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
1       4 1 1   2
          1 2    
      2 2   1 2  
          1 1   6
      1 1 3      
      1   1 1 1 1
    1 2 1   2 4 6
  1 1   2 1     2
  1   1 4 2   2  
1   1   1 1   3 2
    1   8 3 2 1  
          2     5
2 2 1 2 1     1 3
  1   1          
1850s 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s

Paddington 1870

The Inspectors of Nuisances discovered several instances where nightly lodgers have been taken in, and these have been registered as common lodginghouses. There are coffee-houses in this Parish known to the Police as brothels, and as nightly lodgers are taken, they ought to be brought under the surveillance of Police Authority as common lodging-houses. Poultry kept in London. Poultry keeping increases to a great extent in London, and frequent complaints are made to me that fowls should be done away with as a nuisance. It ought to be more generally known that I cannot proceed against the owners of domestic animals for the noises they may make. It exceeds my province to interfere with fowls, pigeons, and dogs if kept in a cleanly state. 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.

Mile End 1872

There is also a class of nuisances which, although apparently of a petty nature, may and do inflict much serious injury and annoyance, more especially to invalids. I refer to unnecessary street noises — to dog barking, cock crowing, railway whistling, noise of machinery, &c. I have seen patients dangerously ill suffer severely from these nuisances, the greatest injury being prevention of sleep; yet they, and the authorities, are powerless to suppress or remove them, complaints made to the selfish owners of such nuisances being generally treated with indifference or derision. Although these matters appear trifling, they are always more or less injurious to some, and, in many instances, not only assume dangerous proportions, but produce serious and fatal results. I have therefore not thought them unworthy of passing allusion, and hope they will obtain more definite notice in forthcoming health legislation. Rest is not only essential in disease, but for the preservation of health. How can this be secured in London, if the noises inseparable from day-time are perpetuated throughout the night in still more hideous and injurious forms? The best efforts should be directed to obtain the benefits of nocturnal rest for toiling Londoners, they would then feel less necessity for artificial stimulation during the day, enjoy better health, do more work, and have longer lives.

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 1877

The Slaughter and Cow-houses received their annual inspection during the year. [. . .] Perhaps even of more importance to the community than the condition of the Slaughter-house is the condition of the place whence comes one of the most indispensable parts of our daily food supply. In speaking of Slaughter and Cow-house regulations, it may not be irrelevant to the subject to press the importance of having piggeries either prohibited in populous places, or strictly licensed and regulated. 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. The odour they create is one of the most sickening conceivable, and, to delicate persons, positively injurious. In order to gratify their filthy appetites, the most offensive garbage is collected for their food, which, especially in hot weather, emits noxious and dangerous odours. It is highly desirable and necessary that suburbs, upon whose salubrity and amenities the greatest city in the world places such high value, should not be made offensive and even unhealthy, that a comparatively unimportant though lucrative trade should exist, and be possessed of privileges denied to many less disgusting occupations.

St James's 1879

To the Chairman and Members of the Vestry of St. James’s, Westminster. Vestry Hall, Piccadilly, March , 1880.

Reverend Sir and Gentlemen. The lists of the more important Works undertaken and executed by the Vestry of St. James’s, Westminster, during the twelve months ending March 25th, 1880, require no additional explanation as such Works have been previously decided upon by the Vestry or their Works Committee, with the exception of some unlooked-for matter that must of necessity arise from time to time in the maintenance of so important a Parish.

In these lists nothing very new, or special will be found, although there is a great deal in abeyance.

The Work at present entrusted to the Local Authorities, that attracts the most attention on the part of the General Public, are the Paving Works, for the simple reason that everybody can see all that is done. As a fact a large Paving matter becomes almost a source of Public amusement, and challenges much criticism, but this view is taken only by those who have no interest whatever in the result, or think they have no interest. The whole community have the most deep interest in results, although they have perhaps little voice in the actual methods employed to ensure their safety and comfort, — safety by adopting such materials and way of applying them as shall be the most secure from accident to man or beast, and even property — and comfort to obviate as much as possible the discomforts arising from those inseparable companions of busy traffic, Dust, Mud, and Noise, and the not to be forgotten element of smell.