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

Bethnal Green 1930

NOISE. In last year’s report I mentioned 8 sources of preventable noise, which is becoming generally recognised as a factor in ill health. I am glad to note that the Council has made a bye-law to deal with one of these causes — unduly loud public radio instruments.

Bethnal Green 1931

NOISE. I regret to report no progress in dealing with preventable noise, now generally recognised as conducive to ill health. Complaints are frequently made by residents of loud and persistent noises at all hours of the day and sometimes at night, with consequent loss of sleep and injury to nerves. In the absence of definite legislation extending the public health expression “nuisance” to cover such evils it is difficult to take any useful action.

Bethnal Green 1932

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.

Bethnal Green 1933

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.

Bethnal Green 1934

NOISE. I again draw attention to the urgent need for legislation to deal with the growing evil of noise. In the streets, we have more and more mechanical vehicles of greater size and power and carrying heavier loads, to say nothing of street repairing machines and building operations. There are factories containing powerful machinery often worked until late in the evening. The housing shortage frequently compels families to live in close proximity to industrial buildings; and where loud processes are carried on at all hours of the night as well as during the day, life almost becomes intolerable. It is useless for the doctors and health visitors at the welfare centres to advise good habits of sleep, when the means of practising such habits is denied the parents. This barrage on our complex nervous system is not conducive to good health and temper and ought to be brought under stringent public restriction. The people who have become accustomed to turn to the Public Health Department for assistance in dealing with their health problems cannot understand our helplessness in the face of an obvious menace to health, and it is to be hoped that some definite action will be taken very soon to deal with the matter.

Bethnal Green 1936

NOISE. I welcome the intention of the London County Council to promote legislation to deal in some small measure with the serious nuisance of noise. The close proximity of much of the housing accommodation in the Borough to factories and other noise producing agencies makes it urgently necessary that there should be some public control of a nuisance liable to cause injury to health.