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The Grimy 1800s (Paperback)

Waste, Sewage, and Sanitation in Nineteenth Century Britain

British History Social History

By Andre Gren
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 208
ISBN: 9781526731401
Published: 30th March 2019


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In the nineteenth century, as towns grew, Britain became increasingly grimy. The causes of dirt and pollution were defined legally as ‘nuisances’ and, in 1835, the new local authorities very rapidly appointed an army of ‘inspectors of nuisances’.

This book is the inspectors’ chronicle: it offers their eye-witness accounts and a plethora of details pertaining to the workings of the scrutinising Parliamentary Committees that were set up in an attempt to ease the struggles against filth. Inspectors battled untreated human excreta in rivers black as ink, as well as insanitary drinking water, home to tadpoles and portions of frogs so large that they blocked taps. They dealt with putrid animal carcases in cattle markets and slaughter-houses, not to mention the unabated smoke from mill chimneys that covered towns with a thick layer of black grime. Boggle Hole Pond was a source of drinking water full of dead dogs; ice cream was coated in bugs; stinking rotting crabs, poultry and pigeon smells polluted the air. Even the dead floating out of badly drained burial grounds were ‘nuisances’, leading to the practice of burning the remains of the dead.

This is the history of a grimy century in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, illustrating the many ways in which the country responded to the ever growing demands of a new age of industry.

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About Andre Gren

After leaving Merton College, Oxford, with a First in history, Andre Gren worked in Parliament for a number of Select Committees, until losing most of his sight in a car accident. He has since written books on Brunel, the Tay Bridge disaster, and Victoria Cross winners.

He lives in Newbury with his wife and an over-vigorous Dalmatian.

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