Unsanitary Conditions

The worst part of Wolverhampton was the eastern side around Salop Street, Stafford Street, Walsall Street and the notorious Carribbee Island, which was to the east of Stafford Street, just north of Broad Street. There were back-to-back tightly packed tenements designed to accommodate the maximum number of people in the minimum space. The problem was made even worse because it was common to find several families living under one roof.

R.H. Horne’s report of 1841 to the House of Commons Commission on the Employment of Children and Young Persons, gives us an insight into what life was like in some parts of the town.

"Stafford Street and Walsall Street are two of the longest and most disgraceful streets in the town. The greater proportion of Salop Street and Horsley Field, which are very long, is in the same condition…

In one of the hovels of Stafford Street it appeared that a man, his wife and child, and a donkey all slept together. The hovel had but one room; the man was seated on the threshold of the door, as I was passing one evening; the woman and child were in bed on the ground, and the donkey was standing upon some straw close beside her…

In front of some of the small houses in these and other places there are stagnant pools, the colour of a dead porter, with a glistening metallic film over them; and sometimes they resemble a sort of disgusting mixture of gruel and soap suds. After a day’s rain many of them have a little pond in front, the size of a quilt, the colour of liquorice tea."

He describes some of the narrow passageways as follows:

"Where there are the largest number of these they have the appearance of a sort of rabbit warren; one or two of them may almost aspire to the resemblance of a colony of beavers, but wanting the green banks and fresh air…

They have no underground drainage, and the entire length of each always runs with filth, or is stagnant in its dirt…

There is often a common dunghill at the end , or in one corner of the court, where everything is cast."

His main concern was the health and welfare of children and this is part of what he had to say about it:

"The quality of the food of the working class is not good. The bad meat continually sold in markets is notorious and the children are frequently fed (especially during the winter season) on red herrings and potatoes, or bread with lard upon it, for their dinners – and have not always sufficient even of this…Great numbers are very uncleanly in their persons, seldom washing themselves above once or twice a week, and then, with the great majority, only their hands and faces."

The Royal Commission for the Inquiry on the Sanitary State of Large Towns and Populous Districts made an early enquiry into public health in 1844. It was called the Chadwick Report and included a section on Wolverhampton that was provided by Mr. J. Dehane. He included a letter from James Gatis M.D. which mentioned the large number of fever cases and related them to the appalling living conditions in the area, particularly in Carribbee Island.

A Lambeth Brass Co. water pump.

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