HC Deb 07 May 1855 vol 138 cc227-9

VISCOUNT EBRINGTON moved for leave to bring in a Bill to empower the Commissioners of Sewers to expend on house drainage a certain sum out of the moneys borrowed by them on the security of the rates, and also to give to the said Commissioners certain other powers for the same purpose. He had, some time since, moved for Returns which showed that the house drainage of the metropolis was in a most imperfect and unsatisfactory condition. There were in London some 300,000 houses, about 4–5ths of which had most defective basement arrangements, and in many cases, where new and expensive sewers had been constructed in the streets, the cesspools of comparatively few houses communicated with those sewers. This was particularly the case in Seven Dials, in Berwick Street, and in Great Pulteney Street—a district the inhabitants of which had been almost decimated during the last visitation of the cholera. He considered that the battle against the cholera must be fought, not so much upon the banks of the Thames as in the houses, and they had only about six weeks, during which works could be carried on before that fearful epidemic might again break out and devastate this City. To illustrate the benefits which were derivable from house drainage, he would refer to the case of Lambeth Square, situated on the south side of the Thames. In that square the cholera, committed fearful ravages in 1848. In the autumn of 1852, proper conveniences were provided, and a good supply of water was secured, at an expense altogether of 5l. or 6l. per house. From that time to the present not a single life had been lost through cholera, though the whole of the neighbourhood had suffered severely, and the houses which previously let at 26l. a year had since been eagerly taken at 28l. Experience showed that even where there was not time to carry out a proper system of drainage, much good might be done in the same direction. He held in his hand statements with regard to the effects which had been produced in the City of London by the cleansing of those places which were the chief causes of disease in the metropolis, and by the use of deodorising and purifying appliances. The practical result of the course pursued was that the mortality of the City was, under the energetic superintendence of Mr. Seymour, the officer of health under the corporation, reduced from one-twentieth to one-fiftieth part of the mortality of the whole metropolis. Under these circumstances, what he desired was to bring in a Bill, first, to enable the Commissioners of Sewers to apply a sum not exceeding 25,000l., which would, it was thought, be sufficient to put in a tolerably safe state some 5,000 houses, where there was every reason to fear many deaths, if not from cholera, from some other epidemic, would otherwise occur during the approaching hot season; and, secondly, to remove some of the legal and technical obstructions which at present prevented the application of the provisions inserted in the Metropolitan Sewers Act to meet this numerous and distressing class of cases. He was convinced that the sum which he proposed should be expended would be speedily recovered. If the palliative measure which he now proposed were adopted, the effect would, he believed, be to save thousands of lives; and if nothing of the sort were done—if they allowed themselves there, as they had done in the case of Balaklava, to be enslaved by routine—and if, in consequence, no precautionary measure were adopted, he should have the melancholy satisfaction of having devolved on the Government the responsibility of preventive deaths.


said, he had no wish to oppose the introduction of the Bill, but he must remind his noble Friend that the money in the hands of the Commissioners of Sewers was raised for the specific purpose of carrying out arterial drainage. Moreover, until he saw the Bill, he of course could not tell how his noble Friend proposed to invest the Commissioners with the power of entering private dwellings, until some one had complained of a nuisance.


said, he fully intended that the money should be recoverable. The measure was to be viewed entirely as one having reference to an emergency.

Leave given.

Bill ordered to be brought in by Viscount EBRINGTON and Mr. MONTAGU CHAMBERS.

Bill read 1°.

The House adjourned at half after Eleven o'clock.