Cleanliness in Brompton

​From Chatham Observer (& Chatham News) 3 Aug 1889


Co Police Court Rochester. William Copper fishmonger Old Brompton High St summoned to show cause why he should not obey an order of Gillingham Local Board to remove a nuisance on his premises. Mr Woodgate appeared for Copper Mr Bassett prosecuted for Gillingham Local Bd.

Bassett: Cesspool under Copper’s house, “a frightful nuisance and the matter in the cesspool percolated through the soil and caused such a stench in the shop next door that people would not go in”. Even so, Copper would not obey an order to remove it and would not have another one made.

Cornelius Candler, Sanitary Inspector for Gillingham Local Board had inspected a fortnight ago and again that morning and found nuisance arising from the cesspool used for refuse fish water, partly under the house. A very offensive smell. He then went into the cellar of the adjacent house which was at the side of the cesspool.

“A very offensive fluid was percolating through the wall from the cesspool into the cellar. There was an inch or two of the offensive fluid on the floor of the cellar. In the store behind the house was the proper place to build a cesspool”.

Dr EC Warren Medical Officer to Gillingham Local Bd visited three times. Very offensive smell from cesspool. A nuisance and injurious to health.  Went into Mr Batt’s cellar next door. A quantity of very offensive smelling fluid had percolated through. To abate this, the cesspool should be filled up and a new one made. Candler re-examined by Woodgate: if cesspool was below the level of the cellar, no percolation could occur.

Candler answers question from Bassett: The smell would still ascend. The smell could not be avoided by ventilation. Alfred Wanstell, Surveyor to the Bd: Proposed new situation for cesspool was fit & proper. It was once a well and was about 180 to 200ft deep.

Answers Woodgate: Did not know site was formerly a brickfield and was all “made” ground. He believed it was virgin soil. Thomas Callund, Rochester builder and surveyor: Had inspected Batt’s cellar. “The fluid was actually moving with animal life. The smell was bad and the cesspool ought most certainly to be filled up and the store at the back was a fit and proper place for a new one.

Answers Woodgate: There would be no fluid if the pit were sunk on a lower level than the cellar, but the smell would still arise. Ventilation could avoid this. Tozer, Chair of Gillingham Local Bd, and builder/surveyor with 40 years experience corroborated. Under cross examination he added that some years ago he was instrumental in having the well converted into a cesspool. No harm then because then it was in an open courtyard. Since, has been covered by a house.

“In defence, Mr Woodgate said that Brompton was perforated (CN says “thoroughly honeycombed”) with cesspools, that it would be dangerous to a shaft near to dig a new cesspool where it was proposed, and there was no more room to dig others”. Blamed Gillingham Bd for not emptying it frequently enough.

Edgar George Watchurst, builder of Old Brompton said cesspool would not be a nuisance if kept well down and ventilated.

“He would not be responsible for digging another cesspool in such close proximity to other cesspools and the houses, as he considered it would be dangerous, since they might fall in. Mr Copper used 10000 gallons of water last quarter and witnessed believed if that were turned into the street no harm would be done”.

In answer to Bassett: “He would not say the water should run along the gutters. It could be conveyed in pipes to the top of Middle Street and then it could run down the gutters as then there could be no stagnation owing to the great fall in the street”.

Answers Woodgate: The Bd at present allows 2 slaughter houses to be drained this way.

Court’s Decision: Fill up the cesspool and dig another.

Letter in to Board of Guardians from H Weekes

Printed in Chatham News 18 August 1866


I wish to bring under your notice the dirty, unhealthy condition of an estate in Wood Street, Brompton called Green’s Alley, and of which Mr Gegan is deputy landlord.

The privies are overflowing and not fit for use. They require immediately, emptying, repairing and the free use of chloride of lime until it can be done. The dirt heaps and all the property requires cleansing and the free use of disinfectants. The neighbourhood is too close to permit pigs to be kept there. The well is very dirty and the water is not fit for use. The estate ought to be immediately provided with wholesome water. A case of obstinate diarrhoea has occurred there and in former evidence the inhabitants of these houses suffered severely from choleraic diarrhoea.

The Pig Nuisance in Manor Street

Chatham News 25 October 1862

Manor Street Old Brompton October 15 1862


It is an unpleasant task for anyone to expose their neighbours, but I feel it my duty to inform you and the public that the above nuisance is still unmoved and unnoticed by the Inspector of Nuisances.

I had hoped that the letter which appeared in your columns of September 16th would have induced the owner to have removed it or at least have caused the Inspector to have seen that it was removed, but if I may judge from the alterations that have been made in the “piggery” in the shape of gutters etc to convey the filth and slush from a stack of pig dung to a cesspool (which I may say is close to the house), I should conclude that the owner was going to increase his “establishment” rather than do away with it.

I can assure you, sir, that Chatham “with all its faults” has not a nuisance to come up to this. And when I open my window or door of a morning the stench that greets my nose is beyond all description, and it continues the same through the day.

But when the stench reaches its climax is when the pig dung is removed (which is often done, the yard being too small to contain much). The neighbours, knowing too well what operation is going on, immediately have to rush into their houses and shut every door and window, or else stand a chance of being overwhelmed by this suffocating stench.

Now, sir, I wish to know why this nuisance should be forced upon us, and why the health of us and our families should stand in such jeopardy. Why this man should trample on our rights and break the public regulations with impunity? If the Inspector of Nuisances for Old Brompton can offer any plausible reason why this nuisance should not be done away with immediately, I should be contented to bear with it for the future.


From “Bromptonian”
Chatham News 20 September 1862

Manor Street, Old Brompton, 16 September 1862


Knowing that your paper is a valuable medium for the exposure of any infringement on the rights of the public, allow me to state one of the most infamous impositions on the inhabitants of Old Brompton that ever came under my notice.

For nearly eight years I have lived in Manor Street (which is none of the most wholesome I confess) and therefore do not take too much notice of the unpleasant smells that are so frequent in this street. But never has my nose been offended by anything so much as it has been by a stench emanating from a small yard near my house, the owner of which has turned it into a “pig sty”.

On Saturday last, from one of my neighbour’s windows, I counted twelve full grown pigs (there are fourteen in all) and from a rough estimate of the ducks and chickens there are over fifty of them and arising from them, together with a heap of manure from the pigs, raises an effluvia beyond the power of my pen to describe.

Pity the poor creatures that live in the house adjoining (the owner does not live in the house, but lets it to lodgers), who have to wade ankle deep through a quagmire of pig filth to the water closet – if that term is applicable.

I do not know, sir, what my neighbours in High Street think. No doubt they conclude that it comes from the “Slate Yard” which almost rivals your “Brook”, but they are deceived in that, as there is a high brick wall between us which hides from them this “newly born nuisance”. Nor are the worshippers to the Wesley Chapel (which is not twenty yards from it) exempt from this horrid nuisance. The place being largely attended, they often open the windows for ventilation and in rushes the stench, to their great annoyance. Their ears are also occasionally saluted by a peal from the ducks which does not increase the solemnity of the service.

But, Mr Editor, it does not end here. The whole of the feathered community at night are driven into the cellar over which twenty persons are sleeping, and no doubt they are often annoyed by their “nocturnal noises” as well as the neighbours.

Now, sir, unless the nuisance is speedily removed, we shall have a disease break out among us which may sweep through the whole town. If this pig vendor, or whatever he styles himself, had kept his pigs etc on the opposite side of the street, the gentry in Mansion Row would long ere this have had him removed for such an infringement on their rights. But, unfortunately for Brompton, they have no Board of Heath, and hence this and similar nuisances are allowed to exist unnoticed.

But surely, sir, there is a person known by the title of “Inspector of Nuisances” whose business it is to see to these things and not to allow us and our families to be deprived of “health, happiness and comfort” through the conduct of one man.


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