Sanitation in 1879


Report on the Sanitary Conditions of Sutton in 1879 prepared by the Medical Officer of Health to the Keighley Rural Sanitary Authority.


Many of the streets are in a most neglected condition, the roadway never having been properly constructed or channelled. Some of the back streets, notably in Sutton Mill are made offensive by the emanations from the large uncovered privy middens which abut upon them. In other parts the channels at the roadside are used for conveying slops and refuse. The dwelling houses are built of stone, and as a rule are clean and well kept; this considering the distance which many of the people have to carry their water, reflects great credit on the householders. Several houses are damp, and in one the only means of ventilation is by means of a small window, just below which a cattle midden stands.

The village contains no less than 80 back to back houses, a large number being at Sutton Mill. Besides these there are no less than 124 houses which have no back doors (blind back type). Many have no means of through ventilation. Overcrowding was found in certain cases.

There is no system of sewerage in Sutton, the sewage being either conveyed from the houses by means of rubble drains, or else by badly made stone channels which run by the side of the roads. At Sutton Mill a portion of the drainage has been enclosed in pipes. The drains all discharge into the beck, which receives in addition to the sewage the waste acid liquors from the sud tanks in connection with the worsted mills; it is also used as a receptacle for ashes and filth of every description, including the drainage from one of the slaughter houses. To further increase the unwholesome condition of the beck it is dammed up at certain points for use of the mills, forming cesspools at these points, parts of the bed being left dry have all manner of filth exposed on their surface.

The house drains are in almost all cases badly constructed, many of the houses being in direct connection with them. Over 400 cases of defective house drainage may be cited as existing in various parts of the village.

The privy midden is the only means of disposal of excrement most commonly in use. These middens are in nearly all cases without roofs, and are also sunk below the level of the ground, thus admitting both soil and rain water, which give rise to rapid decomposition of the contents. Where cesspits are used these are of the most primitive type, being only holes in the ground.

There are only four houses in the township provided with water closets, and in none of these was the soil pipe properly ventilated. The most filthy privies were those at St. Thomas’s School. The privy accommodation of the village if very deficient, as 178 privies represent the accommodation of 405 houses.

The water for drinking purposes is mostly obtained from springs. Sutton proper derives its supply from two sources viz; Stubbing Hill and Crag, the first being made available in West Lane at a trough near Berry’s, the latter at Low Fold (which is polluted). Sutton Mill has a better supply than Sutton itself, the water being laid on to a number of houses but even here a number of houses are at a too great distance from the supply.

There are two slaughter houses, neither registered nor licensed. One has a rough flagged floor and is without water supply. The offal is thrown upon an open midden about 15 ft. from the door, a few yards away, above which is situated a privy whence at the time of my visit, liquid excrement was trickling down the footpath. The other is situated near the Upper Bridge; it also has a flagged floor and no water supply. The refuse in this case is disposed of on the land.

The general mortality rate for Sutton during the 18 years 1861-78 has exceeded 19 per 1,000 living. This is considerably in excess of that which should prevail in a place having the advantages which Sutton enjoys. Deaths from enteric fever have occurred, and the disease is one almost invariably found associated with conditions of excremental filth such as exist in Sutton.


Extracted from the 1973 book SUTTON-IN-CRAVEN The Old Community edited by Alec Wood.