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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St George (Southwark) 1867

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.

St George (Southwark) 1888

With reference to the danger and nuisance to the public cause by the noise from the Borough Road Bridge of the London, Chatham and Dover Railway Company’s line, although numerous letters have been sent to the Company requesting them to adopt some means prevent the noise, nothing further has been done by them than the removal of the corrugated iron ceiling from under the bridge, and the decking and corking of the surface of the bridge, this has the effect of preventing the percolation of water on to the road and footways, but the noise still continues. I have suggested among other methods the adoption of longitudinal sleepers in place of the cross ones, but the Company’s Engineer is of opinion this plan will not be of much service. Other railway bridges of equal span are comparatively noiseless. I would suggest that unless the Company adopt some effectual method without delay to prevent the noise, the Vestry proceed against the Company by indictment, as accidents are of daily occurrence.

Bermondsey 1890

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.

Rotherhithe 1894

Miscellaneous items:

Resolved — 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, and that in the meantime posters be printed and circulated in the parish cautioning persons against throwing orange peel on the footways.

St George (Southwark) 1896

Upper Grange Road.

Petitions have from time to time been presented to the Vestry, asking that, as the traffic from the Tower Bridge had largely increased and the noise thereby created had been considerably augmented, the roadway within the Parish might be paved with wood. The roadway needing considerable repair, an opportunity occurred for the Vestry to comply with these requests. The Vestry of Camberwell agreed, on this Vestry consenting to execute the work, to contribute £180 towards the cost. This arrangement was agreed to by the Vestry on the 9th March, 1897, and the work will shortly be proceeded with.

Rotherhithe 1896

On 5th May. 1896, the Vestry received a deputation headed by Rev. S.M. Bardsley, the Vicar of Christ Church, relative to the paving in front of Christ Church. It was pointed out by Mr. Bardsley that the annoyance and inconvenience occasioned to those officiating at and attending the Church by the continual noise of the traffic was very considerable, and he urged the Vestry to take into their favourable consideration the question of wood paving. The matter was referred to the General Purposes and Works Committee for consideration and report.

Hanover Square 1900

Report on correspondence with the London County Council

Q. As to suggesting regulations for the further suppression of street cries, railway whistles, and other objectionable and unnecessary noises, within the County of London?

A. We are of opinion that these are matters which more particularly concern the police, who ought to have authority to enforce such regulations as may be considered necessary.

Southwark 1905

Miscellaneous Nuisances abated, with Localities.

Effluvia and Noise from Motor Omnibuses — New Kent road.

Bermondsey 1922

Devon Buildings and Abbey Buildings are in a good sanitary condition, while Wolseley Buildings are very far from satisfactory. One point to be noted about children living in buildings is that they frequently get too little sleep. When they inhabit the higher storeys their parents seldom think to go down to the playground to fetch them at bedtime, while when they live in a lower storey, the noise of older children at play effectually prevents sleep. Children as young as two years may be seen playing in the yards till 10 p.m. summer and winter.

Bermondsey 1924

An important change in premises occurred in May, when the former Hostel at 110, Grange Road was transformed into a Welfare Centre [for Expectant Mothers] for the mothers who formerly met in the Shelter, behind the Town Hall. The advantages of more room, and light, were immediately felt, and especially was the garden a joy to mothers and toddlers alike. The absence of noise and smell, which were inevitable accompaniment to any work done in the Shelter, was gratefully noted by mothers and workers alike.