Discovering Local History
Health in Stoke-on-Trent
Causes of Disease
Copeman also looked at the causes of disease in Hanley at this time. His findings differed little from those of the study cited earlier undertaken in 1856.
1) Dwellings of the poor
Again much housing in the town in the town was in a poor state and lacked basic amenities. Again the 'Royal' group of streets were a particular black spot.
"As the result of my investigation I found that insanitary conditions are not entirely limited to the dwellings of the very poor. Worst of all, however, is the condition of affairs in the Irish quarter. About Swan Street, also, many of the houses are in an extremely dirty and dilapidated condition, with walls and. foundations damp, due to absence of eaves-spouting. Here I found the privies in a filthy state, in many instances with pans full to overflowing, often with. doors broken or entirely absent, and adjoining ash-pits of huge size usually uncovered and often over-full. Back West Street. Back East View, Halls Fields, America Street (east side), may also be cited as localities where I found somewhat similar conditions to prevail. Other areas where the poorest class of dwelling-houses are to be found, are what are locally known as the "Royal" streets, viz., Crown, Queen, Prince’s, and George Streets, together with a number of courts, some of them entered by arched passages under houses, of which those in Cook's Entry, Raby's Court, and Hanover Street may be mentioned."
Copeman (p. 3).
Copeman did, however, conclude that although there were pockets of bad housing and overcrowding in the Potteries, the area was much better of than many other towns and cities in this period. The potteries covered a much large area than other places and there was lots of greenery between the towns. This meant that there was room to build new houses and accommodate the growing population. Unlike, Preston and Leeds, there were fewer back-to-back houses and few houses in the middle of less century were less than 50 years old.
2) Water Supply.
Hanley's water supply was found to be in 'excellent condition'. Although, problems did arise from time-to-time due to ruptures of the water mains.
3) Sewerage and Drains.
Considerable progress had been in the last twenty years of the nineteenth century in building sewers. There were still some problems, however, particularly in the parts of Hanley that were low-laying and repairs were frequently needed to sewers because of the problem of mining subsidence.
Newer houses by the 1880s were provided with their own drains. Poorer houses often had inadequate drains - see section on housing.
5) Refuse disposal.
This was a problem in many of the poorer parts of Hanley, where household refuse including potato peelings, tea-leaves, &c. were disposed of in large ash-pits exposed to the rain, which were sometimes contaminated with human excrement.
"Some of the largest of these receptacles are to be found in the neighbourhood of Sydney Street. At Cook's Entry also, is a huge ash-pit, used by the inhabitants of ten cottages, which is said to hold about five loads of refuse when full. In certain instances where privies adjoin ash-pits-from which, however, they are now generally disconnected - the roofs of the former slope towards the midden so that on the contents of the latter is discharged any rain that may fall on the privy roofs."
Copeman (p. 6)
Even so, the situation had by 1900 improved considerably.
6) Toilet facilities.
By 1905 there were over 4,993 flush toilets in Hanley, although some of these were not connected to the sewers. Nevertheless the vast majority of houses in the town made use of other means of human waste disposal and many houses still had cess-pit privies that were infrequently emptied.
Private slaughter-houses were also a health hazard, although by this date most animals were slaughtered in public abattoirs.
"…it deserves mention that in one instance, the slaughter house, which is small and dirty, is only lighted at one corner by a barred opening, the bottom of which is level with the top of a wall, and that at the time of my visit, several children had taken up a position on this wall in order to watch what was going- on inside the slaughter house. The floor of this particular slaughter-house is uneven and with large interstices between the bricks; blood and washings escape straight into a drain."
Copeman (p. 8).
8) Keeping of animals.
In some parts of the towns pigs and poultry were kept and these were also a health hazard.
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