Drains and water, 1848 to 1869.

This essay is based on correspondence between Witham and two Government Departments. The Departments compiled and kept this file of letters, which is now in The National Archives.

Its description is Ref. MH 13/209: General Board of Health and Home Office:
Local Government Act Office: Correspondence.

Any exact quotations below are distinguished by inverted commas ‘  ‘
Otherwise what are written are notes and summaries by me [Janet Gyford].

The photographs at the end show what was achieved once the discussion was concluded.


Before I turn to the correspondence itself, here is a summary of the background (by JG):

1848   Under the Public Health Act, a General Board of Health was set up, responsible to the Government. It had powers to set up Local Boards of Health.
October 1848   Petition from the “inhabitants” of Witham, asking for the implementation of the Public Health Act in Witham.
1849/1850   Government Inspector Edward Cresy visited Witham, and produced a damning report on conditions in the town .
March 1852   First meeting of Witham Local Board of Health.
Later 1852   Witham LBH decided to make a sewer.
1853-1854   Mr Bull made a plan. Approved by General BH.
1855     Dissent arose in Witham about whether or not to have a plan, so nothing was done for several years.
1867-1868   A small pox epidemic struck Witham (introduced by “an Irish hawker”).
1867-1868   A very serious typhoid epidemic occurred in Terling, three miles from Witham. Two Witham people led the medical effort (Dr Gimson Gimson and Miss Mary Ann Luard) . For details, see the website The Terling Fever of 1867 – Historic Terling (wordpress.com)

January 1868   Government inspectors who visited Terling came to Witham also, and reported unfavourably.
February 1868   A parish meeting was held in Witham, to explain the Local BH plans. A deputation led by Mr Luard objected [this must have been William Garnham Luard of Witham who later became Admiral Luard].

May 1868   Meeting held in Witham to explain  two different plans, by Mr Church and by Mr Chancellor.
September 1868   Report by Mr Rawlinson of the Local Government Board. He recommends Mr Church’s plans with modifications.
September 1868   Loan sanction received.
1869   The scheme was completed.

End of summary.

Beginning of copies of correspondence

11 Oct 1848. Letter from J Howell Blood [solicitor](1263/48)
Saying ‘honor to transmit to you a Petition from the Inhabitants of Witham that the provisions of the Act 11 & 12 V C 63, may be brought into operation. The petitioners would be greatly obliged of your early attention to it.’

Copy of petition
. Text is as follows:
‘The Honourable The General Board of Health.
The Humble Petition of the Undersigned Inhabitants of Witham in the County of Essex
That the Parish of Witham contains according to the last Census upwards of 3000 persons.
That there are nearly 700 rated[?] Inhabitants.
That your Petitioners consist of more than one tenth of such Inhabitants.
That the Town of Witham is increasing.

no General or Public Drainage exists. The only Drains being Private and very inefficient the consequence of which is that the nuisance has reached such an Extent as to render many of the Houses in the Neighbourhood of open Drains unfit for Habitation and the evil is severely felt by the Inhabitants of many of the better class of Houses from there being no proper and sufficient Outlet for their own Drains. And your Petitioners firmly believe that in the event of the Cholera appearing in the Neighbourhood the Health of the Inhabitants would materially suffer.

The subject of General Drainage
of Witham has long been under the consideration of the Inhabitants but from the want of such powers as are given by the “Public Health Act” they have been unable to carry out their object.

Your Petitioners
therefore view with great satisfaction the recent Act and humbly pay your Honourable Board to direct such Steps to be taken for Introduction of the Benefits of it into the Parish of Witham.
[The following are signatures}

John Bramston Vicar
T Tomkin, Surgeon
Thos Butler
Thos M Tomkin, Surgeon
Henry Dixon, Surgeon
Chas Douglas, Solicitor
J Howell Blood, Solicitor
Charles Cooke, Supt of Police
H Du Cane, Minister
A G Proctor, Surgeon
Edw W Banks, Solicitor
J E Walford
Seymour E Major, Curate
W W Luard, Magistrate
Jacob H Pattisson, Solicitor
Louisa Du Cane
P M[?] Green
Sarah Watkinson[?]
Thomas Pyman
Henrietta Hunt
Charlotte B Boyfield
Carrington Wilson
Wm Butler
Cornelius Walford Jnr
Robert King
MH[?] Cudford[?]
Levi Turner
M Jackson
John Cottee
Mary Philbrick
James Boutwood
[??]d Gee
Wm Bright
Wm[?] Crede[?]
Charles Owen Green
Robt Poynter Green
William Cottis
William Agar
Henry Thorpe
Robt Martin
W H Garrett
Wm Elmy
Thomas Fuller
W Burroughs
Thos Harrisson
H L White
Robert Cooke
Michael A Dandy[?]
George Edwards
M A Bramston
Ellen Newman
W Pryke
Sarah Hubbard
Isaac Warwicker
Maria Cunnington
Eliza Du Cane
Mary Beadel
Jane Bright
Mary Anne Houghton
Wm Mann
Sarah Lewis
Edwin Sibthorpe
Sarah Nunn
Robert Harrington
Geo Appleby[?]
Rebecca Cook
Geo Gardner
Jno Gardner
Thomas Mead
George White
Jno Garrard
Wm Tylor
James Slythe
Hugh Mortimer

3 Nov 1848. Letter from J Howell Blood, Witham. To E Chadwick Esq. (937/48) [Edwin Chadwick, pioneering Health reformer]
‘Sir, Some time since I forwarded to the Board of Health, a Petition from this Town on the subject of Drainage, which is much required[?], I am told that parts of the Town are in a most unwholesome state, and deaths are arising[?]. May I request to be informed if it is likely any steps will be taken in consequence of the Petition I have referred to, as if not, we must endeavour to effect an improvement by[?] some other means’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: Acknowledge and say measures are in hand. (1264/48)

Copy of reply 4 November 1848 for Sec Gen Board of Health. Says as above.

20 Nov 1848. Letter from J Howell Blood, to Henry Austin esquire, sec of the Board of Health [1264/48] ‘Sir, I can procure an excellent Plan of the Town with a Plan of the Gas Pipes laid down for the Supply of every house. This I should suppose would answer your purpose – with regard to the Drains now existing I find that such drains as there are, very few persons know where they lead to. It really would be advantageous if a day could be fixed for the meeting as we are constantly receiving Notices of the Existence of Nuisances, which nothing can cure but general and effectual drainage’
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: ‘Send next letter. Sent 27 Nov’

14[?] November. J Howell Blood to Henry Austin (1265/48)
‘Sir, I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of Saturday’s date announcing that a Superintending Inspector had been appointed to visit Witham.
Public Notices are usually affixed to the Doors of the Church, Chapel, Meeting Houses and Post Office, hence a Ten[?] Notices would be required, and if you will forward them to me I will take care they are properly affixed.
There is a Public Room at the Literary Institution which I think would suit your Inspector, and which could be used by him at almost any time.
The List of Places for Public Notice is as follows. Witham Church. Ditto Chapel. Independ’t Meeting House, Baptist Do, Post Office.’

7 December 1848. Printed notice with parts filled in
Witham, Edward Cresy to be here on 2 January at 11 in forenoon in Literary Institution.

Extra note by JG:

1849/1850 Government Inspector Edward Cresy visited Witham, and produced a damning report on conditions in the town . For a copy, see the PDF link on website: https://www.janetgyford.com/places/everything-offensive-in-witham-in-1850-according-to-health-expert-edward-cresy/

4 March 1851. Account for services Witham
Refers to enclosed papers, are they proper. Henry Austin To E Cresy Esq South Docuth[?] near Dartford Kent.

6 March 1852. From J Howell Blood, Local Board of Health, Witham, to General Board of Health, Whitehall (800/52)
Election of Local Board of Health concluded, first meeting yesterday, Rev J Bramston chair and I clerk. Adjourned till 29th inst ‘and as the members of the Board are desirous of obtaining some insight into their powers and duties, in the meantime I am directed to request you to be good enough to forward a copy for each member’ of minutes of instructions.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: Get from publisher.
Copy letter saying the same.

Letter from J Howell Blood to General Board of Health (982/52)
‘At the time Mr Cresy made his preliminary inspection of this Town, he was furnished with some Surveys etc. by Mr Walford, a Surveyor here, and as the Board think these would be useful to them, I am directed to request that you will have the goodness to give directions for their being forwarded to me’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]: see if Cresy has them.
Copy letter saying this done.

7 April 1852. Letter from Edward Cresy to GBH
‘My dear sir, Mr Walford’s plans of Witham were long ago forwarded to him by his express desire.’  Doesn’t have any left. Bit about accounts for survey etc.

27 December 1852. From J Howell Blood to GBH (5299/5)
‘I beg to inform you that the Local Board have determined to make a Sewer through part of their district, according to a plan prepared by their surveyor, and I shall be obliged by your informing me what is necessary to be done to carry out the intention of the Local Board’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] Ask whether they propose to pay out of yearly income or mortgage rates.
Copy reply asking same.

8 February 1853. From J Howell Blood to GBH (394/53)
The Witham Local Board of Health ‘have made Bye Laws for regulating their Business and the duties of their officers, for regulation of slaughter houses and for street cleansing etc. and the notice of application for their approval by one of the Secretaries of State has been duly advertised’. Please confirm Order etc.
Copy reply forwarded to Sec of State.

8 February 1852. From J Howell Blood to GBH (395/53)
Propose to raise amount for drainage of part of district ‘by mortgage of their special rates upon that part of the district for the term of ten years’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]. Must forward plans and estimates before can be approved.
Reply saying same.

Letter from H Waddington of Whitehall to GBH (524/53)
‘Directed by Viscount Palmerston’ to transmit bye laws and he asks your opinion.
Long endorsement, hard to read.

From J Howell Blood to GBH (5555/53)
‘The Local Board have accepted the Tender of Mr John Bull, surveyor, of Navestock, for the preparation of the necessary Plans for the purposes of Drainage and water supply for this district’. Forwarding specific and agreement and plan. Shown in red the part proposed to have surveyed by Mr B. Accompanying plan is a reduced copy of the map made some years since for the Tithe Commutation.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]. Return plan and agreement, latter seems to be satisfactory.
Copy letter saying the same.

12 July 1854. From J Howell Blood to GBH (2824/54).
‘Have forwarded to you by this night’s mail the Plan which I have received from Mr Bull the Surveyor. He informs me that he has delivered to you the Diagram and Field Books.

14 August 1854 (435/54 ). ‘Report on the Survey Plans of Witham, Essex. To the Right Honble the President of the General Board of Health’.
‘Sir, I have the honor to report to you that the survey plans of Witham, Essex, … have been examined. This survey has been executed on a trigonometrical basis. The lines have been measured as well as calculated and they are found to be quite correct.
No error of any consequence has been detected in the levels, but it was necessary to make the addition to the plans of the level of the lowest floors of the houses.
The finished plans are plainly but very neatly drawn. The whole of the work has been executed in a very business like and commendable manner and I recommend with pleasure that the General Board’s approval of it should be signified’.
Henry Austin. Whitehall.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] Send copy to LBH and say GBH have approved plans.
Bit about accounts re mortgage.

1 November 1855. From J H Pattisson, Witham House, Essex, to Secretary, GBH. With seal(4003/55)
‘Sir … The Board of Health was established … after Edw Cresy Esq had been down and met the parishioners and examined the place in consequence of a memorial to the Board of Health in London, wishing for enquiry and the establishment of sanitary measures in the parish.
There are two parties now in the Board (of 9), and in the Parish, as to carrying out Drainage and water supply, and as to the advantage or propriety of a Board at all – and again it is alleged that there was never a feeling in favour of the Establishment of the Board – in short that there was not a largely signed Memorial. Now it would be of much importance and highly satisfactory to myself and other Gentlemen if you could furnish me with a copy of the Memorial and its signatures which was the basis of the Sanitary measures, as we have reason to believe that the signatures of many persons now opposed to sanitary measures were appended to it.
We wish to satisfy our Neighbors that a larger proportion than required signed the Memorial, and to allay the augmented idea that the sense of the parish was not ascertained.
The original memorial I presume is amongst the documents at your office – and as we have no copy, your early compliance with my request would be esteemed a favor.
The memorial was sent about 7 years ago.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] ‘Some objections have been made to such a course but I have none. Send it. WC’
Copy letter doing so

More about money and Walford’s account for plans.

4 November 1857. J Howell Blood to GBH (2700/57). Local Board of Health ‘in want of funds for the repair of the Highways’. Seek opinion of how to obtain same.

More about money.

13 April 1860. J Howell Blood to GBH (837/60)
Forwarding byelaws and advert (from Essex Herald, March 6).
Under Local Government Act 1858., Re streets, sewerage, walls of new buildings, to prevent fire, space about buildings re ventilation and circulation of air. Re drainage. advise closing of those unfit for human habitation. And for giving notice as to deposition of plans.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] OK

12 August 1867. Letter from J D Shakespeare, J P, Witham, Essex, to Sec of State, Home Dept. (no number)
‘Sir, I have the honor to lay before you the following statement.
About three months since the Smallpox was introduced here by an Irish Hawker; it hung about the spot where the man lay ill and some deaths occurred, it has now spread generally and no part of the town is free.
I have used by utmost endeavour to draw the attention of the Local Board of Health to the existence of many nuisances and my efforts have to some extend done good where those of the most serious nature were found, but there are still many others which a little energy and outlay could remove.
On the 29th July last, Mr Gimson, a medical man of this place wrote to me thus “Neither isolation nor sanitary measures are at present attempted, although I cannot but think they are most desirable to check the further spread of the smallpox”; since I received this note, the disease has spread much further, fresh cases are continually reported, and there is one this morning within 50 yards of my house, the healthiest part of the neighbourhood.”  Since 1855 there have been periodical discussions about introducing into this town an effective system of drainage, in preference to the established cesspools; but nothing more has been done, no action has taken place during these twelve years.

In an Engineering sense the town possesses every facility for good drainage and it has been estimated that the works can be carried out, including a water supply, at the cost of A Shilling rate. For the last 18 months I have been reviving the question and have presented to the Local Board of Health a petition signed by 24 Owners or Occupiers, some of the most influential in the place, in favour of drainage, but I very much fear that those members of the Board who are inclined to act from a sense of public duty are outnumbered by those who think 1/0 rate too much to pay for public health as long as they are healthy themselves.

Under these circumstances which I can only briefly relate, I beg most respectfully to request your assistance under the 49th clause of the Sanitary Act of 1866’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] ‘Secretary – applies under the section of the Act – an Inquiry into the sanitary condition of the district. [different writing:] There can be no new proceedings under the 49 Section since the late opinion of the Law Officers. S F O L [or AFOL?]’

24 December 1867. From J D Shakespear JP Lt Colonel in the Royal Artillery, to Sec of State  (4222)
‘Sir. As a resident in this town I have the honour to bring to your notice the apparent total incapacity of the Local Board of Health to transact its business as “The Nuisance Authority”; possibly this may be caused by the fact of some of the Nuisances being on the premises of some of its members.

During my residence here of two years I have on several occasions complained in writing to them of nuisances existing of a most grievous description, one instance only I need cite as an example.
In or about December 1866 the cottagers in the locality known as Maldon Square [sic – probably Trafalgar Square] reported to the Nuisance Inspector that their public privy required emptying, this report was disregarded – in or about last June I was requested to view the premises and saw Masses of human excrement and vegetable matter festering in the surro. immediately adjoining habitations and at that time of year too dangerous to move.

I at once informed the Local Board of Health in writing of what I had seen and pressed the necessity of doing at once all that could be done, imagining they would disinfect and remove in due course. But having Typhoid fever close at hand and some Misgiving as to the Board of Health, I visited this morning the localities I had reported months since and heard from the Cottagers that nothing had been done in fact what had been reported replete with Soil twelve months ago was only so much worse from having been in daily use by many persons ever since. I could name other instances of neglect of the same class.

I regret most extremely not having made this report before, but I have been held back by the circumstance of my having presented to the Local Board a petition (some months since) signed by 24 Owners or Occupiers, begging that the subject of drainage might be seriously entertained; besides I was not acquainted with this particular neglect in Maldon Square till today.
I have learnt that the “Drainage of Witham” has been a subject of deliberation by the Board for twelve years notwithstanding that the town offers every engineering advantage and that the heaviest estimate yet made can be covered by a shilling rate.
Most respectfully begging your assistance on behalf of those who have turned to me for help, as well as for myself’.
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter]  ‘Send copy to Local Authority for any remarks or explanations they may wish to offer’. Tell writer have done.

  1. 14 January 1868. From J D Shakespear as above. Private. (129)
    ‘You may remember my having had the pleasure of calling on you last year on the subject of “The Local Board of Health” and nuisance of this town.
    I now take the liberty of telling you with reference to your official letter to wit W 4222/7 of Dec 30th 1867 that nothing whatever has been done as far as it is in my power to know.
  2. The privies and cesspools complained of in my letter … 24 Dec … have not been touched and they are of course only so much more full.
    Without saying the exact distance these are from the cottages, I will venture to say they are within 10 feet, the occupants are poor people afraid of their landlord and who will not therefore make an official complaint to me as a Justice of the Peace.
  3. It is not a pleasant thing to have to make formal complaints but if this Local Board will not do their duty I shall again complain but perhaps if you were to enquire what had been done they might move’.

5 February 1868. Memo (364/68)
Sending ‘letter from the Medical Department of the privy Council Office … relative to the insufficient administration of the nuisances removal acts by the Board of Guardians of the Witham Union and the Local Board of the Town of Witham. From James ??? to J[?] Taylor esq., Local Government Act Office.

‘Reports on an epidemic of Typhoid Fever at Terling, by Dr R Thorne Thorne.’ Stamped [??] February 1868.
Printed. In two parts headed ‘First report’ and ‘Second report’.

The first report is based on visits to Terling from 21st to 25th December 1867, and from 6th to 13th January 1868 and is all about Terling. [Notes not made here on Terling but see the website The Terling Fever of 1867 – Historic Terling (wordpress.com)]

The second report is based on a further visit on 29th to 31st January 1868. The first part is again about Terling, but he was instructed to visit other places on the way home and at the end there are shorter reports on Witham, Great Coggeshall, Messing, and Hatfield Peverel. I have only typed out the part about Witham which is as follows.
‘I was also instructed to ascertain, before concluding my visit, whether the other towns and villages belonging to the Witham Union were in a similar insanitary condition to that in which I found Terling, and with this view I spent a few hours in Witham, Great Coggeshall, Messing and Hatfield Peverel.

Sanitary condition of Witham. Witham is a small town, containing about 3,500 inhabitants, and is the only place in this Union which is governed by a Local Board of Health. The main streets have an appearance of great cleanliness and comfort, but on passing from them into courts and slums which are hidden from the general view, cesspools, dilapidated privies, with their contents running about the yards and gardens, heaps of decaying animal and vegetable matter, and every species of nuisance can be found in abundance. Some of the inhabitants live in hovels of the most miserable description, where they are surrounded by intolerable stenches, and, I was informed that they dare not complain to their landlords or to the Inspector of Nuisances of the filthiness around them, for if they go to the former, they fear that he will turn them out of their houses, whereas the latter is the relieving officer, and it is their belief that any complaints made to him would go far to prevent their receiving parish relief. But a more serious obstacle even than this exists to any sanitary improvement. The properties on which the worst nuisances exist belong to members of the Local Board, and I would especially allude to several groups of cottages belonging to a Mr Tomasin [Thomasin], the stinking nuisances around which render them unfit for human habitation. Mr Tomasin is a gentleman of large fortune, he has a seat at the Local Board, and yet, so much has he neglected the dwellings of the poor which belong to him, that the magistrates have been compelled to summon him before them, in order to force him to remove nuisances on his cottage property. In this town there is, as a rule, a common water supply for several cottages, and the wells are generally protected from contaminating influences. Witham has no system of drainage, but in all probability one will before long be constructed. It is an unhealthy town, and though there has been no special prevalence of specific fevers, still I am informed that disease here assumes a low type, and that strumous [sic] affections, rickets and phthisis, attack a large number of the inhabitants.

[Great Coggeshall – better state than Terling or Witham but many portions in a very dirty condition. Inhabitants mostly weavers, great depression in the trade, so many destitute. Messing moderately good but only because after fever four years ago which killed 23, improvements were made. Hatfield Peverel in disgraceful condition up to last few weeks, but committee appointed to improve it since Terling fever outbreak. Reason there was typhoid in Terling and not elsewhere, may partly be rise of surface water because of undulations etc and maybe different soils, which not found in the other places.

7 February 1868. Letter to J H Blood, clerk to Guardians, Witham Union (364/1868)
Re Epidemic at Terling, Witham Union. Directed by Sec of State for the Home Dept. Applied to by ‘Lords of Her Majesty’s Privy Council to take action under the 16th and 49th sections of the Sanitary Act 1866 (29 ad 30 Vict C 90) … he has directed Mr Arnold Taylor an Inspector of the Local Government Act Office to visit Terling and Witham … to report … It would be desirable that the Inspector … should be accompanied on his Inquiry by the Inspector of Nuisances of the Board of Guardians, and if the Chairman or any member of the Board wishes to take part … he will be at the Witham Station by the 11.42 Train from London on Monday in company with Dr Thorne of the Med Department of the Privy Council’.
Short notice because of severe epidemic.

8 February 1868. From J H Blood, Witham Union (headed paper), to T S [?] Taylor Esq. Loc Govt Act Office. (400/68)
‘I am extremely glad that Mr A Taylor is coming to inspect Witham and Terling. I have arranged that the Local Board of Health of Witham should be in attendance at the Union House, Witham … one oclock.’.

17 February 1868. Local Government Office (513)
Village of Terling. Report on an Inquiry and Inspection made 12 Feb 1868 ‘on a complaint made by the Medical Dept of the Privy Council’ against Board of Guardians.
Even if does what can, no effect till vestry lays down sewerage for ‘slop water and liquid refuse’ and ‘better water supply’.
‘I therefore asked Lord Rayleigh, who kindly and most readily acceded to my request, to secure the attendance of some of the leading Ratepayers … at a meeting in the vestry’
Lord Rayleigh, Revd Hill the vicar and 10 or 12 vestry men assembled. Vestry meeting arranged to form committee. Hope will be OK. By Arnold Taylor.

Letter from Terling
Are preparing a plan

Feb 27 1868. Report (658)
Sanitary Act 1866. The Town of Witham, Essex.
Report on an Inquiry and Inspection made at Witham on the 11th and 12th February’ 1868.
To Hon Gathorne Hardy, MP, Sed of State home Dept.
Mr Thorne Thorne went to Witham too. Local Board of Health there so ‘ample powers … had it chosen to use them.’

But in spite of these powers Dr Thorne found … that the Town of Witham had no system of main sewerage – no water, except such as was to be obtained from shallow wells and surface supply, and that many of the poorer parts of the Town were deficient in privy accommodation.
He also ascertained from actual personal inspection, that there was no systematic enforcement of the provisions of the Nuisance Removal Acts, and that large collections of offensive house refuse and filth were allowed to accumulate in and about the yards and back premises of the cottages and poorest class of houses within the Local Board of health District’.
After this report, requested further inquiry.

‘This having been done, Dr Thorne and I proceeded to Witham on the 10th inst, on the day following, in company with him, the Revd J Bramston (who is the Vicar of Witham and also the Chairman of the Local Board), Lieut Colonel Shakespear, a Resident magistrate, and some of the other members of the Local Board of Health, I made a detailed and careful inspection of the Town.

On the 12th … long interview with the Board of Health at their offices, nearly all the members having kindly assembled to meet us on the occasion. Mr Blood their Clerk and Solicitor being also present.

I was informed by the last named gentleman, that on the two questions of water supply and sewerage, the local Board of Health had already come to a decision, in as much on the 25th Jany 1868 they had accepted the report and recommendations of a Drainage Committee of their own body, who had reported in favour of the Plans and Estimates of Mr Church, for the Sewerage and Water Supply of their District, at an approximate cost of £5,715 … most satisfactory assurance, …

I then laid before them the results of my inspection of Witham the day before, and in respect of which, I beg to state that if, as Dr Thorne informed me, many layers of accumulations of filth and refuse had been cleared away since the inspection on which his report was pr[???], then that that gentleman was most amply justified, in all that he has said, with reference to the lax and imperfect way in which the Witham Local Board of Health have hitherto discharged their duties, as the Nuisance Authority for that Town.

There were three points on which I thought it my duty to address the Local Board of Health:
1st As to their system of nuisance inspection
2 As to the want of decent privy accommodation in certain localities
3 The necessity for a better system of scavenging.
With respect to the first it may be described as wholly imperative.
Mr Shee, who at present acts as the Inspector of Nuisances for the Town and Parish of Witham, is Relieving Officer of the Witham Poor Law Union of 17 parishes, and until very recently , he was also nuisance inspector for all these parishes, the greater part of which are still under his control.
Mr Shee was described by everyone as a most able and hard working public servant, but, with his other duties to discharge, it is simply impossible that he can carry out the functions of a Nuisance Inspector.

Accordingly it has not been understood, either by him or by the local Board, of Health, that he should ever initiate any proceedings against offenders, but that, if his attention was specially and persistently called to a particular nuisance, by any person aggrieved, then that the Inspector might, if he thought well, take regular proceedings under the Nuisances Removal Act.
Under such a system as this, the Inspector of Nuisances becomes a dead letter, hence private individuals, who in the case of offensive nuisances, are probably also very poor people, will not incur the trouble and odium of putting the law in motion against their neighbours, or possibly against their own landlords.

The Local Board of Health admitted that their system might be improved, and they seemed to concur with me in opinion, that the best person, efficiently to discharge the duties of a nuisance inspector, was either the Police Superintendent of the Town, or one of his Sergeants acting under him, if the services of either could be obtained for such purpose from the head of the Essex County Police.

as to privy accommodation. The Local Board of Health admitted that, in the poorer parts of the Town, not only was the accommodation insufficient but that in many instances, the buildings were so arranged and so placed, as to be, in themselves, actual offensive nuisances.
Till the very ample legal powers given by the 51st, 54th and 57th sections of the Public Health Act for the remedy of these defects are put in force, instead of their being suffered to remain in disuse, as they have been for years past, the Witham Local Board of Health must, in my opinion, be held to be guilty of a very serious default, in the discharge of one of the most important of their duties, as the Nuisance Authority of that parish.
I have to make the same remark on the removal of solid house refuse and manure.

Witham, being a small country town, and the houses and cottages having, in many instances, garden plots belonging to them, it is of some importance to their occupants that the solid refuse and night soil should be stored for manure. In such cases its removal by the Local Board of Health would be resented as an injury and an interference.

I am, therefore, far from suggesting that they should carry out the powers given them by the 32nd sec of the Local Government Act in any such arbitrary way. But it is clearly their duty to insist, that no solid refuse shall be so stored as to be a dangerous nuisance. And certainly, in many of the courts and yards I visited, where large heaps of refuse were found collected, it was not wanted for use on any adjoining plot of garden ground. I maintain that, in all such cases it is the duty of the Local Board to provide the means of frequent scavenging and removing, if occupiers are unable or unwilling to do it for themselves.

In fact, one or more public scavengers, with the requisite supply of barrows, carts and shovels, ought to be as much part and parcel of the plant and property of every efficient Local Board, as their office chairs and tables are.
I concluded my interview with the Local Board by stating that I should at once make my report to you … and on the undoubted defects and shortcomings … Further … I should ask … permission to have a copy of it sent to the Local Board of Health … report to you’ on progress in water and sewerage, and what steps for inspection, privies, and scavenging.
… I was met by the Board of Health in the most friendly manner, and that my suggestions were accepted in the same cordial spirit in which they were offered.

It does, I think, mark a very great advance on the part of the Witham Local Board, that after the inaction of so many years, they have at last decided to supply the two great needs of every town, a better water supply and  a good system of main sewerage’.
Arnold Taylor [handwritten].

29 February 1868. Letter from ‘W G Luard for the Deputation’. To Sec of Local Government Office (691)
‘Referring to my interview with you on Tuesday last in regard to the drainage of this place and the documents I then left with you I now beg to inform you that the deputation referred to in the copy resolution had an interview with the Board of Health this morning, and that the latter afterwards forwarded a written communication (copy of which I enclose) purporting to be a reply to the request contained in the first Resolution passed at the public meeting held on the 22nd instant. You will observe however that the communication from the Board evades the request made to them and refuses something else which they assume to have been asked but which in reality was not.

The Deputation have thought it right to send the Board a reply to this communication (copy of which I also enclose) and in default of receiving a satisfactory answer from the Board in the course of a day or two the Deputation intend to proceed with the proposed Memorial to the Secretary of State, which I trust will be ready for presentation by about the 10th proxime.

The Deputation particularly wish to call your attention to the second paragraph in the communication from the Local Board in which they allege they convened a meeting of the parish of the purpose of “hearing any suggestions” – I enclose you a copy of the handbill convening the meeting from which you will see that it was called for the purpose of “hearing the Resolutions of the Board” and no proposition was allowed to be put to the meeting which did not facilitate the particular plan proposed by the Board.
The concluding sentence of the same paragraph in the communication from the  Board would almost seem to imply that the Meeting held on the 22nd inst was convened by the Board, whereas it was called in opposition to their proceedings; and although a majority of the Board were present they declined to offer any remarks and all the resolutions were passed unanimously. I have the honor to be Sir, your most obed’t servt W G Luard for the Deputation’
Endorsed [by the person receiving the letter] [Several comments, not very legible.] Send a copy of Captain Luards letter and the answer to the LBd. Invite them to offer any suggestions for the furtherance of the object. This seems to bear up[?] the description of the meeting in the [???] MS[?] letter of the 29th ult.’
[???] [???] [???] Captain Luard that this [???] further letter and the handbill [???] inviting the attendance of the Parishioners[?] to hear the Resolutions of ?? & ?? will refer to drainage & water supply for Witham & Chipping Hill’.
[Another I can’t read though I think it refers to rates].

29 Feb 1868. Copy of letter from ‘W G Luard for the Deputation’, headed paper ‘Witham, Essex’ to the Witham Local Board of Health
‘The Deputation to the Witham Local Board of Health beg to acknowledge the receipt of a Memorandum without signature or address but which they presume to be a communication authorized by the Board.
The Deputation cannot consider such communication as any answer to the direct question placed before the Board at the request of the public meeting held on the 22nd inst which was “That the Board of Health be requested to take the sense of the parish before proceeding with their plan for draining the Town”.
The Deputation do not consider that taking the sense of the parish on this question would place at the decision of the Meeting the wider question as to whether the Town should be drained or not.
The Deputation have not asked the Board to leave the abstract question of drainage or non drainage to the decision of a parish meeting and they still urge the Board to favor them with a definite reply to the request conveyed by the resolution above quoted.

29 February 1868. Copy of letter from Witham Local Board of Health (691)
‘The Witham Local Board of Health acknowledge the receipt of a letter from Mr Palmer enclosing the copy of a Resolution passed at a parish meeting requesting the Board to receive a deputation from the parish.
The Board having seen the deputation consisting of Captn Luard, Messrs Abrey, Potter Garrett, Palmer and Chappell beg to state that they convened a meeting of the parish for the purpose of hearing any suggestions that might be made as to drainage which meeting was held on the 3rd February when those present declined to make any suggestions, and that parish meeting was held in pursuance of a numerously signed inquisition on the 22nd inst at which meeting the resolution above referred to was passed.
The Board cannot as a responsible body delegate the powers conferred on them by various Acts of Parliament to an irresponsible body and although they are desirous of having any suggestions made to them from the parish or individuals having reference to any improvement either in the way of efficiency or economy as to the mode of draining the Town of Witham and Chipping Hill they cannot consent that the abstract question of drainage or non-drainage should be left to the decision of a parish meeting.

 Copy of printed notice (691)
Reads: ‘WITHAM BOARD OF HEALTH. DRAINAGE AND WATER SUPPLY. The Parishioners of Witham are invited to attend A MEETING AT THE LITERARY INSTITUTE on MONDAY, 3rd of February AT SEVEN O’CLOCK, P.M., to hear the Resolutions of the Board, with reference to Drainage and Water Supply, for Witham and Chipping Hill; and they are invited to offer any suggestion for the furtherance of the object. Mr JABEZ CHURCH, the Engineer, will attend the Meeting. By Order of the Board. J HOWELL BLOOD, Clerk. WITHAM, 27th Jan 1868. R S CHEEK, PRINTER AND STATIONER, WITHAM.

from J Howell Blood to A Taylor Esq, Local Government Act Office,
8 Richmond Terrace, Whitehall, London’ (692)
Witham, 29th February 1868
Sir, Witham Drainage
Board of Health are determined to carry it out. ‘Many of the inhabitants consider that the question of drainage or non-drainage should be left to the decision of the parish and not to the Board of Health’.
For which see the following correspondence, i.e. a transcript of a letter   from G Palmer, Witham, 24 Feb 1868]
‘I beg to inform you that at a Public Meeting of the Inhabitants … unanimously resolved that the Board of Health be required to take the sense of the Parish before proceeding with the plans. And on behalf of this Deputation .. [appointed at the meeting … when can the Board receive the Deputation]’

At a meeting of the Board of Health held [29 Feb 1868]
Resolved … to     acknowledge … Palmer.
The Board having seen the Deputation consisting of Capt Luard, Messrs Abrey, Potter[?], Garrett, Palmer and Chappell beg to state that they convened a meeting of the Parish for the purpose of hearing any suggestions that might be made as to Drainage, which meeting was held on the 3rd Feby, when those persons declined to make any suggestions, & that a Parish meeting was held in pursuance of a numerously signed requisition on the 22nd inst at which meeting the Resolution above referred to was passed.

The Board cannot as a Responsible body delegate the Powers conferred on them by various Acts of Parliament to an irresponsible body, and altho they are desirous of having any suggestions made to them from the Parish or Individuals having reference to any improvement either in the way of efficiency or economy as to the mode of Draining the Town of Witham and Chippng Hill, they cannot consent that the abstract question of Drainage or non Drainage should be left to the decision of a Parish Meeting.
As you may probably hear something from the Parish of Witham on the above subject, I was directed to forward to you the correspondence that has taken place.
I have the honor to be Yours and faithfully, J Howell Blood.
Endorsements from person receiving the letter are hard to read. One refers to the letter from Luard.

2 March 1868. Memo from Arnold Taylor. Doesn’t say to whom.
Text is as follows:
‘Witham Correspondence as to Sewerage & Water Supply.
I have reported on Witham and given the strongest support possible to the Local Board for having at last decided to carry out the two great improvements of Water Supply and Drainage.

In order to save this Office much heavy correspondence might I suggest that you should decline to interfere in any way between Captain Luard and his party and the Local Board of Health. If the former receives any support from this office, the Local Board will be only too ready to [???] your action as an excuse for their non action. The time for this Office to interfere will be when the Local Board submit their plans and estimates for sanction to borrow money for their execution. Arnold Taylor.

2 March 1868, report from laboratory from J Thomas Way to Arnold Taylor Esq
‘Laboratory. 111 Victoria Street. March 2nd 1868.
Dear Sir. I beg to report to you the result of my examination of

seven samples of water sent by your direction from Witham in Essex. The samples were received on the 19th of February.

Sample No 1
from Mr Blood’s well (350 feet deep) is different in character, as in origin, from all the rest of the waters in the list – it is an “artesian” water very soft and similar in composition to that which is supplied to the fountains in Trafalgar Square. Although this water gives to Dr Cluskis’[?] soap test a hardness of about 2 degrees it is in reality more “soft” than the softest waters of Yorkshire or Lancashire – it contains 22 grains of carbonate of soda in the gallon & is therefore excellently suited for washing or other domestic purposes – though probably not so pleasant as a drinking water. The quantity of common salt in this water is very large, being nearly 41 grains in the gallon – this impregnation of common salt must be derived from deep seated sources – there is no ground for supposing that it is the result of any polluting agency. The water is remarkably free from nitrogenous constituents – whether in the form of Ammonia, albuminous matter, or nitric acid – indeed in this respect it is the purest water which has been examined in this laboratory since these particulars have formed a prominent point in water analysis.

No 4 from “pump in Elmy’s yard, Bridge Street” is a water which though somewhat high in the proportion of mineral residue and of great hardness (30 degrees) does not afford evidence of pollution of animal or vegetable matter – it gives as favorable an analysis as many samples of water extensively used for human consumption without suspicion of being unwholesome – though not of the very highest type I should consider it a wholesome water.

The other five samples of water in the list are in my opinion more or less polluted – of these probably no. 2 (“Mr Cranmer’s private well”) is the worst – it contains mineral matter to the extent of 114 grains in the gallon – of which 24 grains is common salt & has a hardness of 49 degrees of which nearly one third is due to sulphate and [???] of lime and magnesia. It contains a large proportion of ammonia and albuminous matter and an excessive quantity of nitric acid in the form of nitrates – the last column in the table shows that this water contains more than 5,000 grains of nitrogen in the form of nitric acid in 1,000 gallons or somewhat more than 5 grains in each gallon – this is equal to about 20 grains of nitric acid or about 37 grains of nitrate of potash.

I am aware that the presence of this or even larger quantities of nitrates in water does not per se render such water positively unfit for human consumption but it does, as an unfailing indication of sources of pollution – offer the strongest warning against its use as liable at any time to become highly injurious. In productions of nitrates from matter of an animal character is one of nature’s methods of getting rid of such matter and therefore of purification – but it supposes the pre-existence of the objectionable ingredients and we can never be safe that the curative process is complete.

It is unnecessary to mention particularly all the other samples – probably the water of the “Pump in Maldon Square” (no 3) [Trafalgar Square] is the next in the order of impurity as it contains a high proportion of albuminous matter.

Nos 6 and 7
are evidently waters in which the purifying process (of the production of nitrates) is caried out to great completeness but in my opinion these waters although perhaps perfectly wholesome at the time when the samples were taken may at any time become unfit for use. There are therefore five samples in the list the use of which for drinking purposes should be abandoned.
I am dear sir, yours truly, J Thomas Way.’

Followed by table of the samples for hardness, mineral residue, chloride of sodium, ammonia, albuminous matter, and nitrogen from nitric acid. The wells are:
‘Mr Blood’s deep well (350 ft)
Mr Cranmer’s private well
Pump in Maldon Square
Pump in Elmy’s yard, Bridge Street
Pump in Mill Lane
Pump in Rusts yard, Chipping Hill
Mr Stevens’ private well’.

4 March 1868. Letter from Terling
Re Vestry meetings etc. Henry Cawdron to Arnold Taylor. Wells sorted.

  1. 6 March 1868. From J Howell Blood to Taylor (749)
    ‘Sir, I beg to acknowledge the receipt of Mr Arnold Taylor’s Report as to the Sanitary State of Witham and also a letter from yourself with a copy of the correspondence with Capt Luard.
    I have to observe that the Board of Health having after long and anxious consideration, determined that Drainage and Water supply were necessary, adopted certain Plans prepared by a Mr Church. The Board called a meeting of the parish for the 3rd February. The Hand bill calling such meeting has been provided to you by Capt Luard and it was intended to express a wish to have the opinion of the parishioners on the subject of drainage and water supply and to have suggestions made in furtherance of that object. I believe the only resolution proposed at that meeting was “That this meeting request the Board of Health to take the sense of the Parish as to whether the town should be drained or not”. The Chairman declined to put the motion, and I feat this has caused annoyance. When the deputation attended the Board they again asked that the sense of the parish should be taken, but they did not say on what particular subject and the Board naturally concluded it meant the sense of the Parish on the question proposed at the meeting, as to whether the town should be drained or not, and an answer was sent accordingly, which answer I am glad to see you approved. On behalf of the Board I shall shortly submit plans to you for approval and I am quite sure that I am justified in saying that if any more economic and at the same time efficient plan can be shewn, the Board will gladly accept it.
    I have the honor to be Your most faithful servant, J Howell Blood’.
    Endorsed by the person receiving the letter ‘Send a copy to Captain Luard and say that the chairman was acting in the proper discharge of his duty in refusing to put such a resolution’ [rest hard to read].

7 March 1868. Another from Terling Vicarage to Arnold Taylor

 10 March 1868. From  W W Luard. to Taylor, Local Government Act Office (809).
‘Memorial against proposed drainage scheme, Witham. … Sir, I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of yesterday’s date enclosing copy of a letter from Mr Blood of the 6th instant and of your reply to that letter.
On behalf of the Deputation I beg leave to point out that Mr Blood’s letter does not fairly represent the question at issue between the Parishioners and the Local Board of Health.
At the meeting of the 3rd February it was distinctly stated by the Chairman that a particular plan of drainage had been definitely adopted by the Board, and we were invited to offer suggestions for the furtherance of that plan and no other. As this plan was considered entirely inappropriate and far too costly, a resolution was proposed, but not put to the meeting, the exact words of which were “that the Board of Health be requested to take the sense of  the parish as to the drainage of the Town”. Had this course been adopted other plans might have been suggested and the present state of dissatisfaction avoided but as this resolution was not put to the meeting and therefore does not exist at all, it seems irrelevant on the part of the Board to refer to it in explanation of a much more definite resolution – which was carried without a dissentient voice at a very large public meeting, namely “that the Board of Health be requested to take the sense of the parish before proceeding with their plan for draining the Town”, more especially as upon the receipt of the unsatisfactory reply of the Board the Deputation explicitly stated that the question upon which it was wished the sense of the parish should be taken, was not as suggested by the Board “whether the town should be drained or not”, but as to the particular plan adopted by the Board.
The Parishioners are not only willing but desirous that proper sanitary measures should at once be adopted, and I have now the honor to forward a memorial from a very large majority of the owners and ratepayers, which they feel assured will receive the attention and consideration so nearly unanimous an expression of opinion is entitled to claim.
I have the honor to be Sir Your most obedt servant W W Luard, for the Deputation.’.

21 March 1868. From Arnold Taylor (809/68)
Board of Health stated that will shortly submit plans

  1. Report. Not signed (899)
    Handwritten report under Sanitary Act 1866 re Terling etc. Account of what happened so far. Also includes entries from Guardians minutes, 1867 Dec 16 etc. Conclusions.Copy of letter 9 Jan to Guardians from John Simon re Terling

More re Terling.

  1. 19 March 1868. From J Howell Blood, Witham Local Board of Health (914) Mr Church will deposit plans at Local Government Act Office.

  2. 30 March 1868. From J Howell Blood, Witham Local Board of Health (1159)
    Copy of resolution etc. (application for loan of £6000 for works of drainage and water supply, proposed Rev John Bramston, seconded Mr Beadel, carried unanimously).Tables of estimates under LGA 1858.
    Estimates for sewerage works, Witham.
    First page under brick sewers says ‘No Brick Sewers required’. Rest has .list of lengths of sewer, with the following details:
  3. Gradient in 100 ft.
    Average depth
    Lengths, yards lineal
    Price per yard lineal
    £ s d
    The places are as follows:
  4. [some may have the left hand side slightly trimmed off]:
    Bridge Street
    Engine House up High Street
    Back Street
    Witham House to Maldon Road
    Maldon Road (2 sections)
    Maldon Road
    Mill Lane (3 sections)
    Guithavon St (3 sections)
    Queen St
    Main road [?] chipping Hill
    Church Street
    Church Street
    Block drainage for cottages
    [?] Under Railway – cast iron
    [?] River – wrought iron

Outfall works: ‘Cast iron rising main from the engine house to the Witham settling tanks with stand pipe over which the sewage from the low level section will be pumped. Pipes and connections complete’.
Special flushing works: ‘Six 6” stand pipes to be attached to the sewers and flushed from the hydrants fitted with flexible hose and lockdown grates. These pipes are also to act as ventilation’.
Pumping works: ‘Centrifugal pump. Cast iron receiving tank with gear and connections complete’.
Sewage irrigation works: ‘Settling tanks, valves, pipes and connections for conveying sewage upon the land in close proximity with the settling tanks both at the Witham and Chipping Hill outfalls’.
Land. Engineers commission. Contingencies and legal expenses. Total for sewers £2,862 0s 0d.

Estimates for Water Supply works, Witham
Table of lengths of ‘cast iron mains’, giving
Size  (all 3” except 5” for first one)
Length in yards
Price per yard
£ s d
Lengths are:
From Engine House along part of High Street to Queen Street
From Engine House to Union.
High St up Mill Lane
Guithavon St from High St
East [???] of High St
Back St
Maldon Road
From High Service Reservoir to Chipping Hill
Upper part of Mill Lane
Church Street
Cost also includes bends, hydrants and casings, sluice valves and casings, ‘land, artesian well, engine house and commission’.
Pumping works in detail: ‘One 8 HP High Pressure and Condensing Engine with expansion gear, two Cornish Boilers three 8” [???] well pumps to be worked by eccentrics keyd upon a 5” wrought iron shaft driven by a spur wheel and pinion’.
No impounding reservoir.
Service reservoir: ‘The service reservoir is of wrought iron and will contain 20,000 gallons, the tank will be 20 feet deep and will be fixed upon a brick tower having a square base with an octagonal shaft the height of same being 50 feet from the surface level to the bottom of the reservoir. The tank will be enclosed at the side thereof with brickwork and the top will be covered with a roof. The rising main to supply same will be 5” diameter and connected with the bottom of tank and will also be fitted with a 5” overflow pipe and wash-out the same will be connected with the sewer. The supply of water will be constant’.
Total for water £3,138 0s 0d.

 More on Terling [not noted]

  1. 21 April 1868. From J Howell Blood, Witham Local Board of Health (1408)
    Acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 3rd ult and Mr Arnold Taylor’s report. ‘I have to inform you that the Board have resolved to continue Mr Shee the present Inspector of Nuisances in his office for a period of 6 months at a salary of £8 and have directed him to make a thorough inspection of he whole parish … nuisances … privy accommodation and report.   …
    Scavenging, the Board consider that more frequent visits by their Inspector and requiring the immediate removal of all Manure or other offensive matter … will be an effectual means. …’
    Endorsed by Arnold Taylor: Won’t be enough on ‘paltry salary’ [deleted and ‘???’ salary included instead] offered.’

  2. 28 April 1868. Letter from Robert Rawlinson (1492)
    Recommending agreeing loan. Well calculated.
    Endorsed by person receiving the letter: Sanction recommended.

9 May 1868. letter from W G Luard
Acknowledges letters saying will be official inquiry on 2th instance re estimates and plans. Ask for plans to be sent to Board of Health for parishioners to inspect.

  1. 9 June 1868. From John Bramston (2076)
    ‘A few weeks since a meeting of the parishioners was gathered to meet Mr Rawlinson from the Local Government Office..’ I was asked me to take chair. Mr Church was there and also Mr Chancellor architect and engineer presented a plan. Resolved to send both plans to Sec of State. May they now send Mr Chancellor’s.
    Endorsed by person receiving letter. Yes

  2. 15 June 1868. Copy letter from Local Government Act Office (2076)
    Reply to letter of 9 June from Bramston re ‘rival plans’ send plans etc. from Robert Rawlinson.

  3. 2 July 1868. From J Howell Blood to Taylor (2380)
    Plans sent ‘a long time since’ and request for loan. Resolution passed at Parish meeting laid your letter of 16th ult before the Board of Health on the 27th ‘and on the other side, I send you copy of the resolution passed at that meeting’.(i.e. Board done all they can and sent to Home Office. Board decline to comply with conditions laid down in Taylor to Bramston.)

  4. 17 July 1868. From Clarke, of Victoria Chambers, to Local Government act Office. (2859)
    Acknowledgement. Will deal quickly.

  5. From J Howell Blood to Taylor (3155)
    Mr Clarke to whom the plans referred, have made report recommending Mr Church with slight modifications that adopted. Please proceed re loan.

  6. Clark to Taylor (3206)
    Saying same as last

  7. 3 September 1868. Robert Rawlinson. Report. (3211)
    ‘Witham is a town having a population of about 3,500
    persons and a rateable value of £14,000 per annum.
    At present there is no system of main sewerage and house drainage is therefore, necessarily defective. There is no public mode of water supply. Some of the better class houses are drained into cesspits and water is obtained from pumps, wells, and springs. The subsoil is an open alluvial gravel so that sewage matter can filer into it to the contamination of well-water in the vicinity of cesspits – most of the cottages have neither drainage nor proper means of water supply’. LGB was sent plans. in March. In February a memorial sent from town saying public meeting of ratepayers objected to Local Board of Health plan as not the best.
    ‘After due notice to both parties I attended in Witham and inspected the district as also looked over certain rival plans … Chancellor and heard the complaints of the memorialists … [who] admitted … works … necessary, the dispute being as to details. I recommended that an independent Civil Engineer should be authorised at the cost of the ratepayers to survey the district … report … assented to and William Clark Esq Civil Engineer has surveyed … report. Local Board of Health received … accepted … on 29th ult, make further applic … £7,000 … Mr Church … as modified by Mr Clark.’ Approve but only sanction first estimate till more details.
    ‘The proposed works when executed will be of great and permanent public utility in the town of Witham’.

  8. 7 September 1868. J Howell Blood to Taylor (3245)
    Some time ago deposited plans … ‘Those plans have not yet been officially approved, tho I understand are virtually so, they have gone through a somewhat severe ordeal’. Anxious to commence.

  9. 8 September 1868. From J Howell Blood  (3245)
    Acknowledge receipt of letter and sanction.

23 Oct 1868. J Howell Blood to Taylor (3751)
Tenders accepted. Can have advance of loan?
Endorsed by person who received the letter: Need to apply to Public Works Loan Commissioners.

  1. 14 December 1869, George Adnams to G C Lewis esquire. (3899)
    ‘Witham, Sir, Having the management of House property in Witham I shall feel obliged if you will inform me if I can use earth closets. I have made enquiries of several members of the Board of Health but cannot obtain this information. I remain, Yours respectfully, George Adnams.’
    [he was managing the late George Thomasin’s property; he was Thomasin’s wife’s brother in law]
    {Endorsements by person receiving the letter. As usual hard to read.] ‘Refer him to the section which … as to earth closets‘ … Sanitary Act … (31 & 32 Vic c105) any enactments and any act of Parl  … as any place … the constrn of a water closet shall … approval and the Local authority be satisfied … and an earth closet a place for the reception of dedor… and fecal matter made … in regulation from time to time.’

End of file   PRO / TNA  Ref. MH 13/209 (General Board of Health and Home Office, Local Government Act Office: Correspondence)


A dissenting voice.

On 31st January 1869, Dr Henry Dixon wrote in his diary about the new works. He lived in Rivenhall then, but had previously been a doctor in Witham. He was a staunch nonconformist in religion, and a defender of the rights of the poor. So he frequently opposed the doings of the establishment. This time his words do seem rather to contradict the ideals of his professsion. This is what he wrote.

“Witham is in an uproar.  Contractors and Navies are cutting up the streets to form a culvert as a main drain to all the cesspools & other offensive matters from the dwellings.  This culvert is from 6 to 16 or more feet deep into which the House holders will have to carry drains, at their own expense.  Water is to be pumped up by steam to flush the drains, and the outlet will be carried on to a great distance before it is ultimately discharged upon some convenient spot, not yet determined, upon Socketted glazed Pipes from the culverts, made somewhere in Yorkshire.  The expence of this formidable work will be not less than £8,000 and think so small a parish of but 3 or 4000 inhabitants falling for years to come upon small traders will I expect be ruinous to many.  I think £400 or 500 would if judiciously used been fully sufficient to clear away the nuisances complained of.   I have a full knowledge of every cottage and locality in the place that required alteration & further more know something of drainage”.The photo of Dr Dixon is ref. M1515


 Success   – the photos


The Water Tower

The Water Tower was completed in 1869,.and was the most obvious sign that Witham at last had its own water supply and drainage. These two photos of the Tower, above and below, are copies from the late Roy Poulter’s collection. He was once kind enough to lend them to me.

The picture above is  dramatic in itself, but also because it shows us that imposing doorway. I wish I knew who built it all.

The photo below is from the roadside, from a different angle – so no door. Collingwood Road itself was built in the same year, 1869, on land given by the Oliver family, owners of Freeborns farm. It connected the railway station and Newland Street. In addition one of its  purposes was to give access to the Water Tower.

In the photo below, the building on the left housed the office of the local authorities, first the Local Board of Health and next, from 1894 onwards, the Urban District Council. Then in the 1930s, when mains electricity arrived in Witham, it became the electricity shop.

By the way, it seems that whatever you do with a photo of a water tower, it always looks as if it’s leaning over – sorry about that.


Above, the Water Tower in about 1905-1910 (ref.M1732). The long Public Hall, built in 1894, is finished, in front of and left of the Tower. But the new Constitutional Club, built in 1910 beside the Public Hall, isn’t there yet. This photo was probably taken in black and white originally, though  colour was coming into use. Fred Hayward, who took it, was one of Witham’s best and best-known photographers, and may have been standing at his house, at the top of Collingwood Road (now number 55).

Below, in 1916, soldiers marching down Collingwood Road with the Water Tower behind them (ref M0453). They were billeted in Witham for training during the War.

The photo below is  interesting (my ref.M0604). The man in the trap seems to have chosen to be photographed in front of the Water Tower (in about 1910). Yet it was he, as Captain or Mr Luard, who in 1868 led a deputation opposing the Board of Health’s final plans for drainage and water supply. He was over-ruled. By the time of this photo, in aboout 1910, he was Admiral Luard, one of Witham’s best-loved gentlemen.


The Waterworks

The new waterworks premises were behind the Swan, at the bottom of Newland Street. The exterior and interior of the main building are shown in the first two photos below. These were taken by me in  1988 [my refs P18/19, 20]. It had the attractive  brickwork which often featured in Victorian waterworks buildings. I understand that this is where the water first arrived, having been brought from somewhere on Lord Rayleigh’s land. His help was very welcome, but sometimes people were anxious about being so much under his control. I think the water was then pumped from the waterworks  to the top of the water tower, and then distributed  by gravity to individual properties.





The Waterworks cottages

It was an important job, keeping the water supply flowing. The UDC provided these houses (below), mainly for the waterworks engineers – they are still there. The first one to be built was the one on the right, occupied by the man who ran the pumping station which took the water up to the water tower. This information was given to me by the late Peter May who was brought up in the left-hand cottage, built in 1929. His father was Len May, clerk of works of the Council’s outdoor workers.



The Swimming Pool

After the first waterworks had closed, there was a successful campaign for the old tanks to be used as a swimming pool. Before that, the Council’s “Bathing Place” was in the river Blackwater. The new pool is shown in the photo below, with the Waterworks Cottages behind them.


The Fire Station

Witham’s original Fire Station was in a small brick buiding which still stands at the corner of Guithavon Street in Mill Lane. During the Second World War, more space, more vehicles, and more men were needed. So additional men and additional buildings were provided, known as the Auxiliary force. The photos below show the Auxiliary Fire Station which was put next to the Waterworks  during the Second World War [taken by Harry Loring:in 1967, my ref.M0342].  Then there are some of the firemen who were based there (ref.M1502). They were known as the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS). In April 1941 the old and new forces were amalgamated into the National Fire Service. Most towns about the country had similar arrangements to cope with the extra demands of War time.

The Drainage and Sewerage System

The two pictures above show the Sewage Works House in Blackwater Lane. Like the Waterworks cottages, they enabled the workmen to be on hand to deal with any problems. The Hammond family were in charge for many years. The buildings were used  for many other purposes. For instance, the lower picture shows the old stables where all the Council horses lived and were cared for. Their help was needed by alll the different departments.


Lastly, the  Hydrant  which still stands, on the pavement outside the former site of the works. Here the powerful water pressure from the works could be used when needed, particularly for fire fighting.  American hydrants are yellow so they can be found more easily (taken in 2023).


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