Unhealthy noise

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
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1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s

Hackney 1885

Tents, vans, sheds, or similar structures used for human habitation, which are in such a state as to be a nuisance or injurious to health, or which are overcrowded so as to be injurious to the health of the inmates, are now considered to be nuisances, if within the Metropolis, under the Nuisances Removal Acts. This alteration in the law was made by the Housing of the “Working Classes Act, which was passed in August, 1885. Under section 9, subsection 3, the Sanitary authority or the Sanitary Committee can authorise one of its officers to demand admission to these places between sis in the morning and nine at night, and any person obstructing him is liable to a penalty of forty shillings. He is entitled to demand admission whenever he has reasonable ground for supposing that there is a contravention of the provisions of the Act in any of these structures, or as regards cleanliness, overcrowding, &c., or that there is in any of these vans, tents, &c., any person suffering from a dangerous infectious disorder. If the occupier of any van, &c., should neglect to comply with notices served on him to abate the nuisances, he can be summoned for neglect in the same manner as any one else who neglects or refuses to comply with an ordinary notice under the Nuisances Removal or Sanitary Acts. The Act does not apply to the state of the ground or to noises arising out of the manner in which the business of the owners of the vans, &c., is carried on, and therefore will not assist in preventing annoyances arising therefrom.

Tottenham 1913

Special precautions to be observed when cases of Scarlet Fever, Diphtheria, Typhoid or other infectious diseases are nursed at home.

3.— The patient should be isolated in a well-ventilated room, situated as far from the noises of the house and street as possible, and no one except the person acting as nurse should be allowed to enter the room.

Hackney 1919

[Regarding TB consulting rooms in Hackney and Bethnal Green]

Each consulting room is provided with two dressing-rooms, and a dark room for throat examinations, and has proved entirely satisfactory for the rather special requirements of a dispensary. The patients are seen in the waiting room outside by the nurse, who weighs them and takes their temperatures, and they come singly into the consulting-room. The patients are therefore encouraged to mention to the tuberculosis officer any private or domestic details, and the tuberculosis officer is not disturbed during his examination by noise made by patients who are waiting to see him.

Walthamstow 1925

REPORT OF THE WORK OF THE SCHOOL MEDICAL SERVICE. Arranged according to the Suggestions made by the Board of Education, November. 1925.

School Hygiene.—The cleanliness of the schools is well maintained, the surroundings being quite good, with one or two exceptions where the buildings are quite close to the main roads, making for noise and dust.

Walthamstow 1934

[A table in the report shows the public information posters displayed on a hoarding at the corner of Farnan Avenue and Forest Road. The one displayed during June 1934 was titled ‘No Needless Noise’ and was provided by the Anti-Noise League.]