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.
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.
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.
Numerous letters have been received from persons complaining of offensive smells, dust and noise proceeding from a recently started Flock Mill, situated at the corner of Satchwell’s Rents and Satchwell Street, two narrow streets of densely populated cottages. The Mill forms the angle of the two streets; houses run close up to it on two sides, and there is no yard space. The building is in the occupation of Mr. Sanderson, of 146, Shoreditch, who has carried on the business of flock making therein since January, 1888. The premises were formerly used as a saw mill, and the engine, together with its boiler and chimney shaft, was constructed for the purpose of driving the woodworking machinery. I inspected the premises and reported that, as then conducted, the business was a dangerous nuisance. By direction of the Vestry a notice was served by Inspector Weston, to the effect that unless the manufacture was at once stopped an indictment would be presented. On receipt of this notice the factory was closed, and remained so for six weeks. Mr. Sanderson then gave notice that he had made certain alterations and improvements and that he intended to resume work, which he did on the 11th of August. I re-inspected the premises and found that very little alteration had been made, and that the nuisance was not abated; moreover, numerous fresh complaints were received from the neighbours. The following is a description of the factory and the process of manufacture:— The building comprises a ground floor and a first floor. The whole of the machinery is on the ground floor. The flocks are manufactured from woollen rags; these are brought from the various marine stores in the district, and consist chiefly of filthy worn-out woollen clothing, much of it saturated with the exhalations of human beings, and alive with vermin. The process of manufacture is as follows:—
The rags, taken out of the bales just as they are brought in, are fed by hand into a machine called a “Devil,” where a wooden cylinder, covered with small spikes and revolving at great speed, rapidly tears up the material into its component fibres; as fast as it is broken up it is transferred by means of an endless band to the interior of another cylinder, also in rapid revolution, through which a current of air is drawn by means of a powerful fan. After being well winnowed and tossed about in this cylinder the flocks are discharged through an opening at the side, and are ready for use. They are sold to the manufacturers of cheap furniture and bedding.
[. . .] The exhaust steam from the engine is admitted to this chamber, and this wets the dust and causes a large portion of it to fall to the bottom, where it forms a pulpy, evil-smelling mass. The remainder of the blast, together with the uncondensed steam, passes out through a sheet-iron tube to the open-air. The dust chambers are periodically cleaned out, and the refuse is sold for manure. 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. Quantities of dust and fluffs escape from the machines whilst they are at work, and much of this is deposited on the walls and woodwork of the factory; but more passes through the open windows and is distributed over the neighbourhood. It is evident that if the rags contain any infectious matter (and it is certain that some, at least, of them must do so) it will be in the form of spores and bacteria, and these would constitute a portion of the fine dust spoken of. I look upon this as a constant source of danger to the neighbourhood, and I am of opinion that all rags before their conversion into flocks should be thoroughly disinfected in a Washington Lyon Apparatus. The Sanitary Committee visited the factory with me on several occasions, and at a meeting held on the 19th of September it was determined to view some other flock factories in various parts of London.
[On the building of a power station]
That the telegraphic and telephonic service of the Metropolis will be seriously interfered with. This difficulty ought to be easily met by proper regulations and proper clauses in the order. On the other hand, the system of the London Company possesses the undoubted advantages over any others, which arise from the location of the generating station on the riverside, and the consequent removal from the crowded parts of the Metropolis of all inconvenience from noise, vibration, smoke, and heavy traffic.
Complaint has been made by inhabitants of Yalding Road, of noise, smoke, and dust from Donkin’s factory. I have visited the premises, and consider there is a nuisance arising from the dust, but at present am doubtful whether this case can be dealt with under the Sanitary Acts.
During last year I brought before your Sanitary Committee complaints received by me in reference to the following alleged public nuisances [. . .] xi. Noise from steam-whistles from works of Messrs. Woodhouse and Rawson, and Epstein Company.
Complaints were made of noise and dust together with smoke from the Atmospheric Grain Elevator Co., in the Anhalt Road. The allegation was found to be substantially correct. All the defects were subsequently remedied except the noise which does not come within the province of the department.
He also, as directed by the Committee, submitted a report relative to the noises, &c., in the A 1 Biscuit Co’s. Works, Queens Road, and also as to the Sanitary conditions there. The Committee gave directions that the necessary notice should be served with regard to certain matters, and this was subsequently complied with.
The new Equifex disinfecting machine has proved of great value during the year—the automatic record of disinfections being especially useful as checking the work of the man in charge. In connection with the machine several slight alterations and improvements have been made, including the covering of the boiler-feeder with a galvanised iron cover, fitting of a condenser on to the steam exhaust chimney, and the inserting of two steam traps between the coils and the drain—improvements which have reduced the noise in connection with the working of the machine to a minimum, and economised the steam.
20th September.— At this meeting the Committee also considered a complaint which had been made relative to alleged nuisance arising from the manufacture of water gas at the Nine Elms Gas Works, and also in connection therewith a report of the Chief Sanitary Inspector upon the matter; that the premises had been the subject of previous reports upon the matter, and had been kept for months past under constant observation. The complainant referred to stench, smoke and noise. Enquiries had been made in the neighbourhood of the Works, which did not bear out the complaints so far as stench and smoke were concerned, neither did the observations which had been kept upon the premises by the Vestry’s own officers, and that since his report of the 1st February he had again visited the premises and found the greatest precautions being taken, he was of opinion there was no cause for complaint. He reported, however, that the premises would be still kept under observation, and that as soon as nuisance was observed, the matter would be reported to the Committee. The question of noise was one outside the Committee’s jurisdiction under the Public Health (London) Act.
[. . .] In the fourth case, the exhaust outlet of a large gas engine was affixed to a factory wall in the rear of dwelling houses. The extension of the exhaust pipe obviated the nuisance caused by the noise and fumes.
FACTORIES. For the most part, the law relating to Factories is administered by the Home Office. 125 visits were, however, made to Factories, 62 being in reference to sanitary accommodation, 44 in reference to cleanliness of earth closets, eight in reference to new occupation, three in reference to ventilated space in glass works, four in reference to smoke, three in reference to want of screens to w.c.‘s at a steam laundry, and one in reference to complaint of noise from a steam laundry. All the defects noted were remedied during the year.
[Regarding the Camberwell dustheaps]
To sum up, therefore, we can unhesitatingly say that from investigation of the siding itself, of Constance Road Infirmary, and of the houses in the neighbourhood we are entirely unconvinced of any nuisance to the Infirmary beyond a purely æsthetic one. One can well imagine that the shunting of the trucks at night, the noise of the men carrying out the work, and the disturbance of the privacy of the grounds may well constitute an obstacle to the amenities of their use and an annoyance to the Infirmary staff, but beyond this we emphatically refuse to go.
[. . .] (2) Royal Arsenal Co-operative Society’s Bakery, Brixton Hill, a factory used for baking on a wholesale scale for civilians (the premises being in occupation for that purpose from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), and for military authorities (the premises being in occupation for that purpose from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.), and causing chiefly a nuisance from noise and vibration of machinery. [but] no legal action was taken in connection with No. (2), the nuisance from noise and vibration not being one with which the Council could deal, and the premises being also found to be an exempted building (in the occupation of the military).
But apart from the offensive smells, a deeper sense of injury is felt by some, at any rate, of the inhabitants of Agnes Road, and this arises from the establishment of a factory where heavy machinery is used, within a few yards of the house. Where night work is done, the noise of the heavy machinery does disturb the rest of the occupiers of the neighbouring houses. I have received numerous complaints from occupiers of the neighbouring houses that it is impossible to obtain sleep at night, owing to the noise of the heavy machinery.
Various kinds of different sewing machines are used for different sets of bags required. In different industries in Deptford and elsewhere I have been struck with the veritable inferno created by the noise of machinery. One’s admiration goes out to the brains which conceived all such machinery, but it would be a fine thing if the nerveracking, deafening noise could be eliminated somehow. The sewing machines used in this factory are worked by electric power, the women skilfully direct the edges to be sewn from end to end. We were struck by the concentration shown by those manipulating the machines and material; how greedily the machines “eat up” the goods! The rooms on the different floors are large and spacious. The wooden floors are dry but the nature of the work tends towards dust collection. The ventilation is good, being effected by windows and doors. Steam pipes and radiators are in use. General cleanliness is good, though dust collection had to be mentioned to the manager.
[. . .]
Spinning Company. The stranded hemp arrives in bales on the canal from India and China. The bales are opened and the hemp is passed through separating machines dividing the hemp into strands. The strands are then passed through mixing machines, thus mixing the strands according to the quality or description of the cord required. The stranded hemp is then passed through a cord-making machine, coming out as the finished article, wound upon reels or into bundles or coils as required. The noise created by the machinery is very great. The floors are of cement with wood for the employees to stand upon.
APPENDIX J. For the consideration of the Health Committee (14/10/30).
L.M.S. RAILWAY SIDING—HARLEY ROAD. COMPLAINT OF NOISE AND DUST FROM MECHANICAL TIPPING APPARATUS.
MEMORANDUM BY THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH.
(1) The site of operations and the complainants have been visited frequently since the 10th September, 1930, by the District Sanitary Inspector, on several occasions by the Chief Sanitary Inspector, while I myself have also visited.
(2) The mechanical tipping apparatus in question is in the Urban District of Acton and approximately 150 yards south of the nearest property in Harley Road.
(3) The complainants are residents in Harley Road and neighbourhood.
(4) The apparatus is used for filling the tenders of railway locomotives with coal. The process is as follows :— (a) A loaded coal waggon is put under a waterspray and the coal is sprayed until the water runs out of the floor of the waggon. (b) The waggon is pushed on to the weighbridge and weighed. (c) A lifting gear raises the waggon and part of the weighbridge to a height of about 40 feet. (d) At the top the waggon is tilted, the contents falling into a hopper. (e) The waggon is lowered. (f) The tenders of the engines are fed from the hopper.
(5) The noise complained of arises from the tilting of the waggon and the coal falling into the hopper.
(6) The dust complained of also arises from the same cause.
(7) There is no doubt that noise is associated with the operation as described. This noise is mainly caused by the coal being tilted from the waggon into the hopper. Comparatively little noise arises from the filling of the tenders from the hopper and as this latter operation takes place at a height of only about 10-12 feet, dust is not likely to reach the adjoining property in Harley Road as a building about 20 feet high intervenes.
(8) Neither the District Sanitary Inspector, the Chief Sanitary Inspector nor myself have been able to verify the complaint that dust blows from the apparatus towards the Harley Road area. No high winds, however, have been blowing from that direction on the days on which visits have been made, and in addition some of the days have been wet.
(9) Assuming, however, that the complaints both as to noise and as to dust are capable of legal proof, the question arises as to what powers the Council possess for dealing with two such nuisances.
(10) As to noise. The only power possessed by the Council is that given by Section 56 of the Middlesex County Council Act of 1930. To prove a noise under this Section, it is necessary to prove all of the following propositions :— (a) that the noise is either excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary ; (b) that the noise is injurious or dangerous to health, and (c) that the noise is capable of being prevented or mitigated, having due regard to all the circumstances of the case.
(11) It is a good defence that the best practicable means of preventing or mitigating the noise having regard to the cost, have been adopted. (N.B.—the provisions of Section 56 of the Middlesex County Council Act, 1930, do not apply to the carrying on of an undertaking authorised by an Act of Parliament or by an order confirmed by or having the force of an Act of Parliament).
NOISE. I regret to report no progress in dealing with preventable noise, now generally recognised as conducive to ill health. During the year, complaint was made on two occasions by the residents in a street in the Borough of excessive noise from a factory, particularly at night. Representations made led to some improvement. It is obvious that there is need for further legislation extending the public health expression “nuisance” to cover loud and persistent noises in proximity to dwelling houses.
NOISE. I regret to report no progress in dealing with preventable noise, now generally recognised as conducive to ill health. Complaints continue to be received about this evil. Apart from unnecessarily loud street noises, industrial processes are frequently carried on regardless of the hearing and nerves of the workpeople and residents in the vicinity. When, as sometimes happens, work is carried on at rush periods late into the night, children and adults, who have to rise early, and who are compelled by the housing shortage to five in the neighbourhood, are deprived of proper sleep. They naturally apply to the Public Health Department for assistance, and quite rightly, cannot understand our apparent helplessness or how the law can be so stupid as not to recognise as a “nuisance” something which is at least as bad as a bad smell in its effect upon health.
Noise.—Increased business in certain trades necessitated night-work being carried on pending the extension of the respective premises. Occupiers of nearby houses complained of the noises from machinery and considered the Local Authority should be in a position to regulate the periods during which work should be done and the machinery run. Section 56, Middlesex County Council Act, 1930, reads as follows:—
“Noise Nuisance—56.—(1) A noise nuisance shall be liable to be dealt with in accordance with the provisions relating to nuisances of the Public Health Act, 1875: Provided that no complaint shall be made to a justice under section 105 of the said Act unless it is signed by not less than three householders or occupiers of premises within the hearing of the noise nuisance complained of. (2) For the purposes of this section a noise nuisance shall be deemed to exist where any person makes or continues or causes to be made or continued any excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary noise and where such noise— (a) is injurious or dangerous to health; and (b) is capable of being prevented or mitigated having due regard to all the circumstances of the case: Provided that if the noise is occasioned in the course of any trade, business or occupation it shall be a good defence that the best practicable means of preventing or mitigating it having regard to the cost have been adopted. (3) The provisions of this section shall not extend or apply to the carrying on of an undertaking authorised by Act of Parliament or by an Order confirmed by or having the force of an Act of Parliament.”
As the noises complained of were not “excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary” and the “best practicable means,” etc., had been adopted, no legal action could be taken. The firms in question, however, continued night shifts only as long as was necessary to fulfil their contracts and with the minimum of night staff working.
The powers taken in the Barking Corporation Act relative to noise nuisances enabled us to deal successfully with the nuisance from a steam exhaust at a factory in Abbey Road.
[. . .]
Particularly, I would call attention to the need for open playing grounds at some distance from the schools themselves, so that exercises may be undertaken freely with no thought of attendant noise interfering with the ordinary class-work of the children.
NOISE NUISANCES. During the year our attention has been called to nuisances and discomfort arising from the scream of circular saws, the grind of a cyclone used in a sawmill, electric hum from machinery and similar noises. Whilst your officers have been able to secure reduction in the noises of which complaint has been made, the provisions of the Barking Corporation Act are intended to deal only with avoidable noise and do not give the Council power to prohibit the use of the offending plant. The defence available to the factory owners under the above Act may not be a good defence at common law, and therefore in some cases the injured party would have a remedy in the civil courts.
There has been a large increase in the number of complaints received regarding noise. During 1938 no less than 518 visits were made. The majority of these complaints, naturally, are made by residents whose houses adjoin industrial zones. Whilst there must be some boundaries on which residential zones meet industrial zones, the difficulties are obvious where dwelling houses are in close proximity to factories. For example there are instances of factories on one side of a road, with residential dwellings immediately opposite. In other cases dwelling houses back on to factories, the gardens of the houses forming the only intervening space.
The industries which are responsible for complaint of noise in the Borough are not those usually classed as heavy industries. For example, noise was caused by the running of pumping machinery, while very considerable amelioration was obtained by enclosing that part of the factory where such machinery was installed by screens made of sound-absorbing material, and by the provision of double windows.
In other instances noise from running machinery has been reduced by the erection of wooden fences and by the occupiers of the factories keeping particular windows and doors of the factory closed during the hours of work.
In another case amelioration of the existing conditions has been achieved by the provision of efficient silencers on the air intake pipes attached to air compressor plant. Another noise nuisance has been overcome by the provision of new buildings, in which the engines are now running in special chambers partially partitioned by glass, the exhaust gases going into a specially constructed tunnel, lined with sound-absorbing material. The new arrangements have reduced the considerable noise to one now barely audible in the near vicinity.
These are typical examples of achievement possible with the assistance of the occupiers of the factories. The results have been obtained without the service of statutory notices or recourse to legal proceedings.
Section 106—Middlesex County Council (General Powers) Act, 1938, is now relevant to the subject of noise. The section is as follows:—
(1) A noise nuisance shall be liable to be dealt with as a statutory nuisance under the Act of 1936. Provided that no complaint shall be made to a justice under section 99 of the said Act unless it is signed by not less than three householders or occupiers of premises within hearing of the noise nuisance complained of.
(2) For the purpose of this section a noise nuisance shall be deemed to exist where any person makes or continues or causes to be made or continued any excessive or unreasonable or unnecessary noise and where such noise
(a) is injurious or dangerous to health; and
(b) is capable of being prevented or mitigated having due regard to all the circumstances of the case.
Provided that if the noise is occasioned in the course of any trade, business or occupation it shall be a good defence that the best practicable means within the meaning of the said Act of preventing or mitigating it have been adopted.
(3) Nothing contained in this section shall apply to a railway company the Transport Board or any statutory undertakers for the supply of water gas or electricity or their respective servants exercising statutory powers or to any mechanically propelled vessel on the Grand Union Canal.
(4) Nothing in this section shall affect the powers of the Council or the Council of a Borough to make byelaws under Section 249 of the Act of 1933.
(5) Section 56 (Noise nuisance) of the Act of 1930 is hereby repealed.
While factory owners, on their attention being drawn to the nuisance from their factories, have always been found to be willing to co-operate in an endeavour to secure reduction or elimination of the noise, the solution is not always easy, and considerable expenditure is often involved. The circumstances generally call for much technical knowledge of the inspectors, and tact and understanding are necessary throughout in dealing with this question.
It may be added that in making these inspections and observations regarding complaints of noise, no noise-measuring instruments have been used, the amount of noise being gauged by ear alone.