Lambeth Brass & Iron Co. advert. 1901.
Many Black Country industries flourished in the first half of the 19th
century. There were coal mines, all kinds of iron and metalworking,
foundries, chain making, galvanising, chemical works, paint works,
japanning works, enamelling works and many more. Factories were
sometimes built next-to, and around existing houses, and often
businesses were run as small cottage industries, in workshops adjoining
houses or even inside them. Living next to a factory must have been very
unpleasant, especially as there were no clean air acts and dangerous or
poisonous waste could be left lying around to enter the water table, or
be washed around during heavy rain. Many areas had open sewers and
drains, the contents of which ran into a nearby canal, brook, stagnant
pool or open field. Toilets mainly consisted of an open receptacle, the
soil being covered over with ashes from the fire. They were often built
over old ditches or water courses and so the waste would eventually wash
into one area to form a stagnant pool.
In parts of Willenhall water was scarce because of the large number
of coal mines in the area and so it was drawn from ditches and a small
brook. The brook was frequently choked with refuse and even dead dogs.
People used to fill a bucket with water and let it stand or settle
before use. Darlaston had many stagnant pools and piles of sewage and
Wednesbury, Great Bridge and Dudley Port relied on the River Tame. Most
of Wednesbury’s surface water, including some from privies ended up in
the river. The river ran past Chance’s alkali works and at that point it
turned red from the work’s effluence. The river also ran past Bagnall’s
works at Gold’s Hill and the Patent Shaft works at Wednesbury. Both
works employed a large number of people and discharged untreated sewage
into the river.