Wednesday 28 August 2013

Public Conveniences .2

The area covered by this metropolis is so vast that a well-known French political writer could find no fitter term in which to describe its extent than by calling it a province covered with houses. Now, the avocations of many thousands of the inhabitants of this brick-and-mortar province impel them to traverse long distances from their dwellings, and to spend many hours in remote parts of the town. It is one of the features of the internal economy of this province that, different localities of it are appropriated to distinct purposes.
Thus the great centres of the different branches of financial and commercial business lie in the east and central parts of the province; whilst all around these are situated various manufacturing establishments; and, in the suburbs, which are each in themselves equal to considerable towns, are found the dwelling houses of our population. Every morning vast throngs of merchants, clerks, messengers, artizans, and others leave the suburbs, and travel perhaps several miles to the places where their business is transacted. Numbers of these, again, are by the necessities of their pursuits travelling about all day long. It is obvious, on a moment's consideration of the circumstances under which so large a proportion o the busy denizens of this London-province pursue their callings at a distance from their homes, and often in places where they are as absolute strangers to the residents as if they were in a foreign town, that the provision of numerous public conveniences  is a necessity that arises out of the very size, structure, and economy of tho metropolis. We, therefore, feel no hesitation in drawing the prominent attention of our local authorities to a matter of street-reform, daily becoming more and more essential to the public health and comfort. We are glad to observe that Mr. WING—a medical gentleman favourably known as the author of an excellent work on the " Evils of the Factory System"—has brought the subject before the Hammersmith District Board of Works.

There are three grounds upon which a large extension of public urinals and latrines is imperatively required. These are—convenience, public decency, and public health. As regards the public convenience we do not feel called upon to offer a word. Everyone who, after some hours' engagements from home, has found himself in a strange part of the town, must have experienced the inconvenience of traversing street after street, anxiously and furtively prying round corners, into courts and lanes, and meeting at every turn with passers-by, or the unfeeling injunction to "Commit no Nuisance," will readily admit that this ground is amply established. The City, so peculiarly thronged with men at a distance from their homes and places where they are known, is, beyond all other quarters of London, the least provided with public urinals. That public decency demands their formation, is equally clear. All who have occasion to traverse London must be conscious of abundant reasons on this ground. The sanitary argument is, perhaps, less generally appreciated. It is, nevertheless, most important,both in itself and in association with the other grounds. The consequence of the want of properly-constructed conveniences in accessible places has been the creation of a number of
extempore and conventional urinals in spots unprovided with any apparatus for ensuring cleanliness. These spots have become offensive nuisances to the passers-by, and, in many cases, sources of unhealthiness to the inhabitants of the neighbourhood. But even these places fall very far short of the necessity. Cases must be known to most medical practitioners, of persons who have suffered most severely in health, and who have even had to undergo serious surgical operations through the want of proper and timely facilities for relief. Especially in elderly men, the consequence of neglecting, under certain circumstances, even for a short time, a natural call, has been the occurrence of one of the most formidable of surgical accidents, and death itself.
It is not improper to add a word in the name of hospitality. The numerous foreigners who visit this metropolis are subjected to the greatest annoyance and inconvenience. The population, the superficial extent, and the traffic of London are daily increasing. The necessity for providing public conveniences of the kind to which we have referred, is daily growing more urgent. It is incumbent upon District Boards of Works to lose no time in selecting and reserving I appropriate sites for their construction. Such sites are already difficult to find. This difficulty increases with delay ; and the demand is also increasing in an inverse ratio to the supply.

The Lancet 10 May 1856

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