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RichardB

Smallpox 1887-88

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RichardB    1

£256

Likely interesting but a lot of money ...

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RichardB    1

Thank you Edmund; hadn't got around to looking for the document.

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Edmund    8

 

Here's an extract, which I found interesting, particularly as an ancestor was a night-soil carter at one point in his high flying career.

Sewerage and Drainage.

Prior to the year 1883, although numerous sewers were in existence in Sheffield, no comprehensive scheme of sewerage had been carried out within the borough, and at that time nearly the whole of the sewage found its way into one or other of the streams traversing the district. Early in the year 1883, a scheme for the sewerage of the borough, and for the disposal of the sewage, was drawn up by Messrs. Charles Gott, of Bradford, and Robert Davidson, the Borough Surveyor, which scheme, with some modifications, was adopted by the Council. The work has been in progress ever since, and the main part of it is now practically complete. The principal feature of the system is the provision of intercepting sewers along the bases of the various valleys to a common outfall at the Blackburn meadows, at the eastern extremity of the district. The scheme was also so arranged as to utilize the existing sewers, and to relieve them where necessary ; to provide new means of drainage to districts where the sewers were insufficient, or for which hitherto no provision had been made. In connexion with this sewerage scheme extensive and complete works for dealing with the sewage have been erected at the Blackburn meadows. At these works the sewage is treated by precipitation and filtration. The filtration process is intermittent, and the plan is generally similar to that followed at Bradford. The solids are first allowed to settle by gravitation, and further precipitation is then effected by the addition of lime, the supernatant liquid being then filtered through coke. Before the effluent is allowed to fall into the river, it is aerated by being discharged over tumbling bays. The new sewers are provided with ample means for inspection and ventilation, and storm overflows have been provided at various points. The old sewers, of which a large number have not yet been superseded, are in many instances of faulty construction, and in some parts the sewage is said to be still conveyed in old rubble drains. The ventilation of the older sewers is extremely defective, and the means for their inspection, and the arrangements for flushing are imperfect. Many " dead ends " are still in existence. The private drains are very varied in their construction, and although much has been done during recent years to secure the disconnexion of houses from the drains, there are a large number of houses throughout the Borough in direct communication with them by means of sink pipes. The danger arising from this direct communication between the interior of the houses and the drains is intensified in the districts where, owing to the connexion of the privy middens with the sewers, the sewers themselves are continually receiving putrescent filth. As a rule the private drainage arrangements are most defective in the houses of the middle and professional classes, these houses, unlike artizan dwellings, being frequently furnished with baths, lavatories, and water-closets, and the waste pipes from the first two being as a rule discharged into the soil pipes, which are generally very imperfectly ventilated.

Excrement and Refuse Disposal.

Sheffield is essentially a privy midden town, the total number of water-closets in existence up to December 31st, 1887, being only 4,137, chiefly found in houses in Ecclesall, Nether Hallam, Upper Hallam, and Pitsmoor. In the centre of the town shops, offices, and hotels alone are as a rule provided with them. If the entire population of the borough is, in accordance with the Registrar-General's estimate, taken at about 3110,000, and assuming that the 4,137 water-closets each serve for the use of the inmates of two houses, say, for 40,000 people, we may conclude that at least 280,000 persons are provided with no other closet accommodation than that afforded by midden privies, and it has been estimated that the actual area occupied by middens themselves in the Borough amounts to considerably over 12 acres. These middens are almost without exception constructed on faulty principles. As a general rule, the midden pit is sunk to a depth of three or more feet below the surface of the ground, and has privies erected on either side of it. In Sheffield it is usual for each midden to have from two to four privies discharging into it, but in some of the older parts of the towns the pits are of great size, and have from 8 to 10 or even 12 privies in connexion with them. Each privy as a rule serves the inmates of two houses, and assuming the population per house to be five persons, aud the average number of privies to a midden to be three, each midden serves on an average for the use of 30 persons. Many of the older middens are unroofed, but the more recent erections are roofed, and in many cases they are also provided with a grate for the purpose of riddling house ashes, though in the cases which came under my notice, this latter arrangement was usually out of order, and the " riddle " opening was evidently in use as a slop sink. From the plan on which the middens are constructed, the contents are kept continually wet by the percolation into them of subsoil and surface water (rain water failing, in addition, into the uncovered ones), and as a result offensive decomposition of their contents is continually taking place. The middens are also used habitually throughout a large part of the town as receptacles for house slops and refuse of every description. As the midden pits are rarely made water-tight, the subsoil necesssarily becomes charged with the soakage of excremental filth. Some of the most offensive privies noticed were situated in the Park, and in the South and North sub-districts of the Sheffield township. In a considerable number of cases, with a view to keeping the contents of the middens dry, they have been connected with the sewers, a small " sump " or catchpit being interposed to keep the solid matter from entering the sewers. Owing to the steep gradient of most of the sewers, it is said that the practice of connecting the middens with the sewers has not hitherto led to their obstruction to any serious extent. On the other hand, the passage of foul putrid filth into the sewers has undoubtedly led to the decomposition of the sewage in them, and has given rise to serious nuisance from sewer ventilators. In connection with this matter, I may quote from the report of the Medical Officer of Health for the year 1886, in which Dr. White, after stating the objections to the connexion of the middens with the sewers, very pertinently asks why, " if it is found necessary to remove a portion of the contents by " drainage," should not all the excreta be included ? The additional solid matter that would have thus to be dealt with, if ashes and house refuse be excluded, would be a mere bagatelle. It is surely irrational to mix in a pit, dry ashes with liquid matter of an objectionable character, and then, after allowing the ashes to become sodden and fouled by the liquid, to drain the liquid into the sewers and cart the fouled ashes .through the town. If mixing the two resulted in producing a compound which could be satisfactorily dealt with, then there would be some reason for the procedure, but if they have to be treated separately, why mix them first ? Where the privy middens are situated on the sides of hills, the evils arising from percolation into the subsoil are very evident. In some cases where the privy midden, common to the inhabitants of a yard, is situated at the upper end of the yard, I have seen putrid filth oozing from the ground at the lower end, 20, 30, or more yards from the midden,because of the fact that the yard was asphalted.

Removal of Refuse.

Soon after the passing of the Public Health Act of 1872, the scavenging of Sheffield, and the cleansing of the streets, was undertaken by the Sanitary Authority. Prior to that date, much of the work had been done by contract. Notwithstanding the fact that since 1872 continuous improvement has taken place in the cleansing of the streets and the scavenging of the middens, the system adopted for the emptying of privy middens in Sheffield remains eminently unsatisfactory. When a midden requires to be emptied, if the case is not such a bad one as to have been reported by one of the inspectors of nuisances, a notice is sent by the occupier of the house to the health office, and the superintendent of cleansing gives an order for the work to be done. The scavenging is carried out between the hours of 1 am. and 9 am. The night-men are divided into two gangs, one of which undertakes the cartage, and the other the emptying of the middens. The excrement, ashes, and other refuse contained in the middens are shovelled out and deposited on the ground of the yard or court. From thence they are carried in wheelbarrows or buckets, and thrown for the second time on the ground, this time in the street, and finally they are shovelled into carts. In order to prevent delay to the cartmen, the men who empty the middens work in advance of the carts, with the result that the heaps of putridity often remain for a period of one, two, or even more hours in the streets. It sometimes happens that the hours for removal having expired before the last loads are reached, the midden contents have to be shovelled back again into the midden, and the same performance has to be gone through again at the next opportunity. The loathsomeness of this proceeding becomes intensified in those cases where the contents of the middens are in a liquid state, the nightsoil then having to be carried in buckets on the shoulders of the men. During and after the process of emptying, a little disinfectant is sprinkled from a small tin, carried on the carts for the purpose, over the sides and bottom of the privy midden. The nightsoil, whenever possible, is conveyed direct to the railway, and thence despatched to farmers, and others, whilst the ashes and other refuse matter are carted to the Manor Wood tip, situated in the Park district, about two miles from the centre of the town. When the demand for nightsoil is small the surplus is deposited with the ashes, &c, at the Manor Wood tip, and during the small-pox epidemic a large proportion of the nightsoil has had to be dealt with in this manner. The contents of each midden are removed on an average once in two or three months, but in the more crowded parts of the town the removals are a good deal more frequent. During the year 1887, 95,221 loads of nightsoil and ashes and .9,362 loads of rubbish were removed by the scavengers, and the total number of middens emptied was 36,719 (serving 89,429 privies). From these numbers it would appear that the amount removed from each midden was 2.8 loads, thus showing a much greater frequency of removal than in 1873, when the average amount removed on each occasion was 5.8 loads.

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Edmund    8

And a snippet illustrating Sheffielders' lackadaisical attitude to public health matters:

One Saturday evening, the Penny Savings Bank being open, and a number of persons attending there to make deposits, a girl waiting her turn, but appearing to be in a hurry, said, "Here mester, tak my munney, ah want to ger whoam, we've three weet smaw-pox."

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