Northern Daily Times, Nov 3rd 1854
Sanitary conditions in St Helens
To the editor
The recent paragraphs respecting the desolate state of St Helens and neighbourhood, are quite inadequate to represent faithfully the present miserable and truly fearful state of cholera, typhus and inflammatory fevers which have, and continue to cause such havoc amongst the lower, middle, and especially higher classes of society. If we rely on the Mercury’s reports, there were 1,100 dangerously ill, and under medical treatment last Friday, which has since then increased several hundreds, and with only six surgeons to attend to all theses cases [except Parr, the board of guardians here a fortnight ago engaged the services of a Liverpool gentleman, to devote his time for this township]. I am sure there ought to be twice as many surgeons to attend to such a large number of patients comfortably, - nay, it is becoming every day more palpable, that with the extraordinary energy and devotedness used by our local medical staff, that they must be almost worn out with fatigue night and day.
However, talking and writing will not remedy the growing evil. We want house to house visitation. We want local committees to aid the needy, helpless and sick. We want the improvement commissioners to devote their immediate attention and great powers, to stop and prevent the numberless nuisances, past and present, - to make their sanitary and health committee, if they have any ? To at once set in right earnest, and purify, whitewash, thoroughly cleanse, and use largely disinfecting, and employ men to do it immediately.
Surely, the boasted sewers of St Helens are not its salvation, - if so, where is it to be found ? And it is perfect folly for several vaunting commissionaires to think that their duty is over when the sewerage is partially done - no such thing. There are PAST, PRESENT and PERMANENT nuisances, worse than many suppose, and which the commissionaires have very unwisely permitted, encouraged, and may I say courted to be allowed, - I mean that nauseous and poisonous “ burning blue waste,” the refuse from all the chemical and alkali works of this improving town. Hundreds of new houses, cottages etc, have been erected upon it, streets raised, railways made, and canal banks raised, and who could have predicted anything else but a fearful scourge, and great desolation and death to be the consequence?
Look at the once crystal brooks, formerly swarming with fish, now one stream of poison, the fogs and vapours rising from which are indeed shameful. Surely, when it has, and continues to turn copper, silver, and gold in peoples pockets as they walk the streets, it is not sure to hurt both vegetable and animal life, when we know that it is impregnated with arsenic, muriatic and other strong acids. Some days the appearance of the brooks are orange, others blue, next green, perhaps the following a foamy milk colour. Fertile fields are forever ruined, once grand and majestic trees are now leafless and branchless stumps. Our once good hedges are also laid low, and if these smokes and vapours do these things, can it be wondered that the inhabitants of this town should be thus sorrowfully infected, and how may I ask must the more tender crops of the vegetable kingdom be? Nay, there are abundant proofs to show these deadening effects, pages might be filled with horrifying accounts of the dangerous state of this town ? Where is the Inspector of nuisances ? What is it that is keeping him back? It is the preponderance and influence of the princely chemical, copper and alkali interest at the Commissioner Board - Other members who ought to be free and fearless appear to stand by careless as though the present pestilential crisis where an every day occurrence.
There are energetic men in this town now is the time for their generous aid and immediate philanthropy, let district committees be formed, let subscriptions be raised, apply at once to the Board of Health for inspectors and medical help. Seek the urgent assistance of the Prescot Board of Guardians for fresh medical aid, then there may be a chance of alleviating and checking the conquering malignant disorder etc.
Copyright 2002 / To date