Showing posts with label Chadwick. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Chadwick. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Nuisance, Public Health, Disease.

434. Nuisance, Public Health, Disease.—A cemetery is not a nuisance per se, but if it is proved that the burial of dead bodies in a certain cemetery does injure the public health and is a fruitful source of transmission of disease, the State may prohibit such burial at certain places within cities or adjacent to dwellings. But unless authorized by the Legislature a council has no right by ordinance to provide that no one shall be buried within half a mile of any habitation or public thoroughfare. And where the Legislature authorized a city to remove the bodies interred and allow streets through the land, it had authority to do so.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Interviews about the graveyard

"Health of towns":
an examination of the report
and evidence of the Select Committee:
ofcMr. Mackinnon's Bill: 

.... for establishing
cemeteries around the metropolis.
(p:22 1843)

Mr. Moses Solomons, who resided in Vinegar-yard, Drury Lane, said, his " back staircase windows looked into the churchyard."

This son of Abraham, who seemed to be a somewhat malicious witness with respect to the gentlemen of the spade and pickaxe, gave evidence, on the main point, of the most decisive and remarkable character.

He has resided during fifty-seven years on the margin of one of the most crowded and worst managed grounds in the metropolis, and the result of this extraordinary experiment is as follows :

" Does any exhalation or putrid smell arise from it ? -Sometimes, in summer time. "

Is that very great. - "Yes, very great. "

Have you ever found it affect your health ? - "No".

Nor the health of your family ? - "No."

This testimony of Moses quite confounded the Chairman, who,  returned to the point by a general interrogatory, and obtained from the aged Jew an answer which only made matters worse :-

" Is that a healthy neighbourhood ? - Where I live (on the margin of one of the worst graveyards) is very healthy."

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Premature burial

"In October, 1837, M. Deschamps, an inhabitant of la Guillotiere, at Lyons, died at the end of a short indispositon. His obsequies were ordered for the next day. On the next day the priests and the vergers, the corpsebearers and conductors of funerals, attended. At the moment when they were about to nail down the lid of the coffin, the corpse rose in its shroud, sat upright, and asked for something to eat. The persons present were about to run away in terror, as from a phantom, but they were re-assured by M. Deschamps himself, who happily recovered from a lethargic sleep, which had been mistaken for death. Due cares were bestowed upon him, and he lived. After his recovery he stated that in his state of lethargy he had heard all that had passed around him, without being able to make any movement, or to give any expression to his sensations. 

It is fortunate for M. Deschamps that the funeral, which was to have taken place in the evening, was deferred until the morning, when the lethargic access terminated, otherwise he would have been interred alive"


Thursday, 5 April 2012

The living and the dead - Interview

The condition in which the remains are often found on the occurrence of a death at the eastern part of the metropolis are thus described by Mr. John Liddle, the medical officer of the Whitechapel district of the Whitechapel Union.

What is the class of poor persons whom you, as medical officer, are called upon to attend to ?

The dock labourers, navigators, bricklayers' labourers, and the general description of labourers inhabiting Whitechapel and lower Aldgate.

On the occurrence of a death amongst this description of labourers, what do you find to be the general condition of the family, in relation to the remains. How is the corpse dealt with?

Nearly the whole of the labouring population there have only one room. The corpse is therefore kept in that room where the inmates sleep and have their  meals. Sometimes the corpse is stretched on the bed, and the bed and bed-clothes are taken off, and the wife and family lie on the floor. Sometimes a board is got on which the corpse is stretched, and that is sustained on tressels or on chairs. Sometimes it is stretched out on chairs. When children die, they are frequently  laid out on the table. The poor Irish, if they can afford it, form a canopy of hite calico over the corpse, and buy candles to burn by it, and place a black cross at the head of the corpse. They commonly raise the money to do this by subscriptions amongst themselves and at the public houses which they frequent.

What is the usual length of time that the corpse is so kept?  

The time varies according to the day of the death. Sunday is the day usually chosen for the day of burial. But if a man die on the Wednesday, the burial will not take place till the Sunday week following. Bodies are almost always kept for a full week, frequently longer.

What proportion of these cases may be positively contagious ?

It appears from the Registrar-General's Report (which, however, cannot be depended on for perfect accuracy, as the registrar's returns are very incorrect, I do not think I have been required to give a certificate of death upon more than three occasions), that in the year 1839, there were 747 deaths from epidemic diseases which formed about one-fifth of the whole of the deaths in the Whitechapel Union.

Have you had occasion to represent as injurious this practice of retaining the corpse amidst the living?

I have represented in several communications in answer to sanitary inquiries from the Poor Law Commission Office, that it must be and is highly injurious. It was only three or four days ago  that an instance of this occurred in my own practice, which I will mention. A widow's son, who was about 15 years of age, was taken ill of fever. Finding the room small, in which there was a family of five persons living, I advised his immediate removal. This was not done, and the two other sons were shortly afterwards attacked, and both died. When fever was epidemic, deaths following the first death in the same family were of frequent occurrence. In cases where the survivors escape, their general health must be deteriorated by the practice of keeping the dead in the same room.

Do you observe any peculiarity of habit amongst the lower classes accompanying this familiarity with the remains of the dead?

What I observe when I first visit the room is a degree of indifference to the presence of the corpse: the family is found eating or drinking or pursuing their usual callings, and the children playing. Amongst the middle classes, where there is an opportunity of putting the corpse by itself, there are greater marks of respect and decency. Amongst that class no one would think of doing anything in the room where the corpse was lying, still less of allowing children there.



                                                  "Miasms arising from churchyards are in general too much diluted by the surrounding air to strike the neighbouring inhabitants with sudden and severe disease, yet they may materially injure the health, and the evidence appears to me to be decisive that they often do so. Among others who sometimes obviously suffer from this cause, are the families of clergymen, when, as occasionally happens, the vicarage or rectory is situated very close to a full church-yard. I myself know one such clergyman's family, whose dwelling-house is so close to an extremely full churchyard, that a very disagreeable smell from the graves is always perceptible in some of the sitting and sleeping rooms. The mother of this family states that she has never had a day's health since she has resided in this house, and that her children are always ailing ; and their ill health is attributed, both by the family and their medical friends, to the offensive exhalations from the Churchyard."


Wednesday, 21 March 2012


"The evidence is just as indubitable that exhalations arise from the bodies of the dead, which are capable of producing disease and death. Many instances are recorded of the communication of smallpox from the corpse of a person who has died of smallpox. This has happened not only in the dwelling house before interment, but even in the dissecting room. Some years ago five students of anatomy, at the Webb street school, Southwark, who were pursuing their studies under Mr. Grainger, were seized with smallpox, communicated from a on the dissecting table, though it does not appear that all who were attacked were actually  engaged in dissecting this body. One of these young men died. There is reason to believe that emanations from the bodies of persons who have died of other forms of fever have proved injurious and even fatal to individuals who have been much in the same room with the corpse."


Thursday, 8 March 2012


Mr- Hutchinson, surgeon, Farringdon-street, was called on Monday morning, the 15th March, 1841, to attend a girl, aged 14, who was labouring under typhus fever of a highly malignant character. This girl was the daughter of a pew-opener in one of the large city churches, situated in the centre of a small burial ground, which had been used for the interment of the dead for centuries, the ground of which was raised much above its natural level, and was saturated with the remains of the bodies. There were vaults beneath the church, in which it was still the custom, as it had long been, to bury the dead. The girl in question had recently returned from the country, where she had been at school. On the preceding Friday, that is, on the fourth day before Mr. Hutchinson saw her, she had assisted her mother during three hours and on the Saturday during one hour, in shaking and cleansing the matting of the aisles and pews of the church. The mother stated, that this work was generally done once in six weeks ; that the dust and effluvia which arose, always had a peculiarly foetid and offensive odour, very unlike the dust which collects in private houses ; that it invariably made her (the mother) ill for at least a day afterwards ; and that it used to make the grandmother of the present patient so unwell, that she was compelled to hire a person to perform this part of her duty. On the afternoon of the same day on which the young person now ill had been engaged in her employment, she was seized with shivering, severe pain in the head, back, and limbs, and other symptoms of  commencing fever. On the following day all these symptoms were aggravated, and in two days afterwards, when Mr. Hutchinson first saw her, malignant fever was fully developed, the skin being burning hot, the tongue dry and covered with a dark brown fur, the thirst urgent, the pain of the head, back, and extremities severe, attended with hurried and oppressed breathing, great restlessness and prostration, anxiety of countenance, low muttering delirium, and a pulse of 130 in the minute. "



"Mr. Elcock, student of anatomy, slightly punctured his finger in opening the body of a hospital patient about twelve o'clock at noon, and in the evening of the same day, finding the wound painful, showed it to Sir Astley Cooper after his surgical lecture. During the night the pain increased to extremity, and symptoms of high constitutional irritation presented themselves on the ensuing morning. No trace of inflammation was apparent beyond a slight redness of the spot at which the wound had been inflicted, which was a mere puncture. In the evening he was visited by Dr. Babington, in conjunction with Dr. Haighton and Sir Astley Cooper; still no local change was to be discovered, but the nervous system was agitated in a most violent and alarming degree, the symptoms nearly resembling the universal excitation of  hydrophobia, and in this state he expired within the period of forty-eight hours from the injury".



Ashill Parish Church and Cemetery
© Godric Godricson
"Undertakers state that they sometimes experience, in particularly crowded grave-yards, a sensation of faintness and nausea without perceiving any offensive smell. Dr. Riecke appears to conclude, from various instances which are given, that emanations from putrid remains operate in two ways, one set of effects being produced through the lungs by impurity of the air from the mixture of irrespirable gases ; the other set, through the olfactory nerves by powerful, penetrating, and offensive smells. On the whole, the evidence tends to establish the general conclusion that offensive smells are true warnings of sanitary evils to the population".


Saturday, 3 March 2012

Edwin Chadwick - Disease (1842)

"Dr. Copeland, in his evidence before the Committee of the House of Commons, adduced the following remarkable case, stated to be of fever* communicated after death :

About two years ago (says he) I was called, in the course of my profession, to see a gentleman, advanced in life, well known to many members in this house and intimately known to the Speaker, This gentleman one Sunday went into a dissenting chapel, where the principal part of the hearers, as they died, were buried in the ground or vaults underneath. I was called to him on Tuesday evening, and I found him labouring under symptoms of malignant fever ; either on that visit or the visit immediately following, on questioning him on the circumstances which could have given rise to this very malignant form of fever, for it was then so malignant that its fatal issue was evident, he said that he had gone on the Sunday before (this being on the Tuesday afternoon) to this dissenting chapel, and on going up the steps to the chapel he felt a rush of foul air issuing from the grated openings existing on each side of the steps ; the effect upon him was instantaneous ; it produced a feeling of sinking, with nausea, and so great debility, that he scarcely could get into the chapel. He remained a short time, and finding this feeling increase he went out, went home, was obliged to go to bed, and there he remained. When I saw him he had, up to the time of my ascertaining the origin of his complaint, slept with his wife ; he died eight days afterwards ; his wife caught the disease and died in eight days also, having experienced the  same symptoms. These two instances illustrated the form of fever arising from those particular causes. Means of counteraction were used, and the fever did not extend to any other members of the family. Assuming that that individual had gone into a crowded hospital with that fever, it probably would have become a contagious fever. The disease would have propagated itself most likely to others, provided those others exposed to the infection were pre-disposed to the infection, or if the apartments where they were confined were not fully ventilated, but in most cases where the emanations from the sick are duly diluted by fresh air, they are rendered innocuous. It is rarely that I have found the effects from dead animal matter so very decisive as in this case, because in the usual circumstances of burying in towns the fetid or foul air exhaled from the dead is generally so diluted and scattered by the wind, as to produce only a general ill effect upon those predisposed ; it affects the health of the community by lowering the vital powers, weakening the digestive processes, but without producing any prominent or specific disease.”


Friday, 2 March 2012

Edwin Chadwick - Interview

© Godric Godricson
"The effects of unguarded interments have, however, as will subsequently be noticed, been observed with greater care on the continent, and the proximity of wells to burial-grounds has been reported to be injurious. Thus it is stated in a collection of reports concerning the cemeteries of the town of Versailles, that the water of the wells which lie below the church-yard of St. Louis could not be used on account of its stench.

In consequence of various investigations in France, a law was passed, prohibiting the opening of wells within 100 metres of any place of burial ; but this distance is now stated to be insufficient for deep wells, which have been found on examination to be polluted at a distance of from 150 to 200 metres. In some parts of Germany, the opening of wells nearer than 300 feet has been prohibited.”