During the early years of the factory system, worker's housing was built quickly, cheaply and badly. Little terraced houses were squalid, cramped and damp. Cellar rooms were often flooded by effluent. Many workers lived in cellars which 'consisted of two rooms each nine to ten feet square some inhabited by ten persons or more'
Cholera was rife and there was an 'unwholesome, filthy and disease-engendering condition of the more confined and pauperised districts of the town.' A report in 1832 by Dr Kay stated that 'privvies are in a most disgraceful state, inaccessible from filth and too few for accommodation of the number of people' and in Parliament Street there was 'one privvie in a narrow passage to serve 380 inhabitants'. In 1834 Edwin Chadwick produced Report of the Sanitary Conditions of the Labouring Population of Great Britain in which he detailed the overcrowding, the insanitation and the effect of both on mortality rates and the spread of infectious diseases. He wrote; 'the wants as the most immediate and pressing for the relief of the labouring population are those of drainage and cleansing.'
Three major Acts were passed in the latter part of the 19th century which did much to improve general living conditions and, as a result, standards of health and hygiene, for the working classes. In 1866 the Sanitary Act 'required local authorities to be responsible for sanitary regulations detailed general powers for the provision of sewage disposal, for the water supply, and for the abatement of nuisances made overcrowding of dwellings illegal introduced penalties to prevent those with infectious diseases from frequenting public places and gave local authorities powers for provision of hospitals.'
This was followed in 1875 by the Artisans and Labourers' Dwellings Improvement Act, which enabled local authorities to compulsorily purchase areas of slum housing for demolition and rebuilding; and the Public Health Act 1875 which 'insisted each house should be self contained with its own sanitation and water.' Streets of terraced housing were laid out on a grid pattern. This allowed better ventilation and easier street cleaning. Ginnels or narrow passages were built between the backs of rows of houses to allow the 'night waste cart' to pass easily between them. The improvements in housing and hygiene did much to prevent epidemics and a cleaner water supply eradicated diseases like cholera and typhoid. As a result the high mortality rate among workers was considerably reduced.
How beautiful it is to do nothing and rest afterwards...........