Urban noise nuisances and related matters between 1856 and 1939, as described in Medical Office of Health reports compiled by the Wellcome Library for their London's Pulse project.
Among the many subjects which have occupied the Board’s attention, although, perhaps, more of a local than a general character, may be mentioned the Bridges carrying Railways over Roads in the District, particularly two in Lewisham. The noise occasioned by passing trains has, upon several occasions, alarmed horses, and accidents have occurred in consequence. ‑ Lewisham 1881
The mother was soliciting money from passers-by. The father was playing a combination slum orchestra which included a violin, Pan’s pipes, drum, a triangle, and cymbals. Lowest in the scale are fathers who “work pitches” outside public houses for a living, organ grinders, and those who “go busking” or singing to theatre queues. ‑ Finsbury 1914
The open spaces devoted to railway purposes are bare of vegetation and from them proceed the smoke of railway engines, the clanking of shunting trucks, the rumbling of trains, the explosions of fog signals, shrill whistlings, and other disturbances of matter immensely conducive to the activities of the nation, but not to the health of the people immediately surrounding. ‑ St Pancras 1904
No person shall, in connection with any show, roundabout, exhibition, or performance held or placed on any vacant ground adjoining or near to a street, make or cause or permit or suffer to be made, any loud or continuous noise by means of any organ or other similar instrument to the annoyance or disturbance of residents. ‑ Hammersmith 1905
A problem which is becoming more acute is that of noise. By this is not meant the inevitable increase in the “background of noise”, but the more specific causes of noise in so far as they affect health. Of particular concern to Southall is the noise from aeroplanes, especially at night time. Southall has two aerodromes, Hanworth and Heston, within a short distance. ‑ Southall 1934
I refer to the number of petty annoyances that keep us perpetually on the alert night and day, such as street calls and shouting, whether during the day or at the closing of the public houses, loud, vulgar, insane choruses by half drunken men in vans and brakes, vulgar horse play by lads at or near the station at night, perpetual barking of dogs often all night. ‑ Wembley 1902
The district of St. Marylebone possesses streets in which a large proportion of the houses are fitted up as nursing establishments. There is one disadvantage, that is, some of the sufferers require the muffling of the street noises as far as possible, hence these nursing streets are almost constantly littered with straw. ‑ Marylebone 1898
Ranelagh-street, No. 8. The complaint here was of stone masons’ hammering during the day. At Mr. Croft’s, Pork Butcher, Knightsbridge-terrace, that of a nuisance caused by the noise of a sausage-making machine, erected at the rear of complainant’s yard. At Cumberland-street, No. 73, annoyance caused by the playing of an organ next door. ‑ Hanover Square 1861
That the Clerk be authorised to write in reply, stating that in the opinion of the Vestry it is advisable that a By-law should be framed prohibiting the throwing of orange peel on the footways, and also that a By-law should be framed to obviate as much as possible noises in the streets after 12 o’clock at night. ‑ Rotherhithe 1894
There is no more offensive and disgusting sight or smell than that of a piggery, to say nothing of the nondescript character of the sties in which the animals are usually kept, or the hideous noises with which they invade even the silence of the night. ‑ Wandsworth 1877
The factory is small and the space is still further encroached upon by the bales of rags ready for tearing up. The engine is a good deal worn and is very noisy in its working. The machines do not appear to be fixed on very substantial foundations, and vibrate a good deal. ‑ Bethnal Green 1888
Cock-crowing at 1 a.m, the barking of dogs, the cooing of pigeons near your chamber window, or any other nuisance arising from noise, by which the sleep of nervous people is disturbed, is a serious annoyance, and probably ought, as in the manner of the street music, to be under control, or to be put down by law; but I cannot treat them as Sanitary nuisances. ‑ Paddington 1870
SEARCH BY DISTRICT, DECADE, OR COMBINATIONS OF BOTH
The following were cases in which the Inspector could not interfere:—
Ranelagh-street, No. 8. The complaint here was of stone masons’ hammering during the day. At Mr. Croft’s, Pork Butcher, Knightsbridge-terrace, that of a nuisance caused by the noise of a sausage-making machine, erected at the rear of complainant’s yard. At Cumberland-street, No. 73, annoyance caused by the playing of an organ next door.
Hanover Square 1861
Complaints Unavailing. From occupier of 319, Oxford-street, of a steam-engine at 320, which shook the house and made noise.
I have also to record the fact of another nuisance arising from the mode in which a Malleable Iron Foundry, situated in Back Church Lane, is conducted. A short time ago, a memorial signed by 63 inhabitants, was sent to your Board, complaining of the offensive black smoke and the quantity of black and white dust which are emitted from the factory. The black and white dust is stated to get into the rooms of the memorialists and to be injurious to their eyes. It is further stated, that the said dust is often to be found lying in the ground to the depth of the thickness of a half-penny. Not only do the memorialists complain of the smoke and dust, but they state that the noise from the machinery is so loud that they cannot hear each other speak distinctly, and this noise is accompanied with rumbling and shaking of the houses. On visiting the premises complained of, I ascertained that the dust spoken of arose from the escape of portions of oyster-shells which are used in the process of melting the iron, to free it from slugs or rubbish. The smoke is occasioned by the chimney being too low, and the want of a proper smoke-consuming apparatus in the furnace. The noise is caused by the use of a fan to produce a blast in the upright cylinders in which the iron is melted. A notice has been served upon the proprietor to abate the nuisance complained of, which I have no doubt will be promptly attended to.
St George (Southwark) 1867
Much has been done during the past year to diminish the offensiveness of the trades carried on in Green-street. [. . .] Amid the din the bustle, the dust, the confusion and smoke of traffick, we cannot expect that our sense of smell shall escape offence, our hands remain unsoiled, our ears be not deafened by discordant noises. It is upon commerce that the glory and prosperity of this country has been built, and its lofty superstructure stands safe thereon. But hamper our industrial enterprise and energy, as some of the Bills before Parliament propose to do, and the price we shall be called upon to pay for our refined delicacy will be far too costly. There are certain trades which from their nature, such as those where chemical processes are carried on, or where the storage of combustible and explosive materials are necessary, should at once be sent to a distance. In these cases not only the convenience but the health and lives of the surrounding population are at stake. All possible means of lessening offence from trades should be rigidly enforced, but I doubt the propriety of either stopping them or sending them away.
The register book of complaints and nuisances contains 174 cases, which admit of the following classification:—
Defects of drainage and untrapped gulleys 32
” ” water supply 6
Dirty state of premises, water closets, urinals, stagnant water, percolations, &c 38
Offensive trades, marine stores, frying of fish, ballast burning bad meat, &c 24
Overcrowding and bad ventilation —
Smoke nuisances 2
Animals being dirtily kept, and noises from 4
Smells from the Canal Basin —
Accumulation and deposit of manure, garbage, refuse, dust, dung, &c 50
Smells from decaying and putrid substances 1
Defective cleansing of Roadways —
Dangerous Structure —
Miscellaneous other complaints 17