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

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.

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.

Battersea 1893

PUBLIC HEALTH (LONDON) ACT, 1891, SECTION 16. Bye-Laws made by the Parish of St. Mary, Battersea, in the County of London being the Sanitary Authority for the said Parish, For the Prevention of Nuisances.

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6. Every person who shall lay or cause to be laid in any street any litter or other matter in case of sickness to prevent noise, shall lay the same so that it may be evenly distributed over the surface of the part of the street intended to be covered, and shall, when the occasion ceases, within forty-eight hours after remove or cause to be removed from such street the litter or other matter so laid in such street.

Battersea 1893

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.

Wandsworth 1896

Street Noises.

The Board have again had under consideration the subject of the desirability of bye-laws being made for the control or suppression of street cries or noises in the Metropolis. The Board in April, 1894, suggested to the London County Council that they should make bye-laws relative to (a) obstruction of thoroughfares by offering goods for sale ; (b) annoyance by shooting galleries, swing boats, &c.; (c) occupation of land by squatters, gipsies, &c., and the Council have now asked for the opinion of the Board with regard to bye-laws being made as to (1) street noises; (2) shooting galleries, roundabouts, &c.; (3) lights to vehicles; (4) keeping noisy animals. The Board approved of such bye-laws being made and they suggested that the operations of the bye-laws should extend to itinerant musicians, and that those persons should not be allowed to carry on their vocation in the streets after 10 p.m. The Council were also informed that the Board were still of opinion that the matters mentioned in their letter of April, 1894, should be dealt with by bye-laws. A Bill on the subject has been introduced into Parliament and the Board have presented a petition in its favour.

Battersea 1897

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.

Wandsworth 1897

Street Noises.

This Bill would empower occupiers or lodgers to require itinerant musicians or singers to desist from playing or singing in any public place near his house or premises, under a penalty of forty shillings or imprisonment for a period not exceeding fourteen days. The Board have presented a petition in favour of the Bill.

Lambeth 1898

Disinfecting Department

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.

Battersea 1898

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.

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.

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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.

Wandsworth 1907

Charlwood Road, Widening

The London County Council having acquired a site for Charlwood Road a school at the corner of Charlwood Road and Hotham Road, Putney, the Borough Council in October last asked the County Council, when arranging for building the school, to make provision for the widening of Charlwood Road to not less than 40 feet.

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The Borough Council regrets that although the attention of the County Council was called to the matter so long ago as October last, arrangements were not made for the building to be so erected that the road could be widened to 40 feet, and that while the Borough Council was negotiating for the acquisition of the necessary land the County Council proceeded to erect the school in such a position as to prevent the negotiations being carried to a satisfactory conclusion and even to prevent the carrying into effect of the resolution passed by the County Council itself in May last agreeing to the Borough Council’s proposal. Moreover, from the point of view of convenience to teachers and scholars, it was undesirable that the buildings should be erected so near the public highway, as the noise of the traffic will considerably interfere with the education of the children. The question of the extent to which the road can be widened is still under consideration.

Wandsworth 1907

That this Council is of opinion that, owing to the increasing number of accidents caused by motor traffic in the County of London, the maximum speed of all motor vehicles should be reduced to, at most, 12 miles an hour ; and, owing to the serious annoyance and discomfort caused by excessive noise, vibration, etc., the police should be granted enlarged powers to control this class of traffic.

Wandsworth 1911

On the 25th August one of the Sanitary Inspectors reported that a band of Hungarian gypsies had encamped on land in Garratt Lane, and on inspecting the premises he found that there were about 120 men, women and children occupying 17 tents which had been erected on the land.

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The Sanitary Inspector visited the premises three or four times a week, and I personally inspected the premises on six different occasions, as several complaints had been received from the occupiers of the houses adjoining. The complaints made were mainly of the noise produced by hammering, the work carried on by these gypsies being the repairing of copper utensils. Eventually, after a considerable amount of difficulty, the tribe were persuaded to leave, and the premises were vacated on the 23rd December.

Lambeth 1917

Effluvium Nuisances.

[. . .] (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).

Battersea 1928

The Tuberculosis Dispensary

The acquisition by the Borough Council of Southlands College has afforded—inter alia—an opportunity of the Council’s providing more suitable accommodation for the Borough Tuberculosis Dispensary. Rooms on the first floor of that portion of the College buildings reserved for Health Services of the Council were fitted up and adapted for use as a Tuberculosis Dispensary, and include waiting-room for patients, and rooms for Doctor, nurses, clerical staff, laboratory, pharmacy, &c. The Dispensary is now housed in commodious premises in a more suitable environment, and free from the noise from the traffic, which was, among others, a disagreeable and disturbing feature of the old premises in Bridge Road.