Friday, 4 January 2013

Before the Andover Estate: scarlet fever, small pox, English cholera and diptheria

If you look into the Andover and the Six Acres Estates' past you'll hear them described in dry officialese as 1970s slum clearance projects. In 1885 the London Standard ran an article, nowhere near the front page, that shows what those slums had been.* Here it is:

'Dr G. Danford Thomas held an inquest at the Islington's Coroner Court as to the death of Daniel Hemley, aged 6 and a half, lately living with his parents at 51, Alsen-road, Holloway. 

Fanny Hemley, the mother, stated that she had formerly resided at Andover street, from which place she removed, owing to the occupants of the house and the neighbours being all down with various zymotic [infectious] diseases. 

The child was well until Wednesday last, when he complained of pains in his head, and feeling sick, on Thursday saying his neck pained him. On Sunday Witness gave him a powder and put him to bed, but he died the next morning at three o'clock. 

Witness lost a child when at Andover road from diphtheria, and an inquest was held. Mrs Hutchings, landlady of the last Witness, said that she formerly resided at 4, Andover street, Hornsey road and there, owing to the bad drainage all her children were stricken down by disease. 

The drains in the next house were stopped up and the stench was so abominable that it was hardly bearable. The children had had scarlet fever, small pox, English cholera and diptheria there, all these diseases being traceable, in Witness' opinion, to the bad drainage. Witness notified the landlord of the state of the house and he had it disinfected when she left. 

Dr T. H. Wagstaff, of 19, Andover road, stated that he was called to the child, who was then dead, death being due, he found, on making an autopsy, to a severe form of diptheria. 

It arose, in Witness' opinion, from the effects of bad drainage. He believed that the houses were built thirty years ago, under the old system of combination drainage, the effect being that the effluent in one house passed into the next, any foul gas generated in the one passing through the next two or three. The system was not allowed under the New Building Act, and the houses should, Witness thought, be looked to. 

Witness had at present two young people aged 19 and 22 respectively, under his care who were suffering from typhoid fever, and they came from the same infected area. No cases came from the other side of the Hornsey Road.  

Dr Thomas said that he had had many cases from the same district, and in each instance a notice had been sent to the Vestry, but no action had been taken in the matter. 

The following verdict was agreed to unanimously: 'That the deceased was found dying, and did die, from the mortal effects of diphtheria; and the Jury having heard in evidence of the prevalence of this disease and other zymotic diseases in the neighbourhood of the place of the death, desire urgently to call the attention of the Vestry to the matter, in the hope that a thorough inspection of the drainage may be made.'

Thanks again to the British Library's online newspaper archive. And many many thanks to plumbing and medicine.

*As noted in comments I've been lazy and not looked into what happened between this trial and the estates being built. I'm not even sure how to find out what happened - suggestions very welcome. 

3 comments:

  1. This is fascinating - I do love that you're keeping this blog!

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  2. Thank you! It's a pleasure to write. Tell me if there's anything you'd like to see covered.

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  3. I am pretty sure the houses which had such unsanitary drainage were demolished in the late Victorian era and replaced with houses with proper sewers. These were then pulled down by the GLC in mid 1970s to build the estates.

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