HC Deb 30 July 1857 vol 147 cc709-10

said, he wished to ask the First Commissioner of Works whether he has any plan for the prevention of the pestilential stench which comes every evening into every window on the river front of the Houses of Parliament. Whether there is any power to enforce better trapping of the drains, or a removal of the deposits of bones and other refuse on the opposite bank; or whether legislation for the purpose is necessary; or, if there be no redress, whether any plan has been suggested by which the stench may be shut out of the Houses by closing up all the windows on the river side, and admitting air from another direction.


said in reply, that he must inform his hon. Friend that the drainage of the Metropolis was not under the control of his department, but under that of the Metropolitan Board of Works. Since representations had been made to him as to the annoyance caused to hon. Members and Officers of the House by the stench from the river he had been in communication with Mr. Goldsworthy Gurney, and he had that morning been informed by that Gentleman that the stench came from the open mouths of the sewers, and that the whole neighbourhood was infected with it. Some hon. Gentlemen imagined that the stench proceeded from beneath the floor of the House, but Mr. Gurney stated that it was entirely attributable to the abominable state of the sewers and of the river Thames. There was, however, another cause of the nuisance. Mr. Gurney said in his report of to-day:— I am informed that the great Victoria sewer going up Parliament Street has lately broken in somewhere about Whitehall Yard, and that all the sewage which used to go through this large sewer was forced down the Bridge Street sewer; that lately, in order to empty Grosvenor Basin, they passed the whole of the water and mud down this small sewer. The result was the 'blowing up,' as it is called, of the trapping at the mouth of the sewer. This fact has considerably augmented the pestilential state of the atmosphere of the river and the whole of the neighbourhood. He (Sir B. Hall) had communicated these facts to the Metropolitan Board of Works, and he had every reason to hope that they would take immediate steps to abate the nuisance. There was, however, another great source of annoyance in the offensive trades which were carried on upon the opposite bank of the river, the effluvium of which was wafted over to this side, and he wished particularly to call the attention of the House to what took place in 1855, when a Bill was introduced with the object of suppressing nuisances in large towns. Under the provisions of the Bill for the Removal of Nuisances which was referred to a Select Committee, and which was reported to that House on the 9th of May, 1855, after the most careful consideration, ample power was given to local authorities to suppress nuisances arising from trades emitting effluvia offensive or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. By section 28 of that Bill local authorities might proceed against parties on complaint of any medical officer or two legally qualified medical practitioners; and by section 29, in case the parties proceeded against should object to the jurisdiction of Justices in petty sessions, they might enter into recognizances and go to quarter sessions, thus giving an option to the accused parties. There was also another clause, section 31, imposing a penalty on the local authorities if they did not proceed within fourteen days to abate the nuisance; and this was the very essence of the Bill. The bone-boilers and others opposed; they commenced a most active canvass of hon. Members, and in Committee of the whole House the clause relating to offensive trades was altered. The clause with reference to quarter sessions was struck out, and parties were compelled to take proceedings in the Superior Courts; the course of proceeding was thus rendered much more difficult, and to complete the whole the clause imposing a penalty on local authorities was rejected. The consequence was that the public were completely in the hands of the local authorities, and if it should so happen that some member of the local board carried on an offensive trade there was not much hope for the public. Now that was how the case stood at present, and on looking into Hansard that morning to refresh his memory, he found that his hon. Friend who had put this question was one of those who had assisted in cutting down the powers proposed to be given by the Bill, and, consequently, had been most instrumental in bringing about the present state of things, by procuring the rejection of the provision to which he (Sir B. Hall) had referred.