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Reasons why towns were not cleaned up

The Government

  • They thought they should not interfere in the every day lives of people “Laissez-faire” attitude

Owners of Houses

  • Owners did not want to spend their money on improvements
  • They did not want houses that they had built & paid for to be torn down
  • Poor workers could not afford high rents on better built housing

Water Companies

  • It would cost them money to clean the water
  • It was easier and cheaper for them to pump filthy water from the dirty rivers

Businesses (Mills, Dye Works & Slaughterhouses)

  • Their waste & pollution was dumped into nearby rivers
  • Did not want to spend money on improvements & other ways of dumping waste

Local Government

  • Local official tried to keep the rates (taxes) low
  • Cheap schemes were chosen that pumped filth into local rivers to keep low rates
  • Local councils were very protective of their powers and did not want government interference from London

Government became involved in Public Health because of The Cholera outbreak in 1831, 1837 & 1838 forced the government to act

Edwin Chadwick

  • Secretary to the Poor Law Commissioners who investigated town conditions

1842 Sanitary Report

The Report was done by Dr Southwood Smith and Dr Kay Shuttleworth

  • Invesigated town conditions and found that ;
    • They were very dirty/dreadful places
    • There was more disease in the dirty places
    • People died more in the dirty areas
    • Disease was more expensive to the country than cleaning it up
    • Disease like cholera were worst in the poorly drained areas of the town
    • Life expectancy was lower in dirty areas - People in the country lived a lot longer than those in the towns

Edwin Chadwick believed that;

  • Disease was caused by bad air (Miasma)
  • It was the filth that caused the smell, which caused the disease

Many poor people died from diseases - He included sanitary maps to prove that; There was a clear connextion between filthy living conditions and disease

Chadwick wanted to improve public health because;

  • He wanted to save money
  • Sickness was a major cause of poverty
  • When ill people could not work they got paid no money
    • Then they claimed it from the parish! This cost far too much!

Chadwick recommended that;

  • Sewers should be put into every town
  • Every town should have a single body (group) responsible for sanitary matters
  • Working people could pay their share of the expense through rates (taxes)
  • Further investigation was needed to look at conditions throughout England

In 1844 a Royal Commission was set up to look into town conditions. It found that towns were filthy. It and agreed with Chadwick. Nothing was done to clean up the towns.

The Sanitary Movement (Main aim to clean up Britains town’s)

Health of Towns Associations

  • Set up in most towns from 1844
  • Met to discuss how conditions could be improved
  • Put pressure on the government to act
  • Some Local authorities made their own improvements i.e. Leeds – they cleaned streets, constructed sewers & drains under


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