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.

Wandsworth 1896

Street Noises.

The Board have again had under consideration the subject of the desirability of bye-laws being made for the control or suppression of street cries or noises in the Metropolis. The Board in April, 1894, suggested to the London County Council that they should make bye-laws relative to (a) obstruction of thoroughfares by offering goods for sale ; (b) annoyance by shooting galleries, swing boats, &c.; (c) occupation of land by squatters, gipsies, &c., and the Council have now asked for the opinion of the Board with regard to bye-laws being made as to (1) street noises; (2) shooting galleries, roundabouts, &c.; (3) lights to vehicles; (4) keeping noisy animals. The Board approved of such bye-laws being made and they suggested that the operations of the bye-laws should extend to itinerant musicians, and that those persons should not be allowed to carry on their vocation in the streets after 10 p.m. The Council were also informed that the Board were still of opinion that the matters mentioned in their letter of April, 1894, should be dealt with by bye-laws. A Bill on the subject has been introduced into Parliament and the Board have presented a petition in its favour.

Wandsworth 1911

On the 25th August one of the Sanitary Inspectors reported that a band of Hungarian gypsies had encamped on land in Garratt Lane, and on inspecting the premises he found that there were about 120 men, women and children occupying 17 tents which had been erected on the land.

[. . .]

The Sanitary Inspector visited the premises three or four times a week, and I personally inspected the premises on six different occasions, as several complaints had been received from the occupiers of the houses adjoining. The complaints made were mainly of the noise produced by hammering, the work carried on by these gypsies being the repairing of copper utensils. Eventually, after a considerable amount of difficulty, the tribe were persuaded to leave, and the premises were vacated on the 23rd December.

Wimbledon 1913

Van Dwellings.

At irregular intervals throughout the year inspections were made of the vans occupied as dwellings; there have also been special visits made as the result of complaints received from time to time respecting the vans in certain yards. There are in all 37 vans on 12 separate premises, the most in one yard being seven. The internal measurements of all these vans have been taken for the purpose of calculating their cubic capacity. With one or two exceptions these dwellings have been found clean and well-kept, and the provisions of bye-laws relating to Tents, Vans and Sheds complied with. In the few instances mentioned, a verbal warning was sufficient to obtain compliance. The complaints received referred principally to noise, or were the outcome of a sentimental objection to plots of land adjoining the dwelling-houses of the complainants being so used, but not with respect to any breach of the byelaws. The occupiers of the vans appear to be a very healthy set of people, only one case of infectious disease (Scarlet Fever) having occurred amongst them during the whole of the year.