17 | 11 | 2017

Shepton Mallet sanitation in 1872.

Since our reference to this town, the inhabitants have held a public meeting regarding the matter. It considered there was a necessity for reform in the existing sanitary arrangements, and a committee was formed to consult as to the best means of procedure. Immediate action was deprecated, in view of sanitary legislation this session, yet it was thought that the committee might pick up many good hints in the meanwhile in the towns in which sanitary knowledge and action were more advanced than in Shepton Mallet. We were not surprised to learn, that at this public meeting there were some who believed the sanitary arrangements of the town were well-nigh perfection, and who were prepared at all points, to prove Shepton Mallet “ the healthiest town in England.” There are now such a very large number of “ healthiest towns in England,” that we commend with delight to all Improvement. Commissioners, and other opponents of sanitary measures, the phrase recently introduced by an Improvement Commissioner, — “ the healthiest town in Great Britain.” It is a decided pull upon phrases.

The Duchy of Cornwall possessing a large amount of property in Shepton Mallet, the stream that runs through the town being part of it, it was asked to help in the work of purification ; but for the second time the application has been refused, and with that peculiar air of grandiose snobbishness that we hope and believe only Duchy of Cornwall officials exhibit in such perfection.

They would offer no impediment to the improvement of the Duchy property, but they had given an answer in the year 1868 (or thereabout), to which you are referred. On the Duchy stream from Kilver-street to the Factory at Draycott, there are forty-three privies emptying more or less directly into it, and forty-two sewers, nine of which are public, draining between them the whole of this town of 3,500 inhabitants, and on this stream, just before it reaches the town, there is a brewery, and then a large factory; some portions of the stream are arched over, of course making the uncovered portions all the more noxious and nauseating. Mr. Rawlinson, in his “ Practical Suggestions,” issued by the Commissioners in Lunacy, says,— “ Natural streams should not be arched over to form main sewers ” to which one might add in this case,—so much ignorance, so much mischief; for ignorance is not idle any more than knowledge.

In an uncovered portion of the stream about twenty yards in length, close to Leg-square, at least three sewers and three privies empty; yet in this place we saw a man doing his weekly washing of entrails for sausage manufacturers in the town, whose names were given us. 10 ft. or 12 ft. back from the banks of this same part of the stream, and in such a position that God’s sun can rarely if ever reach them,—cold, dank, dismal,—there are two houses; in one of them there has been a fatal case of typhoid fever, and the people who live there are constantly ill. An agent of the Local Government Board should see the convenience on these premises,—not the outside only, but the inside as well,—and then he should go across to another outside the flour-mills opposite : he would eat no dinner that day. Now, that the Prince has had such an awful experience of the very disease that may at any time visit some of the tenants of the Duchy of Cornwall property in Shepton Mallet, we believe that, if a proper representation were made to him, more directly than has hitherto been done, he would at once cause inquiries to be made as to the existence of these nuisances.

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