Edwin Chadwick.

Report on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department online

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Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 12 of 27)
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premature mortality. Had the annual mortality amongst the population in
the high, open, and naturally-drained district of Hackney been the same
proportionate amount of mortality as that in the contiguous, but low,
ill-drained, ill-cleansed, and ill-ventilated district of Bethnal Green
and Whitechapel, instead of 759 deaths per annum, Hackney would have
upwards of 1138 deaths, and an expense of 5448_l._ more for funerals
during the year than it has. So the county of Hereford, if it were
afflicted with the same amount of mortality as that which prevails in
Liverpool, would have 1488 more deaths annually and an additional
expenditure of 21,390_l._ per annum in burials. How directly, certainly,
and powerfully, defective sanitary measures in respect of drainage and
cleansing, bear upon health and life, and, by consequence, on the
frequency of burials, will be seen in the latter portions of the
examination of Mr. Blencarne, surgeon, one of the medical officers of
the City of London Union, and of Mr. Abraham, surgeon, one of the
Registrars of Deaths in the same Union; which I select as an instance,
because the City stands high in wealth, in endowed charities, and in
supposed immunity from the removable or preventible causes of

§ 77. Two individual cases which were narrated by the physician who
attended them, will serve to convey a conception of a large proportion
of the common cases denoted by the units of the statistical evidence
derived from towns, and will illustrate more clearly the economy of the
prevention of sickness and death, as a superior economy of the incidents
of sickness as well as of funerals.

One case was that of an intelligent industrious man who had been foreman
to a tradesman, and having married and established himself as a master
tradesman, had a family of children. To diminish the expense of his
family he took a house which he let off to lodgers, retaining to himself
only the garrets and the underground or kitchen floor. He had five
children who became unhealthy and were attacked with cachectic diseases
and scald head; and the expense of an apothecary to the family during
one year was 59_l._: but still more serious disease afterwards
appearing, a physician was called in, who perceiving the impure air of
the apartments, pointed out the causes of the varied illness which had
prevailed, and the remedy—removal from the house.

In another case the foreman of a brewery married a healthy wife, who
gave birth to seven children, of whom six died at various ages, while
young, from diseases evidently springing from impure air. The source of
this impure air was an ill-constructed cesspool in the lower part of the
house, the stench of which was pointed out by the physician, who
happened to have a perception of such causes, and advised the immediate
removal of the family. Since that time they have had two other children,
who with the third which escaped, are now living in their better lodging
in the enjoyment of good health; the last of the children who died, when
“ailing,” was sent to the purer atmosphere of a rural district, and
returned in robust health, but soon after his exposure to the impure
atmosphere was attacked with fever, of which he died within a fortnight.

It was in the power of neither of these persons to obtain an amendment
of the general system of drainage, which occasioned the atmospheric
impurity under which they suffered; but the actual expenses of
structural measures of prevention would not, as an entire outlay, have
amounted to half the apothecary’s bill for drugs in the first case, or
of the expenses of the funerals (superadded to the expenses of drugs) in
the second case; but if the expenses of those structural arrangements
were defrayed by an annual payment of instalments of principal and
interest, spread over a period of 30 years, or a period coincident with
the benefit, the expense of the extended or combined measure of
prevention would not be more than 1_l._ 5_s._ 10_d._ per tenement, or
perhaps a small proportion of that sum, to the individual family.[18]

§ 78. But to return to collective examples. Mr. Blencarne, on a view of
the sanitary condition of the population, and the causes of mortality
within his district, expresses a confident opinion that in that district
the average amount of mortality might be reduced one-third by efficient
sanitary measures. The saving by a reduction of 71 funerals yearly, or
one-third of the burials in that district, at the average expense of
funerals for the metropolis, would amount to nearly 1020_l._ per annum.
If, as appears to be practicable, there were a reduction of one-half of
the expenses of the other two-thirds of the average number of funerals,
the total saving from this source would be 2040_l._ per annum to the
population inhabiting, according to the last census, 1416 houses. Now
the annual share of the expense of the chief structural sanitary
arrangements, supposing every house in the district to be deficient,
would, on the proximate estimate, amount to a sum of 1829_l._, or less
than the amount saved by the reduction of the funeral expenditure,
giving the health and longevity, and all the moral and social savings,
_plus_ the mere pecuniary saving; these remoter savings being in
themselves unquestionably far greater than can be represented by the
pecuniary items directly economised.

§ 79. Whosoever will carefully examine what has been done in scattered
and fortuitous instances amongst persons of the same class, following
the same occupation, living in the same neighbourhoods, and deriving the
same amount of incomes, and will from such examinations judge of the
inferences as to what may be done by the more systematised application
of the like means, will not deem the representation extravagant, that
the same duration of life may be given to the labouring classes that is
enjoyed by professional persons of the first class; or that it is
possible to attain for the whole of a town population such average
durations of life as are attained by portions of existing towns; or say,
such an average as is attained by the population of the old town of
Geneva, that is to say of 45 years, or six years higher than appears to
be attained by the whole population of the county of Hereford, which, as
we have seen, is 39 years.

§ 80. To take another example. If the proportion of deaths to the
population in the Whitechapel Union were reduced to the proportion of
deaths to the population in Herefordshire, then, instead of 2307
burials, there would only be 1305 burials per annum; and if the cost of
the remaining burials were reduced 50 per cent. of the average present
cost, then the saving of funeral expenses to the Whitechapel district
would be at the rate of more than 23,000_l._, or nearly 3_l._ per house
on the inhabited houses of the district; about half that sum being
deemed sufficient to defray the expense of the proposed structural
improvements. The funeral expenses in the parish of Hackney on the
proportion of burials amongst them, are at the rate of 5_s._ 2_d._ per
head on the living population. Were the burials in Liverpool reduced to
the same proportion, 1 in 56 instead of 1 in 30,[19] at the rate of
expenses for funerals in London, nearly 50,000_l._ per annum would be
saved to the population of Liverpool, being more than sufficient to
enable them to pay 30 years’ annual instalments, the principal and
interest, at five per cent., of a sum of 845,065_l._ sterling for
structural arrangements.

§ 81. Strong barriers to the improvement of the sanitary condition of
the population are created by the common rule and practice of levying
the whole expense of permanent works, immediately or within short
periods, on persons who conceive they have no immediate interest in
them, or whose interest is really transient, and who under such
circumstances will see no _per contra_ of benefit to themselves to
compensate for the expenditure. It may be of use to exemplify the
_contra_ of advantage to the inhabitants at least, to make it a good
economy to them to pay the proportions of rates required for the
additional expenditure in efficient means of preventing sickness and

The following may be given as an instance of the superior economy of
prevention, by the appliance of vaccination, afforded by the experience
obtained under the partial operation of the Vaccination Act in the
metropolis as compared with the experience in Glasgow, to which the same
arrangements do not extend. In the metropolis, in the year 1837, the
deaths from small-pox were 1520. The deaths from small-pox in the
metropolis, and in Glasgow for the years after the Vaccination Act came
into operation are thus compared in a report by Dr. R. D. Thompson.


Glasgow. London.

Population 282,134 Population 1,875,493

——— —————

1838 388 3,090 Epidemic.

1839 406 634 [20]

1840 413 1,233

1841 347 1,053

1842 334 350

———— —————

Mean 377, or about one inhabitant daily dies of
small-pox in Glasgow.

A confident opinion is expressed that the decrease of small-pox in the
metropolis is ascribable to the extension of vaccination. The rate of
reduced mortality from that disease has continued during the present
year; and the average of the present rate, as compared with the average
preceding the extension of vaccination, would give a reduction of 946
deaths and funerals from 1652 annually. But as not one attack in ten of
small-pox usually proves fatal, the reduction of the number of deaths
may be taken as representing a reduction of some 9,460 cases of
sickness. The amount paid from the poor-rates for vaccination in the
metropolis was 1701_l._, which at the average fee gives 22,680 of the
worst conditioned and most susceptible cases out of about 56,000, in
which vaccination was successfully performed. The attention directed to
the subject has also promoted the extension of vaccination, by others
than the appointed vaccinators. The various expenses of each case of
sickness to the sufferers, inclusive of medicines, may perhaps, on a low
estimate, be represented at 1_l._ each case; and taking half the average
expenses of funerals for the 946 funerals saved, the total expense of
funerals and of sickness saved by the expenditure of the sum stated of
1701_l._ in well-directed measures of prevention, would exceed
16,000_l._ in the metropolis alone. Throughout the whole country, the
deaths from small-pox in 1840 were 10,434, as compared with 16,268 in
1838, on which, if the reduction may be ascribed to the extension of
vaccination solely, pounds of immediate expenses must have been saved by
the expenditure of half crowns,—in other words, upwards of 90,000_l._ in
money has been saved by the expenditure of about 12,000_l._ in

The excess of deaths in the metropolis above the healthy standard of
Islington or Herefordshire, of 1 in 55, is 11,266 (vide returns,
Appendix); the expense of burial of this excessive number, at the
average cost, is 168,990_l._ per annum, which (without taking into
account the expenses of the corresponding excess of sickness) as an
instalment, would in 30 years liquidate the principal and interest, at 5
per cent., of a loan of 2,856,168_l._ towards house drainings and the
structural improvements and arrangements, by which the excess might be
prevented. To the charge of the excessive deaths must be added the
charge of the births which take place to make up the ravages of the
mortality in the most depressed districts. Taking the proportion of the
births to the population in the Hackney Union, 1 in 42, as the standard
of proportion of births in a healthy district, the excess of births for
the whole metropolis during that year was upwards of 8000: or 52,609
instead of 44,541.[21]

§ 82. The grounds will hereafter be submitted which appear to sustain
the position that all the solemnity of sepulture may be increased, and
solemnity given where none is now obtained, concurrently with a great
reduction of expense to all classes.—Vide post, § 113 to § 120.

In considering the expenses of funerals, the arrangements and consequent
expenses of the funerals of the wealthy are of importance, less perhaps
for themselves than as governing by example the arrangements and
expenses of the poorest classes, even to the adoption of such
arrangements, and consequently expensive outlay as to have hired bearers
and mutes with silk fittings even at the funerals of common labourers.
The expenditure by the wealthy, in compliance with supposed demands at
which their own taste revolts, for a transient effect which is not
gained,[22] would suffice to produce permanent effects of beneficence
and taste worthy of their position in society. A gentleman who recently,
in distaste of the ordinary undertaker’s arrangements, reduced them on
the occasion of the burial of his daughter, applied the money in
erecting to her memory, and partly endowing, a small school for 25
children of a village, in which, as the tablet on the school recorded,
the deceased had, when alive, taken a kindly interest. Where no such
objects are offered for the surplus expenditure, that which would be
unsuccessfully thrown away for the transient effect would suffice for a
statue or some work of art that would ensure permanent admiration. The
aggregate waste on funerals in the metropolis would, in the course of a
short time, suffice for the endowment of educational or other
institutions, that would go far to retrieve the condition of the poorer
classes. The waste of two years in the metropolis would suffice for the
erection of a magnificent cathedral, and of a third year for its
endowment for ever.

§ 83. In justification of the funeral exactions from the labouring
classes, it is sometimes alleged that if they did not expend the money
in the funereal decorations, they would expend it in drink. But this
would only occur in a minority of cases, and in those only for a time.
The reduction would be an immediate and most important relief in an
immense number of cases of widowhood, and especially in those cases
where there has been no insurance, where the widow incurs debts which
often reduce her to destitution and dependence on the poor’s rates, or
on charity. It forms a large part of the business of some of the
small-debt courts in the metropolis to enforce payments of the
undertakers’ bills, incurred under such circumstances. For all classes,
what is deemed by them respectful interment is to be considered a
necessity; and in general the expenditure beyond what is necessary to
ensure such interment competes not with extravagancy, but with high
moral obligations. By the arrangements which throw the savings of the
poor family into the grave, children are left destitute, and creditors
are often defrauded, and heavy taxes levied on the sympathies of
neighbours and friends.[23]

_Failure of the objects of the common Expenditure on Funerals._

§ 84. Notwithstanding the immense sacrifices made by the labouring
classes for the purpose, neither they nor the middle classes obtain
solemn and respectful interment, nor does it appear practicable that
they should obtain it by any arrangement of the present parochial means
of interment in crowded districts.

§ 85. Few persons can have witnessed funeral processions passing in
mid-day through the thronged and busy streets of the metropolis, without
being struck with the extreme inappropriateness of the times and places
chosen for such processions. This want of regulation as to appropriate
times is the subject of complaints, which must attach, even to a greater
extent, to numerous processions, without regulation, from the centre of
the populous town districts to the suburbs.

Mr. Wild, the undertaker, was asked—

What besides the expense, and the objection to the ground, do you
find is the objection entertained to the existing mode of burial in
the crowded districts of the metropolis?—One very common objection,
is the inconvenient time; the average time is about 3 o’clock, but
it varies from 2 to 4 o’clock. This is very inconvenient for persons
in business, who wish to attend as mourners. From this cause,
interments are frequently delayed; at this time, also, the streets
are very much crowded; sometimes boys crowd round the gates, and
shout as ill-educated boys usually do; sometimes there are mobs; I
have known the service interrupted more than once during the
ceremony; sometimes the adults of the mob will make rude remarks. I
have heard them call out to the clergyman, “Read out, old fellow;”
sometimes I have known them make rude remarks in the hearing of the
mourners; on the clergyman frequently; but this has been on the week
days, when, of course, the numbers attending are very great. At
times, the adults and mob at the gates have an idle and rude
curiosity to hear the service. I have known them rush in past the
mourners, and go in indiscriminately. It is part of my business to
see the mourners and corpse safe in, before I go in; and I have been
sometimes severely hustled, and have had great difficulty in getting
in myself.

Are the crowds in the town, or districts, ever characterized by any
reverence for the dead?—Not the slightest: quite the contrary, and
it makes part of the annoyance of interments in town to have to
encounter them.

Are you not aware that on the Continent it is generally the custom
for passengers of every condition in the streets, to stop and take
off the hat, on the approach, and during the passage of the dead?—I
have met with several instances of persons stopping in our streets
in London, and taking off their hats. On looking at them, I had
reason to believe they were foreigners.

Have you ever known carriages or common coaches, or carts or
waggons, stop in the streets on the approach of a funeral?—I have
seen gentlemen pull their check-strings, or tap at their windows,
and stop their coachmen in towns; but, if the carriage were empty,
there was no stoppage. But none of the common conveyances ever stop.
I have several times ran the risk of being knocked down by them. I
have known cabmen and omnibus men drive through the procession of a
walking funeral, and separate the mourners from the corpse. These
characters display complete indifference to such scenes.

§ 86. In the rural districts the population appears to be so far better
instructed and more respectful; but, according to the testimony of
living persons, the same indifference has not always characterized
labouring classes in the town districts, even of the metropolis. It is
described as an unavoidable consequence of the increasing numbers of
funerals, and familiarity with them arising from the neglect of
appropriate general arrangements, a neglect from which not only the
relations and parties engaged in such services, but strangers have to
complain, that their feelings are not duly regarded. In a rural parish,
the deceased who is interred is generally known, and the single funeral
arrests attention and excites sympathy. In crowded districts
neighbourship diminishes; a vast portion of the population of the
metropolis pass their lives without knowing their next-door neighbours,
or even persons living in the same building; the great majority of
burials are, to the mass of the population, burials of strangers, for
whom no personal sympathies can be awakened; the inopportune and
unexpected passage of small funeral processions through busy and
unprepared crowds of the young and active, create a familiarity that
stifles all respectful or reverential feelings, whilst the numbers of
separate funerals make undue demands on the sympathies, and harass the
minds of the sickly and the solitary by their continued passage, and the
perpetual tollings of the passing bells. Examples in some of the German
cities might be cited of refined and successful arrangements by which
the feelings of all are consulted, by interments either in the quiet of
evening or of early morning, or by the selection of retired routes for
the processions. The funeral processions to the cemetery of Frankfort
are generally held at early morning for the labouring classes.

§ 87. The celebration of religious ceremonies in a satisfactory manner
at some of the populous parishes, appear to be often extremely
difficult, if not impracticable. Mr. Wild further answers:—

What are the matters objected to that are of common experience in
our burials, when the corpse and attendants have arrived within the
church-yard?—In certain seasons of the year, when the mortality is
greater than usual, a number of funerals, according to the present
regulation of the churchyards, are named for one hour. During last
Sunday, for example, there were fifteen funerals all fixed during
one hour at one church. Some of these will be funerals in the
church; those which have not an in-door service must wait outside.
At the church to which I refer, there were six parties of mourners
waiting outside. My man informed me, that all these parties of
mourners were kept nearly three-quarters of an hour waiting outside,
without any cover, and with no boards to stand upon. The weather
last Sunday was dreadfully inclement. I have seen ten funerals kept
waiting in the church-yard from twenty minutes to three-quarters of
an hour. I have known colds caught on the ground by parties kept
waiting, and more probably occurred than I could know of. It is the
practice on such occasions to say the service over the bodies of
children and over the bodies of the adults together, and sometimes
the whole are kept waiting until the number is completed. Even under
these circumstances, the ceremony is frequently very much hurried.

How many are there in some parochial burial grounds to be buried at
one time?—Sometimes fifteen.

With such a number to bury is it physically possible that the
separate service should be other than hurried, and in so far as it
is hurried unsatisfactory to the mourners?—According to the present
system I do not see that it is at all times practicable to be other
than hurried and unsatisfactory.

Would not an in-door service be acceptable to the labouring
classes?—I conceive highly so. In some parishes, as at Camberwell,
the custom is to give an in-door service to all, whether rich or
poor. This is considered highly acceptable. Where the labouring
classes are excluded they not only feel the inconvenience of having
to wait, but they feel very much the exclusion on account of their
poverty. They frequently complain to me, and question me as to
whether it is right, and ask me the reason.

What other inconveniences are experienced in the service in
church-yards?—It is a frequent thing that a grave-digger, who smells
strongly of liquor, will ask of the widow or mourners for something
to drink, and, if not given, he will follow them to the gates and
outside the gates, murmuring and uttering reproaches.

Is that ordinarily the last thing met with before leaving the
church-yards?—Yes, that is the last thing.

That closes the scene?—Yes, that closes the scene.

Mr. Dix was asked—

In the crowded districts is the funeral ceremony often
impeded?—Besides the state of the parochial burial grounds, the mode
of performing the ceremony is very objectionable, in consequence of
the crowd and noise and bustle in the neighbourhood. I have had
burials to perform in St. Clements Danes’ burial ground, when the
noise of the passing and the repassing of the vehicles has been such
that we have not heard a third of the service, except in broken

§ 88. On this very important subject it is observed, by the Reverend
William Stone, the rector of Spitalfields:—

It must, I think, be admitted, that, in a crowded population, the
parochial system, as it generally stands at present, is utterly
inadequate to meet the demand for interment—the demand, I mean,

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Online LibraryEdwin ChadwickReport on the sanitary conditions of the labouring population of Great Britain. A supplementary report on the results of a special inquiry into the practice of interment in towns. Made at the request of Her Majesty's principal secretary of state for the Home department → online text (page 12 of 27)