Cholera in Wales - consequences

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Historians tend to disagree over the consequences of the cholera epidemics. This is because many historians do not see a direct link between the cholera outbreaks and the events of later years. They often argue that the changes that happened in industrial Wales would have happened anyway. This may or may not be true but it is not particularly important. What is important is that the cholera epidemics made people realise that they must start to take more control over the environments they were living in. Drainage, water supply the position and style of housing all had to be carefully controlled. The following is a list of the things that happened in the second half of the nineteenth century.
People realised that toilets had to be carefully built and designed. Sanitary Reform was very important See Privies, Closets and Water Closets, and Attitudes to Water Supply

In 1866 a Sanitary Act forced towns to appoint sanitary inspectors who were to check that water supplies and drainage were adequate for the people living in the towns. 

In 1871 the Local Government Board Act was passed which placed public health and the Poor Law in the hands of the Local Government Board.

The 1872 Public Health Act split the country up into 'Sanitary Areas' each of which had to appoint a Medical Officer of Health. This meant that the administration and management of public health matters became much more efficient.

In 1875 another Public Health Act was passed which made much clearer laws and regulations for health matters. It also covered the following topics:

  • Street Lighting
  • Lodging Houses
  • Water Supply
  • Sewage
  • Provision of pure food
  • Public parks
  • New rules for housing
  • Public toilets
People realised that bad housing led to outbreaks of disease. See Housing or Early housing in Swansea or Early Housing in Swansea 1902-1910

Builders were given building regulations (known as Byelaws) to stop them building poor housing.

The Torrens Act of 1868 gave councils the power to demolish houses which had no drainage or toilet facilities. 

The 1875 Artisans' and Labourer's Dwellings Improvement Act gave councils much greater power to deal with poor housing. They could demolish houses and build new ones. 

The Housing of the Working Classes Act of 1890 enabled councils to take over whole areas of bad housing and build good quality homes. 

Real housing progress did not take place until 1919 see Swansea's 'Homes for Heroes'

People realised they needed to be more aware of what was going on in their town and take more interest in what was happening. People wanted more hospitals and access to doctors.

People expected to see street cleaning (or scavenging) carried out on a regular basis. People expected their roads to be sealed with tar or pitch instead of dirt tracks. 

All streets were given names and all houses had to have numbers, and this was made the responsibility of the local councils.

People wanted piped water supplies that were reliable and safe. Lots of new reservoirs were built across South Wales in the 1870s and 1880s.

Dirty and offensive businesses such as slaughterhouses, tanneries and candle makers were prevented from operating in the town centres.



The View for Sunday 7 January 2001

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