Cholera Inquiry Commission 1854 - Part 4


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101. That we have received most valuable assistance from Mr. Kell, the Town Clerk and Clerk to the Local Board of Health there, and from Mr. Hall, the Town Surveyor and Surveyor to the Local Board, from Mr. Wilson, Union medical officer, from Mr. Clephan, and from others of the authorities and inhabitants of Gateshead, and have found them anxious in every way to promote and facilitate the inquiry entrusted to us; and that we would particularly draw attention to the cholera map prepared by them, a lithograph whereof is appended hereto, and an inspection whereof, as elucidated by the evidence annexed, can hardly fail to throw a striking light upon the subject of that inquiry.

102. That the town of Gateshead, separated from that of Newcastle by the river Tyne only, is mainly situated on a steep slope ascending from that river, in some places with great abruptness, and at the southern extremity of the borough reaching a height of 500 feet; that the great bulk of the town lies at a very considerable elevation, the lowest thoroughfares, those immediately along the verge of the river, being from 4 to 5 feet above spring tide high water, and the whole affording remarkable facilities for sewerage, ventilation, &c.; that, except in respect of the clayey nature of the surface-soil, we know of nothing at all unfavourable in its natural position or circumstances, and see no reason whatever why Gateshead also should not be a very healthy town; and that as, in a sanitary point of view, at least, the two towns virtually constitute but one, and as much of the evidence taken in respect of the one would appear to be, in the main, equally applicable to the other, we propose to shorten our Report relative to Gateshead by occasionally referring back to what has already been reported in respect of Newcastle.

103. That the epidemics, which of late years have visited the town of Gateshead, have generally and substantially been coincident, in point of time, nature, severity, &c., with those which have prevailed in Newcastle.

104. That the mortality among every thousand inhabitants of the borough of Gateshead - excluding that small part of the chapelry of Heworth which, at the time of the Reform Act, 1832, was added to the parish and previous municipal borough to make up the present Parliamentary borough - has, according to, the returns furnished to us by the Registrar General, been as follows:-

Years. 1839 1840 1841 1842 1843 1844 1845 1846 1847 1848 1849 1850 1851 1852 1853
Deaths per Mille. 28 30 29 27 30 24 23 39 30 25 35 25 30 30 47

and that the mortality among every 1000 inhabitants, on the average of those 15 years, has been 30.1 per annum.

105. That, bearing in mind the great sanitary capabilities of Gateshead, we cannot doubt that this actual annual death-rate is at least double the natural or necessary death-rate of the place; that, on the assumptions previously made with regard to Newcastle, and supposing the population of Gateshead during that period to have averaged 20,000, it would follow that, on the average of those, 15 years, some 280, 300, or even 320 lives have annually been sacrificed in Gateshead, owing to the artificial aggravation of natural diseases; and that, considering the number of not fatal cases which must have occurred for each of these fatal cases of artificially aggravated disease, even the above figures will convey but a faint idea of the afflictions entailed upon the inhabitants by the absence of proper sanitary arrangements: in contemplating which, however, it is but fair to remember that Gateshead did not become a Parliamentary borough till the year 1832, that it had no governing municipal body till 1836, that the Local Board of Health there were not constituted nor empowered till 1851, and that they have had no funds beyond what they have been enabled to obtain from special rates.

106. That, during the late outbreak of cholera there, 433 persons perished in a few weeks out of a population of 26,000 or thereabouts, (24,805 at the census of 1851, excluding 763 in the portion of Heworth chapelry), being a mortality of about one in sixty during that short period; that the mortality in nine considerable streets or groups of street - which, together, comprise the greatest part of Gateshead - appears, from a tabular statement prepared by Mr. Surveyor Hall, to have been still higher, and to have varied from one in 48.5 to as high as one in 19.5; as many as seven persons out of about 120 being stated to have died in one block of buildings, three out of thirty to have died in one house, and even as many as three deaths to have taken place in the cellars of another single house.

107. That the late outbreak of cholera in Gateshead, though unquestionably more extensive, is not alleged to have been more fatal or more malignant than the previous outbreaks of the same disease there, nor to have differed much from them or from other epidemics, either in respect of the classes of people it attacked, or of the districts in which it first broke out, or in which, especially, it localized itself, or generally in respect of the laws which it appears to have followed; that, on the contrary, it is admitted to have prevailed most virulently just where any person, competently acquainted with the sanitary state of the town, would have predicted; that the epidemic influence, to which the whole population throughout the town appears to have been exposed, was comparatively innocuous in the better parts; that, in some of the best parts, there was no mortality at all; and that the mortality was almost exclusively confined to the poorest classes and to the worst districts; that of the 433 persons who perished only 29 were ratepayers or members of the families of ratepayers, and that of these families some were living in notoriously unhealthy localities; and that, whilst the mortality among the population at large was about one in 60, that among the ratepayers and their families was only one in 300; that no instance appears to have occurred of two or- three deaths taking place in any block of houses not presenting obvious sanitary defects; that the virulence of the disease was certainly aggravated by the bad sanitary conditions of the respective localities; and that, in several instances, the mortality in various localities may be regarded as having been pretty fairly apportioned to the sanitary defects of each.

108. That many of the causes which, beyond all doubt, have aggravated the virulence of previous epidemics there generally, and of the late outbreak in particular, are as obvious upon inspection, and almost as notorious, in Gateshead as in Newcastle; that the statements previously cited from the annual reports of the Medical Charitable Institutions, &c., of Newcastle, as to the aggravative causes of the various epidemics there, are admitted to be equally true in respect of the aggravative causes of the corresponding epidemics in Gateshead, and are further borne out by similar statements in the annual reports of the Gateshead Dispensary; and that, in spite of the improvements recently made in Gateshead, but chiefly affecting the better and less unwholesome districts, the same causes, which at those previous periods were reported as exercising unfavourable influences in respect of the then prevalent epidemics, were also: to a very great extent, in operation' there last autumn, and exercised similar unfavourable influences in respect of the late outbreak.

l09. That the same radically bad system of house-construction which we have already described as prevailing in considerable districts of Newcastle prevails also, and probably to a larger extent comparatively, in Gateshead; that a large proportion of the houses occupied by the poorer classes in Gateshead (who there apparently constitute four-fifths of the entire population) are built back to back with one another, or, where not actually back to back, with back yards between them. so small as to serve only to receive accumulations of filth, and to be quite inadequate for wholesome ventilation; that the courts and entries, or, spaces between the fronts of these back-to-back rows of houses, are habitually so narrow as to render it. almost impossible for either sun or wind to get at them, and to render them habitually dark, as well as damp and unwholesome; that one or other end of these narrow alleys is not unfrequently closed or built up, so as to constitute it a complete cul-de-sac; whilst, in one or more cases, smaller lateral cul-de-sacs are found leading out of a larger one; the other ends of these miserable places being also sometimes built over, so ' as to leave nothing but a single covered way for ingress or egress; that in other cases the houses are built into, the abrupt riverward slope or bank, on which the lower part of the town is situated, so as to have one or more of the walls, for one or more stories in height, in close proximity with the earth of the acclivity above - a circumstance which, owing to the clayey nature of the surface soil, and to the very great deficiency of drainage throughout the borough, inevitably leads to a dampness in the walls of such dwellings, not unfrequently palpable to the eye - while in some instances both these classes of evils are combined, the ends of back-to-back rows of houses being built into, and the ends of the narrow courts and entries between them being made to abut upon, these undrained banks; and that in this way, throughout considerable districts chiefly occupied by the poorer classes, ventilation is rendered almost impossible; that in addition to all this, some of the houses are old and dilapidated, even as to the substance of their walls; that the habitual deficiency of paving and scavenging in the vicinity of such places tends greatly to increase the evils of such a state of things; while the vicious practices previously alluded to of misplacing privies and ashpits, and of allowing accumulations of dirt to collect in corners, &c., still further aggravate them, by saturating the walls of some of the houses with very impure water, or even with liquid filth; the interiors of such houses habitually corresponding to the exteriors, and being dark, unventilated and unwholesome - even in points beyond the control of the individual tenants - besides being in very many cases further prejudiced by the want of proper domestic conveniences, by overcrowding, filthy habits on the part of the tenants, and other matters herein-after adverted to.

110. That, by general consent of the witnesses before us, a large part of the dwellings of the poorer classes in Gateshead are not fit for human habitation; the Town Clerk there computing that at least one-half of the population is thus dangerously mis-lodged that a considerable part of those dwellings are not only not fit, but incapable of being rendered fit for such a purpose; and that the Impossibility of so rendering them fit for habitation is assigned as the reason why no attempts have been made even to improve them.

111. That the seriously, if not irremediably, bad condition of the dwellings of the poorer classes is by no means exclusively confined to the oldest and lowest parts of Gateshead; and that while in those parts it may have arisen, to some extent at least, from gradual and therefore scarcely perceptible changes, in other and more modern parts it has resulted from less excusable causes; that, in particular, the introduction of cellar dwellings. into Gateshead is a matter of comparatively recent date; that they are now found there in considerable numbers; and that, during the late outbreak, in those streets, &c., in which cellar dwellings did exist, a serious proportion of the whole mortality appears to have occurred in them.

112. That another striking instance of the recklessness recently exhibited in respect of house-building in Gateshead may be found in the following facts, viz., that in some cases where the sandstone (which here comes very near the surface) had been worked out of a quarry, or the quarry had for any reason fallen into disuse, the open excavation had been used as a receptacle for street sweepings, town refuse and all the rubbish and filth that ably one might please to shoot into it, until filled up to or above the level of the surrounding soil and that thereupon houses and streets have been built on the top of the noisome mass thus accumulated, without any adequate drainage having been provided to prevent the perpetual soakage of rain and refuse water into it and the perpetual re-exhalation of noxious vapours from it; and that, during the late outbreak, the first death by cholera and a mortality of 15 out of 488 occurred in one of these streets; ten out of those fifteen deaths having taken place in the cellars, which had literally been re-excavated out of this accumulation of refuse.

113. That,. since the year 1851,, the Local Board of Health, under the authority of the Public Health Act, have been invested with a certain amount of control over the formation of new streets and over the construction of houses newly built or re-erected within the borough;, that this control appears to have been diligently exercised, and that the results of it are stated to have been visible in the improved structural arrangements of the houses and streets built since that time; that, under the same Act, they have also been invested with considerable control over the occupation not only of cellar dwellings built or re-built after the passing of that Act. but of all cellar dwellings whatsoever; that this control has to some extent been exercised, but not, we fear, to the extent to which it might and ought to have been:- a circumstance the more to be regretted, owing to the very considerable amount of mortality which appears to have taken place in such dwellings during the recent outbreak.

114. That the poorer classes of Gateshead are not only exceedingly ill lodged, but also much overcrowded in their lodgings; that it is an habitual thing for an entire family to live, sleep, cook, eat and wash, &c.; in a single room; the corners of single rooms thus occupied being occasionally further sub-let to other families or lodgers; that this overcrowding among them appears to be generally greatest about harvest time, in September and October, which was the period when the late outbreak chiefly prevailed; and that confident opinions have been expressed. as to overcrowding and the want of proper ventilation having been a very powerful cause predisposing to cholera.

115. That there are stated to be about 3,423 houses in the whole borough (3,380 in the year 1851 j, and probably are some 5,500 families or thereabouts (5,263 in the year 1851); that of these 3,423 houses 1,838 appear to be occupied as self-contained houses by as, many families, leaving the remaining 1,585 houses to be occupied in tenements by the remaining 3,662 families, which, on the average, would give considerably more than two families to each tenemented house, - the houses in Gateshead being considerably smaller on the average and containing fewer rooms than those in Newcastle; - that we have not been able to obtain the materials for computing, as in respect of Newcastle, what percentage of the population of Gateshead occupies, each different class of tenements, or for framing, relative to Gateshead,, such a table as has already been exhibited in respect of Newcastle; but that facts, nevertheless, are not altogether wanting to illustrate the significance of overcrowding already adverted to; that in one district; in which ninety-nine families each occupied a house. to themselves, the mortality- was 6 out of 501, or 1 in 83.5; that in another district, in which fifty-nine families occupied thirty houses (or nearly two families to a house), the mortality was 5 out of 282, or 1 in 56.4; that in a third district, in which 185 families occupied 84 houses (or more than two families to a house), the mortality was 21 out of 907, or 1 in 43.1; that in the northern block of New Gateshead, in which ninety-one families occupied twenty-six houses (or 3.5 families to a house), there was a mortality of 13 out of 417, or 1 in 32; while, in the immediately adjoining southern block, in which twenty families occupied nineteen houses (seventy-six rooms), there was no death at all among 130 persons; to which may be added that in Leonard's Court, in which the crowding appears to have been as great, if not greater than anywhere else, viz., seventy-eight families to fourteen houses (or 5.6 families to a house), the mortality appears also to have been about the greatest, viz., 15 out of 293, or 1 in 19.5; and although, in certain of these instances, the term "house" may correspond to very different capacities for habitation, in most instances the succession of figures above given will represent the relative degrees of overcrowding.

116. That in consequence of the above circumstances, and of others more particularly adverted to in respect of Newcastle, but also prevailing more or less in Gateshead, the condition of many of the dwellings of the poorer classes there appears to have been habitually filthy and- unwholesome; that since the year 1851 the Local Board of Health, under the authority of the Public Health Act, have been empowered to compel the owner or occupier of any such dwelling to whitewash, cleanse of purify the same; that in March 1852 the Local Board issued and got approved a byelaw - relative to this matter, but that no medical officer has ever been appointed whose special duty it should be to see to the enforcement of this and of divers other powers and byelaws, or to issue the requisite certificates; and that the exercise of the power in question, eminently beneficial as it would have been, has been almost entirely neglected.

117. That, on the other hand, from the same year 1851, both under the powers of the Public Health Act and also of the Common Lodging Houses Act, the Local Board have been invested with large control over all such places; that in March 1852 the Local Board issued and got approved various byelaws relative thereto; that these byelaws appear to have been regularly and stringently enforced; and that the beneficial results of this surveillance by the Local Board is stated to have been visible, not only in general, but also in the sensibly less mortality, which occurred during the late outbreak in the registered lodging-houses, as compared with other houses of similar situation and calibre.

118. That, with reference to the sewerage of Gateshead, it appears that at the time of the constitution of the Local Board in 1851, there was one main sewer of about sixty chains or three quarters of a mile in length, and in good condition, and about thirty-two chains or three-eighths of a mile in length of drains or sewers so imperfect as, in the opinion of the Town Surveyor, hardly to deserve the name, besides a certain amount of partially covered surface gutters, which merely took the water, &c., away from one point of the surface to re-deliver it to the surface a little lower down, and not unfrequently into the open street and into the immediate vicinity of other houses; and that the extent of house-drainage, or the number of houses drained into those sewers, was still less than might have been expected, even with this limited extent of sewerage.

119. That at the time of our inquiry, and although a good many waterclosets have recently been introduced owing to the exertions of Mr. Surveyor Hall, there were still but 64 out of the 3,423 houses in the borough, which had waterclosets supplied by the water company; and taking into consideration the few 'supplied by rain or spring, water cisterns, there were not probably above 80 houses out of that whole number, or less than one fortieth part, having faecal drainage.

That of the 235 houses, which might have been drained into the one good main sewer, only 86 actually were so; and that, taking into consideration those drained into the disused coal workings beneath them and otherwise, there were not probably, even at the time of our inquiry, so many as 150 out of the 3423, or less than one twentieth part of the houses in the borough, which had even proper surface drainage.

120. That under these circumstances, of course, the great bulk of the town, not only in the poorer, but also in the wealthier districts, was extremely, if not entirely destitute, not only of faecal drainage, but of drainage of any kind or sort; that a certain proportion of the drainage which did exist, was, as above mentioned, exceedingly imperfect and inefficient, and often (as were also many of the surface gutters above alluded to) filthy and offensive in the highest degree; that none of the gully grates in the town appear to have been trapped, except in one street recently drained by the Local Board; and that the results of such a state of things are too obvious to require comment.

121. That, under the authority of the Public Health Act, the Local Board have had ample powers in respect of sewering the public streets and highways of the borough; and that, in respect of these, some small additions and improvements had been made previously to the late outbreak; but that generally the powers had not been exercised with any energy, nor even to the extent which might reasonably have been expected; that proposals for the preparation of a proper map of the borough, with a view to a comprehensive system of sewerage, had several times been urged upon the Local Board by the Surveyor and by individual members of it; but had invariably been rejected, apparently on the score of expense; that the survey of a portion of the borough had, however, been authorized with a view to the sewering of one natural drainage area in the eastern part of the borough; but that, even since the epidemic and at the very time of our inquiry, the same injudicious (and in its results extravagant and wasteful) parsimony appears to have interfered to obstruct or prevent the execution of a proper and efficient sewerage system there, and to endeavour to substitute one to all appearances much less desirable.

122. That the enactments of the Public Health Act, providing that it should not be lawful to erect or re erect any house without drains, &c., appear to have been well and vigilantly enforced; but that, owing to the great deficiency of public sewers, this enforcement has not been attended with all the benefit thereby contemplated; so few of the houses recently erected or re-erected in the borough having been within the prescribed 100 feet of the sea or of any public sewer, that it has been necessary for the Local Board to sanction their being drained into cesspools, disused coal workings, and in other more or less undesirable ways: and that the further powers of that Act, enabling the Local Board to cause any and every house to be drained which is within 100 feet of the sea or of a public sewer, whether built before or after the application of that Act to the district in which it is situated, have been greatly neglected, and indeed have been exercised in but very few instances.

123. That, by the same authority of the Public Health Act, the Local Board have been empowered to compel the sewering of private streets, &c.; that in three or four instances this power has been put in force, and in one at least with great apparent benefit to the locality, and at an expense so moderate as to cause not quite three farthings addition to the weekly rent of the house; but that on the whole it has not been exercised with the energy demanded by the circumstances, nor probably in half the cases in which its exercise has been urged upon the Local Board by their excellent officer and surveyor, Mr. Hall.

124. That, as will be obvious from the above, the almost universal arrangement in Gateshead (where any such arrangement exists at all) is that of open privies in immediate proximity to the houses; the deficiency of sewerage being such that even the wealthier inhabitants are often unable to provide their houses with better accommodation.

125. That the extent of the privy and ashpit accommodation for the poorer classes and in the tenemented houses of Gateshead is nearly, if not altogether, as deficient as in Newcastle; not more than one such convenience existing frequently for every twenty, thirty, or even forty families, and occasionally none at all; perhaps one half of the poorer inhabitants (or nearly two-fifths of the entire population) being thus miserably destitute; whilst in Pipewellgate, a district containing not much less than 2000 people, probably nine tenths of them are thus situated; that this shocking deficiency of proper conveniences is attended with the same results in Gateshead, as heretofore described in respect of Newcastle; the same disgusting use of `1 kits," the same retention of them more or less full of all kinds of filth in the single-room tenements or at the stairheads and corners, the same strewing of the gully-grates and of the surfaces of the courts and entries with excrement and garbage, the same occasional conversion of unoccupied rooms, cellars or closets into privies and ashpits, the same use of waste and vacant pieces of ground for similar purposes, and the same inevitable and intense pollution of the air both within and without the rooms and houses; to which must be added that, in one point, Gateshead is even more deficient than Newcastle, viz., in not having a single public privy.

126. That, under the authority of the Public Health Act, the Local Board have been empowered to compel the owner or occupier of any house in the borough, whether built before or after the time of the application of that Act, to provide the same with a proper water-closet or privy and ashpit; and that water-closets have accordingly been introduced in a good many of the instances it, which the exercise of this power has been recommended by Mr. Surveyor Hall; but that, generally speaking, the power has been greatly neglected; that little or no visible improvement in this respect has taken place since the constitution of the Local Board; and that even some of the registered lodging-houses have been allowed to remain destitute of such accommodation; to which should. be added, that the further powers of the Act, enabling the Local Board to provide public middens and necessaries, and thereby to mitigate the evils arising from this deficiency of private ones, had, almost up to the time of our inquiry, been equally and entirely neglected.

127. That the privies and ashpits which did exist in Gateshead appear to have been habitually in a foul and most objectionable condition; that the same indifference to filth, and negligence in respect of having such places properly emptied and cleansed, appears to have prevailed in Gateshead, as in Newcastle; and that, where this indifference and negligence did not exist, considerable and increasing difficulties appear to have been experienced in getting such operations performed; that it was enacted by the Public Health Act, that the Local Board should see and provide that all drains, water-closets, privies, cesspools and ashpits should be constructed and kept so as not to be a nuisance or injurious to health; that this enactment has, in a few instances, been complied with, but in so few out of the many calling for such compliance therewith as to have produced no sensible improvement and no appreciable diminution of the sanitary evils thence arising; and that the chief reason assigned by the Local Board for its not having been more frequently complied with is, that the multitude of such ill-kept places has been so great, as to render it hopeless to attempt the remedying thereof, until some comprehensive schemes of sewerage, scavenage, &c., shall have been devised to prevent the hitherto inevitable recurrence of such nuisances.

128. That the flagging, paving, &c., of two or three of the chief thoroughfares of Gateshead appears to be pretty good, but in other public streets and thoroughfares to be but indifferent, while in some few public ones, and in the majority of private courts and entries, it is either entirely deficient or else exceedingly imperfect, and sometimes so bad as to be practically almost uncleansable; that, under the authority of the Public Health Act, the Local Board have had full power to level, pave, flag, channel, alter and repair all public streets; and that this power has been exercised to a certain, although but an inadequate extent, so as to lead to an appreciable improvement in the main thoroughfares, but not to any improvement at all in the miserable courts and entries, the condition of which most urgently calls for the exercise thereof; and that the similar powers of the same Act, enabling the Local Board to compel the levelling, paving, &c., of private streets, has similarly been exercised only to the same inadequate extent, although, in one instance at least, as before mentioned, with great benefit to the locality and at a very moderate expense.

129. That the scavenage in Gateshead, which, up to about the time of our inquiry, seems to have been conducted on the same faulty system as has already been explained with reference to Newcastle, appears, up to the time of the late outbreak, to have been much neglected in many places, and in the miserable courts and entries to have been neglected altogether; that, at the time of that outbreak, large accumulations of offensive matter were collected in various parts of the town and that probably 600 or 700 loads were removed during the epidemic, without exhausting them, several such still remaining unremoved up to and at the time of our visit there; and that, except in a few cases, the surface cleansing powers conferred upon them by the Public Health Act appear, especially up to the time of the late outbreak, to have been very inadequately enforced and exercised by the Local Board, though chiefly, no doubt, in respect of the faulty system of scavenage adopted or acquiesced in by them; considerable improvement having recently been visible in the scavenage of a few main thoroughfares.

130. That the observations previously made as to the results of the deficiency of sewers, drains, paving, scavenging and domestic accommodation, &c., upon the health of the inhabitants of Newcastle, are equally applicable, mutatis mutandis, to the case of Gateshead; and that the same holds with reference to the observations upon the habits of the poorer classes also; - the proportion of the poorer classes to the entire population being probably somewhat greater in Gateshead than in Newcastle; - it being incontestible that those habits are in a large proportion of cases more or less, and sometimes exceedingly, reckless and filthy; whilst on the other hand it is equally certain that the circumstances to which they are subjected are in the highest degree calculated to give origin to such habits even in persons not previously given thereto: that some, at least, among these people appear to be decidedly cleanly in matters properly within their own control; and that it can hardly be affirmed ever, of the dirtiest among them, that they have ever had adequate means or opportunities of keeping themselves clean.

131. That, under the authority of the Public Health Act, the Local Board have had power to provide for the keeping all slaughter-houses in a cleanly and proper state; that byelaws relative thereto were early issued by them, and have since been stringently and vigilantly enforced as far as possible; that the beneficial effects of that supervision is stated to have been visible, at all events in several cases; but that, owing to the impossibility of effectually enforcing proper regulations in such establishments in the absence of adequate sewerage, many of them have continued to be more or less nuisances, and even appear to have led to an increase of mortality during the late outbreak; that other offensive trades, especially triperies, fellmongeries, bone and guano dealeries, &c., have - also prevailed to a considerable extent; that the Local Board have enforced the enactment of the Public Health Act, which provides that none such shall be newly established without the consent of the Local Board; but that, in one instance at least, they appear to have given consent to the new establishment of one such, to the obvious detriment of the health of the vicinity, and in opposition to the advice of their Surveyor; that the Local Board in Gateshead has had no specific power to abate the smoke nuisance, and that the same has accordingly increased; and that, what with coal smoke and the fumes evolved from chemical works, &c., the atmosphere of Newcastle and Gateshead is stated to be so acrid and to lead to so rapid a corrosion of the telegraph wires, that the latter were, at the time of our inquiry, in process of being taken down from their exposed position along the elevated lines of railway, and being inclosed in metal pipes as a protection against it; that the nuisance arising from swineries has been greatly abated by the Local Board, under the powers of the Public Health Act; but that a gigantic nuisance in the shape of a cowbyre has, in spite of the representations of the Surveyor, been suffered to continue in a densely populated neighbourhood, to the apparent. aggravation of the mortality during the late outbreak; that the chief burial ground, in the centre of the town, appears up to and at the time of the late outbreak to have been in a very overfull and unwholesome condition, and to have been shut up accordingly as such; and that other general causes, original or aggravative, of the late outbreak, such as unwholesome food, bad fruit, excess in drink, &c., will also have been in operation in Gateshead, as well as in Newcastle, but that, in the presence of so much more important and more easily removable causes, we do not think it necessary to dwell at any length thereon.

132. That whilst reporting, as we do without airy hesitation, that the sanitary powers of the Local Board in Gateshead had, up to and until the time of the late outbreak, been in many respects but inadequately and unsatisfactorily exercised; that the due exercise of those powers could not have failed decidedly to mitigate the virulence of that outbreak, and consequently that the inadequate exercise of them cannot but be regarded as having tended seriously to aggravate it; we, nevertheless, have considerable hesitation in expressing an opinion as to the degree of blame attaching to the Local Board in respect thereof:- that the Local Board had been constituted but very little more than two years, when the late epidemic burst upon them; that the operations of all newly constituted representative bodies, having no means of action except by additional and unpopular rates specially leviable for the purpose, are liable to be somewhat slow at first; that the Local Board of Gateshead not only commenced its preliminary operations briskly in respect of the appointment of some of its officers, but also within six or seven months after its final constitution had issued and got approved several very useful byelaws, on a variety of subjects, and again, upon the outbreak of the late epidemic, exhibited considerable energy in their endeavours to repress it, although, of course; to comparatively little purpose; that some of its officers, especially its Clerk (or rather, as we fear we ought now to say, its late Clerk) and its Surveyor, and some few of its members, have always been eager and earnest advocates of the full exercise of its sanitary powers, and have zealously afforded us, as to Mr. Superintending Inspector Rawlinson before us, all the information and assistance in their power; and that; in the actual exercise of those powers, the Local Board does not appear ever to have lagged behind, but on the contrary to have been generally in advance of public opinion in the borough, and of the views and wishes of the ' ratepayers at large; that, although some few of the more active members of the Local Board appear themselves to have been owners of some of the very ill-conditioned house property in the borough, and in so far to have been personally and pecuniarily interested in obstructing the exercise of the salutary powers in question, still the main obstruction thereto appears to have consisted in the impatience of sanitary rates on the part of the ratepayers at large, who have hitherto been more alive to the direct pressure of those rates than to the indirect effects of unremedied sanitary evils upon life and health, and ultimately upon the poor rates; that other and for the time, no doubt, considerable difficulties appear also to have been experienced in borrowing monies to defray the first expense of compulsory improvements on private properties, as also in recovering the monies thus expended in advance, and generally in having frequently to threaten or resort to expensive legal proceedings in order to insure a compliance with the law; to which should be added that, although nothing has been done in respect of model lodging houses for the accommodation of the poorer classes, baths and washhouses have from their first constitution been in contemplation and in course of preparation and erection, and will probably be open to the public before the expiration of the third year from the time of that constitution.

133. That the observations already made in respect of the water supplied to Newcastle before and during the late outbreak, are also in the main applicable in respect of that supplied to Gateshead, both towns being supplied by the same Water Company and from the same original sources; that the possibility of local differences in the quality of the water, owing to local circumstances, was more strongly suggested by the evidence given in Gateshead, but that in other respects this was nearly identical with that given in Newcastle; that there was the, same general consent as to the water having been bad, muddy, and very undesirable for drinking purposes; that the same distinct declarations were made by some witnesses as to its having had a disagreeable taste and offensive smell (although in Gateshead this was stated to have happened in other years besides 1853), whilst, on the other hand, similar statements were made by others as to their never having noticed anything of the kind; but that no one in Gateshead appeared to have heard of any such offensive changes in the water of ordinarily good wells and springs, as were alleged to have occurred in some cases in Newcastle; that while one witness was of opinion that the water was such as would predispose the public generally to diarrhoea, and so render them more susceptible of cholera, others expressed themselves to the effect that the use of it had not had any material, or at all events directly traceable, effect on the virulence of the epidemic; that the nature of the water supply in Gateshead, viz., in respect of its being but very rarely introduced into the interior of the houses, is defective, as in Newcastle, and in respect of its being less often introduced into any part of the premises, appears to be still more so; and that the extent of it, although greatly increased under the auspices of the existing Company, is still inadequate to the wants or necessities, especially of the poorer classes; that in a few instances the Local Board have exercised their powers under the Public Health Act of compelling houseowners or occupiers, under certain circumstances, to provide their houses with water; but that the powers in question have not been fully adequate to the purpose in view, owing to the doubt whether the word "house" there can be construed to apply to a tenement or part of a house, such tenements being the only dwellings in Gateshead now destitute of water supply.

134. That, with reference to the cost of the late epidemic in Gateshead, it appears that an expense of about £1,278 was incurred by the Board of Guardians for immediate services; that a public subscription of about £600 was similarly expended; that au annual expense of about £450 was incurred for the maintenance of persons thereby rendered chargeable to the poor rates, which, at only six years' purchase would amount to £2,700; so that, without considering the loss arising from stoppage of trade, &c., and which must have been very considerable, the cost of the recent outbreak will have amounted to some 4,£600, or more than the whole public expenditure of the Local Board during the two years of its existence: and all, as before observed, in respect of Newcastle, without the slightest benefit to the town, and without the slightest defence or guarantee having been thereby obtained against the recurrence of a similar calamity and expense.


135. That the borough of Tynemouth, as its name imports, is situated at the mouth of the river Tyne, on the north bank, some eight or nine miles below Newcastle, and in a physical and sanitary view presents many points of resemblance both to Newcastle and to Gateshead; that the same radically bad forms of house construction, back to back or into "banks," and the same dangerous, if not irremediable, unwholesomeness of habitations prevails there also to a considerable extent; the sewerage, drainage, paving, and privy and ashpit accommodation being probably as deficient there, and the water supply being worse, than in either of those other places: and the whole sanitary condition of the borough, as regards permanent works, being admitted to be but little better than in 1849, when it was very bad, and when the place was most severely visited by cholera.

136. That the borough of Tynemouth appears not to have been incorporated till November 1849; that the Public Health Act was applied to it, and the Town Council constituted the Local Board of Health there in 1851; that since then a complete survey of the borough has been made with a view to comprehensive sanitary works; that in September 1852, when the cholera, was supposed to be approaching our eastern coast, and again in September 1853, after it had broken out in Newcastle and in Gateshead, a thorough cleansing of the borough was instituted, and other temporary measures adopted and carried out with great energy and effect; that in point of fact, the borough suffered a loss of but 12 lives out of 30,000 or upwards (29,170 at the census of 1851); and that under these circumstances we have not thought it requisite to go into any more lengthy inquiry or report with reference to this borough.

All which is humbly submitted for Your Majesty's gracious consideration.


15th July 1854.

Reproduced courtesy of Gateshead Council's Libraries and Arts Service.
With special thanks to Anthea Lang, Local Studies Librarian, and Stuart Phipps.