Wednesday 28 August 2013

Public Conveniences


To the Editor of THE LANCET.

Sir,—Having seen in the newspapers of three or four days since an account of a mall's dying in consequence of the privilege of a necessary being denied to him, I am induced to write to you on a subject which has doubtless occurred to the minds of most persons, but which, from some unaccountable feelings of false delicacy, has never been made a subject of public inquiry. I allude to the almost total want of public necessaries, and of skreened places for making water in, in the centres of the great towns of England. In Paris and other continental towns skreens or retired places are most numerous; as, for instance, in the Boulevard des Italiens, where they occur every sixty paces, and the constant requisition to which they are put by all orders testify well to their use; whereas in London a man may walk literally for miles without meeting with a single place to which he can possibly retire. If he walk down any alley or side street which seems favourable for his purpose, the notice of "no nuisance" is sure to meet his eyes, the sanctity of which command is enforced by law. Now, Sir, I appeal to your medical experience whether a much more common disease exists, at least among men of advanced years, than a degree of prostatic irritation, and whether a much greater degree of inconvenience can be imagined than the inability of complying with nature's calls under those circumstances. It is needless to enumerate the various diseases, as gravel, stone, stricture, &c., which act in a similar way on the bladder, and all of which are common.
    I, therefore, am anxious to draw the attention of the public, and more especially of those whose authority in such cases would be first appealed to—the medical public, to the necessity which exists for the construction of public necessaries and skreens in the centres of all large towns, not placed in conspicuous situations, but down small streets and in other convenient places. If an individual were to erect water-closets for the use of gentlemen and ladies, it no doubt would prove a paying speculation ; but there is an absolute duty that necessaries and skreens should be placed by those whose premises the law protects from indiscriminate nuisance. Earnestly submitting this to the notice of yourself and of your readers, I remain your obedient servant,
G. A. May, 1842

The Lancet, 4 June 1842

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