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

St Giles (Camden) 1876

North Metropolitan Tramways.

The North Metropolitan Tramways Company issued notices, and deposited plans and Bill for the formation of various lines of tramway in the Metropolis, including lines in Vernon Place and the South side of Bloomsbury Square. The formation of these tramways, with their objectionable noise, the occupation of the public ways by the tram cars, and the inevitable ruts and dangerous condition of the paving, which seems to be necessarily attendant upon all tramways, was considered by your Board would be highly detrimental to the class of property in Bloomsbury Square and its vicinity, and would moreover be in direct contravention of an Act of Parliament, passed in 1806, instituted, “An Act for ornamenting and embellishing the centre or area of Bloomsbury Square,” and which Act expressly prohibited the plying for hire of any hackney coach within the Square, or within the distance of 300 ft. of any house forming part of the said Square. Your Board accordingly petitioned the House of Commons against the Bill, and appeared by Counsel before the Parliamentary Committee in support of its petition. The Board’s opposition was successful, and that portion of the scheme of the Tramway Company was rejected by the Committee.

I have the honour to remain, Gentlemen, Your obedient Servant, G. WALLACE, Surveyor.

Wandsworth 1893

In consequence of representations made to the Board of Trade of the noise caused by the cable tramways belonging to the London Tramways Company at Brixton Hill and Streatham Hill and of the danger to the public and damage to houses along the route arising therefrom, a public inquiry was held by Major-General Hutchinson on the 8th December as to the renewal of the licence authorising the use of cable power. This Board did not object to a renewal of the license, but suggested that it should be renewed for one year only, and this course was adopted by the Board of Trade on the understanding that the Company would use every practicable means to reduce as far as possible the nuisance which was complained of.

Wandsworth 1905

Tramway improvements:

Practically the whole of the property required for the widening of thoroughfares for the electrical tramways from Wandsworth to Tooting via York Road, Garratt Lane and Defoe Road, has now been acquired by the London County Council, the Borough Council assisting in several cases by putting in force its compulsory powers under Michael Angelo Taylor’s Act.

[. . .]

At the instance of the Borough Council, the part of the road between the tramway rails has been paved with wood in front of churches and other public buildings in order to lessen the noise of the traffic.

Hammersmith 1906

TRAMWAY TERMINUS, UXBRIDGE ROAD. The Borough Council has had the question of regulating admission to the tramcars at this terminus under consideration, and a number of schemes to meet the difficulty were prepared by the Borough Surveyor, but it has not been found possible to carry out any of the schemes.

TRAMWAY TRACKS. In consequence of complaints of the bad state of the tramway tracks, they were inspected by the Borough Surveyor, who submitted a report upon the condition of the same, with a schedule of defective places in the wood paving, maintainable by the Tramway Company. It was found on inspection, that many of the joints of the rails were defective, apparently caused by the giving way of the fish plates, and consequently when the cars pass over these places, the ends of the rails deflect and cause the noise which is a source of complaint.