases the making of private branch sewers, but not apparently to compel in any case the making of a single house-drain; and that, while averse to the application to Newcastle of the Public Health Act, which would have invested them with complete powers to this effect, the Town Council had nevertheless neglected to obtain analogous powers under any of their own Local Acts until within a few weeks before the recent outbreak: and that to these circumstances must be attributed the (at the time of that outbreak) extensively undrained condition of the town, and all the aggravation of that outbreak, to which that deficiency of drainage cannot have failed to conduce.
62. That, without having ourselves entered the sewers of Newcastle, we have no hesitation in reporting - indeed we are unable to resist the inference - that the system of sewers, at the time of the late outbreak there existing, was very defective and inefficient; that the system, as in many other towns, was entirely one of patchwork; that in several places larger sewers ran into smaller ones, and that some were of insufficient dimensions, so as to lead occasionally to floodings; while others again were too large, and others of questionable forms; that some of them appear to have been laid down in questionable situations, so as to run along the summit ridges of hills; while others were of improper levels; some of them being above the cellars of the adjoining houses, so as not only to be incapable of draining those cellars, but also to be liable occasionally to inundate them with leakage, and others again being so near the surface, as to be roofed or covered by the flagstones of the footway; that some of them, being but indifferently constructed, were liable to be torn up and obstructed, and that this was the case in January in one of the two instances, in which (owing to particular circumstances) we thought it requisite to direct a special examination to be made; that some of the largest and most important of then, viz., the deans or burns which there run into the Tyne, were still but partially covered in and to the highest degree offensive; and that many and perhaps most of the others, especially in summer weather, when there is but little rain-flushing, were liable to, and probably did, become foul with deposit and that this was the case in January in the other of the two instances, in which, as before stated, we thought it requisite to direct a special examination: that evidence was laid before us by the Corporation, that in February a large extent of the sewers were in excellent condition, but that it was at the same time admitted that, beside the ordinary flushings from winter snows and rains, a great deal had been done recently in the way of artificial flushings, and that., owing to the amount of rain having been so much less in the summer, the state of the sewers at the time of the cholera will, no doubt, have been "greatly" or "considerably worse" than in February, as also that it actually was worse, when last seen before the recent outbreak; that it has not been usual, in Newcastle, hitherto to trap the gully grates communicating with the sewers, and that at the time of our inquiry only 132 out of 980, or less than one-seventh, were trapped; and that a number of witnesses deposed to having habitually, and particularly just before or during the recent outbreak, experienced offensive and pernicious odours from these grates, in various parts of the town; that the house drains, which did exist, (and over the formation of which the Corporation have possessed, but have not adequately exercised, a power of supervision and control) appear to have been, many of them, but rudely constructed, so as to have been liable frequently to get choked up, and to evolve prejudicial and offensive effluvia; that in many instances also the water-closets which had been introduced appear to have answered but very indifferently the purpose for which such things are designed; that several witnesses have deposed to the noisome smells, arising in the houses from those sources, especially after rain; to such an extent, indeed, that some have not hesitated to denounce them as things injurious to health, which ought to be banished and removed outside the houses: and that these circumstances must obviously have exercised a most unfavourable influence upon the sanitary state of Newcastle, and upon the virulence of the late outbreak.
63. That, as will be obvious from what has been already said, the general arrangement in Newcastle, even among the upper and wealthier classes, is (where any such arrangement exists at all) that of open privies in immediate proximity to the houses; and that this arrangement still continues in many of the 1,421 houses, which also enjoy the accommodation of water-closets.
64. That the accommodation for the inhabitants of Newcastle in this respect, - for the poorer classes throughout extensive districts, and even for the middling and upper classes in some parts of the town - was at the time of the late outbreak exceedingly deficient; that in the district of Sandgate, out of a population computed at 4,600 persons, perhaps not 100 had right of access to any private privy; and that, at the very lowest computation, more than nine-tenths of that resident population (besides the casual population of the shipping alongside) were wholly dependent on a single public privy; that in another district, containing perhaps 3,000 inhabitants, there were but one public and one or two private privies; and that the parochial medical officer of one of the most densely populated districts computes that 15,000 families in Newcastle, or perhaps two thirds of the entire population of the town had (and have) no right of access to any private privy: the accommodation in respect of ashpits or dustbins being also exceedingly, if not equally, deficient.
65. That in 1846 the Town Council obtained a Local Improvement Act, which enacted "that the owner of every house within the borough, to which no sufficient privy or ashpit was attached, should provide such," &c.; "that no house should thereafter be built within the borough without such," &c.; and "that it should be lawful for the Council to cause any house or building, which should be built or erected contrary to the provisions of that Act, to be taken down or altered" at the expense of the owner; that in 1847 attention was publicly drawn to the fact that these powers existed, but had been allowed to remain "wholly inoperative"; that in 1849, at the time of Mr. Rawlinson's official inquiry, it was admitted that these clauses had not been carried out; and that no attempt even to carry them out appears ever to have been made since that time.
66. That the inevitable result of this deficiency of privy accommodation is, that the female and infant portions of the population, and the males also in case of sickness, bad weather, &c., are but too frequently obliged to use utensils, locally termed "kits," in the one only room, in which frequently more than one entire family live, cook, eat and sleep, and moreover in one another's presence; that the result of the deficiency of ashpits, into which to empty them, is that these kits, necessarily more or less full of excrement, offal, garbage, &c., have to be kept in these rooms or at the stair-heads or stair-corners for so many hours as may have elapsed from the first use of them until the next going round of the scavenger's carts, - which, as these carts do not go round on a Sunday, of course implies the retention of all the noisome matter collected during Saturday and Sunday till the Monday morning, and obviously must at all times lead to a fearful vitiation of the atmosphere; that the necessity of occasionally emptying these offensive utensils at other times than that at which the scavenger's carts happen to be making their daily round, habitually leads to their being emptied on to the gully-grates communicating with the covered sewers, or into the open gutters which in many parts do duty as sewers, whence, if in a public street, it is the duty of the scavengers to remove the refuse; but that the unwillingness to carry such a burden, especially in rainy or inclement weather, down several flights of stairs and along entries of considerable length, either to the scavenger's carts or to the public street, as habitually almost leads to their being emptied, sometimes out of the windows, on to the surface of the entries, courts or alleys or elsewhere, there in most cases to remain (no scavenging scarcely taking place in these courts and entries except under compulsion of the Nuisances Removal Act) until exhausted by rain and by evaporation; that in this way, as reported by Mr. Baynes in 1848, "many streets and alleys become themselves little better than open sewers;" and that in some places the continual accumulation of the refuse thus thrown out has permanently raised the road or footway from ten to twenty inches above the natural level, successive door-sills, in one case that came under our own notice, still. remaining to attest this gradual rise.
That a further inevitable result of the deficiency alluded to is, that, as reported by Mr. Baynes in 1848, every "waste retired space of ground," such as the unoccupied arches of the Railway viaduct, "is used as a privy (and ashpit) by men, women and children;" that "many of the bye-alleys appear to be used as common necessaries;" and that cellars and untenanted rooms even are occasionally made use of as such, and as "receptacles for all kinds of filth, while the upper rooms are fully occupied."
67. That it has been suggested to us, that the filthiness and unwholesomeness of the habitations and of the vicinity of the habitations in question are owing, not to any neglect of their duties by the landlords, or of their sanitary powers by the Town Council, but to the wilful filthiness of habits and perverse love of dirt exhibited by the inhabitants; that what would elsewhere be called an indifference to filth and an uncleanliness of habits does certainly appear to prevail to a considerable extent in and around Newcastle, even among the middling and better classes; and that among the lower and lowest classes there do appear to be some of the most utterly and recklessly filthy beings that it is possible to conceive, - an infliction considerably aggravated, if not occasioned, by the irruption of Irish on the failure of the potato crop in 1846 and subsequently; - that, where such habits have long been indulged in, it must, of course, require both patience and perseverance to eradicate them, and to introduce better; and that it is scarcely reasonable, on the other hand, to expect even any great efforts at improvement in districts, in which, owing to the excessive destitution of proper domestic conveniences, it would practically be impossible in the long run to maintain a cleanly and wholesome state; that, in the opinion of many witnesses, the filth perpetually recurring in and about the habitations of the poorer classes has, to a very great extent, at least, been owing to the want of proper accommodation; and that, at all events, it would be most unwarrantable to conclude that even the very lowest classes in the town would not, if they could, be clean, seeing that as yet they have never had a chance of being so, nor ever possessed the means for preserving even the barest decency.
68. That the privies and ashpits, which did exist, appear not only to have been frequently in objectionable situations, as before mentioned, but also in objectionable condition, owing to the want of proper emptying and cleansing; that in the early part of 1848, in consequence apparently of a suggestion to the Town Council by the committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association, a contract for the removal and exportation of the street and market sweepings was entered into between the Corporation and a private individual, who also issued a handbill to the effect that he was willing to undertake the emptying and cleansing of such places by private contract; that the Trinity House, the hospitals and other large establishments, the aldermen and the other wealthier inhabitants of the town, took advantage of this, and made arrangements for the (in some cases monthly) cleansing of such places, and experienced great benefit therefrom; that in 1849 the Medical Committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association, in their report to Mr. Rawlinson, mentioned "the establishment of this system of exportation of town refuse" as one of the three chief causes, to which they ascribed the lightness of the then recent visitation of cholera; that the contractor, on whose part the operations in respect of these private places were entirely optional and voluntary, gradually restricted his operations to those districts in which they best remunerated him; and that in this way considerable districts remained dependent on the precarious services of farmer's carts; that towards the close of 1852 and in 1853 an increasing difficulty experienced by the contractor in obtaining railway waggons, in which to remove and export the contents of these places, gradually led to a slackening of his operations, even in those districts in which they had previously been remunerative. that during several months anterior to the late outbreak considerable difficulty was experienced, even by those who were perfectly ready to pay for such accommodation, in getting these places cleansed and emptied; and that the condition of them generally throughout the borough became uncleansed and bad; and that, on the more active enforcement of the Nuisances Removal Act during the prevalence of the late epidemic, innumerable complaints were made of nuisances arising from this their uncleansed and unemptied condition.
69. That by the Local Improvement Act of 1846 it was enacted, "That it should be lawful for the Council from time to time to order all or any of the privies, ashpits and receptacles for manure and refuse within the borough to be emptied and cleaned by the respective occupiers," &c., or at their expense; as also "to direct any prosecution at the Assizes or Quarter Session of the peace for the said borough for any nuisance or offence, whether public or contrary to any of the provisions of that Act;" that in 1847, Dr. Robinson, as Honorary Secretary to the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association, publicly adverted to the fact of these powers having been allowed by the Corporation to remain "wholly inoperative;" that the very confined accommodation in many districts in respect of back premises, and the necessity of having to wheel the contents of such places in barrows through narrow lanes and passages, and occasionally even through the houses themselves, by rendering such operations more expensive as well as intolerably annoying, proportionably disinclined the poor to exert themselves to get such operations performed, and rendered it proportionably desirable that the Town Council should exercise their powers of supervision and compulsion in this respect; that the joint use of such places by several families (a thing inevitable in a town so singularly deficient in such accommodation), by causing endless disputes as to the joint defrayal of the expense of such proceedings, threw a further difficulty in the way of the emptying and cleansing thereof, and should have constituted a further inducement to the exercise by the Corporation of their supervising and controlling powers: but that the Corporation do not appear ever at any time to have attempted to enforce the powers in question; and that under these circumstances some of these places appear to have become such utter and intolerable nuisances, that the tenants entitled to use them (and sometimes the landlords) preferred to nail them up and destroy them, and to betake themselves instead to "kits," or to the streets or public privies.
70. That a very large proportion (and, as one parochial medical officer computes, two thirds) of the entire population of Newcastle are dependent for accommodation in this respect on the public privies, the property and in the management of the Corporation, some of which are of the rudest and least decent form of construction; that of the twenty-one, which were in existence at the time of the late outbreak, only about ten appear to have been lighted at night at the time of our inquiry; that many of them appear to have been habitually and also at the time of the late outbreak in a highly offensive and objectionable condition; that repeated complaints have been made and memorials forwarded to the Town Council or their officers during a series of years in respect of some of them, not merely as regards their temporary condition, but also as regards the objectionableness of their situations, under the same roof with dwelling and sleeping rooms, &c.; that in 1846 the Town Council, under their Local Improvement Act of that year, obtained power "to make regulations for the management of public privies " - regulations which, perhaps, are in many places all but indispensable in order to prevent such places becoming public nuisances - but that they do not appear ever to have made any such.
71. That the flagging, paving or macadamizing of the chief thoroughfares in the better and central parts of Newcastle appears to be both good and substantial; but that in the narrow lanes and entries on either side of these thoroughfares, and in many parts of the suburbs, it, is decidedly and seriously deficient, both in quantity and quality; that of the 28¼ miles of thoroughfare within the old borough which the Corporation "conceive to be streets," 25¼ miles are stated by them to be either paved or macadamized, leaving 3 miles entirely untouched; and that of the 15½ miles of thoroughfare in the townships, which are "conceived to be streets," 8¾ appear to be either paved of macadamized, leaving 6¾ miles entirely untouched; that of the streets and alleys, &c., which the Corporation thus conceive, to be paved, a certain proportion, at least, are paved but very indifferently; while in others, for want of scavenage, the paving is so covered with filth and refuse as not to be discernible, except upon close inspection; that the populous districts of Sandgate and Pandon were wholly, and still are mainly, paved with shingle or round stones, having wide interstices between them, so as to render adequate scavenage almost impossible; and that previously to, and at the time of the cholera, there were many places, especially in the poorer and suburban districts of Newcastle, which owing to these circumstances were habitually dirty, and in bad weather almost impassable.
72. That "the unpaved, uncleansed and consequently filthy and repulsive, state of many of the streets, particularly of those recently erected in the suburbs, where whole districts are to be found in this neglected condition," was the third among "the chief preventible causes of the excessive mortality lately experienced in Newcastle," to which the medical committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association alluded in their report to Mr. Rawlinson at his official inquiry in 1849; and that the same continued to exercise an unfavourable influence on the sanitary state of the town down to and at the time of the recent outbreak; that by the Local Improvement Act of 1837 it was enacted, "that it should be lawful for the Council for the. time being of the said borough, from time to time, as they should think fit, to contract and agree with the surveyors of highways for the several townships, &c., for the repair of the highways of the said several townships, or any of them;" that it was stated by the surveyor of highways for one of the townships that in 1839 one, two, or three of the five townships applied to the Corporation to take the management of their highways, but that the Corporation did not comply therewith; and that the Corporation does not appear to have obtained a full control over the streets and highways of the said townships until the passing of the last Local Improvement Act, about a month before the late outbreak; that as regards the old borough, the Town Council appear to have exerted themselves considerably to improve the paving of the highways, especially in some districts, e.g., Sandgate, and with considerable benefit to the sanitary condition of the districts thus improved; and that, on the average of the sixteen years, 1837-1853, the Town Council appear to have expended (over and above the sums derived from the thorough toll, and from the watching, lighting and paving rates) a sum of £7,000 per annum out of their own funds upon the maintenance and repair of highways, &c., watching, lighting and paving, and in particular appear to have expended out of their own funds (over and above the sums derived from the paving rate) a sum of nearly £560 per annum on paving of highways: but that in respect of the paving of streets, &c., not being highways, they do not appear to have exerted themselves or to have exercised their powers to a similar extent.
73. That under the Local Improvement Act of 1846, the Town Council obtained power to compel the levelling, flagging and paving of streets, not being highways, at the expense of the owners of the houses, buildings and lands abutting on the sides of those streets; that in 1847 attention was publicly drawn to the fact, that this power had been allowed to remain "wholly inoperative;" that in October 1848, during the then visitation of cholera, a deputation of the Board of Guardians waited upon the Town Improvement Committee "to solicit their co-operation in carrying into effect the flagging and paving of the streets;" that in 1849, it was intimated to Mr. Rawlinson, at the time of his official inquiry, that "not a single street had been paved under the provisions of that Act;" that in 1850, under another Local Improvement Act, the Town Council obtained amendments of the former compulsory power, and also an extension of it "to any court, lane, passage or place within the borough, for the time being open for foot passengers or carriages, having a gate, bar or chain thereon or therein, or over which any person might have or exercise ownership;" that this latter power appears to have been exercised once, and the former some nine or ten times: but that there still remain a good many streets and places, in respect of which both powers might and ought to have been exercised for the sanitary benefit of the town.
74. That the scavenage of the borough of Newcastle at large, down to and at the time of the late outbreak, was deficient in the most deplorable degree; that, the Corporation not having taken or obtained control over the highways of the townships until about a month before the late outbreak, no scavenging whatsoever, appears to have taken place in them, - notwithstanding the dreadful pollution of the surface arising from the want of proper domestic conveniences, - except under compulsion of the Nuisances Removal Act; that the performance of the scavenage in those parts of the borough to which the faulty system in vogue allowed it to extend, had unquestionably improved, and improved considerably, of late years, although to this day, as is generally admitted, it is far from adequate; that according to that faulty system, which (though the evils of it have for years been notorious) still existed at the time of our inquiry, the scavenage was confined mainly to the chief thoroughfares of the town, having the better-provided houses on either side, while the bye streets and the private courts and entries, where the miserable destitution of the houses in respect of proper domestic conveniences leads to a diffusion of filth which calls for a redoubled frequency of scavenging, were more or less, and often entirely, neglected, and even considered and avowed to be without the jurisdiction of the scavengers; - they and their carts going round through the main thoroughfares and removing the refuse, which the inhabitants of the adjoining courts and entries may have brought out and deposited in the main thoroughfares, but never themselves going, and even when requested refusing to go, into those courts and entries for the purpose of thence removing any accumulations there existing: - to which we need only add, that an almost impracticable amount of scavenage would have been required to keep in a clean and wholesome state districts which had been suffered to remain so radically destitute of proper domestic conveniences; and that, having already adverted to the total neglect by the Town Council of their powers for the remedying of this radical defect, it would seem idle to dilate on the fact of their having neglected to obtain or exercise scavenging powers for the mitigation of the evils thence arising.
75. That at the breaking out of the cholera, as reported by the joint committee of the Town Council and of the Board of Guardians, October 1853, "accumulations of dung, litter and ashes, mixed with vegetable and animal refuse," were "collected in various parts of the town;" to such an extent, indeed, in some places, that it was considered dangerous to remove them at that time, and expedient only to cover them with fresh earth; and that even at the time of our inspections there were many parts of the town exceedingly, and some intolerably, filthy from similar causes; that previously to the late outbreak the town does not appear to have been generally or thoroughly cleansed since the cleansing which took place anteriorly to the outbreak of cholera in 1848-9, and which is believed to have materially contributed to render that outbreak in Newcastle so light; that the condition of the town in 1853 in these respects had, in the opinion of several witnesses, materially retrograded since that time, and at all events was by no means a good and creditable condition; and that "the frequent accumulation of masses of decomposing refuse and other offensive matters," will, no doubt, have been in autumn 1853, what in 1849 it was reported by the medical committee of the Newcastle and Gateshead Sanitary Association to have been in previous years, viz., one of "the chief preventible causes of the excessive mortality lately experienced in Newcastle."