The Dancer’s End Waterworks. In its later days
the pumping engine’s cooling pond was used by water company staff as a
I enjoy reading old editions of the local press, for the rags of
bygone days contained much more meat than one finds amongst today’s
diet of local gossip. For instance, what an interesting read
was the account of the first amputation at the Bucks Infirmary in
anaesthetic was employed. [February, 1847] Although the patient might later
have succumbed to gangrene, the administration of ether did at least prevent
death from shock.
The grisly spectacle of public hangings was also well covered, such as
that of the pair who murdered the
Sparrows Herne Turnpike gate keepers
for their meagre takings. [March 1823] Thousands turned up to witness the event which took place in front of the Aylesbury County Hall.
And when Queen Victoria stopped briefly at Tring station on her
journey to Wolverton along the recently opened London & Birmingham
Railway, [November 1844] our local news hound was there to record the event in which
a chorus of local children was assembled in the pouring rain to
sing her the national anthem.
A less happy newspaper report that stuck in my mind was of cholera visiting
local village (Ivinghoe) during the 1867 epidemic. In the course of a few
hours it wiped out most members of a family that had fallen victim to
it . . . .
“. . . . the
cholera had made its appearance in the last few days. Japhet Janes,
aged 40, was first attacked on the 9th inst., but he is getting
better. His son Thomas was taken on the 10th. inst., and died the
same night. His wife was attacked on the 10th inst., and died also
the same night, together with two of his children, one of whom died
on the 11th inst. Two other of his children were also taken ill, and
a woman named Turney, who was engaged in nursing the above-named
patients, was attacked with cholera and died in 12 hours. On Sunday
a man who gave evidence on the previous day at the Ivinghoe Petty
Sessions was taken ill, and died in a few hours.”
Thankfully, cholera and typhoid are strangers to us
today, but not to our Victorian forebears who had yet to receive a
plentiful supply of uncontaminated drinking water. So when the
Secretary of our local history society asked whether I would look
into the history of Tring’s public water supply, the invitation provided a good
excuse to root among the back issues of the local press to see what
gems on the subject might be unearthed.
The account that follows ― which for the most part comes from old
editions of the Bucks Herald
― is about the
early history of sanitation in Tring. It covers the period
1865 to 1905, during which uncontaminated drinking water became
publicly available (although many preferred to continue drinking well water,
sometimes with dire consequences) and a workable sewage disposal system
was brought into operation. An isolation hospital was built ― for this was
an age in which serious infectious disease was commonplace ― and
arrangements were made for the safe burial of the dead.
Although at first glance these topics might seem unconnected,
the theme that flows through them is that of serious disease and its
prevention and control within the community ― public health.
My thanks go to my friend and sometime co-author, Wendy Austin, for
her assistance with research, to Pat Roberts for access to her
papers on the Tring Isolation Hospital and for an interesting
guided tour of the former site ― now attractive residential
accommodation, tastefully landscaped ― and to local historian Mike Bass for the
use of his photographs of the Tring Nursing Home.
CLEAN DRINKING WATER
MANAGEMENT OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE
BURIAL OF THE DEAD
APPENDIX I.: WATERBORNE DISEASE
APPENDIX II.: A MODIFIED FORM OF PRIVY
APPENDIX III.: THE SEWAGE SCHEME – LOCAL GOVERNMENT
APPENDIX IV.: THE RECENT TYPHOID OUTBREAK
(Dr. William Gruggen, Obit.)
APPENDIX V.: SURREY PLACE IN 1899
APPENDIX VI.: A NEW CEMETERY FOR TRING
VII.: DUTIES OF THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH
APPENDIX VIII.: THE CHESHAM PLAGUE
APPENDIX IX.: PUBLIC HEALTH IN CHESHAM
CLEAN DRINKING WATER
“The half-yearly shareholders’ meeting of
the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company, at Aylesbury, on Monday,
occasioned several farewells and reminiscences on the part of the
Directors and officers of the Company. It was the last meeting
of the Company, after 81 years existence, before it became merged
with the Bucks Water Board . . . . the Company was formed about 80
years ago by a small band of men who felt that the necessity for a
supply of pure water to the town was very urgent.”
Bucks Herald, 5th
THE FIRST ATTEMPTS TO SET UP A WATER COMPANY
Clean drinking water, drawn from deep wells in the Chiltern Hills at
Dancer’s End, was first piped to Tring in 1870. However, the
history of this important step in promoting public health began at
Aylesbury some years earlier.
The first attempt to establish a water company was in
1853. A scheme was announced to draw water from
Broughton Brook at a point adjacent to the canal ― the alternative
of piping water from the Chiltern Hills having been considered too
expensive ― then to pump it into a water tower “sufficiently high to
command the upper stories of all houses in the town”. The
estimated cost of the scheme was put at £8,000, added to which would
be a further charge of 20 to 30 shillings a house for connecting the
supply. It is interesting to note that at this time the
question of ‘water quality’ was confined to its hardness; that of
contamination had yet to appear on the agenda.
In an age before public infrastructure projects were funded centrally, schemes such as the creation of a water utility had to be
financed privately. The outcome was that if a scheme’s promoters
failed to raise sufficient capital, it was abandoned ― and such was
the fate of the first attempt to supply running water to Aylesbury.
The next attempt to set up a water company came in 1858:
“We understand that the long-talked-of
Water Company is about to be established in this town, there being
at present nearly £2,000 in shares subscribe, the proposed capital
being £7,000. Looking at the scheme in a mercantile sense,
doubtless it will prove a profitable investment of capital; and, in
a sanitary point of view, its importance to the town of Aylesbury
will be incalculable.”
8th May 1858.
. . . . so was announced the proposed Aylesbury Water Company, and
while the notice draws the attention of prospective investors to the
scheme’s scope for profit, it also emphasises its “incalculable”
contribution to the town’s sanitation ― it appears that news
of Dr. John Snow’s
work on the cause of cholera had reached Aylesbury, for the
notorious Soho pump was by no means alone in spreading that
potentially fatal disease among the population it served (APPENDIX I). Writing in 1868, Dr. Charles Hooper, an Aylesbury
general practitioner, had this to say about that other dread
waterborne disease, typhoid, and the town’s wells:
“During the last epidemic of typhoid fever
here, all those patients suffering from it who first came under my
notice had a special affection for the Kingsbury pump water.
The water on their own premises tasting disagreeably, they had all
been in the habit of imbibing freely from that source, and I
attributed the attacks to the impurity of that well . . . . It is my
firm conviction that there is scarcely a well in the town of
Aylesbury so situated as to be entirely free from the danger of
contamination by infiltration of sewage.”
The 1858 scheme appears to have been a reappearance of that from
five years earlier.
Based on their previous experience, the main concern of those
who gathered at the White Hart Hotel to consider the plan was whether sufficient capital
could be raised to fund the project, and whether sufficient customers
would then connect to the supply to yield a reasonable return on their
investment. It was therefore agreed that the town would first
be canvassed to estimate both the number of customers for a supply
of “pure and wholesome water” and the number of shares that
would likely to be taken up by investors, for, “unless a
sufficient number of shares are taken, the proposed undertaking must
fall to the ground”. When the townsfolk met a week later
to learn the outcome, they were informed that only £3,000 of the
estimated £7,000 requirement had been pledged. A further
effort was made to enrol potential investors, but this too seems
to have failed. For the time being, nothing more is heard of
this particular undertaking.
THE CHILTERN HILLS WATERWORKS COMPANY
Towards the end of 1863, statutory announcements appeared in the
Aylesbury press giving notice that two undertakings, the ‘Aylesbury
Waterworks’ and the ‘Chiltern Hills Water Works’, each intended to
apply to Parliament for leave to bring in a Bill to incorporate the
respective companies, their aim being to supply Aylesbury with
The Aylesbury Waterworks Company planned to use as their source the
Bear Brook and to construct their waterworks “on the north side
of the road known as Dropshort Lane, and on the south side of the
corn mill known as Walton Mill.” The company also planned
to construct a reservoir and filter beds, and install steam-powered
The competing scheme was more ambitious. The promoters of The
Chiltern Hills Waterworks Company aimed to supply water, not just to
Aylesbury, but to surrounding parishes. While the statutory
notice fails to identify the source of the supply, it does state
that water was to be stored in a “service reservoir” to be
built in a field adjacent to the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Road  “on
or near the summit or highest point of Tring Hill”. 
Water from the reservoir was to be piped along the route of the
turnpike to Aylesbury to terminate “. . . . in the street known
as New-road, at or near the Market-place, opposite to the house
known by the sign of the Crown Inn . . . .” from where the mains
would distribute the water around the town.
A private Act of the type applied for would have given the company
who obtained it various legal rights not generally available to the
community at large, the most notable being the right to buy land and
property by compulsory purchase ― or as the statutory notice put it:
“To purchase by compulsion or agreement and
otherwise, take or lease and take grants or easements over lands,
houses, water rights of water and other property for the purpose of
the undertaking, and to levy rates and charges in respect of water
supplied by the Company.”
However, obtaining a private Act for an infrastructure project 
was (and remains) an expensive business, particularly if, as is
usual, objections are raised by parties opposed to the Bill.
Such objections are presented during the quasi-judicial committee
hearings in which the Bill is examined in detail, when each faction
generally employs barristers to state their case for or against
the Bill most forcibly. In this instance it was
unlikely that Parliament would approve both waterworks schemes, so
rather than spend a potentially large sum in fruitless legal fees in
a contest, the Board of the Aylesbury Waterworks Company withdrew
“It will be satisfactory for the
inhabitants of this town to learn that the promoters of the rival
projects for supplying Aylesbury with water have come to an amicable
agreement, by which the Chiltern Hills promoters are pledged to seek
for parliamentary sanction to their scheme by every means in their
power, and in which effort they will be assisted with evidence, &c.
(if necessary), by the promoters of the Aylesbury scheme, whose
engineer (Mr. R. J. Ward, Victoria Street, Westminster), has had
considerable experience in such matters, and who, as we understand,
only consented to withdraw his plan from the consideration of
Parliament, from a desire not to contest a matter of such importance
to the town of Aylesbury.”
The Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury
News, 28th November 1863.
Withdrawal of the Aylesbury scheme left the field clear for the
Chiltern Hills Waterworks Company, but petitions against their Bill
were then lodged by The Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway  and the
Grand Junction Canal companies. The nature of these petitions
is unknown, but the outcome was that the Waterworks Company withdrew
their Bill, perhaps foreseeing the high cost involved in fighting
off these opposing parties. How the company managed to
construct their pipeline and distribution mains without the
underpinning authority of an Act of Parliament is unclear; it must
be assumed that the Company reached amicable agreements
with the Sparrows Herne Turnpike Trust, the Aylesbury Local Board of
Health  and any other parties affected by the Company in laying
Despite the parliamentary setback, by April 1864 the Bucks Herald
was able to report that the directors and their consulting civil
engineer  had visited the Caterham Waterworks near Reigate where,
as in the Chilterns, water was pumped from wells sunk deep in the
underlying chalk. The extracted water was then softened using
Clarke’s process  before being released into the mains. The
article concludes by stating that “the works of the Company near
the summit of the Chiltern Hills are progressing most
satisfactorily. A large supply of water has been already found
at a depth of not more than 180 feet”. 
It appears that up to 1863 the Company had been prospecting for
water. A good supply was located in the aquifer at a site in
the Chilterns at Dancer’s End, on a steep hill known locally as The
Crong, about 1½ miles southwest of Tring. This location was
sufficiently high to provide Aylesbury and its surrounding area with
water by gravity, while the site had the added advantage of lying
adjacent to chalk pits from which lime for water softening (by
Clarke’s process) could be obtained. 
“The works were visited by the Rivers
Pollution Commission, and were then softening 230,000 gallons a day
by means of 18,400 gallons of lime water, at a cost for lime and
labour of 27 shillings per million gallons, reducing the total solid
impurity from 28.60 [parts per 100,000] to 8.18, and the hardness from 26.3 to 3.2
without impairing its brilliancy, transparency, and palatability; it
has a normal temperature of 51° F.”
The Water Supply of England and
Wales, Charles Rance (1882)
The site having been agreed on, construction of the works and
“We are happy to state that the
construction of the reservoir between Aston Clinton and Tring, for
the supply of the town with water, is progressing with great
rapidity, about 150 men being employed on the works. The water
has been found at a depth of 187 feet, some 30 feet nearer the
surface than was expected. A second shaft has now been sunk,
and as soon as this has been completed adits
 will be formed in
various directions to collect a quantity of water sufficient for the
requirements of the town. The purity of this water is
unquestionable, and after being softened by a patent process
[Clarke’s process – see fn. 7] it can
be supplied in any quantity at a level of 200 feet above the highest
part of the town. The company is now formed under the limited
liability act, it having been deemed advisable to abandon the
special Act of Parliament in consequence of the expense; and we
understand that the whole of the shares have been taken up.”
The Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury
News, 26th March 1864.
Design was placed in the hands of George Devey (1820-86), an
architect usually associated with the design of country houses and
their estates, especially for the Rothschild banking family who
provided him with a steady stream of commissions. The
waterworks he designed comprised a walled courtyard with an attached
watchman’s lodge, a store, stables, an engine house with cooling
pond (used to condense the exhaust steam from the pumping engine),
two lime tanks, and a pair of depositing reservoirs (softening
tanks). In addition, a pair of semi-detached two-storey
workmen’s cottages was built at the north-eastern end of the site.
A date plaque on the wall of the main building reads 1866, although
the etched glass engraving on the main doors reads 1867, the year in
which the Works commenced business.
The Dancer’s End Waterworks as it
|Below: pumping engine and boiler.
Early picture of the waterworks
showing the pumping engine chimney, long since removed.
The history of ownership in the waterworks’ early years is unclear.
The Rothschild Estate Books for the period 1851-79 (held in the
Rothschild Archive in London) list the purchases and tenants for the
Rothschild estates in the Vale of Aylesbury. Among the purchases is
an entry that reads “Dancer’s End, bought from Mr. Parrott in
1862 and sold to the Waterworks Company in 1866”. The
published report of the Company’s first Ordinary General Meeting,
held on 17th May 1866, states that the sum of £6,500 was paid as “Amount
agreed upon for the purchase of land, with the wells, reservoirs,
pits, pipes, buildings, &c., up to 19th of May 1865, the date of
incorporation of the company . . . .” Why, in 1862, the
Rothschild family bought a site on which to erect a waterworks is a
matter of conjecture, but it might have had more to do with
supplying water to the family’s property in the Vale of Aylesbury
than to the town itself.
Circa 1851, Sir Anthony de Rothschild (1810-76) bought an estate at
Aston Clinton. He commissioned the architect George Henry
Stokes to design his mansion (demolished in 1956) and
grounds, with George Devey later designing the park gates and
various estate cottages. It is possible that the Dancer’s End
waterworks was conceived originally to supply this estate ― which
lay mid-way between Dancer’s End and Aylesbury ― with running water.
Sir Anthony certainly made effective use of the product when it
“The other day I went over to see the
sanitary improvements carried out by Sir Anthony Rothschild in his
cottages at Aston Clinton and adjoining villages. I found that
in each cottage, water brought from the Chiltern Hills had been laid
on. It is not everyone who can, in this particular, follow the
example of Sir Anthony, or who, if willing, has a public water works
so near at hand. I have mentioned it, because on inquiry of
the cottagers, I found that it was a boon highly prized. One
man remarked that he did not know what they should now do without
it. The wife joined in, and said, ‘Yes, sir, it is a great
convenience, and it saves us so much in soap.’ Indeed, who can
estimate the value to these poor people of an abundant and constant
supply of the purest water for drinking, cooking, and washing, or ―
what is also important ― its value for carrying away a good deal of
filth which without it would be sure to collect in and about the
The Farmer’s Magazine, Volume
THE CHILTERN HILLS SPRING WATER COMPANY LIMITED (CHSWC)
The CHSWC was incorporated in May 1865 with a capital of £21,000.
In the following year it acquired the assets of the Chiltern Hills
Waterworks Company from the Rothschild family, which perhaps
explains why George Devey, the Rothschild’s ‘house architect’ at the
time, designed the Works. The question now arose of how to
finance the new company. In April 1865 a prospectus was
published inviting the public to apply for £10 shares in the
Company, which . . . .
“. . .
. has been formed for the purpose of obtaining for the Town of
Aylesbury and adjacent Parishes an ample supply of the finest Spring
Water from the chalk formation above the Village of Aston Clinton.
The Supply Tanks will be placed at an altitude of 650 feet above the
level of the sea, and will enable the Company to supply the Town of
Aylesbury and adjacent Parishes, including Tring, with a continuous
stream of the purest water by gravitation.”
Company prospectus, Bucks Herald,
1st April 1865.
The Company’s first Directors were: Edward Robert Baynes, of
Aylesbury; William Bell of Bierton; George Lathom Browne, of London;
Herbert Astley Paston Cooper, of Aylesbury; Rowland Dickens, of
Aylesbury; John Kersley Fowler, of Aylesbury; Henry Gurney, of
Aylesbury; James James, of Aylesbury; and Joseph Parrott, of
Aylesbury. There were also five members of the Rothschild
family with an interest in the concern and who, in later years, gave public-spirited assistance to
the Company by taking up a large number of shares and advancing
loans on favourable terms.
Unlike earlier attempts to establish a water company in Aylesbury,
the new undertaking appears to have made a good start financially,
for the directors decided that only 600 of its 2,100 shares would be
offered to the public with the subscription list being closed four
weeks after the offer. No doubt the candid description they
gave of the quality of the water then being consumed in the Town
encouraged potential investors to reach for their cheque books:
“A large proportion of the population
derive their supply from the Mill-stream, which gathers sewage and
other impurities on its passage through the Country intervening
between the Chiltern Hills and Aylesbury. The water thus
vitiated is unfit for ordinary used, and is moreover, from its
extreme hardness, equally unfitted for culinary and other domestic
purposes; but bad and unwholesome as it is, the cost is more than
ten times as great to the consumer than that which the present
Company can furnish water amongst the purest to be found in
Company prospectus, Bucks Herald,
1st April 1865.
The prospectus went on to describe the waterworks and how the supply
was to reach Aylesbury:
“To remedy these [above
mentioned] evils the Company has sunk deep
Wells in the chalk, with underground Tanks, where they can pump,
from day to day, a supply of water greater by far than a much larger
population can possibly require. This water will flow through
pipes laid along the line of the Turnpike Road, and after supplying
the Township of Aston Clinton, with the Farms and Residences on the
road, will be distributed through every part of Aylesbury and
Company prospectus, Bucks Herald,
1st April 1865.
At this stage the Company’s consulting civil engineer,
estimated the cost of the project to completion at £17,200:
“The cost of the works necessary for
supplying the town of Aylesbury, and including all the districts
named in the Bill, exclusive, of course, of the surveys, level,
Parliamentary expenses, land and compensations, and engineer’s
charges, I estimate approximately as follows:”
Wells, borehole, adits to yield 220,000 gallons per day
Pumping engines, pumps, boilers
Engine-house, boiler-house, boiler sealing, and chimney
Foundations for pumps and girders, &c., in well
Depositing reservoirs and service reservoirs
Limewater reservoir, lime house, &c.
Roads, Boundary walls, &c.
Main pipes, 8 inches internal diameter, from service
reservoir to Aylesbury, laid in ground about 7 miles
long, at £830 per mile
Screw cocks, &c., for main, &c.
Distributing pipes in Aylesbury
(At the Company’s
half-yearly meeting, held in March 1885, the final cost of the work
was stated to have been £30,000.)
In the following
month the company placed advertisements in the Bucks Herald
inviting tenders from contractors for building work at Dancer’s End,
the outline specification suggesting that construction of the Works
had already commenced, but was not far advanced:
“. . . . the
engineer was instructed to issue advertisements for tenders for the
necessary engines and pumping apparatus, and for the erection of a
pump house and other necessary works. The pipes, we
understand, will be laid from the engine-house across Sir A[nthony]
de Rothschild’s property, entering the road at the back of Mr.
Jenney’s house near Buckland Common; the pipes will then be carried
along the Tring-road to Aylesbury. The wells and pumps are of
sufficient capacity to supply the town of Tring, should it at any
future time be found desirable . . . . It may be observed, for the
benefit of intending shareholders, that water companies in all parts
of the country, when well managed, have usually been found to yield
a better return than any other undertaking of a similar nature.”
The Bucks Advertiser and Aylesbury News,
26th March 1864.
CHSWC (19th MAY
So far as funding
was concerned the new company initially had an optimistic start,
with the share allocation available to the general public being
limited to 600 £10 shares. But the cost of acquiring the
Chiltern Hills Waterworks Company (£6,500) together with that of
ongoing construction was beginning to make the company’s financial
position look distinctly shaky; on the other hand, the advancing
cholera epidemic was again focusing attention on the need for clean
drinking water. This from the report of the first general
Calls on allotted shares together with other income had raised
£11,327 12s 3d, of which all but £262 2s 9d had been spent.
The Secretary reported that shares of only £15,560 had so far been
subscribed (of the £21,000 estimated capital).
“The Chairman urged every shareholder to solicit his
neighbours to take shares, as that would be a very great assistance,
not only so far as the supply of money was concerned, but also for
the increase of interest in those who were to be benefited by a
supply of pure water”.
Contracts for all the necessary works had been let and work was
progressing rapidly towards completion. The engine house was
complete, but the engine and pumping gear had yet to be installed.
Pipe-work had been laid from the Works as far as the Tring to
Aylesbury road, about a mile in distance leaving a further six miles
to complete. This section had been the most difficult on the
route to construct, with trenches in which to lay the water pipes
having to be excavated to a depth of 40 to 50 feet.
Chairman stated that “The cholera had
already made its appearance at Liverpool, and medical men said it
would probably rage again throughout the country during the summer;
and he was quite certain that all who had studied sanitary measures
would see that the best mode of preventing the introduction of that
disease was by seeing that an early supply of good water was
As for the
warning of approaching cholera, in the following
year, at Ivinghoe . . . .
. . . . the cholera had made its appearance
in the last few days. Japhet Janes, aged 40, was first
attacked on the 9th inst., but he is getting better. His son
Thomas was taken on the 10th. inst., and died the same night.
His wife was attacked on the 10th inst., and died also the same
night, together with two of his children, one of whom died on the
11th inst. Two other of his children were also taken ill, and
a woman named Turney, who was engaged in nursing the above-named
patients, was attacked with cholera and died in 12 hours. On
Sunday a man who gave evidence on the previous day at the Ivinghoe
Petty Sessions was taken ill, and died in a few hours.
22nd September 1867.
By the time of
the General Meeting of June 1867, the pipeline had still to
reach Aylesbury although the project was now “approaching its
completion”. One reason given for the delay was work
outstanding by James Kay, builder of the pumping engine to be
installed at Dancers’
End. Then, in September:
“We are pleased
to note that the mains of the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company
have been laid down in the principal parts of this town, and there
is every reason to expect that in a very short time the majority of
the houses in Aylesbury will be supplied with wholesome water.
In many parts of the Town at the present time the water is so bad
that people refrain from drinking it until it has been boiled, and
very wisely to, for there is no doubt that the unwholesome water is
the primary cause of much illness in the town. The fire plugs
have been fixed, and on Wednesday afternoon a large number of the
gentry and tradesmen of the town, and the directors, assembled in
the market square to witness an experiment with one of the fire
plugs. Among those present we noticed the two representatives of
the borough, S. G. Smith Esq., and N. M. de Rothschild, Esq. A hose
was fixed, and, under the direction of Mr. Boltbee, the manager, the
water was turned on. The force with which the water escaped was
tremendous and it was more than three men could do to hold it
steady, and much amusement was caused by the directors and others
getting wet. The water was thrown higher than the County Hall, so
that in case of fire these plugs would be of great assistance.”
Bucks Herald, 21st September 1867.
The water is turned on at Aylesbury.
In 1873 Samuel Homersham wrote a description of
the water supply system. It
is worth repeating most of what he had to say to illustrate the care he had taken to ensure that Aylesbury
received a supply of running water in the face of
inevitable breakdowns at the Works:
“There are two
boilers, two pumping engines, and two sets of pumps at the Company’s
works at Dancer’s End, to raise the water from the wells, and, so
arranged, that the two pumps, boilers and the two engines, with
their two sets of pumps, can be worked together, or either of the
boilers, engines, and sets of pumps, can be worked singly. This
arrangement admits of one boiler, engine, and set of pumps being
able to be repaired, while the other boiler, engine and set of pumps
are at work. The two engines, with the two sets of pumps, when
working together, are capable of raising more than four hundred
thousand gallons of water in twelve hours; and one engine, with one
set of pumps, in the same time, is capable of raising half this
quantity, or, in twenty-four hours, more than four hundred thousand
gallons of water.
Judging from the
amount of last year’s
income, at present the Company must be disposing of little more then
one-fourth of the last named quantity, or, on the average of the
year, about one hundred and ten thousand gallons per day.
Therefore, one engine, and one set of pumps, when working only seven
or eight hours per day, is capable of supplying the present demand;
or the two engines and the two sets of pumps, working together,
would do so in only one-half the time, or in from three and a half
hours per day.
softening and the service reservoirs are constructed in duplicate,
and so arranged that two can be used together, or can be used
separately as required.
notwithstanding the works are most solidly constructed, so that the
minimum outlay for repairs may be looked for, yet ample provision
has everywhere been made to enable any repairs that could be
required to be properly, readily, and quickly executed, without
danger of interrupting the continuous supply to the consumers.
With respect to
the engines and boilers, I may state that the steam power necessary
to raise the water to the height necessary to obtain pressure in the
mains or pipes used in Aylesbury, is remarkably small, because the
water has only to be raised two-thirds of the height due to the
pressure in the streets, in consequence of the water in the chalk
hills at the works existing in the natural level of about two
hundred feet above the town.
Almost the only
portion of the works not in duplicate is the main pipe, nearly seven
miles in length that conveys the water from the service reservoir at
Dancer’s End into Aylesbury. It is not usual to make such
lines of main pipes in duplicate, neither is it found to be
The main pipe is
abundantly supplied with stop valves and other conveniences at
suitable distances, to enable any necessary repair to be quickly
engine referred to by Homersham has been preserved and can be seen
at The London Museum of Water & Steam at Brentford. The engine’s
description and specification are reproduced below by kind
permission of the Curator:
“The engine was
built in 1867 by James Kay of Bury. It was donated to the
museum by the Thames Water Authority’s Chiltern Division, where it
had been kept on standby since the 1930s. It was found to be
in good working order and was re-assembled at Kew Bridge in 1978-79.
The engine has
two high pressure cylinders, each connected to its own beam and
crank, the flywheel being common to what are, in effect, two
separate engines. This was a typical feature of engines used
to drive textile mills in Lancashire and Yorkshire, and it is
possible this engine was converted from textile to waterworks use.
The engine drove
a set of well pumps which used to be connected to tailrods driven
directly from the main piston rods.”
Date of manufacture
14 inches (355 mm)
30 inches (762 mm)
11 feet (3.35 metres)
36 horse power at 36
Returned to steam
End pumping engine,
The London Museum
of Water & Steam, Brentford.
The pipeline to
Aylesbury having been completed, the Chairman was able to inform the
general meeting held in May 1868 that there was a steady increase in
customers for the company’s water; after just 4 months in operation,
revenue was running at the rate of £800 p.a. (an overstatement, as
events transpired). However, the shareholders were warned that
revenue would need to increase threefold before it would be
impossible to pay a dividend. Based on the number of prospective
customers in Aylesbury, Halton, Aston Clinton and Tring, all to be
charged at £2 per house p.a., it was estimated that the revenue
raised after working expenses should be sufficient to yield a
dividend of 5% ― but as in any large capital project, the prospect of
shareholders receiving a dividend in the early years following
completion are remote, and such proved to be the case. 
In view of the
rising expenditure, the shareholders were invited to approve an
increase in the company’s capital from £21,000 to £30,000 to be
raised by the issue of a further 900 shares, and
because it was considered to be the simplest and easiest way of
raising money ―
they were also invited to approve the directors’ decision to raise a
£10,000 mortgage, at 5% p.a., on the security of the company’s
assets. Both motions were carried.
meeting held in 1869 commenced on a low note. Capital expenditure
slightly exceeded forecast while the number customers for water was
disappointedly low, at 140 households out of an estimated 1,500:
certain prejudices against the introduction of anything that was
new, and with the vast amount of ignorance which exists on sanitary
were not surprised to find that people were satisfied to drink the
sewage of the town, instead of taking the wholesome liquid offered
to them when they were called upon to pay for it.”
Chairman’s address, General Meeting - Bucks Herald, 1st
Income for the
half year from January to June 1869 was £282 10s, falling
considerably short of the £800 p.a. predicted at the previous year’s
meeting.  The creation of additional shares had been fully
subscribed by the directors and their friends, the directors being
“much indebted to members of the Rothschild family for the
material aid and assistance they have rendered, and that the thanks
of the Directors are due to them for their large and generous
support.” The report of the meeting gives no information
of the nature of the Rothschild’s “material aid”, but it is
documented that in 1865 the family bought shares (Baron Lionel, 183;
Nathaniel, 181; Anthony, 183; Leopold 84) and on occasions loaned
money to the company at rates varying between 3% and 4%.
SUPPLEMENTARY POWERS, 1876.
On the 10th
August 1870, an Act of Parliament passed into law:
“. . . . to
incorporate the Proprietors of the Chiltern Hills Spring Water
Company (Limited), and granting them powers with reference to Supply
of Water to the town of Aylesbury and the vicinity thereof; and
The Act gave the
CHSWC, among other statutory powers, that to raise further capital
by various means; to regulate the voting rights and other privileges
of shareholders; to break up any street, roads, highways, bridges,
and other public passages and places in which to lay and maintain
pipes; to levy and recover rates, rents, and charges for the supply
of water; and to exercise such other powers as are usually conferred
by Parliament on Waterworks Companies.
The Act also gave
the CHSWC statutory authority to supply water to Tring, but not to
villages to the north of Aylesbury. In the case of Waddesdon,
an unexpected gift was bestowed on the Company when Baron Ferdinand
de Rothschild offered, at his own expense, to lay a water main
between Aylesbury and the estate that he planned to build at
Waddesdon (‘Waddesdon Manor’).
“As soon as the
architect, the landscape gardener and the engineers had settled
their plans, we set to work, but at the outset were brought face to
face with a most serious consideration. This was the question
of water supply, as the few springs in the fields were not to be
relied on in a drought. The Chiltern Hills fortunately contain
an inexhaustible quantity of excellent water, which an Aylesbury
company works with much skill to the advantage of the immediate
neighbourhood and profit to its shareholders. Not a moment was lost
to coming to terms with the Company, laying down seven miles of
pipes from the county town to the village and thence to the
projected site of the house, and building a large storage tank in
the grounds. This subsequently proved insufficient for our
wants, as one dry summer the supply failed, and but for the
Manager’s energy, who sat up all night at the Works sending us up
water, we should have been compelled to leave the next day. To
obviate recurrence of a similar difficulty another and larger tank
The Rothschilds at Waddesdon Manor
by Mrs James de Rothschild, pub.1979.
In February 1875,
Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild applied to the magistrates sitting at
the Bucks Epiphany Sessions for permission to lay the pipes along
the road between Aylesbury and Waddesdon, to which they saw no
objection “. . . . provided the work be executed to the
satisfaction of the Magristrates and of any Surveyor who they may
appoint to inspect the works . . .
”. And so work
− A large body of workmen have commenced work this week, to carry
the water company’s pipes from Aylesbury to Lodge Hill, Waddesdon,
to supply the new mansion of which will be shortly erected there by
Baron F. de Rothschild. A junction with the present water mains is
made at the top of Walton-street, and the pipes will be carried
thence along the Oxford and Hartwell-roads, through Hartwell, Stone,
Eythrope, and Winchendon, to Lodge Hill. The whole of the expense,
we believe, will be borne by Baron F. de Rothschild, whose property
the pipes will be; but we have no doubt that places through which
they pass will be able to participate in the advantages to be
derived from the possession in their midst of a good supply of pure
Bucks Herald, 17th April 1875.
report is somewhat misleading, for it appears to have been agreed
that the new mains would be taken over by the CHSWC when complete.
At the company’s interim meeting held in October, 1875, the
directors appeared to be rubbing their hands with glee at the
acquisition of a valuable asset gratis, for the Chairman was
able to report that:
“Since they last
met there has been a large amount of work undertaken by Baron
Rothschild, and the Company had laid down at his requirement ten or
eleven miles of pipe between Aylesbury and Waddesdon. They hoped to
have a large increase of customers from the extension of pipes,
which included Eythrope, Hartwell, Winchendon, Lodge Hill, and
Westcott, besides Waddesdon. So large an extension of course
implied a large expenditure of money, but that happily the Company
would not have to pay, though they hoped to have the profit of it.”
Bucks Herald, 2nd October 1875.
Undated photo of a reservoir under
construction at Dancer’s
The question then
arose concerning the CHSWC’s powers to supply water to areas not
covered in the company’s Act of 1870. However, under the Gas and
Waterworks Facilities Act, 1870, a provisional order could be
granted by the Board of Trade authorising, among other things,
“the construction, maintenance and continuance of gas or water
works.” An application for an order was made, which was granted
in June 1876, giving the CHSWC additional powers to supply water
Quarrendon, Fleetmarston, Waddesdon, Westcott, Wootton Underwood and
1879-1885 brought other additions to the system. The Directors felt
it expedient to install a second set of pumping equipment at
Dancer’s End to cater for the possibility that the existing set
might suffer a serious breakdown and the supply fail completely as a
result. In 1880, the new machinery came into operation together with
a new well and adits, the Chairman later stating that the Company:
“. . . . had
saved £120 in the use of coal, and that arose mainly from the use of
their new and beautiful engine
raising some 12,000 gallons per minute],
which worked more economically and more satisfactorily than the old
Bucks Herald, 31st March, 1883.
As the demand for
water grew it became apparent that a further pipeline would
eventually be needed between Dancer’s End and Aylesbury, but its
high cost postponed a decision. However a decision could not be
postponed on additional reservoir capacity, to pay for which Sir Nathaniel de Rothschild
lent the Company £3,500 at
4%, to be repaid by yearly instalments when the Company could afford
to do so. Construction was at first delayed through scarcity
of labour ― due to Mr. Alfred de Rothschild building his large
mansion at Halton and Sir Nathaniel de Rothschild making extensive
alterations at Tring
― but by
1884 the new reservoir was on stream:
“Formerly it was
found that, notwithstanding pumping until late at night, it was
necessary to utilise some part of the Sabbath Day, in order to keep
up the supply, but the new reservoir enabled them to have two or
three days’ stock in hand, and the men could finish their work on
the Saturday. The whole concern could rest upon the Sunday,
thought this was a pleasing feature of the undertaking. (Hear,
Bucks Herald, 29th March 1884.
significant addition to the system at this time was construction of
a second waterworks. The need for more water became apparent during
the summer of 1884, when the water level in the wells at Dancer’s End
began to sink to the extent that the supply to the mains had
eventually to be restricted. The Directors
acted promptly in response. They bought a plot of land from
Nathaniel de Rothschild
at New Ground on the road between Tring and Northchurch. There
they sank a well,
laid a ten inch main between the new works
and the Dancer’s End reservoirs, and set temporary pumping engines
to work until the New Ground engine house was complete. This
eventually housed an
inverted compound vertical pumping engine, followed
later by a second engine, and a technical
innovation for the period was the installation
of a telephone connection to coordinate activities between the two
New Ground Pumping Station under construction.
By 1886 New
Ground was in full operation, but a problem foreseen by the
directors several years earlier then resurfaced:
have, for some time past, been aware that the means for bringing
water to Aylesbury are altogether insufficient for supplying the
demand, and have considered that there ought to be a double line of
pipes from Dancer’s End Works to Aylesbury; and the Directors have
felt that if the means could be provided, on favourable terms, the
work ought to be carried out; and they are now able to inform the
Shareholders that the money required to completing the work
(estimated at about £8,000), can be obtained on such favourable
terms that it is proposed to commence and complete the work as soon
Bucks Herald, 20th August 1887.
pipeline was completed with money loaned by the Rothschild family
on the “favourable terms” referred to (3%)
and was in use by the following year. In 1891 a
further well was sunk at New Ground, new pumps were installed and the
existing wells at Dancer’s End were lowered.
The possibility of laying on a water
supply to Tring had been mentioned at earlier company meetings, and
the company’s engineer had stated that it was feasible, but nothing had
been done to make the connection. Instead, all effort and resources had been
concentrated on supplying Aylesbury.
During 1869, James
James, the CHSWC Chairman, together with one of the directors,
William Brown of Tring, engaged in some private enterprise.
Between them they bought sufficient pipes to connect Tring with the Dancer’s End
waterworks and arranged with a contractor to lay them. This
avoided the need to place a further burden on the Company’s limited
capital until the point was reached at which its earnings were
sufficient to cover the cost
of supplying Tring, which appears to have been in the following year:
“Mr James and Mr
Brown have fulfilled their engagements with the company, and have
expended a large sum of money in laying on the water to the town of
Tring. The capital applied for that purpose, and the works
performed, are now, by virtue of our Act of Parliament, incorporated
with our capital and our works.”
Chairman’s address to the annual meeting
Bucks Herald 20th August
Wigginton connected to the system. It was estimated that to
supply Wigginton with running water would require four to five miles
of pipeline and a reservoir (in fact “a new tank” laid in
“Mr Butcher’s wood”). In view of the cost of the project
vis-à-vis the anticipated revenue, the Directors had reservations
about its profitability; as the Chairman put it, Wigginton was “a
destitute district”! However, Nathaniel de Rothschild together
with Messrs Williams (of Tring) and Valpy not only guaranteed the
Company against loss, but paid for the pipeline to be laid.
was connected to the supply in 1900.
Although a supply of running
water was now available in Tring, Aldbury and Wigginton, many
households continued to draw their water from wells, which, due to
sewage contamination, presented a risk of waterborne disease.
Indeed, until into the 20th Century the Bucks Herald
carried reports of patients being admitted to the isolation
hospitals at Tring and Aldbury suffering from typhoid, the source of
which was usually attributed to polluted well water.
The Little Gaddesden area was better served, thanks to the Brownlow
family of Ashridge. The Ashridge Water Company was formed in
1856 at the instigation of the guardians of the 2nd Earl Brownlow of
Ashridge House, Little Gaddesden. In addition to supplying
Ashridge House, the company piped water to the villages of Little
Gaddesden, Hudnall and Ringshall from a new covered reservoir
at Ringshall via a steam-driven pumping station and well in Little Gaddesden.
Walter Parker built the reservoir at Ringshall Meadows; Robert and Joseph Paten of
Watford sank the well, 6 feet in diameter and 255 feet deep; Joseph Harris of Berkhamstead erected the
engine and boiler house for the pumping station; and Messrs Eaton
and Amos of London supplied the steam-engine, boiler, and pumps, and
also laid the water mains, and by 1857 a clean water supply was
available. In 1930, the steam engine was replaced by electric power and the boiler chimney demolished. It appears that the well
was used to supply water to the neighbourhood until at least 1980,
but the former pumping station and the water tower now lie derelict.
The now abandoned Ashridge Water Company
tower at Little Gaddesden.
of public health now turns from water supply to drainage, and to the public
sewers that carry sewage and rainwater run-off for treatment
In 1877, Dr.
C. E. Saunders,  Medical Officer of Health
for Middlesex and Hertfordshire, published a report on the
sanitary ― or rather the insanitary ― conditions prevailing in
parts of Tring.  Some of the squalor
he refers to makes disturbing reading. On the need for the
town to acquire effective sewers he had this to say:
necessity can scarcely by better appreciated than by comparing
two streets in the Western Road ― Charles Street and Langdon
the one with pail privies, emptied into an open ashpit and
having slop-water cesspools; the other having a sewer into which
many of its houses can, and do, drain. The filth and
squalor of the one and the decency and order of the other could
scarcely fail to show the necessity for a better system of filth
removal. Another place I would refer to is Church Alley.
Here there is a row of 10 privies within about 8 feet of the
back-doors of the houses; these privies have pails, and these
pails when full, as they usually have been when I have seen
them, are emptied into a huge ashpit, also near the back-doors
of the houses.”
Sanitary Conditions of Middlesex and Hertfordshire for
the year 1877.
In 1867, the
Tring Local Board of Health  first
attempted to address the problem of sewage disposal in a
systematic manner. In that year the Board built a main sewer
under Brook Street, commencing beside the Silk Mill Pond 
and leading down to New Mill where it entered an open ditch.
This ditch led under the Wendover Arm canal into either
Tringford or Startops reservoir depending on the setting of a
At a later
date the Board built another sewer, the ‘cross culvert’, which
connected the Frogmore area of the town with the Brook Street
sewer. Writing some years later, Dr. Saunders had this to say
about the construction of these sewers:
first attempt to carry out a scheme of sewage was so singularly
disastrous that their efforts for the last five years have been
confined to devising means to undo the mischief that was done by
draining the Silk Mill Reservoir”
[i.e. the mill pond].
Sanitary Conditions of Middlesex and Hertfordshire for
the year 1877.
the problem that Saunders refers to, it is first necessary to
say something about the Silk Mill Pond and Tring’s water courses
at the time, for construction of the cross culvert was to lead
to expensive litigation and years of delay in resolving the
town’s sewage disposal problem.
The Silk Mill
Pond received water from three feeds, one man-made and two
natural. The man-made connection is a subterranean culvert
that connects the Dundale Lake (located at the junction of
Icknield Way and Dundale Road) to the Silk Mill Pond. It
was built c. 1824 by the Silk Mill’s owner, William Kay, to
supply water to drive the mill’s waterwheel. The Mill Pond’s two
natural sources were (i) springs that arose beneath it and (ii)
the Horse Pond, a narrow stretch of water that once lay in the
vicinity of today’s Bishop Wood School (see map below). A stream connected
the Horse Pond with the Silk Mill Pond ― in terms of today’s
locations, it left the Horse Pond, crossed Frogmore Street
somewhere in the vicinity of the Black Horse public house,
passed between the Churchyard and the Red Cross Hall, and
entered the Silk Mill Pond somewhere in the vicinity of the Fire
Station. The new cross culvert ran parallel to this stream
for at least part of its length, then passed under the
Silk Mill Pond ― which had to be drained to enable its
construction ― to join the main sewer in Brook Street
(centre right on the map below).
Above: the Horse Pond (bottom left) feeds the Silk Mill
Pond (centre right) via the connecting stream.
Below: the Silk Mill
Pond today, much reduced in size (Tring Church just visible centre background)
cross culvert was complete and the Silk Mill Pond refilled,
its level was seen to be much lower than before.
Investigation of the cause showed that the stream from the Horse
Pond together with some of the contents of the Silk Mill Pond
were seeping into the cross culvert, then into the Brook Street
sewer. The impact of this diversion was to derive the Silk
Mill of part of its water supply ― perhaps not a big issue, for
a steam engine was by then powering the Silk Mill’s machinery ―
but more important was the reduction in the volume of water
flowing along the Feeder and directly into the Wendover
Arm. The diverted water was now passing along the Brook
Street sewer and into the open ditch at New Mill that passed
beneath the canal and into the canal reservoirs. To
make good the shortfall in water supply, the Grand Junction
Canal Company had ― at additional cost ― to raise a greater
volume of water from the reservoirs into the canal in order to maintain
its level. Another problem was that the village of Long Marston’s
water supply was chiefly obtained from the overflows of Tringford and Startops reservoirs, which was now contaminated with Tring’s sewage.
This added further complaint.
However, the Tring
Local Board of Health refused to remedy the problem. The
Grand Junction Canal Company therefore sought an injunction to (i)
restore the shortfall of water into the Wendover Arm and (ii) to
restrain the Local Board from polluting the company’s reservoirs
with the raw sewage they were now receiving from the Brook
Street sewer. The canal company won its case (Grand
Junction Canal Company v. Shugar, 1871) leaving the Local Board
face the legal costs and the problem of addressing the
injunction’s requirements; the latter was no easy matter, as
events were to prove.
four years following the court case it is difficult to ascertain
the course of events, for the Local Board considered the problem
in closed session, a procedure that in itself was to cause major
dissatisfaction in the community, for the ratepayers ― not
unreasonably ― wanted to know the basis of decisions concerning
the expenditure of local taxes. From the newspaper reports
of later meetings it is possible to surmise that some form of
agreement was reached with the canal company, but this was
abandoned following much local disagreement, principally from
Baron Nathaniel de Rothschild, by then owner of the extensive
Tring Park Estates.
Board next engaged John Bailey Denton,  a
civil engineer and expert on sewage engineering, to devise a
suitable disposal scheme. Bailey Denton drew up a plan
that appears to have met with the Local Board’s approval, for
they submitted it to The Local Government Board 
for sanction together with an application for a loan to fund
construction. In response, the Local Government Board appointed
an Inspector, Major Hector Tulloch, formerly of the Royal
Engineers, to hold a public inquiry into the scheme.
A number of
inquiry meetings then took place commencing on the 7th
October, 1875, in Tring’s Vestry Hall. In that year an
important Act ― The Public Health Act (1875) 
― passed into law designed to combat the filthy urban living
conditions that caused various public health threats, including
the spread of many diseases. During the inquiry meeting
held on the 18th December, Major Tulloch reminded
those present that under clause 17 of the new Act it was now an
offence to pollute water courses with sewage:
this Act shall authorise any local authority to make or use any
sewer drain or outfall for the purpose of conveying sewage or
filthy water into any natural stream or water course, or into
any canal pond or lake until such sewage or filthy water is
freed from all excrement or other foul or noxious matter such as
would affect or deteriorate the purity and quality of the water
in such stream or watercourse or in such canal pond or lake.”
Clause 17, Public Health Act 1875 [38 & 39 VICT.
pollution of the canal reservoirs had led in part to the costly
legal conflict between the Local Board and the Grand Junction
Canal Company. To avoid any recurrence, whatever scheme
the Local Board adopted would require some form of filtration to
purify any discharge of effluent into a water course, and
filtration did form part of Bailey Denton’s proposed scheme.
description of the Bailey Denton scheme is vague, but from what
is said it required 17 acres of land for “intermittent
filtration” (described below). The filtered sewer
water ― ‘effluent’ ― was to be run off into a 30 acre reservoir
that was to be connected to the canal, while the remaining
sewage was to be spread over the land as agricultural
fertiliser. It is unclear whether the Local Board adopted
this plan to the letter, but considering the number of years
that were to elapse before anything actually happened, and the
progress made in the treatment of sewage in the intervening
period, the scheme carried out is more likely to have been a
refined version. However, what Bailey Denton’s plan did
amount to was, in principle, a ‘sewage farm’, which was what was
eventually built at Gamnel to process the town’s sewage.
In general, a
sewage farm comprises an area of agricultural land irrigated and
fertilised with sewage. The product being ‘farmed’ is the
sewage combined with the microbes and bacteria that are used to
break it down. In this context, the term ‘intermittent
filtration’ (referred to above) has a particular meaning.
In 1868 Sir
Edward Frankland conducted a series of experiments which showed
that natural land did not clog up if sewage was applied to it in
small quantities and allowed to trickle away before the next
dose was applied. This is the principle of ‘intermittent
filtration’. Coupled with this, efforts were made to reduce the
area of land necessary for treatment of the sewage by using a
pre-treatment process, the most common form of which was to
channel the raw sewage into settling tanks into which a chemical
was added to speed up the precipitation of the solid matter.
The most common precipitant was lime (also used as a water
softening agent at the Dancer’s End Waterworks). When
sufficient sludge had accumulated in the settlement tank it was
collected and used as agricultural fertiliser.
joined Frankland by making another important contribution to the
principle of sewage farming. He observed that when land
was ‘under drained’,  water and sewage
flowed more rapidly through the soil into the under drains; that
water discharging from the under drains was clear; and that
plant growth flourish where under drainage was carried out.
These principles were later applied to the construction of
Tring’s first sewage farm at Gamnel.
the notes left by the 19th-century local historian Arthur
Macdonald Brown, in order to comply (in part) with the
injunction, Bailey Denton also laid a 9-inch iron pipe from the
Horse Pond to the Silk Mill Pond to restore the flow of water
that ran between the two before the cross culvert was built.
At the same time the Silk Mill Pond was diminished in area and
‘puddled’ (i.e. lined with impervious clay) to better
enable it to retain the water that flowed into it from the Horse
Pond and from Dundale Lake.
interesting side issue to emerge from the public meeting held in
the Vestry Hall on the 18th December 1875 had more to
do with democratic government than with Tring’s sewage problems.
was of Tring’s ratepayers and not part of the Government Board’s
inquiry into the proposed sewage scheme that was then taking
place. Some fifty attended, a Mr. C. Chappell taking the
chair. While the meeting had been called to discuss the
sewage scheme and its associated costs, dissatisfaction was
expressed that the press were not being admitted to Local Board
meetings and that the Town was in ignorance of how decisions
were being taken:
Grange ― The ratepayers generally like to know what is done by a
public body who represents them. I should say that whatever may
be done in the future, should be done in a more satisfactory way
to the ratepayers. I therefore beg to propose ‘That at
all meetings of the Local Board the representatives of the press
be admitted’. . . .
Chappell ― “The time has come, and it is only right that we
should know what is done. Don’t you think it unjust that we
should find money, and not know how that money is spent? Are not
the ratepayers as well able to appreciate the spending of their
money as any gentlemen of the Local Board?
was put to the meeting and carried with acclamation.”
Bucks Herald, 18th December 1875
reports of Tring Local Board meetings began to appear in the
inquiry meetings chaired by Major Tulloch, no significant
advance in treating the town’s sewage appears to have made for
the next decade; indeed, taking account of the canal company’s
injunction it is a mystery how, during this period, the problem
was managed. Even the Government Board (whose duties
included supervising the law relating to public health)
wanted to know, for at a Local Board meeting held on 3rd
June 1880 the Clerk read a letter from that body asking what had
prevented the adoption of a sewerage scheme for the district; he
was instructed to reply that they “were doing the work by
degrees.” Then, in 1885, the Medical Officer of Health
announced in his annual report that:
Local] Board have adopted a method of sewage treatment which
promises success - viz., the precipitation of the sewage by
chemicals in tanks, and the intermittent filtration of the
effluent, on ground under-drained and prepared for the purpose.”
company agreed to supply water to operate a small water wheel
for mixing the chemicals necessary for “the precipitation of
the sewage”, for which they charged the Local Board £5 p.a.
subject to their use of the canal water being restriction to
50,000 gallons a day. However, with regard to sanitary
matters elsewhere in the town, the same report goes on to say
that . . . .
“. . . . it
would be an anomaly that the main street of the town should
remain the worst sewered, and it is to be hoped that the
[Tring Local] Board will relay the
sewer along the High Street as well as complete the general
sewering of the town. There are special difficulties in
sewering the main street, owing to it being so narrow, and to
there being no other approach to the West-End except through the
town, but they are not of such a nature as to be
insurmountable. Thirty-one houses have been cleansed and
Tring and Urban Sanitary Authority Report
years were to elapse before there is any mention of the sewage
farm being in operation (and a further decade before anything
was done about re-sewering the High Street). But as the
following newspaper report refers to various crops under
fertilisation, the sewage farm appears to have been in operation
for some time before a “party of gentlemen” from the town
paid it a visit:
“The party on
arriving at the Farm was met by Mr. Mead, who explained the
operation of the disposal of the Tring sewage which is being
carried out there. The sewage flows by gravitation from
the town, and is delivered to the Farm at the highest possible
point. The area of land under irrigation is twenty acres,
and the crops growing on the land are oats, Italian rye grass,
wheat, mangels, and cabbages, and preparations are being made
for the cultivation of other crops.
walked all round the Farm, and finished up inspecting the point
at which the effluent water runs away into the canal. This
small stream is perfectly bright and clear, and absolutely free
from smell and taste, and in every way proves how thoroughly the
land is doing the work of purifying the sewage. The party,
as a result of their visit, were unanimously of the opinion that
the whole operation is carried out in a thoroughly business-like
manner, and that the freedom from nuisance was evident.”
Bucks Herald, 12th May 1885.
For many years Ralph Seymour (in later life the Reverend Ralph
Seymour) worked at the Tring Flour Mill, eventually becoming its
Manager. In his (unpublished) autobiography, he also
refers to the fertility of the ground irrigated by the sewage
was tenant of some ground below the mill, owned by the local
council, as part of the sewage works, where an open irrigation
system was employed. From time to time sewerage liquor was
directed over the ground in rotation. Consequently Percy
was always able to grow exceptionally large mangel wurzels
there, and each October he would invariably search for two of
the largest specimens and place them, one on either side of the
door to the mill office, much to the governor’s chagrin.”
Board had entered into a ten-year contract with Thomas Mead for
receiving the sewage on his land. When that agreement had
run its course it was renewed for a further ten years, Mead
taking the sewage and treating it and the Council paying him
£125 a year so long as ‘surface water’ (not a part of the sewage
treatment) was excluded successfully from what he received; but
if the drainage system failed to keep out surface water, the
payment was to increase to £150. Under the old contract
some twenty acres of land were under irrigation, but following
its renewal Mead added a further ten acres.
Night soil collectors
aspects of public health addressed by the Public Health Act
(1875) appear in press reports of Local Board meetings.
They were the removal of “night soil” and “scavenging.”
meeting held in June 1879, it was resolved “That the Board
take immediate steps to purchase a night-soil cart.”
Fortunately, the term “night-soil” (a.k.a. “slops”)
is one that we are unfamiliar with today, but our Victorian
forbears knew it well. It is a euphemism for the human
excrement collected nightly by a contractor from buckets and
privies, which for convenient access were usually placed in an
In an age
before water closets became standard fittings, many households
particularly those of the poor ― relied on more basic means of
disposing of human excrement. At the lower end of the
scale was the bucket, while the better off used “earth
Dr. Saunders, the town’s former Medical Officer of Health, left
a description of those used in Tring (APPENDIX
II). The contents of buckets and earth closets had
to be disposed of, hence the use of a ‘night-soil cart’ to carry
away this particular spoil. The operators of the service
generally sold the product of their endeavours to farmers to be
spread on the land as fertiliser. Earth closets remained in use
in parts of old Tring until the 1950s.
A purpose-built night soil van.
‘scavenging’ refers to street cleaning, a requirement that
appears in the Public Health Act (1875), clause 42 of which
required local authorities “to provide for cleansing of
streets and removal of refuse.” At a ratepayers’
meeting to discuss the proposed sewage
scheme for the town
held in November 1875, a motion was put to the meeting, and
carried unanimously, “That it is desirable that a thorough
system of scavenging should be adopted by the Local Board”,
which implies that either nothing of the sort was in place or
what there was, was not “thorough.“ Nothing then
appears in the press until the Local Board meeting held on the
12th June 1880, when:
Surveyor and Inspector of Nuisances] was instructed to make
enquiries as to the terms upon which the scavenging of the
streets would be undertaking, and to report to the next meeting
of the Board.”
tender of 4 shillings a day submitted by coal merchant and
removals contractor John Gower was accepted, “one horse and
one man” being provided for the work; in 1888 the rate was
increased to 5 shillings a day. This contract continued
until at least 1895, but the extent of the scavenging and the
location of the rubbish dump at this time are not mentioned.
rubbish was later dumped into the abandoned section of the
Wendover Arm canal at Little Tring.
In March 1895
the Thames Conservancy wrote to Tring Council 
alleging that the town’s sewage was again running into the canal
and polluting the Thames and its tributaries, and they gave
notice under the Rivers Pollution Act to abate the nuisance.
This alarmed the Council, for they were aware of the cause of
the problem and that remedial action would involve considerable
investment in a modified drainage scheme for the town.
brick-built sewer through the High Street had been constructed
by the Local Board during the 1860s. Since then they had
sewered various streets in the town, but the problem they had
not solved completely was how to manage storm water. In
stormy weather the greatly increased volume of surface water
passing down the main sewer caused an overflow of sewage into
the Silk Mill brook, which fed the canal. The polluted
water then found its way across the canal’s
overflow weirs into the streams that feed the Thames.
Previous attempts to separate the sewage from storm water had
the possibility of further legal action, the Council engaged
Professor W. H. Corfield,  a drainage
expert, to report on the problem. In September 1895 the
Council’s civil engineer, Gordon Thomas, guided by Corfield’s
conclusions, presented the Council with a preliminary report.
This was fully discussed and many suggestions were made.
Two months later Thomas presented a detailed report together
with estimates and drawings, and after further discussion the
Council adopted his scheme. In essence, this involved
building a weir (or dam) across an existing culvert near to the Silk Mill
designed to separate the storm water from the sewage. The
storm water would then pass out through the existing relief
culvert into the Feeder and into into the Wendover Arm, while
the sewage would continue down the main Brook Street sewer to
the sewage farm at Gamnel. [APPENDIX
A combined storm drain and sewer.
The weir (or dam) helps separate raw sewage from storm water,
allowing only the storm water to enter the watercourse.
However, there still remains a risk of heavy storms polluting
devised what they considered to be a workable scheme, the
Council then applied to the Government Board for a loan to
finance its construction. In September 1896, an inquiry
chaired by the Government Board’s Inspector, Col. J. T. Marsh,
R.E., was held at the Council office to look into their loan
application. The outcome was that the
rejected the scheme on two grounds:
required the brick culvert from the junction at New Mill to be
replaced by an iron pipe to convey sewage only, and
would only sanction a loan in circumstances where the Council
retained the sewer outfall in their own hands and treated the
effluent themselves ― at that time the town’s sewage was being
‘farmed’ by Thomas Mead on his land.
requirement would have involved the Council taking a thirty-year
lease ― i.e. for a period sufficient to cover repayment
of the Government loan ― on the land occupied by the existing
sewage farm. However, Lord Rothschild came to the town’s
assistance by offering the Council a 999-year lease, at a
nominal rent, on a alternative site. This site ― located
below the Wendover Arm and on the opposite side of Tringford
Road to the sewage treatment plant that exists today ― was to
become Tring’s second sewage farm.
the original sewage farm. Green: the later sewage works. Blue: the
Wendover Arm. Yellow: Tringford Road. Red: Heygate‘s
On the map above (1952), today’s
sewage treatment plant occupies the land between the
The new site
was to employ an ‘Ives tank‘, a patent device in which sewage
was chemically treated to provide both deodorisation and
precipitation before being deposited on the land, about six
acres of which was to used for this purpose. The work of
attending to the tank was to be carried out by one of the
Council’s road men, and the operating cost for chemicals and
labour was estimated to be considerably less than the scheme
Government Board was again approached for a £5,000 loan to
cover the cost of re-sewering a greater part of the town and
construction of the new sewage disposal plant. After much
to-ing and fro-ing between the Council and the Government
Board’s Chief Engineer, the details of the scheme were agreed
and construction commenced:
- After months of waiting, after protracted discussion,
Government enquiries, and in spite of much criticism and some
opposition, the sewage scheme decided upon after due
deliberation by the Urban District Council, and sanctioned by
the Local Government Board, is in a fair way to become an
accomplished fact. The contractors, Messrs. Siddons and Freeman,
of Oundle, have started the construction of the new sewer, and
the first length at Gamnel, starting near Mr. Mead’s mill,
Flour Mill] is making satisfactory
progress under the direction of Mr. G. Thomas, the engineer, and
the personal supervision of Mr. Bentley Asquith, the clerk of
Bucks Herald, 13th August 1898.
- Mr. Bentley Asquith reported that the whole of the main sewer
was complete, with the exception of Frogmore-street, and a short
length carrying to the outfall. It was hoped to finish before
Christmas. The Clerk said Mr. Asquith had been putting a lot of
extra time (about sixty hours, exclusive of Sunday work),
drawing up regulations and plans for the connection of the house
drains with the main sewer, and in other ways. He suggested that
the Council give him one week’s additional salary (£3:3) as some
remuneration for his extra work.”
10th December 1898.
Asquith, the resident engineer, received the three guinea
gratuity referred to, while Gordon Thomas (the civil engineer)
confidently predicted that the system would prove itself even
more satisfactory in years to come, than at the present time.
But his optimism was to be short lived. At a Council
meeting held in March 1899, a letter from Thomas Mead 
was read, asking the Council to:
‘. . . .
kindly abate the abominable stink, as I fear instead of wanting
one infectious hospital we shall require two. The wind changed
this morning to west, hence the bad smells. I did not ask
anyone, but I was told by several of the employees that horses
refused the water in the canal.’
Bucks Herald, 11th March 1899.
Mead was not
alone in complaining of the nuisance. In the town, a Mr.
Dowson complained that there was a terribly bad smell, so bad
that customers would not stay in his shop; another complaint was
of a sewage tailback flooding premises in Frogmore Street; a Mr.
Pratt complained that his yard and kitchen were flooded during a
recent storm, an incident that had never occurred before; and
Messrs. Brown and Foulkes complained of the smell arising from
the manholes near their laundry. To add to local
complaints the Thames Conservancy again entered the fray with a
letter stating that their analysis of the outflow of the sewage
plant was “a bad one”, suggesting a high level of
pollution remained after processing, while the County Analyst
reported that a sample of the outflow from the Ives
precipitation tank was also unsatisfactory.
there was a mounting body of evidence that the new system was
not working as expected. At the Council meeting held on 5th
September 1899, letters were read:
“. . . .
complaining of the ‘awful stink,’ and asking the Council to stop
it; from Mr. W. N. Mead, saying ‘the stink from the overflow
near my cottage
is almost unbearable; shall have to come onto you for damages;’
from Mr. T. Mead, Sept. 4, ‘When is this abominable nuisance to
be abated? it goes from bad to worse.’ ― a letter was read from
Mr. Pettit, solicitor, Leighton Buzzard, stating that he had
received instructions from Mr. Mead to at once take proceedings
to compel the Council to abate the nuisance. ― Mr. Percy Mead
said that, instead of improving, the smell got worse . . . .”
Bucks Herald, 16th September 1899.
acknowledgement that the ‘Ives tank’ was not performing, later
reports of Council meetings suggest that Gordon Thomas, their
civil engineer (who recommended the system), had fallen out of
favour. In September 1899, the Council consulted J. E. Willcox  on the adoption of an alternative
scheme for processing sewage at their new plant
and Willcox soon replaced Thomas as civil engineer to the
proposed by Wilcox was not designed to supersede any part of
what existed, but to supplement it. Willcox estimated
that, taking the worst case scenario of twelve hours of
continuous rain, the scheme that he proposed would treat 30,000
gallons in ‘bacteria beds’, 40,000 gallons stored in a sceptic
tank and 120,000 gallons spread over the land. His
proposed modification involved converting the defective Ives
tank into a sceptic tank (see below) that would be covered over
to combat offensive smells.
Septic tank. Wastewater enters the
first chamber of the tank, allowing solids to settle and scum to
float. The settled solids are anaerobically digested,
reducing their volume. The liquid component flows through the
dividing wall into the second chamber, where further settlement
takes place. The excess liquid, now in a relatively clear
condition, then drains from the outlet, which, in the Willcox
plan, was to be bacterial filter beds.
(above) and plan (below) of the sewage disposal system designed by
Tring architect William Huckvale for the town’s
isolation hospital. It makes use of a single chamber septic
tank that discharges into two bacterial beds in tandem using
filtering. The output is collected in the effluent tank on the
right, which is periodically pumped out as field irrigation.
The system remained in operation for many years.
cleaned outlet from the sceptic tank was to be channelled into
‘bacteria beds’. These are beds of crushed rock or other
coarse material, such as coke or clinkers, upon which the
effluent from the septic tank was to be distributed and left to
percolate freely. During percolation the sewage effluent
was exposed to air and to the action of micro-organisms, hence
use of the term ‘bacteria’. Six beds were to be laid down.
Following this stage of filtration the effluent was considered
to be sufficiently pure to be used for land irrigation
which itself provides further filtration
without the risk of sewage pollution. The ground at the
plant was to be under-drained  to prevent
it becoming waterlogged.
considered his scheme sufficient to deal with the dry weather
flow and a certain part of the storm water, but a storm waste
tank was to be provided to receive the first flush from the
sewers in wet weather.
smell complained of arose in a great measure from an
accumulation of sludge which, it was hoped, would be done away
with by converting the defective Ives precipitation tank into
the septic tank referred to. And so commenced another
round of discussions with the Local Government Board for a loan
to fund construction and, as one commentator described it,
further interminable delay.
In some ways
the scheme proposed by Willcox had features of a modern sewage
plant, but some Council members considered the employment of
bacteria beds both an expensive option and one of uncertain
outcome. They remained much in favour of sewage farming on
the old style, which they considered to be natural, and from
what they saw of the proposed site for the new plant it was just
the place for sewage farming. Here, Mr J. G. Williams
the wealthy owner of Pendley Manor ― offered the Council a
further sixty acres of land at a nominal rent (to add to the 14
acres of land that Lord Rothschild had already made available)
for a new sewage farm. In March 1903, a contract was
signed with Messrs. Siddons and Freeman to undertake
construction, and work commenced.
“The town is
sewered, and the sewers in the lower part of the town have been
re-laid, and the storm water partly diverted from them.
The authority are about to re-lay the sewers in the upper part
of the town, which leak badly, and also take storm water: this
will render it possible to divert the whole of the storm water
from the sewer, and render the treatment at the outfall
[the sewage farm] less troublesome.
Various improvements have been carried out at the outfall
tending to the production of better effluent.”
Bucks Herald, 16th September 1905.
MANAGEMENT OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE
1928 the Health of the town was again to the fore.
The Surveyor reported over 70 cases of overcrowding
and, to the Ministry of Health, that 34 houses were
unfit, some of which had been condemned in 1914 (one
or two remain today). Many children from these
homes, who attended the Council School, were
suffering from Tuberculosis and Ricketts. He
reported that the tenants of these houses could not
afford more that 3/- to 5/- a week rent inclusive.
The Council, who were refused Ministry help, could
not rehouse these people and a voluntary scheme was
set up at New Road, the houses being built by a
public appeal headed by Chairman John Bly. One man
without a home found to be living on his council
allotment was ejected as a trespasser. With all his
extra Health work the Surveyor asked to have a
typewriter . . . . this was firmly refused.”
memoir (c.1973) by
the late Bob Grace, formerly a Tring Urban District
Seepage of contaminated surface water into an
SUPPLY —The mains of the Chiltern Hills
Water Company supply the town, and most of the houses obtain their
water from that source; but there are many wells still in use.
Analyses are made from time to time, and the water company’s water
is laid on where pollution can be shown. Owners of property should
remember that in towns, wells, unless steined in cement, so that
surface water is prevented from entering, are constantly liable to
pollution, and that no chemical analysis can always prove that a
water is absolutely safe. If the surroundings of a well are
such there is at reasonable risk of pollution, where a water main is
at hand the public supply should be preferred.
I have called attention to this matter for several years, and had a
little more notice been taken of it the serious epidemic of typhoid
fever which has recently overtaken us, and of which I shall speak
later on, might have been averted.”
Dr. William Gruggen, Medical
Officer of Health - from the annual report on Tring, 1899.
Tring was first connected to a mains water supply in 1870, many
people continued to draw their water from wells. There
were several reasons for this. First, the town’s
supplier, the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company, was reluctant
to absorb the cost of running their water mains into areas of
the town where people were unlikely to take the supply.
For instance when, in 1888, the company laid a water main in
Frogmore Street, only one household connected to the supply;
twelve years later there were only three. The problem was the
cost to tenants (or landlords) of having the supply brought
onto their property, which they were reluctant to pay, added to
which was the cost to the water consumed ― water
drawn from a well cost nothing.
By the later
decades of the 19th century it was known that those
who used water drawn from wells faced a greater risk of
contracting water-born disease ― such as cholera, typhoid and
a risk that increased when the well was not lined (‘steined’)
with cement or brickwork to prevent contaminated ground water
seeping in. Despite this, wells remained in use in the town for
many years. Samples of well water were taken periodically
by the Council Surveyor and sent for analysis; while this gave
some assurance that the well was free from contamination, it
gave no guarantee. Where a well was shown to be
contaminated the Council ordered it to be sealed.
Prior to 1899
there were isolated cases of typhoid in the town, but in
September of that year there occurred a serious outbreak:
- Tring has been visited by one of the most serious epidemics of
recent years. On Tuesday evening no less than thirty-two cases
were reported, all in the densely-populated neighbourhood of
Akeman-street. The cause of the outbreak is still uncertain,
though the water supply of the infected area naturally came
under suspicion, and the residents were advised not to use their
wells . . . . Dr. Gruggen,
Officer of Health] on learning of the outbreak . . . . in
company with the Sanitary Inspector, made a thorough examination
of the sanitary arrangements of the district. He condemned the
water from several wells.”
Bucks Herald, 9th September 1899.
Medical Officer of Health, the Council took immediate action on
the condemned wells:
presented his report upon ten samples of water which had been
sent to him for analysis, seven of which were condemned as unfit
for drinking purposes, and three were very suspicious.
The Hon. W. Rothschild proposed, Councillor Carr seconded, and
it was carried unanimously
‘That the Clerk be instructed to request the owners of all
wells in which the water was condemned to permanently close and
fill them up to the satisfaction of the Medical Officer of
Health; the Inspector of Nuisances to provide a proper water
supply, and in case of refusal to take proceedings before the
The Medical Officer was asked to report upon the sanitary
conditions of Albion-place, Surrey-place, and Harrow-yard.
The Surveyor was instructed to see that special attention was
given to the scavenging of the town during the prevalence of
Bucks Herald, 23rd September 1899.
At an early
stage of the epidemic the Aldbury Isolation Hospital [26a
and Appendix X.] was filled.
The sick had then to be cared for at home by nurses from the
Tring Nursing Home who were assisted by the nurse employed on
the Rothschild estate. The Nursing Home Committee did not
have sufficient funds to meet the high demand, nevertheless they
employed extra nurses to the extent that no patient suffered
from want of nursing care. The additional costs were met
by voluntary contributions from townsfolk (including £160 from
Lady Rothschild), from the Council and from the Berkhamstead
Board of Guardians.
resulted in 105 people contracting typhoid, mainly from the
Akeman Street area of the town and the courts leading from it.
By the beginning of 1900 the outbreak had been brought under
control, by which time nine of its victims had died. In
the pre-antibiotic era, the fatality rate from typhoid was
10–20%; today, with prompt treatment, it is less than 1%.
outbreak, the Medical Officers of Health provided a detailed
report on its causes. This makes interesting reading, both
with regard to the typhoid outbreak and to the living conditions
that then existed in the Akeman Street area of the town.
The Bucks Herald’s summary of this report is reproduced
at APPENDIX IV.,
while APPENDIX V.,
written by a local resident, attributes the possible cause of
the outbreak to a human ‘typhoid carrier’.
There are parallels between the Tring typhoid outbreak of 1899
and the more serious outbreak that occurred in Chesham (The
Chesham Plague) in 1871, during which 24 people died including some
of those tending and ministering to the sick (a doctor, two
nurses and the Vicar). See Appendix VIII
and Appendix IX.
1899 typhoid outbreak probably hastened the construction of
Tring’s Isolation Hospital, its need was already under debate
when the outbreak occurred. Until then, infectious disease
patients from Tring were cared for at Aldbury.
Infectious Diseases Hospital was opened in December 1879.
Built by the Berkhamsted Sanitary Authority on an isolated site
in New Ground Road, the hospital was intended for patients
living within the area administered by the Berkhamsted Poor Law
Union, which included Tring. [26b] The
hospital was managed by the Sanitary Authority until 1898, when
the Aldbury Hospital Joint Committee ― made up from members of
the Berkhamsted and Tring councils
took over. However, Tring’s town councillors soon became
concerned that the amount they were being asked to contribute
towards the hospital’s running costs was more than it would cost
to build and operate their own facility. The crunch
finally came three years later:
Replying to the Chairman, the Clerk said the Council were at
present under a temporary agreement with the joint hospital
terminable by a month’s notice at any time. An account had
just been received for £50: 7s: 4d for the quarter ending
September. The agreement was that the Council should pay
£1 a week whether there were Tring patients in the hospital or
not; 10 shillings a week each patient, and a proportion of
nursing expenses when additional nurses were engaged. As
no additional nurses had been engaged he was at a loss to
understand how the amount was made up.
Councillor Rothschild proposed, and Councillor Elliman seconded,
‘That the recommendation of the Hospital Committee as to
terminating the agreement with Aldbury Hospital be adopted, and
that the Clerk be empowered to give the necessary notice when
the new hospital is ready for occupation.’”
Bucks Herald, 11th November 1901.
And so Tring
withdrew from the Aldbury Hospital Joint Committee.
meantime the first move towards building Tring’s own isolation
hospital was made at a Council meeting held in December 1898.
An estimate of construction costs had been made, which,
including an administrative block, amounted to £200 per bed,
with six beds being thought sufficient to meet the town’s needs.
Lord Rothschild offered to donate the land on which to build the
hospital, a 2½ acre site on Little Tring Road being selected for
At a Council
meeting held in June 1900, a motion was carried “That the
Clerk apply to the Local Government Board for permission to
borrow £2,500,” this being the estimated building cost
following “alterations to the plans.” A delay of
several months then followed. In November 1900, the Public
Works Loan Board consented to advance the Council £3,000 for
building costs at 3½%, repayable over thirty years in
half-yearly instalments (presumably the £500 increase in the
estimate was accounted for by further “alterations to the
plans”). Local architect William Huckvale was engaged
to “get out the quantities, etc., with a view to advertising
The Medical Officer reported during May there were four fresh
cases of scarlet fever in one family, and four membraneous
croup, two of the latter being fatal. One case of scarlet
fever was removed to the
hospital. He urged the necessity of providing a proper
Bucks Herald, 8th June 1901.
to donating land on which to build the hospital, the Rothschild
family were to contribute handsomely to the project in other
ways. Emma Lady Rothschild contributed £300 towards
building costs and also offered to furnish the building
throughout when complete. However, the cost of acquiring
an ambulance had been overlooked, and so the begging bowel was
again placed at the Rothschild’s door:
The Chairman said when Lady Rothschild undertook to furnish the
new isolation hospital one thing was overlooked. No
provision was made for an ambulance
a very necessary thing. He had ascertained that this would
cost about £120. He had seen her ladyship on the matter,
and she had expressed her willingness to provide the ambulance
at the same time she was purchasing the other furniture . . . .
the Chairman said he did not know what the furnishing of the
hospital and the ambulance would cost, but it would come to
several hundred pounds.
The Clerk said the hospital was practically finished, and the
hospital committee suggested that they should advertise for a
man and a wife as caretaker and nurse at a salary of 30
shillings per week, with house, light and firing.
The suggestion of the hospital committee was discussed, and
Bucks Herald, 8th November 1901.
When it came
to laying out the hospital grounds, the cost of which was
estimated at £100, Lord Rothschild again put up the cash.
On the 19th
December 1901, the Tring Isolation Hospital was opened by his
building, which is designed by Mr. William Huckvale, has no
pretensions to architectural style, but is admirably adapted to
the purpose for which it is intended, and has a simple, homely,
appearance. On entering the grounds, immediately in front
is the administrative block, containing rooms for the caretaker
and nurses when not on duty. Behind are two isolation
blocks, each having to wards, and each ward containing two beds,
with a nurse’s
duty room between each block. At the rear of these
buildings are disinfecting rooms, laundry, ambulance shed,
mortuary, &c., and on the north side of the administration block
is a small building called the discharge block, in which
patients are thoroughly disinfected before leaving the premises,
one of Thresh’s steam disinfectants being used. The sewage
is treated on the bacteria system, with filter beds, and the
effluent pumped up onto a piece of land prepared to be finally
treated with irrigation.
contractors were Messrs. E. Smith & Son, of Tring, who have
carried out their work in a most satisfactory manner. The
hot water and smith’s work was executed by Messrs. W. J. and H.
Dawe, and the plumber’s work by Messrs. Hedges and Son.”
Bucks Herald, 28th December 1901.
design for one of the two ward blocks at Tring Isolation Hospital.
hospital’s opening, an administrative problem soon emerged when
visitors, who had been accustomed to see their children and
friends at Aldbury, were refused admittance on the grounds that
this was an ‘isolation’ hospital. After much debate on the
subject the management committee decided that only parents
visiting children who were “seriously ill” should be
Tring’s withdrawal from the Aldbury Hospital joint agreement,
terms were eventually agreed between the management
committees to the effect that
providing there was accommodation
scarlet fever and diphtheria patients would be dealt with at
Tring, and small-pox patients would be treated at Aldbury.
article on the Aldbury Isolation Hospital, local historian Jean
Davis reproduced some statistics from that hospital’s Admission
Book for the period 1899 to 1942, which
taking into account the split between Aldbury and Tring in case
sharing by disease, referred to above
gives some indication of the incidence of serious infectious
disease in that period:
“. . . .
diphtheria, 417 cases with 24 deaths; typhoid, 46 cases with 6
deaths; scarlet fever, 1,575 cases with 6 deaths; meningitis, 3
cases with 1 death; and smallpox, 1 case. Other admissions were
for erysipelas, 4 cases with 1 death; measles, 13 cases;
paratyphoid, 4 cases; gastritis, 2 cases; chicken pox, 1 case;
mumps, 1 case; and whooping cough 1 case.”
The Fever Hospital, Aldbury:
from Hertfordshire Past, No. 36, by Jean Davis.
goes to say that:
stay in the hospital in the last few years before the hospital
closed in 1948 was about 40 days, and those still alive who
stayed there (some more than once) describe their families
coming and peering through the iron gates, waving and calling as
they were not allowed to come nearer . . . . Further examination
of the Admissions Book highlights the areas where disease was
prevalent, such as the ‘yards’ and the cluster of farm cottages.
Where such large families were crowded into too few rooms, germs
were hard to escape and the progress of an epidemic of, say
scarlet fever, could be traced as, one by one, the children who
comprised a very high proportion of the hospital inmates were
The Fever Hospital, Aldbury:
from Hertfordshire Past, No. 36, by Jean Davis.
And so, in an
age before effective vaccination programmes and antibiotics
between them more or less eradicated serious infectious disease
in the land, Tring provided a systematic means for treating
infectious disease victims with the standard of medical care
then available, while reducing the risk of it spreading within
reported that since the last meeting two cases of typhoid had
been admitted to the hospital from Frogmore-street, and one case
of diphtheria from Potten End. There had been one death
Bucks Herald, 10th June 1905.
During the Great War, additional temporary accommodation was
erected on the site to house infectious disease patients from
the military camp at Halton, buildings that were later removed.
An entry in the minute book for 15th July 1920 states that the
hospital then had 16 beds (an entry in Kelly’s
Trade Directory for 1937 states 20 beds), which was more than
was required. To make better use of the space and reduce
operating costs, the management committee reached an arrangement
with the Aylesbury Rural District Council to accommodated
infectious disease patients from their area.
The hospital was connected to mains electricity in 1929, the
supply having reached Tring three years earlier.
In addition to a small compliment of support staff, the hospital
was run by a matron with one or two nurses in support. A
theme that runs through the minute book from the hospital’s
earliest days is that of staff turnover ― its nursing staff
rarely stayed long. The records give no indication of the
reason for this, but working in an isolated location with little
contact with the outside world must have proved tedious and
uninspiring, with the added risk of contracting potentially
serious illness from the patients.
The penultimate entry in the minute book is dated 16th March
1938, and deals with the appointment of yet another matron.
There is one further entry dated 14th July 1947, in which the
management committee discuss making an agreement with the
Aldbury hospital to take all future infectious disease patients
from Tring. There is nothing to indicate why management
committee meetings ― if there were any ― went unrecorded between
1938 and 1947, although from what press reports exist it appears
its later years the hospital was little used and sometimes had
1948 the National Health Service was established; both the Tring
and Aldbury isolation hospitals were declared and closed.
The former hospital buildings at Tring were later converted
into attractive residential premises in tastefully landscaped
grounds. A resident of the one of the houses, The
Rustlings, recalled that:
“. . .
. local people I have spoken to still speak with affection about
the stories they heard about the hospital where relatives had
been sent when they had childish diseases, although one did tell
me how scared the children were of the large black horse-drawn
ambulance whose metal wheels echoed along the quiet lanes.”
BURIAL OF THE DEAD
term ‘graveyard’ is often used interchangeably with ‘cemetery’,
but it refers primarily to a burial ground within a churchyard.
OF A GRAVEYARD . . . . The medical
officer further urged the necessity of taking measures for
securing the closing of the Baptist Chapel graveyard at
Ivinghoe, which was so crowded that burial coffins had been cut
and bodies mutilated in making new graves, besides which this
condition of things must have a deleterious effect upon the
water supply. ― Mr. G. Batchelor asking for confirmation of the
statement as to the condition of the graveyard, Mr. T. Brown
(sanitary inspector) said he could give it, and had been told by
a resident at Ivinhoe that in digging graves the heads and feet
of corpses had been cut off. The Board directed that . . .
. the condition of the graveyard be immediately reported to the
Home Office, with a view to an order for closing.”
Northampton Mercury, 27th
beginning of the 19th century, church graveyards were
rapidly becoming overcrowded, while the decaying matter from
infected corpses infiltrated the water supply causing epidemics.
The issue became particularly acute after the cholera epidemic
of 1831, which killed 52,000 people in Britain alone and placed
unprecedented pressure on the country’s burial capacity. Thus,
burial of the dead in graveyards began to be discontinued in
favour of completely new places of burial ― cemeteries
established away from heavily populated areas and the water
was enacted in 1879 to permit local authorities to lay out new
cemeteries directly and outside the regulations imposed by the
earlier Burial Acts.  Furthermore, a
cemetery established under the 1879 Act could remain wholly
unconsecrated, although public cemeteries often contain both
consecrated and unconsecrated sections, with areas
given over to the burial of members of other religions.
At Tring, the
original graveyard had been extended in 1853 to the north of the
parish church (the area bordering on Frogmore Street car park), but by the 1880s the extension 
was filling up. The Vestry  applied to
Lord Rothschild for permission to extend further north onto his
land, then forming part of the Vicar’s garden. Although
reluctant, his Lordship gave his consent, only for the church
authorities to discover that the site was unsuitable for burials due
to the high water table. The Vestry was thus left with the need
to buy land for a new cemetery  and to that end they asked
the local Sanitary Authority to take whatever steps were
necessary for its construction under the Public Health
(Interments) Act, 1879:
“A letter was
read from the Vestry Clerk at Tring forwarding a copy of the
following resolution of the Vestry:
‘That this meeting, agreeing upon the need of a burial ground
being provided for the parish, hereby requests the Local
Sanitary Authorities to take steps needed to provide the same
under the Public Health (Interments) Act, 1879, and not under
the Burials Acts.’
The Clerk added that the Statute referred to was one enabling
the Authority under the Public Health Act, 1875, and extended by
the 10th and 11th Vic., cap. 6, to the
provisions of cemeteries and the acquisition of the site and the
construction and maintenance of a public cemetery.
It was resolved that the Clerk submit the resolution to the
Local Government Board in order than an enquiry may be made
under their direction.”
Berkhamstead Board of Guardians meeting, Bucks Herald, 28th
The Clerk read letters received from the Local Government Board
in reference to the Cemetery question. One was from the Clerk to
the Berkhamstead Rural Sanitary Authority to the Local
Government Board, and the other the Board’s reply to its
inquiries, and asking for a copy of the resolution of the Tring
Local Board, and plans and particulars if it was intended to
apply for a loan to carry out the work.
The Clerk was directed to acknowledge the receipt of the letter,
and state that the Board was much surprised at the statement
that the burial ground or cemetery was to be in the hamlet of
Wilstone, which was altogether unsuited for the purpose,
[due to the high water table]
and, so far as the Board was concerned, had never been
Bucks Herald, 16th August 1890.
As seems to
have been customary on such occasions, Lord Rothschild was
approached by the Local Board to ask what his terms would be for
the sale of a plot of land for a burial ground, although it
is likely that the Council hoped their inquiry would result in
the usual benevolent gesture they received in response:
Office, Tring, Dec. 29, 1890.
― In reply to your letter of the 12th inst., applying to Lord
Rothschild to sell three and a half acres of land on the
Aylesbury-road for the purpose of a cemetery, I am directed by
his lordship to say that, seeing the necessity for a proper
cemetery being provided for the district, he is prepared to give
the land referred to in your letter, provided that liberal terms
are made by the Board with his lordship’s tenant, Mr. Amsden.
I beg to remain, yours
A. W. Vaisey,
Bucks Herald, 3rd January 1891.
other large landowner, Mr. J. G. Williams of Pendley Manor, was
also asked to sell land and he offered the Local Board a further
six acres at £150 an acre, this being £50 an acre below its
Board accepted Lord Rothschild’s offer with “their hearty
thanks for his generosity” while they also accepted Mr.
Williams’ offer subject to the Government Board approving their
application to borrow £3,000 to fund construction of the
cemetery chapel, the keeper’s lodge and the boundary walls, all
to plans drawn up by local architect William Huckvale. The
Government Board held the usual inquiry before the loan was
approved, although for some unexplained reason the cash was
advanced by the Prudential Assurance Company.
The chapel, Tring Cemetery, by Tring architect
Board received nine tenders for the construction contract, the
successful bid going to Messrs. Honour of Tring at a price of
£1,961, and the cemetery was duly opened on the 19th
“OPENING OF THE
Cemetery which has been provided for Tring was opened with
appropriate ceremonies on Thursday afternoon, April 19th.
of the Cemetery, which occupies a fine site on the Aylesbury
Road, is between five and six acres; it has been sown with grass
and laid out tastefully with trees and shrubs. The number of
grave spaces at Present laid out is 2,298, the lower part being
bricked off for grazing purposes. It is surrounded by a brick
wall, surmounted by an ornamental fence, which with the entrance
gates are of wrought iron.
chapel, erected in the centre of the ground, is of Gothic
design, built of flint and red brick facings and stone tracery
windows, and is paved with ornamental bricks. It is 32 feet by
20, and capable of seating around 50 persons. The lodge, a
pleasant-looking structure, is also of Gothic design.
has been planned by Mr. W. Huckvale, Western Road, and Messrs.
Honour and Sons, Akeman Street, have carried out the work in a
most satisfactory manner, their contract being about £2,000. The
total cost of the Cemetery will probably be £3,000, the leading
items of which are as follows:― Purchase of land (Mr. J. G.
Williams), £300; compensation to tenants, £50; fence and road,
£200; Planting, £250; Walls and gates, £910; Lodge, £350;
Chapel, £550; architect, £300. Part of the land acquired
belonged to Lord Rothschild, who with his accustomed generosity
gave it freely for the purpose of the Cemetery.
ratepayers having preferred the Public Health Act to a Burial
Board, the management of the Cemetery has been entirely in the
hands of the Tring Local Board, who are to be complimented upon
the satisfactory completion of so large and expensive an
dedication service was conducted by the Rev. S. W. Tidswell,
Vicar of Tring. The weather was chilly and uncomfortable,
notwithstanding which a large number of ratepayers and others
assembled. . . .”
Bucks Herald, 28th April, 1894.
. . . . but
Lord Rothschild was not among them.
Wilstone Cemetery lych gate by William Huckvale,
The village of Wilstone had been
without a burial ground due to the high water table making the area
unsuitable. Interments had therefore to be carried out at
Tring. However, following the Local Government Act of 1894 and
the formation of rural and parish councils, great strides were made
in improving conditions in the country districts. The
provision of allotments, road repairs, sanitation, and the provision
of a burial ground were on the agenda for Wilstone.
An acre of land was selected for a burial ground on Wilstone Hill,
and tests established it would make a suitable site. Unsurprisingly,
Lord Rothschild, owner of the land, donated it for the intended
purpose. William Huckvale, the Rural District Council's Surveyor,
was instructed to prepare a plan and estimate, to include a tool
house and a lych gate (the frame of which was to be of oak and the
roof of red tiles).
Work was completed in August 1898 and the Bishop of St Albans duly
visited Wilstone to consecrate the Church of England half of the
about the Tring Nursing Home is sparse and little can be pieced
together from newspaper reports of the period. Whereas Tring’s
isolation hospital provided care for those suffering from
serious infectious disease, the nursing home and its district
nurse cared for those with health problems that did not pose a
risk to the community.
Nursing Home, known as Nightingale House, was located at the top
of Station Road on the site now occupied by the Tring Clinic. In
an age before the state provided health care, the nursing home’s
construction and maintenance costs had to be privately funded,
much depending on the generosity of Lord Rothschild’s wife, Lady
Emma. Two commemorative plaques in the clinic’s entrance hall
provide a clue to the history of the site (although not of the
buildings that presently stand on it, which are of comparatively
recent construction). One plaque reads:
On this site
from 1886 to 1965 stood the Nursing Home which was established
voluntarily to provide accommodation for patients and a district
nurse maintained by the Tring Nursing Association.
and kindness of all connected with this Home brought comfort to
many a sick bed and those who have filled the office of district
nurse are remembered with thankfulness by all.
There is some
doubt whether ‘1886’ is in fact the correct opening date. The
earliest reference to the Tring Nursing Home in the press is in
1898, while the Tring local historian Arthur Macdonald Brown,
writing in 1940, states that the Home opened in 1900 ― and as
Macdonald Brown was Chairman of the Nursing Association, some
weight should be attached to his assertion. Furthermore, the
Rothschild Archive holds a deed of gift from Lady
Rothschild to the Trustees of the Tring Nursing Home of land for
the erection of a home, dated 1891. So unless there was an earlier nursing
home on the site, Nightingale House was probably erected at some
date between 1891 and 1897.
plaque, presumably taken from the original nursing home
In this house
let the name of its founder EMMA LOUISA LADY ROTHSCHILD be held
in grateful remembrance who by her generosity and sympathy for
many years provided relief and care for the sick and suffering
among her neighbours in Tring.
There can be
no doubt about Emma Rothschild’s benevolence. There are numerous
references to it in the local press, and in his book The
Unexpected Story of Nathaniel Rothschild, John Cooper
“Many of the
welfare activities on the Tring Park estate were organized by
Emma. From Lady Rothschild’s personal accounts, it is apparent
that she gave money generously for the supply of winter fuel and
clothing, the apprenticeship of young men and women, assisting
emigration, compensation for personal injuries of employees and
for multifarious medical expenses. Employees of the Tring Park
estate received free medical attendance and nursing, free
medicine and also access to a nursing home which Emma opened and
equipped. On payment of a subscription of £1 a year, the
residents of Tring could obtain the same benefits.”
home was managed by the Tring Nursing Association, which until
the advent of the National Health Service received its income
from subscriptions and donations, Lady Rothschild providing a
generous annual contribution. This from Lady Emma’s obituary:
Nursing Home, in the Station Road, was another of her benevolent
inspirations. She founded the Home and has ever since been
largely responsible for its maintenance. It is said that she has
made provision for that support to continue. Her interest in it
was personal and active to the very last. A meeting of the
committee of the Tring Nursing Association was held at the
Mansion only last Friday, and Lady Rothschild attended the
meeting and took part in proceedings . . . . The West Herts and
the Royal Bucks Hospitals have been deprived of a most generous
supporter, and she subscribed most liberally to almost all the
Emma Rothschild (Lady Bountiful), Bucks Herald, 11th
Tring Nursing Home. Above,
probably an Edwardian view; below, at a much later date.
the Tring Nursing Home’s funding, its annual report for 1897
shows that the running costs amounted to £321, against which
receipts included subscriptions of £78, a donation from Lady
Rothschild of £160, and other donations of £40 (principally from
the town’s churches and the Tring Friendly Societies). Although
its expenditure on ‘drugs’ and ‘appliances’ would not seem out
of place today, poor relief would: £159 went directly to the
sick in meat, beef tea, milk, wine and spirits.
The laudable work which is being done by this institution in
providing not only skilled nursing, but also, where necessary,
nourishment for the sufferers of the prevailing epidemic, [Ed. - typhoid]
is greatly appreciated in the town, and should result in placing
the Home on a sound financial basis. Among other
contributions recently received is the sum of £10.15s.5d
collected at Akeman-street Chapel on Sunday, Sept. 17.
This is considerably in excess of the usual contribution from
this source, being £4 14s more than last year. Mrs. James
Brown, a member of the Committee of the Home, initiated a
house-to-house collection towards a fund for providing
nourishment for the fever patients, and, assisted by Miss
Butcher and one or two other ladies, carried out the idea with
most gratifying success.
All classes of the community responded readily to the appeal,
and about £44 has been received up to the present time.
The contributors include not only the principal residents,
professional and tradespeople, but the poorest people have
gladly given their mites; one especially encouraging item, as
showing how the institution is appreciated by the working
classes − is a sum of £3 11s, subscribed by the employees of one
firm in the town. The children at the National Schools
have also, at the suggestion of their teachers, added their
pence together, and sent them to Mrs. Brown. The Friendly
Societies of the town are also making a special effort during
the present week on behalf of the fund, and on Sunday next will
attend a special service at the Parish Church, when a collection
will be made for the same object. We hope that the present
interest in this institution will not pass away with the
epidemic, having demonstrated its usefulness in such a striking
Bucks Herald, 30th September 1899.
to providing a district nurse, there are odd clues in press
reports that the Nursing Home also provided services akin to
what today we would call a cottage hospital. Writing in 1940,
local historian Arthur Macdonald Brown states in his book,
Some Tring Air, that the nursing home was equipped “with
a ward for accidents and operations.” Newspaper reports add
weight to this:
Hannell succumbed on Saturday morning to injuries he received in
the accident in Park-road the previous Wednesday evening. By Dr.
Le Quesne’s advice he was removed to the accident ward of the
Tring Nursing Home, which, thanks in a great measure to Lady
Rothschild’s wise generosity, is held in readiness for the
reception of such cases. Upon examination it was found that Mr. Hannell’s spine was broken, with the result that he was
paralysed from the waist downwards. All that medical science and
skilful nursing could accomplish was done to alleviate the
unfortunate man’s sufferings, but from the first it was known
that it was impossible to avert or even delay his death. The
doctor’s efforts were loyally supplemented by Miss Girardet, the
indefatigable district nurse.”
Bucks Herald, 29th September 1900.
But who was the “indefatigable
district nurse” referred to?
Fanny Clara Girardet is thought to
have been born at Marylebone in 1867. She took over the
role of District Nurse in Tring thirty years later having formerly been a sister
at the Westminster Hospital. Judging from contemporary newspaper reports,
she was highly thought of during the years she spent at Tring. Hers was no doubt
an unpleasant task in an age
before effective preventive and curative remedies were
available and welfare relief for the poor was scant. She
was also at times kept very busy; for instance, in the spring of 1898, there were so
many cases of diphtheria at New Mill that the Nursing Committee
had to engage another nurse from London to help attend them. Exclusive of the work of the additional nurse, during 1897 Miss
Girardet visited 143 patients making 4,609 calls in all; in the
following year she visited 178 patients and made 6,360 calls.
Here she reports on the sanitary conditions in Harrow Yard, a
slum area off Akeman Street (Richardson Carr was Chairman of the
Tring Nursing Association) . . . .
July 16th, 1900
Dear Mr. Carr.
I beg to inform you that I have two cases of
diarrhoea in Harrow Yard and much to my surprise the
well water is being used again.
During the Typhoid Epidemic the well was closed and
when the Sanitary Authorities removed the tap the
pump was repaired. In the Yard we had 17 cases of
Typhoid Fever, 3 of which died, and the last case
was not convalescent until February. I would
also remind you that I has a case in September 1898
32 in Register”.
It is the only infected Yard along Akeman Street
that the well has been allowed to be used again, and
I quite expect more Typhoid after seeing the filth
rush down the Yard as I did last week during a
storm, [into] the well at the bottom of the Yard.
At No. 6 Chapel Street there have been 4 bad cases
of Diarrhea in succession
― well water used. I don’t
know if anything can be done but I do not want any
F. C. Girardet
typhoid epidemic of 1899, Miss Girardet received an honourable
mention in despatches:
outbreak of typhoid fever which occurred in the latter part of
the year 1899, made a call upon the resources and funds of the
Nursing Home such as never been made before. There were no funds
in hand to meet the special demand, but the Nursing Committee in
faith engaged extra nurses, and supplied nourishment to the
patients, and had the satisfaction of knowing that none of them
suffered more than was necessary from want of proper nursing and
support. The additional nurses did their work thoroughly well,
but the committee feel that special praise is due to Nurse
Girardet for the way in which she worked herself, and
superintended the work of others during the long continuance of
the epidemic. It is what we should have expected of one who so
well and diligently performs her ordinary nursing duties in the
Bucks Herald, 30th June 1900.
outbreak of the Great War, Fanny Girardet offered her services
to the Red Cross. She was called up shortly after and posted to
the military hospital on Wandsworth Common. In 1916, her name
appeared in the Birthday Honours List when she was awarded the
Royal Red Cross Medal, a military decoration awarded in the
United Kingdom and Commonwealth for exceptional services in
military nursing. This from the hospital newsletter:
Scene from the Wandsworth Military Hospital
Girardet has been here as a Staff Nurse since October, 1914. She
is one of the most capable nurses we have, and is generally
loved by all of us for her kindness and goodness to those around
her. She was trained at Westminster Hospital and has been
District Nursing since.”
Girardet never returned to Tring. All that is known about her
subsequently is that she died in March 1955, aged 88, at
As for Lady Rothschild’s
gift to town, in 2017 the site of the Tring Clinic, which in
1965 succeeded Nightingale House, was sold by the National
Health Service to a property developer and has since become
Nightingale Close . . . .
In 1961 the site of Tring’s
Isolation Hospital − another Rothschild
gift to the town − was also sold by the National Health Service
for redevelopment, despite protest by the Town Council that the
land really belonged to Tring.
THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH AND THE INSPECTOR OF NUISANCES
The preceding sections of this account deal mainly with the
community’s reaction to public health problems that had occurred.
Preventive health measures were also introduced in the latter
decades of the 19th century that aimed to identify and, so far as
possible, remove or reduce risks to health, thereby improving the
wellbeing of the community.
Although the cause of cholera was at the time unknown, the epidemics
that attacked Britain during the 1830s and 1840s spawned what became
a public health service. Local Boards of Health were formed to
place water supply; sewerage; drainage; cleansing; paving, and
environmental health regulation under a single local body. Two
important roles that grew out of these changes were those of ‘Medical Officer of Health’ and
‘Inspector of Nuisances’. Each played an
important role in tackling environmental
health issues in the second half of the nineteenth century.
The Public Health Act, 1872, made a marked advance on previous
sanitary legislation by providing for the appointment of one
sanitary authority in each part of England and Wales, whether urban
or rural, and requiring such authority to elect an MOH. MOsH
had to be legally qualified medical practitioners, but were not
usually permitted to practise privately in order to avoid a possible
conflict of interests. Regulations issued by the Local
Government Board in 1872 (APPENDIX
VII) defined the duties of the role, among which was a requirement to produce annual
reports. These were to describe the work carried out and provide data on
birth and death rates, infant mortality, incidence of infectious and
other diseases, and a general statement on the health of the
The role of ‘Inspector of Nuisances’ can be traced back to medieval
times and to the need to take action against anything that was
considered a public nuisance, such as an obstruction of the highway or
the making of excessive smoke, noise or smell. The role assumed new
importance in the public health reforms of the 19th century, later
being renamed (more appropriately) ‘Sanitary Inspector’. It
was then concerned with identifying and, if appropriate, prosecuting those
creating sanitary and health hazards under local by-laws, such as
‘filthy and unwholesome’ living conditions, gutters, drains, privies
and cesspools. Sealing up wells identified as health risks and
disinfecting houses where there had been serious infectious
disease/contagion were other duties
that fell to the Inspector. All these were matters of
SANITARY CONDITION REPORTS ON TRING
The annual Sanitary Reports prepared by the MOH on Tring provide a succinct summary of the activities of both
the MOH and the Inspector of Nuisances. They give a summary of health hazards and what was done to deal with
them ― if anything, for such matters as the efficiency of the towns
drains and sewers often involved capital projects that lay in the
hands of the cash-strapped local authority. The state of the
town’s sewage arrangements ― particularly the lack of proper closet
flushing mechanisms (i.e. toilet cisterns) in many homes;
inadequate flushing led to a build-up of deposit that blocked the
sewers ― seems to have been a constant bone of contention between
the MOH and the Council:
town is sewered, but I must again call the attention of the
Authority to the want of proper water supply to the closets for
flushing. The Council have decided to undertake certain works in
connection with the sewerage system which will be of great benefit
to the town.”
Extract from the Sanitary Condition
Report for 1895.
town is sewered, and the sewers in the lower part of the town have
been relaid, and the storm-water partly diverted from them.
The Authority are about to relay the sewers in the upper part of the
town, which leak badly, and also take storm-water; this will render
it possible to divert the whole of the storm-water from the sewer,
and render the treatment at the outfall
the sewage works]
less troublesome. It will be necessary to compel owners
to lay on water to closets, and provide proper flushing
arrangements, which will be a vast improvement.”
Extract from the Sanitary Condition
Report for 1900.
improvements have been carried out at the outfall
the sewage works]
tending to the production of a better effluent. There
are still too many hand-flushed water closets, but whenever possible
owners are compelled to put in flush tanks [i.e.
Extract from the Sanitary Condition
Report for 1905.
As Dr. John Snow had shown some years before,
much can be learned on the cause and spread of disease from an
analysis of the statistics. Thus, the MOH provided annual
statistics for the town on its birth and death rates analysed in
various ways. The following is a summary of the death
statistics for the years 1895, 1900 and 1905:
OF DEATH IN TRING
|Phthisis (i.e. pulmonary tuberculosis)
|Other tubercular diseases
|Bronchitis, Pneumonia and Pleurisy
|Other diseases of Respiratory organs
|Diseases of organs of digestion
|Diseases of Urinary Organs
|Atrophy and Debility
|Cancer, malignant disease
|Diseases of Nervous System
|Tubercle other than Pulmonary
|Alcoholism/Cirrhosis of liver
A section of each annual MOH report also summarised the activities
of the Inspector of Nuisances in the period. The following is
a summary of the nuisances dealt with in the years 1895, 1900 and
OF WORKS COMPLETED
|Nuisances detected without complaint
|Drains repaired and sinks cut off
|Cottages cleansed and whitewashed
|New privies built, old ones repaired, and new pans
|Cesspools emptied or filled in
|Privies and drains connected with sewer
|Privies and WCs repaired; WCs supplied with water
|Earth, pail, or improved privies constructed or
existing privies altered
|Slaughter-houses repaired or inspected
|Lodging houses inspected
|Dairies and Milkshops inspected
|Wells sunk or improved supplies of water afforded
|Samples of water taken for analysis
|Wells cleansed or repaired
|Houses connected with water mains
|Houses connected with sewers
|Houses placed in habitable repair
|Rainwater pipes disconnected from drains
|Foul ashpits removed and sanitary dustbins provided
|Compensation paid for destruction of infected
|Patients removed to Isolation Hospital
* The statistics recorded for 1895 are somewhat different to those
of later years.
For many years the role of Inspector of Nuisances in Tring was
discharged by William Baines. Described in his obituary as a
man of considerable culture, William Baines came to Tring in about
1860 to take up the post of Master of the National School, a
position he held for 10 years. He next became Surveyor to the
Tring Local Board, while his other duties included Inspector of
Nuisances, Clerk to the Tring Consolidated Charities, Collector of
the Urban District Council rate and Collector of the Queen’s taxes.
‘In the various public offices which Mr. Baines filled his urbane
and kindly manner, and perfect accessibility at all times, won for
him general esteem. His assistance was constantly invoked by people
struggling with the intricacies of the income tax return, or by
needy applicants for the benefits of the Tring charities.’
Occasionally William Baines’ activities as Inspector of
Nuisances found their way into the press:
Hanwell, of Wilstone, was charged by Mr. Baines of Tring, Inspector
of Nuisances for the Berkhamstead Union, with allowing a nuisance at
Wilstone. ― Mr. Baines stated that he gave the defendant notice to
remove two nuisances which he saw on the premises on the day
previous; one was from on overflowed cesspit, the other from a
piggery. Mr. Baines produced the certificate of Mr.
Sanders, Medical Officer of the Union, who had visited the place
with him on the 19th ult., and considered the nuisance complained of
as injurious to health. ― The Bench ordered the nuisance to be
removed, and the payment of costs 16s. 6d., and, as long as the
nuisance existed, there was a liability of the infliction of a fine
of 10 shillings a day.”
Hearne, of Tring, was charged by Mr. Baines, Inspector of Nuisances,
with overcrowding his cottage. ― Mr. Baines said there
were two rooms in the cottage, containing 1,526 cubic feet, and
there were 9 persons living there. Each person should have
300 cubic feet of air, while the 9 had only 169 feet each. The
children ranged from the age of 21. ― Mrs. Hearne said her husband
was 71 years of age, and she did not like to turn out her sons, who
helped to support him. ― The Chairman said she must get rid of the
two eldest, or have a larger house, and the girl, aged 17, had
better go out to service, which was the best thing she could do.
Fined 5 shillings, which Mrs Hearne said she could not pay. ― John
Taylor, of Tring, who was also represented by his ‘better half,’ was
charged with a like offence. There were 10 in the family,
living in a house of the same size, having only two sleeping rooms.
Besides the father and mother, there were children aged 22, 19, 18,
13, 11, 8, 6, and 3 years. Two of them were said to be about
to go out to situations. ― Two were ordered to go elsewhere, or the
family to remove to a larger house, and the defendant to pay 10
Parrott, of Wilstone, was charged by Mr. Baines, Inspector of
Nuisance for the Berkhamstead Union, with allowing ducks to
contaminate water used for domestic purposes, on June 11 ― Mr.
Stallon, clerk to the Guardians, said the Rural Sanitary Authority
felt bound to prosecute. ― P.C. Rogers proved seeing 12 ducks in the
water. ― Mrs. Parrott, who appeared for her husband, loudly
protested against the ‘nuisance man,’ and declared that the ducks
only got in the water while she was away a few minutes, and left
them in charge of a girl. ― She was fined 5 shillings and £1 2s
costs, which she paid. ― The Chairman said they were determined to
put a stop to the practice.”
Although Medical Officer of Health and Inspector of Nuisances are
job titles that have disappeared from local government, equivalents
continue to operate today under different
The role of Medical Officer of Health was abandoned in 1974, but in
today’s NHS organisation the Director of Public Health fulfils a
similar function. The nearest modern equivalent of the role of
Inspector of Nuisances/Sanitary Inspector is the Environmental
Health Officer, a title that was adopted by local authorities
following the Local Government Act of 1972.
Any case of the
potentially deadly diseases of cholera or typhoid
occurring in Britain today would likely make headline news, but to
our Victorian forebears each was, at times, a fact of life.
Together with dysentery, waterborne diseases such as these were one of the great blights of
the age in which the Chiltern Hills Spring Water Company was formed.
contemporary press reports, cholera was the most feared. During the years 1829 to 1849 a great pandemic
spread from India across western Asia to Europe, Britain and the
Americas, and eastwards to China and Japan; it was to cause more
deaths, more quickly, than any other 19th century epidemic. Cholera reached Britain in December 1831, appearing first in
Sunderland where it was brought ashore by passengers arriving on a
ship from the Baltic, and from there it spread across the land.
Other cholera outbreaks followed in 1848-49, [a]
1854 and 1867.
‘Cholera on the Bowsprit,’ shows the
disease coming ashore as a Turkish immigrant.
Cholera is caused
by micro-organisms (Cholera vibrio), and although it can
spread by various means, including contaminated foodstuffs, its
spread is most associated with warm, fecal-contaminated water, hence
its once prominence in Britain during summer months.
cause of the disease was identified through a brilliant piece of
medical detective work carried out by Dr. John Snow (1813-58), now
considered to be one of the founders of modern epidemiology. [b]
Snow was already sceptical of the dominantly-held belief that
diseases such as cholera and bubonic plague were caused by a noxious
form of “bad air” (the miasma theory), the germ theory of
diseases not having then been established. By talking to local
residents during a cholera outbreak in Soho in 1854, he was able to
identify the probable source of the outbreak to be the public water
pump on Broadwick Street. His studies of the pattern of cases in
the spread of the disease were sufficient to persuade the local
council to disable the well by removing its pump handle, an act that
was credited with ending the outbreak. But more importantly Snow
was able to add further evidence to his claim. He produced a dot
map to illustrate the cluster of cholera cases around the infected
pump, while his statistical analysis of cases established the
connection between the quality of the water source and cholera by
showing that the Southwark and Vauxhall Waterworks Company’s supply
of drinking water from sewage-polluted sections of the Thames led to
an increased incidence of cholera.
cartoon c.1830 depicting the portion of the River Thames from which
the Southwark Water Works drew its supply.
Typhoid was also
an accepted fact of life during the 19th century. Resistance to the
theory of polluted water as a source of infection contributed to its
steady prevalence during the second half of the century, affecting
people of all ranks. In 1861 Albert, The Prince Consort, died of
the disease and ten years later his son, the Prince of Wales (later
Edward VII) contracted it while staying at a country house near
In common with
cholera, the typhoid germ (Salmonella typhi) enters the body
through the mouth, usually in contaminated food and water.
Outbreaks occurred periodically, one being in 1848 when the hot,
dry summer was followed by a serious typhoid outbreak; and if that
was not enough it was accompanied by cholera. Drinking water taken
from contaminated wells was a common source of typhoid infection,
such as that which occurred at Tring in 1899 (referred to later).
In his important
book on typhoid (Typhoid Fever, its Nature, Mode of spreading,
and Prevention, pub. 1873), William Budd [c]
stated that “organic matter, and especially sewage in a state of
decomposition, without any relation to antecedent fever, is still
generally supposed to be the most fertile source.” The typhoid
bacillus was eventually identified during the 1880s, with the first
typhoid vaccines appearing in 1896.
accompanied armies since ancient times, often proving to be more
destructive than the enemy – King John, King Edward I, and King
Henry V are all believed to have died of the disease during military
campaigns. In common with cholera and typhoid, dysentery is spread
by fecal contamination of food and water, usually occurring in areas
with poor sanitation. The disease is caused by the Shigella
micro-organism, named after Kiyoshi Shiga (1871-1957), a Japanese
physician and bacteriologist who isolated the bacterium in 1898 and
developed the first vaccines.
Malaria, or ‘the
ague’ as it was formerly known, is a disease that today we associate
mainly with the tropics, but until the early years of the 20th
century it was prevalent in Britain. Even though the parasitic cause
of malaria was not discovered until 1880, malaria was nevertheless
associated in earlier times with stagnant water, although it was
wrongly believe to be transmitted by the “effluvia” (i.e.
bad air) given off. It was later discovered that mosquitoes
transmit malaria parasites, and that stagnant water is an ideal
breeding ground for the mosquitoes that transmit the disease. As the
travel writer Edward Cornelius Osborne points out in his description
of Tring, the stagnant mill pond was a probable source of local
“By the side of
[Silk] mill is the temporary residence of the proprietor, with a
conservatory, and an extensive fish pool [the mill pond], the
rather stagnant nature of which must give rise to much of pernicious
effluvia; and considering that Tring is seldom or never without
ague, and as the malaria is generally found to result from pools of
this character, several of which are in the vicinity, it is to be
hoped that, ere long, the proprietors of these sources of pestilence
will evince sufficient morality and intelligence to compel the
removal of a nuisance so highly dangerous to all the neighbourhood;
actually fatal to some, and deeply injurious to the lives and
happiness of many innocent people.
In the mill there
are almost always persons whose haggard looks evince their having
lately been afflicted with this terrible disease, evidently
consequential to being employed in a building through which there
must, despite all precaution, be continually circulating a portion
of the vapour from the pool beneath; the adult patients look bad
enough; but the sight of the little children who have lately
suffered, with their wretched countenances, death-like colour, and
tottering frames, cannot but make the heart of any humane person
burn with the keenest anguish.”
Tring, from Osborne’s London & Birmingham Railway Guide
important role that vaccines were to play in preventing the spread
of waterborne diseases, it is widely recognised that the most
important preventive measures are sound standards of public health;
in effect, clean drinking water and effective sanitation.
A MODIFIED FORM OF PRIVY.
From . . . .
REPORTS OF THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL
AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD, 1874, page 170.
sanitary authority of Tring has adopted at the suggestion of its
medical officer of health, Dr. C. E. Saunders, a modified form
of privy . . . . The peculiar characteristics of this privy are
a shallow pit, and a bin placed at the side of the seat, for
containing dry earth or ashes. The cottagers where this form of
privy has been erected are instructed to keep the bin provided
with one or other of the materials named, and after each use of
the privy, to throw upon the deposited excrement a scoopful of
the dry earth or ashes. I saw several of these privies which had
been some little time in use. Where reasonable attention could
be secured in covering up the excrement with the earth or ashes,
the freedom from nuisance was marked. In view of the necessity
for frequent removal of the contents of these closets and of
their storage in garden plots, it appeared to me desirable as a
rule, where no proper care from the users can be reckoned upon,
to have all ashes and dry household refuse thrown into the pit
to use them, in fact, as middensteads [i.e. middens or
dunghills]. By this simple plan there would probably be more
likelihood of nuisance being avoided among the careless both in
the privy and in the subsequent disposal of the contents of the
THE SEWAGE SCHEME – LOCAL GOVERNMENT INQUIRY
11th September 1896.
Street is to be re-sewered by low level pipe sewers. The new
system is to commence opposite Tring Park Gates, and to fall therefrom in either direction. The western part is to join the
existing culvert at the top end of Frogmore Street. The eastern
part is to avoid the existing culvert in Brook Street, and to
run down that street along the eastern side of that culvert (but
at a different level, lower at the top end and higher at the
bottom end) to the Silk Mill gardens. A new 24-inch pipe sewer
is to commence near the foot of Frogmore Street, running out of
the existing culvert (which will be crossed by a safety weir,
and therefrom allocated to gathering and conveying spring and
subsoil water only), and continuing outside the [St. Peter &
St. Paul] Cemetery, through the Pond Close and the Silk Mill
gardens over the existing culvert, to join the new pipe sewer in
Brook Street. This pipe sewer will be at a higher level than
the existing culvert, which will therefore drain away the spring
and subsoil water with which the chalk hereabouts is sometimes
pipe sewers unite, and the 24-inch pipe sewer is continued along
the eastern side of the existing culvert to the end of the Silk
Mill buildings, where a junction is to be made. At this point a
weir is to be placed across the existing culvert to separate the
spring water from the sewage, the former passing out through the
relief culvert already existing, into the mill tail, and the
latter continuing down Brook Street in the existing culvert,
which, being efficient, is to be retained for use as far as New
Mill Terrace. Provision is to be made for diverting the spring
water from the relief culvert for flushing the sewage culvert
whenever occasion arises. Except during the heaviest storms the
existing culvert between Frogmore Street and the relief culvert
at the Silk Mill will be reserved for spring and subsoil water.
Mill-terrace a safety weir will be built across the existing
culvert for relief in storms, and the final length of the
culvert reserved therefore, and from this point will commence a
new outfall culvert 36 inches by 27 inches, and continue (nearly
on the line of the existing outfall, which is to be abandoned)
to Mr. Thomas Mead’s land, on which it is to be disposed of, as
now, by broad irrigation [a.k.a. sewage farming].
outfall will be near that now existing and one foot lower, and
Mr. Meade agrees to keep the new outfall culvert clean and
efficient, and to re-arrange his land for irrigation, as may be
have to be provided for the crossing of the Wendover Arm of the
Grand Junction Canal.
sewer and drain connections with those sewers which are to be
reserved for spring or subsoil water, and for rain water, will
be cut and new connections made at the expense of the Council.
THE RECENT TYPHOID OUTBREAK.
29th December, 1899
I have to report in regard to the recent epidemic of Typhoid
Fever at Tring that it is now practically over, no cases having
been notified since December 1st.
So far 105 cases have occurred in all.
The first intimation obtained by the Authority of this outbreak
was the notification of four cases on September 1st, five cases
on the 2nd and fourteen cases on the 4th, this last being the
greatest number of notifications received in any one day during
The District Council immediately took steps to deal with the
outbreak; and, as most of the houses where cases occurred took
their water supplies from wells of which I have been always
suspicious, notices were placed on the wells that the water
should not be used for drinking, and a supply was provided from
the mains of the Chiltern Hills Company for all the affected
houses. This, as we shall presently see, had the desired
effect; and, as was to be expected, the epidemic began to
subside after a short interval.
On making enquiries, I found that the first case of this
outbreak occurred, on August 18th, in a yard off Akeman Street;
and of the 52 houses attacked, 34 were in that street or courts
leading off it, providing altogether 76 of the 105 cases; and it
is noteworthy that this is the most crowded and dirtiest part of
Above and below: Akeman Street, the
centre of the typhoid outbreak, as it once was.
I have prepared a table marked A, shewing the houses freshly
invaded, and cases occurring from day to day: also the
notifications as received.
It will be seen from this that fresh houses were invaded in the
following order; on . . . .
August, 18th, one; 19th, one;
20th, one; 24th, one;
25th, one; 26th, four;
27th, one; 28th two; 29th,
two; 31st, three;
September 1st, two; 3rd, one;
4th, two; 5th, three;
7th, one; 8th, two;
10th, three; 11th, three;
12th, one; 13th, three;
14th, three; 17th, one;
18th, two; 22nd, one;
24th, one; 27th, two;
October 4th, one; 7th, one;
17th, one; and
November 1st, one.
. . . . making a total of fifty-two houses.
Taking the whole of the cases occurring week by week it will be
seen that the epidemic extended over a period of fifteen weeks,
with cases as follows, in the week ending:
|August 19th, 2; 26th,
September 2nd, 22; 9th, 18;
16th, 17; 23rd, 5;
October 7th, 9; 14th, 3;
21st, 4; 28th, 1;
November 4th, 2; 11th, 2;
18th, 1; 25th, 1.
It was during the first week in September that the people were
warned against drinking the well water, and the result is shewn
in the week ending the 23rd, there occurring only five cases
between the 16th and the 23rd; and allowing ten days or a
fortnight for the incubation period of typhoid fever, the drop
might be expected about that time. Taking the houses newly
invaded week by week, we have, in the week ending:
|August 19th, 2 houses; 26th,
September 2nd, 10 houses; 9th,
9 houses; 16th, 13 houses;
23rd, 4 houses; 30th, 3
October 7th, 2 houses; 14th
none; 21st, 1 house;
November 4th, 1 house.
This shewing still more markedly the cessation of the epidemic
the second week after providing a fresh water supply. The
rise in the total cases in the weeks ending September 30th and
October 7th being no doubt due to direct infection of persons
attending on the patients.
The following Table shews the progress of the disease week by
week; the number of cases occurring, and the houses invaded each
week, being shewn in separate columns. Thus it is seen
that the epidemic commenced suddenly, attaining its maximum in
the 3rd week of the outbreak.
» » 26th
» » 9th
» » 16th
» » 23rd
» » 30th
» » 14th
» » 21st
» » 28th
» » 11th
» » 18th
» » 25th
The mortality of the epidemic was low; nine deaths, or 8.5 per
cent. of attacks.
With regard to the cause of the outbreak, I take it, there can
be little doubt that this was Polluted Water, for the following
1st. Of the 53 houses invaded, 38 took their
supply from wells; or, taking the cases, 89 presumably drank
well water, and 16 water from the main.
2nd. Of the 18 wells from wells from which
samples were taken, it was found ― on analysis ― that 9 were
polluted, 6 were suspicious, and 3 shewed no evidence of
pollution at the time of analysis.
3rd. The cessation of the epidemic on the
provision of a better water supply.
With regard to the specific infection of the wells, there is no
doubt that the infection has been in the ground for years, ready
under favourable circumstances to cause an outbreak; the badly
paved yards, the defective slop channels, and defective drains
from hand-flushed closets, tend to promote a condition of soil
in which the Typhoid bacillus can live and flourish, and, on the
occurrence of a heavy rain, may easily be washed into the wells.
Going back to the year 1874, which is as far back as I have any
record, I find that in that year there were 10 deaths from
Fever; and in the following years to 1878 inclusive, there was
one death each year due to Enteric Fever; from this date, up to
1890, there was but one death in the year 1886. This
brings us to 1891, when notification was in force, and in that
year one case was notified; in the year 1892, there was also one
case; in 1893, there were three cases notified; in 1894, there
were three cases; in 1895, eight cases; in 1896, six cases; in
1897, eighteen cases; and in 1898, two cases. Thus it is
seen that, for the last few years there has always been more or
less Typhoid Fever in the town.
I have prepared a table, marked B, shewing “graphically” the
rainfall for the months of June, July, and August; and the cases
of Typhoid Fever from the commencement of the epidemic to
It will be seen from this, that on 22nd July over one inch of
rain fell, and that previous to that time there had been no rain
to speak of since the 5th, and about 2 inches during the period
from the 1st of June to the 22nd of July, and from the time of
this heavy rain to the first commencement of the epidemic a
period of twenty-six days elapsed,
If we take 14 days as about the incubation period of Typhoid, we
have the remaining 12 days for the time taken for infective
matter to reach the wells. It is noteworthy that just 14
days elapsed from the time of closing the wells until the
abatement of the epidemic.
With regard to age and sex distribution of the 105 cases; 49
were males and 56 females, the ages varied as follows :—
|Under 5 years »
» » »
» 11 cases.
At 5, and under 15 years »
» 37 cases
At 15, and under 25 years »
» 18 cases
Above 25 » »
» » »
» » 39 cases
I have prepared a map of that portion of the town where the
cases were most numerous, using the 10-foot scale ordnance map
for the purpose, shewing the houses in which cases occurred, the
number of cases in each house, and the order in which each case
was attacked. The greatest number of cases occurring in
any one house was eight. This map also shows the position
of the wells, and distinguishes between those that are polluted
and those that are suspicious. It also shews roughly the
line of sewers.
It has been suggested that the new Sewerage Work recently
finished by the Council has been responsible for the outbreak;
but there is not the smallest ground for this suggestion, as it
is a fact that almost all the cases have occurred in those
streets where no Sewerage Work has been done. In my
opinion, the Council should, as soon as may be, go into the
question of re-sewering the remaining portion of the town, so
that all storm water may be entirely diverted from the sewers.
So far the new work has been confined to Frogmore Street, and
the High street, and Brook Street to the outfall.
Now, only one case has occurred in the High Street, one case in
Brook Street, and four cases in three houses in Alleys leading
off Frogmore Street. Thus we have 6 cases in the part of
the town recently sewered, and ninety-nine in that part where no
work of the kind has been done. So it is obvious that the
work of sewerage which has been carried out, and which it was
absolutely necessary should be carried out, has had nothing to
do with the outbreak.
This, however, brings me to the general question of the present
system of the sewerage of the town. The present
arrangement is that, except where the new work has been done,
the whole of the storm water and sewage are taken together to
the outfall; and I am strongly of the opinion that the old
sewers are probably in a leaky condition and are also sewers of
deposit. Most, if not all of the manholes, are simply flat
bottomed pits, and require constant cleansing. The amount of
sewage coming down at the outfall is considerably less per head
than is usual in a water closet town, even where the water
supply is entirely from wells. It would therefore seem
that the liquid portion of the sewage runs out of the sewers
into the ground, and the solid matter remains in them until
storm time, when it is more or less washed down to the outfall.
Above: manhole cleansing in Grove Road
(the water cart in the background is fitted
with a sprinkler for laying road dust in the pre-tarmac era).
Below: the same activity being performed at New Mill.
The soil drains are also, in all probability, much in the same
condition; for out of the fifty-three houses attacked, in only
four cases were closets in use having a proper water supply; in
one case there was an earth closet, the remainder all used hand
flushed water closets; and many of these were in a very foul
It is a pity that the Council have always been adverse to
enforcing the provision of a proper flushing apparatus in all
closets; but the saddest part of it is that all houses are still
allowed to be erected with closets of this description in
connection with them, in spite of bye-law 66. So long ago
as 1885, my predecessor, Dr. Saunders, called attention to this
matter and says, “with a view to getting all W.C.’s supplied
with water, it is very desirable that the water mains should be
laid in Frogmore Street, Brook Street, &c.” Again, in
1886, he says, “it is most essential for the keeping of sewers
free from deposit that all water closets should be supplied with
water.” Again, in 1877, he says, “I have occasion to urge
again the extreme importance of closets being supplied with
water.” This was Dr. Saunders’ last report. In my own
reports, I have annually called attention to the matter and I
trust that the Council will give it their earnest attention as
soon as possible.
Another point which requires attention is that of the paving of
yards in connection with dwellings; and, in my annual report for
1891, I called attention to the fact that, under Section 23 of
the Public Health Acts Amendment Act 1890, Section 157 of the
P.H.A. 1875 had been extended so as to empower Urban Authorities
to make bye-laws with respect to the paving of yards and open
spaces in connection with dwelling-houses. The dilapidated
condition of much of the paving of the yards in the town,
causing filth to stand in puddles and soak into the ground,
forming a home where the germs of disease can live and grow, is
a question which well merits the attention of the Council.
Bye-laws should be made with respect to this and stringently
With regard to the wells, it may be taken for granted that no
well in a town such as Tring, unless steined in cement for a
considerable depth, can be looked upon as safe from pollution;
the water may at one time shew no evidence of pollution, but at
another time may be obviously polluted. The fewer wells
that are in use in a town like this the better; and, as I said
in my annual report for 1893, if the surroundings of a well are
such that there is reasonable risk of pollution, the public
supply should be preferred.
The question of the scavenging of the dustbins is also one which
merits the attention of the Authority; and I see that Dr.
Saunders, in his annual report for 1880, says that the Authority
“have recently undertaken the scavenging of the ashpits, &c.
Most necessary to enforce construction of properly covered
ashpits. There are still a great many, to many, uncovered;
large, fixed ashpits, built below the ground level, and not
cemented. These are liable to cause nuisance; and, in
every case where such nuisance is caused, the ashpit should be
done away with, and a portable galvanised iron receptacle
provided - properly covered. Not only would this be a
great improvement from a sanitary point of view, but the
emptying of these receptacles by the scavenger would be much
I remain, Dear Sir,
Clerk to the Urban District Council,
William Gruggen, Medical Officer of Health, Tring.
Death of Dr. W.
Gruggen.—The death occurred in London on Tuesday
week of William Gruggen, of Durban-road, Watford,
one of the best known medical men in Hertfordshire.
About ten day before he died he had a paralytic
seizure while attending a performance at the Regent
Theatre, London, and did not recover. He was
73 years of age, and leaves a widow and three
The son of a
naval surgeon, Dr. William Gruggen had worked in
Hertfordshire between thirty and forty years. He
devoted himself principally to public health work,
and was, at the time of his death, Medical Officer
of Health to a combined sanitary district that
included Watford, Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted,
Tring, Welwyn, South Mimms, and Barnet Rural
District Councils, and Hemel Hempstead Borough
Council, and Bushey, Berkhamsted and Chorleywood
Urban District Councils. During the war he joined
the Herts Volunteers, and was appointed Battalion
Bucks Herald, 30th
SURREY PLACE IN 1899.
Notes written by
Joseph Budd of King Street, Tring (c. 1950s).
“The year 1899
was a sad one for Akeman Street and Surrey Place, as this part
of the town was hard hit by the Typhoid epidemic which struck
the town in that year. There were many cases, and the Doctors
did their best to cope, but medical knowledge was not so great
as it is now, and without the modern antibiotics the death rate
was alarming. The schools were closed, but the distribution of
cases seems to indicate that the disease was mainly spread by a
“carrier”, [Note below] probably one of the local food shops.
of “carriers” was not generally recognised at that time, and
when cases of Typhoid occurred they were usually attributed to
bad smells or contaminated drinking water. Some of the drains
were pretty foul, and to combat the odours the Urban District
Council organised a supply of disinfectant powder (I believe it
was called Pynerzone) which could be collected free of charge by
anyone from the Council offices.
the wells in that part of the town was tested by the Medical
Officer of Health and all, except the one at Mr. Rodwell’s
Brewery, were condemned, and the lids nailed down until they
could be filled in. The Surrey Place well remained closed for
some time, but eventually the woodwork was broken, and it became
a dump for all kinds of rubbish, including among other things a
dead pig. After a time the smell got very bad, worse than the
drains had ever been, and when a quantity of chalk became
available from the foundations of the Museum extension it was
finally filled in.
The rents of
most of the cottages at this time were about half a crown per
week, and there was some grumbling because landlords charged
another two-pence per week to pay for the Mains water supply.
Also being properly softened and treated by the Water Company it
was pronounced flat and tasteless by comparison with well water. Anyone who has been used to spring water from a well, ice cold
on the hottest day will understand this.”
Note: such a person
can exist [see Mary Mallon a.k.a. “Typhoid Mary”]. A
human carrier may be a healthy person who has survived a
previous episode of typhoid fever yet who continues to shed the
associated bacteria, Salmonella typhi, in feces and
urine. The World Health Organisation estimate that around 2–5%
of those who contract typhoid fever become chronic carriers, as
bacteria persist in the biliary tract after symptoms have
resolved. However, the outcome of the well tests and the
disappearance of the outbreak suggest that a human carrier was
unlikely to have been the cause.
A NEW CEMETERY FOR TRING.
FORMATION OF A BURIAL BOARD.
From the West Herts Post, 9th May 1890.
afternoon a vestry for the parish of Tring was held at the
Parish Hall for the purpose of considering the question of the
provision of a new cemetery. There were present Rev. William Quennell, vicar, who presided, Mr. S. G. Foulkes,
(church-warden), Mr. A. W. Vaisey (vestry clerk), Dr. Pope, Dr.
Brown, Messrs. T. G. Elliman, F. Crouch, William Brown, James
Grange (Wilstone), F. R. Butcher, C.C., W. B. Humphrey, J. E.
Lawson, Rev. L. R. Foskett, Rev. Charles Pearce, Messrs. W.
Woods, Thomas Glover, George Parrott, William Rodwell, Thomas
Grace, W. Baines, W. J. Dawe, C. Pitkin, F. W. Elliman, E. C.
Knight, H. Fincher, F. J. Brown, George Jeffery, T. Pusey, H.
Swannell, John Putnam, George Batchelor, J. Appleby, H.
Robinson, and T. King.
of previous vestries relating to the subject were read by the
Clerk, who also read the notice convening the meeting which had
been called pursuant to section 3 of chapter 128 of the 18th and
explained the position of affairs. The burial ground attached to
the church, which was by law the burial ground of the parish
(although there were other places of burial within the parish),
was in such a condition that at the present rate of use it would
be covered in four or five years. It seemed desirable that they
should not wait until the four or five years before taking some
action to make further provision. The land which Lord Rothschild
offered to give to the north side was not very large, but it
would serve for ten or fifteen years. However, on trying this
ground it was found that at a very short distance below the
surface they came to water; moreover, it was very close to
cottages which were at the back of the Allotment Field. To
prepare this ground, and to bring it into connection with the
existing ground, would necessitate considerable expense. Deeming
the ground unsuitable for the purposes of a burying ground, he
reported to this effect to the Vestry, and as it seemed to be
the duty of those in office to put the matter before the parish
at large that meeting had been called. According to the decision
arrived at, those whose duty it was by law to provide for the
necessary burials, would know, to some extent, how to act.
asked that section 3 of the act should be read — [This section
merely empowers the Wardens to convene a meeting] — and said if
he understood the section just read it placed the management
entirely in the hands of the Vicar, Churchwardens, and some
persons elected at a parish meeting.
Clerk: Then you do not understand it Mr. Humphrey — (laughter) —
for it does not say so. Mr. Vaisey proceeded to read sections of
the Burial Acts passed in the 15 and 16 Vic. and to show that if
the Vestry deemed a new burying ground necessary, a Burial Board
would have to be formed, and this Board would consist of not
less than three nor more than nine members. A third of the
members would retire each year.
said he supposed it was not compulsory that the Vicar should be
on the Board.
Then why is the name mentioned particularly?
Clerk: Because he is eligible for such a Board whether he is a
ratepayer or not. The other representatives must be ratepayers.
In the present instance even this proviso does not apply, for
the Vicar is a ratepayer and he stands on the same footing as
any other person.
The Rev. L.
R. Foskett: Then the Vestry appoints the Board?
The Vestry may proceed to elect in the first place, and if they
cannot agree a poll of the parish may be demanded by the
minority, and [in answer to Mr. Butcher] the expenses thereof
could be recovered from the Overseers in the same way as the
other expenses of the Board.
Grange to Mr. Humphrey: What is to be done — anything?
responded to Mr. Grange’s question and the vestry relapsed into
a dead silence which lasted a full minute. It was broken by more
questions of the Clerk and Chairman.
The Rev. O.
Pearce proposed “that it is necessary to provide a burial
ground for the parish.”
Rev. L. R.
Foskett asked whether the motion had any reference to this
particular Act of Parliament 18 and 19 Vic.
discussion ensued on this point, and it was evident that the
Nonconformist gentlemen present had come to the belief that the
ground was to be bought, and a Board formed under one particular
Act of Parliament, to the exclusion of any Act of a more
beneficial kind which might have been passed in more recent
years. The Clerk was at considerable pains to explain that this
was not so, and that all the Acts relating to burials, so far as
they affected a parochial Board, would have to be regarded.
added that if they passed the motion a copy would be sent to the
Secretary of State, and with it would go a copy of the notice
convening the meeting.
Butcher said he for one had been in hopes that this question
would have been staved off for several years, but it appeared to
be the opinion now that it could not be very long deferred. It
would not be a wise thing to drive off the matter, and although
he was not prepared to propose that a new ground be provided, he
should not oppose the motion which had been made. He thought the
ratepayers should understand that if this resolution was passed
it was tantamount to passing a resolution to form a Burial
Board. It was entirely in the hands of the ratepayers, and
entirely in the control of the parish. The Local Board might be
the Burial Board if the parish thought fit — not that the
members of the Local Board desired to have these new duties
placed upon them, but he merely mentioned the matter as a piece
of information. In any case the parish had the matter entirely
in their own hands and if they thought proper they could take a
poll of the ratepayers. If a Board were now formed they need not
act in a hurry in regard to the provision of a new ground; they
would have a few years before them in which to look out for the
necessary land and they might secure it on more advantageous
terms than when driven into a corner. He believed that if the
Vestry saw ﬁt to nominate a Burial Board they might do so that
The Rev. L.
R. Foskett asked the Clerk to refer to Martin’s Act — the Public
Health Burials Act of 1879, and asked whether this was not an
Act which provided for the dedication of cemeteries instead of
consecration by a Bishop.
They did so not long since at St. Albans, and it’s a very
The clergy can be present but there is no document.
recalled the Vestry to the fact that the question before them at
the moment was simply whether a new burial ground was necessary.
Mr. W. Woods
wished to know whether by passing that resolution they were tied
to the Act specified in the notice.
again explained that the Act in question was only mentioned as
the authority under which they had called the meeting. There was
no attempt to get the better of anyone.
The Rev. L.
R. Foskett said personally he was prepared to accept the Clerk’s
Mr. F. Crouch
said that the members of the Board being elected they would do
as they pleased.
The Rev. L.
A. Foskett: They ought to do as they are told. (Laughter)
Mr. J. E.
Lawson: In the event of a Burial Board being formed, will their
expenditure he limited or will it be unlimited? Can they spend
Certainly, but they will be bound by the opinion of the
parishioners. Three will have to meet the ratepayers every year.
What they do, I presume, will require the sanction of the
Secretary of State?
Yes; just as the Local Board requires the sanction of the Local
Dr. Pope: How
will the money be collected? By a General District Rate?
The Clerk: By
a precept on the Overseers, in the same way as the other
In answer to
other questions the Clerk said Wilstone would be included in the
said that if Wilstone were included the Local Board could not
act as the Burial Board.
in reply to other observations, said that the Long Marston
people had their own burying ground.
wished to call attention to the position of the church and
congregation at New Mill, where they had not long ago provided
an extended burying ground, and had incurred other expenditure
in the building of a wall. In the new ground they had 421
spaces, and the maximum depth of the graves was ten feet, so
that they might reasonably expect that three interments could be
made in each grave. That would give something like 1300 burials. As they had only 11 burials yearly this ground would last for
124 years which was a long time to look forward to. (Hear hear,
and a laugh.) Taking the entire burials in the New Mills ground
for the past 21 years the ground would last for 97 years. Having
provided this new ground the church and congregation thought it
hard that they should have to contribute to the cost of the
parochial burial ground.
Mr. W. Brown
impressed on the ratepayers the necessity of getting sufficient
land to last them a long time, and of seeing that it was
sufficiently removed from dwellings. He was engaged in the
purchase of the burial ground at Aylesbury, and his advice at
the time was “Be sure you have enough.” They did not however
take his advice. They purchased a lesser quantity and were now
beginning to regret it, for the ground was being rapidly filled
up. The new ground should also be right away from the town.
(Hear, hear.) But even then they could not control people in
what they might do hereafter, and houses might be built round it
after all, but so far as they could they should be particular on
these two points, to have enough and to have it clear away from
the houses. (Hear, hear.)
discussion, the motion was carried nem. com. [Ed. ― with no one
wished to know how many of the ratepayers of Tring there were
interested in the New Mills Burial Ground, but Mr. Putnam did
not answer the question.
On the motion
of Mr. Butcher, seconded by Mr. Foulkes, it was decided that the
Burial Board should consist of nine members.
At this stage
the Vicar had to vacate the chair, and Mr. Foulkes conducted the
proceedings to a close.
The Rev. C.
Pearce wished to say publicly that he had had several interments
at the cemetery, and that no one could have behaved in a more
gentlemanly, kind or generous way than had the Vicar. (Hear,
wished to know whether Long Marston had been included in the
said the notice was posted both at Long Marston and Wilstone.
thought they ought to be included in the new Board.
It was then
generally agreed that the Board ought to be confined to the
ecclesiastical parish of Tring.
But suppose that the Long Marston people prefer to be included
in this Board.
They have their rights of burial at Long Marston, and they would
have no right to have that for which they do not pay.
They have their public rights in the churchyard of Long Marston,
and they can go to New Mills, whose merits Mr. Putnam have shown
The Rev. Mr.
Pearce: Are the people of Long Marston parishioners of Tring?
Long Marston is not a part of the ecclesiastical parish of
It is a part of the parish for some purposes but not for
conversation it was decided to adjourn the meeting to the 19th
June, and the proceedings then terminated.
DUTIES OF THE MEDICAL OFFICER OF HEALTH.
From Manual for Medical Officers of Health by
Edward Smith FRS (1873).
The following shall be the duties of a medical officer of health in
respect of the sanitary district for which he is appointed; or if he
shall be appointed for more than one district, or for a part of a
district, then in respect of each of such districts or of such
1. He shall inform himself as far as practicable respecting all
influences affecting or threatening to affect injuriously the public
health within the district.
2. He shall enquire into and ascertain by such means as are at his
disposal the causes origin and distribution of diseases within the
district and ascertain to what extent the same have depended on
conditions capable of removal or mitigation.
3. He shall by inspection of the district both systematically at
certain periods and at intervals as occasion may require, keep
himself informed of the conditions injurious to health existing
4. He shall be prepared to advise the sanitary authority on all
matters affecting the health of the district, and on all sanitary
points involved in the action of the sanitary authority; and in
cases requiring it, he shall certify, for the guidance of the
sanitary authority, or of the justices, as to any matter in respect
of which the certificate of a medical officer of health or a medical
practitioner is required as the basis or in aid of sanitary action.
5. He shall advise the sanitary authority on any question relating
to health involved in the framing and subsequent working of such
by-laws and regulations as they may have power to make.
6. On receiving information of the outbreak of any contagious,
infectious, or epidemic disease of a dangerous character within the
district, he shall visit the spot without delay and enquire into the
causes and circumstances of such outbreak, and advise the persons
competent to act as to the measures which may appear to him to be
required to prevent the extension of the disease, and so far as he
may be lawfully authorised, assist in the execution of the same.
7. On receiving information from the inspector of nuisances that his
intervention is required in consequence of the existence of any
nuisance injurious to health, or of any overcrowding in a house, he
shall, as early as practicable, take such steps authorised by the
statutes in that behalf as the circumstances of the case may justify
8. In any case in which it may appear to him to be necessary or
advisable, or in which he shall be so directed by the sanitary
authority, he shall himself inspect and examine any animal, carcase,
meat, poultry, game, flesh, fish, fruit, vegetables, corn, bread, or
flour, exposed for sale, or deposited for the purpose of sale or of
preparation for sale, and intended for the food of man, which is
deemed to be diseased, or unsound, or unwholesome, or unfit for the
food of man; and if he finds that such animal or article is
diseased, or unsound, or unwholesome or unfit for the food of man,
he shall give such directions as may be necessary for causing the
same to be seized, taken, and carried away, in order to be dealt
with by a justice according to the provisions of the statutes
applicable to the case.
9. He shall perform all the duties imposed upon him by any by-laws
and regulations of the sanitary authority, duly confirmed, in
respect of any matter affecting the public health, and touching
which they are authorised to frame by-laws and regulations.
10. He shall enquire into any offensive process of trade carried on
within the district, and report on the appropriate means for the
prevention of any nuisance or injury to health therefrom.
11. He shall attend at the office of the sanitary authority, or at
some other appointed place, at such stated times as they may direct.
12. He shall from time to time report, in writing, to the sanitary
authority his proceedings, and the measures which may require to be
adopted for the improvement or protection of the public health in
the district. He shall in like manner report with respect to the
sickness and mortality within the district, so far as he has been
enabled to ascertain the same.
13. He shall keep a book or books, to be provided by the sanitary
authority, in which he shall make an entry of his visits, and notes
of his observations and instructions thereon, and also the date and
nature of applications made to him, the date and result of the
action taken thereon, and of any action taken on previous reports,
and shall produce such book or books, whenever required, to the
14. He shall also prepare an annual report, to be made to the end of
December in each year, comprising tabular statements of the sickness
and mortality within the district, classified according to diseases,
ages, and localities, and a summary of the action taken during the
year for preventing the spread of disease. The report shall also
contain an account of the proceedings in which he has taken part or
advised under the sanitary Acts, so far as such proceedings relate
to conditions dangerous or injurious to health, and also an account
of the supervision exercised by him, or on his advice, for sanitary
purposes over places and houses that the sanitary authority has
power to regulate, with the nature and results of any proceedings
which may have been so required and taken in respect of the same
during the year. It shall also record the action taken by him, or on
his advice, during the year, in regard to offensive trades,
bakehouses, and workshops.
15. He shall give immediate information to the Local Government
Board of any outbreak of dangerous epidemic disease within the
district, and shall transmit to the Board, on forms to be provided
by them, a quarterly return of the sickness and deaths within the
district, and also a copy of each annual and of any special report.
16. In matters not specifically provided for in this order, he shall
observe and execute, so far as the circumstances of the district may
require, the instructions of the Local Government Board on the
duties of medical officers of health, and all the lawful orders and
directions of the sanitary authority applicable to his office.
17. Whenever the Diseases’ Prevention Act of 1855 is in force within
the district, he shall observe the directions and regulations issued
under that Act by the Local Government Board, so far as the same
relate to or concern his office.
18. [Omitted in Urban] Where more than one medical officer of
health shall be appointed by a sanitary authority, such authority,
with the approval of the Local Government Board, may either assign
to each of the officers a portion of the district, or may distribute
the duties of medical officer of health amongst such officers.
The typhoid epidemic of 1871
The following article is reproduced
by kind permission
of its author,
For Victorians epidemics of yellow fever, cholera, smallpox and
typhoid were an ever-present risk. It was not just the poor
who suffered. Prince Albert’s death in 1861 aged 42, was
attributed to typhoid and his son the Prince of Wales contracted it
in 1871, but survived to become King Edward VII.
In 1838 Dr George Faithorn came to Chesham. In 1866 he was
joined by Dr John Foot Churchill as assistant, and in 1869 as
partner. Chesham Cottage Hospital opened for patients on 30th
October 1869, supported by contributions from Chesham churches.
It originally had seven beds, overseen by Head Nurse Arabella Hazard
and assisted by Nurse Anne Beckley. Dr Faithorn was the first
Chesham in 1871
By 1871 the population of Chesham town was about 5,000. The
main industries were shoemaking and chair-making for men, and
brush-making and straw plaiting for women. Chesham had many
isolated typhoid cases over the years, but in September 1871 there
was an epidemic known as the Chesham Plague. The Health
Inspector tracked and traced the cases from 2 Welsh tramps at the
Star and Garter beer-house at 53, 55 and 57 Church Street (which
became a house in 1936). Typhoid then spread to the 16
neighbouring cottages in Hearn’s Yard (off Bury Lane), then to
neighbouring Church Street, and then to Star Yard. The poor
people there typically lived in cramped, damp and insanitary
Caring for the ill
As the number of cases rose, the only patient at Chesham Hospital
was moved out so that it could be used solely for typhoid patients.
The hospital was soon full, and they tried to contain the disease by
encouraging people to remain isolated. The doctors worked
tirelessly visiting patients. Soon Dr Churchill was stricken
with typhoid, and lay in delirium in isolation. At the end of
September 1871 Dr Faithorn also contracted typhoid, but continued to
work for as long as he could. With both doctors ill they
needed help, and they sent for nurses from St. John’s House, which
was an Anglican Sisterhood Order, in the Strand in London. A
trained St John’s nurse, Jane Field, came to help. Water was
not considered safe enough to drink, so she gave patients beef-tea
Dr Faithorn died of typhoid on 12th October 1871 aged 64. The
Lancet wrote “he fell a victim to those very sanitary
defects that he strove in vain to remedy”. Meanwhile Dr
Churchill, who had now recovered, took over the practice. He
later attributed his survival to Anne East, the servant at their
house in Germain Street, who insisted that he had hot soup every
day. He remained a doctor until he retired aged 84 in 1927.
Jane Field had been a St John’s nurse for 12 years. She
arrived in Chesham when the two doctors were both ill. She had
previously worked in St Giles, London but she said that she had
never seen such squalor as in Chesham. After working for three
weeks she too caught typhoid. Nurses Werrells and Mason, were
sent to replace her. Nurse Field was ill for ten days and died
on 28th October 1871.
The Iron Hospital
A prefabricated corrugated-iron hospital (known as the Iron
Hospital) was put up behind Chesham Cottage Hospital, and opened on
28th October 1871. It could accommodate 26 patients, and was
used as an isolation unit for new patients, whilst the Cottage
Hospital was used for convalescence. Six patients were sent to
Mrs Rusher’s Convalescent Home in Dover.
The Iron Hospital was staffed by nurses from another Anglican order
of nurses based at All Saints Church, Margaret Street in London.
Infection rates dropped as patients were isolated and treated.
Rev Frederick Aylward, the vicar of St Mary’s Church in Chesham
often visited the sick at their homes or at the hospital. Hearn’s
Yard, the worst affected area, backed onto the Vicarage garden wall
off Church Street. He too caught typhoid, and after ten days
he died on 12th November 1871 aged 50. He was well loved and
respected, and it was said to be one of the biggest funerals Chesham
had ever had.
Nurse Jennings was an All Saints nurse and a widow with seven
children. She died aged 47 at the hospital on 14th November,
just two days after the vicar.
End of the Epidemic
By December 1871 there were no new typhoid cases. The
surviving nurses returned to London. People felt confident to
travel to Chesham again and trade picked up. Dr Churchill
later recalled that he had had 120 patients. There had been 24
deaths attributed directly to typhoid, and others died of measles or
diarrhoea. They were all buried in Chesham Cemetery.
Improved sanitation became an urgent requirement. Waterworks,
mains drainage, and a sewerage works were slowly introduced to
Chesham. Some of Hearn’s Yard was demolished, all that is left
of the old yard are the Sixpenny Houses. There continued to be
small numbers of typhoid cases over the following years, and the
Iron Hospital remained in use as a fever unit, until it was sold in
A patch of Chesham cemetery has the graves of the Christian vicar,
doctor and nurses who lost their lives during the epidemic. A
stone between the neighbouring graves of the two London nurses reads
(in capital letters): “In memory of two devoted nurses whose
lives were sacrificed in the midst of their labours of love during
the outbreak of fever in the autumn of 1871”.
A brass memorial plaque to Rev Aylward hangs in the parish church
behind the pulpit, which finishes with “in the faithful discharge
of his duties he was stricken with fever and slept in Jesus Nov 12
1871”. In the late 1950s a road called Aylward Gardens in
Chesham was named after him.
PUBLIC HEALTH IN CHESHAM - THE CHESHAM
The following article is reproduced
by kind permission
of its author,
In 1866 the fear of a possible cholera epidemic led Lord Chesham,
Rev Aylward the vicar and Dr Faithorn to outline plans for a
hospital. The original purpose was to isolate contagious diseases.
Chesham Cottage Hospital
Chesham Cottage Hospital opened in October 1869. However a newspaper
report on November 6, 1869, stated that the “hospital is not
intended for the reception of patients with contagious or infectious
diseases; it is contemplated to build a contagious and infectious
department on some other spot quite detached.” Not long after it was
built the hospital struggled during a typhoid epidemic in 1871.
The Iron Hospital
The need for the planned isolation unit was now urgent. In order to
get one quickly a prefabricated iron hospital was bought on August
11 1871 from C. Kent of Euston Road, London, who advertised as a
“Builder of Iron Churches, Schools and Hospitals”. There being no
station in Chesham yet, it was delivered by train in kit-form to
Berkhamsted Station on October 13. Local farmers arranged for it to
be collected by wagon and horses. Five men built it on a brick
foundation, 60 yards behind the newly built Cottage Hospital. It was
just over 50 feet long and 28 feet wide. It included a single ward,
a nurses’ room and three toilets. A kitchen was located in a
separate building linked by a covered walkway. It was accessed by a
long path below the Cottage Hospital. Construction of the hospital
was completed on Friday October 25. Twenty iron bedsteads,
mattresses, plus bedding and quilts were then delivered and put in. It was officially opened on October 28, 1871. It became known as the
“Iron Hospital”. Its immediate purpose was as an isolation hospital
for the typhoid epidemic. Its first nurses were from an Anglican
Order from All Saints Church, Margaret Street in London.
After the emergency of the typhoid epidemic the Iron Hospital closed
in January 1872. It was used occasionally thereafter for smaller
typhoid outbreaks in 1874 and 1878, and for scarlet fever in 1880
Isolation House in the Vale
In 1891 Dr John Foot Churchill, who had survived the typhoid
epidemic, said that they needed a new isolation hospital or a
four-roomed cottage out of town. His preference was for a brick
building rather than an iron building, because it got very cold in
the winter. In 1892 the Iron Hospital was sold for £35 17s, on the
condition that it was relocated. In 1896 a spate of scarlet fever
cases, encouraged Chesham Urban District Council General Purposes
Committee to rent a house on a farm in the Vale. It was furnished as
an infectious diseases hospital. In January 1897 books were donated
for patients to read. By May 1897 all the scarlet fever patients had
recovered. At the end of 1898 it ceased to be used.
The New Isolation Hospital in the Vale
In February 1900 Chesham Council bought some pasture land in the
Vale from Mr Freeman as “in the bottom meadow… with a frontage of
188 feet 7 inches.” The old Iron Hospital was re-erected there and
become known as the “Isolation Hospital”. The water supply came from
a pipe in the ground and it used oil lamps for lighting right up
until the end of the Great War. A separate building was put up at
the back as an ambulance station, for a horse-drawn ambulance to
bring patients. At its location in the Vale, it was first used in
1902 for a scarlet fever epidemic. Thereafter it was used regularly
for cases of scarlet fever, smallpox and diphtheria until March
1904. In June 1904 the possibility of enlarging the hospital in case
of another scarlet fever epidemic was discussed. However, after
painting it red, the Isolation Hospital was closed but kept in
readiness so that it could be used at short notice.
The Isolation Hospital was used again in 1907 and 1908 for scarlet
fever cases. From 1908 single cases were sent to London Fever
Hospital because it was cheaper to send a single patient there than
the cost of re-opening the hospital. It was then seldom used for 20
years, apart from some diphtheria cases in 1913.
County Isolation Hospital
In 1929 Stoke Mandeville hospital was extended to became a county
Isolation Hospital. From 1930 the old Isolation Hospital in Chesham
was rented out as Nos 1 and 2, Hospital Cottages. The Gale family
came to live in 1 Hospital Cottage, and later the Keen family took
it on. The Berry family came to live in the former nurses’ quarters
called 2 Hospital Cottages. Mrs Berry said “when my husband and I
first came here it still looked very much like a hospital,
everything was covered in brown varnish and the nurses’ quarters
were much as they must have been when in use as a hospital.”
By 1965 Chesham Urban District Council decided that the building was
considered as being not up to modern standards as a residence. In
1966 the tenants were rehoused in Chesham. In November 1968 Hospital
Cottages were put up for sale, with outline planning permission for
2 semi-detached dwellings if the existing properties were
demolished. The site was sold in 1969 and planning application was
put in for two bungalows and garages. Today the site of 1 Hospital
Cottages is a bungalow called Ivinghoe, and the site of 2 Hospital
Cottages is a bungalow called Langdale. There is nothing to show
that there was an isolation hospital there, but its founders have
roads named after them. Dr Faithhorn is remembered in Faithorn Close
off Chartrdge Lane and Rev Aylward the vicar is remembered in the
nearby Aylward Gardens of Berkeley Avenue. Both died in the Typhoid
Epidemic, which the Isolation Hospital was built to help.
THE FEVER HOSPITAL,
by Jean Davis.
On the south-eastern edge of Stool Field - one of Aldbury’s old open
fields - a small scatter of buildings stands among the desolation of
modern set-aside. They occupy part of a long, narrow site,
once a two-acre meadow owned by the publican of the Trooper
alehouse, and their isolation was intentional: they represent the
porter’s lodge, one of the wards, the wash-house and the mortuary of
the old Hospital for Infectious Diseases, built for the Berkhamsted
Rural Sanitary Authority and opened in December, 1879.
This site for the new hospital, adjoining a road linking Aldbury
village and the Berkhamsted to Tring highway (the old A41) was
chosen for its general accessibility within the health region it was
destined to serve and, at the same time, its remoteness from other
habitation. Unfortunately, soon after the plans were agreed, a
large house was built about a quarter of a mile away. This
house, Brightwood, will be familiar to older members of the
Hertfordshire Local History Association as the home of one of its
founding fathers, the late Sir James Craufurd, who was born there a
few years after the hospital was first occupied.
Financing the Hospital
An outbreak of smallpox in the Berkhamsted area in 1877 had prompted
the founding of a hospital for infectious diseases to replace the
old “pest house“ on the Common. The buildings were
planned under the provisions of the Public Health Act. 1875, and
this proposal was first considered under the auspices of the Tring
Urban Sanitary Authority and the Rural Sanitary Authority of
The estimated cost of the chosen site and primary building work
amounted to £1600, which it was hoped to borrow from the Local
Government Board. Accordingly an enquiry was held by an
official of the Board at the Station Hotel, Tring, on 20th June,
1877, to decide - among other things - whether the new hospital
should be funded jointly by Berkhamsted and Tring. Ultimately
it was the Berkhamsted authority which became the founding body,
borrowing the capital cost at 3½% , and patients from Tring were to
be admitted from 1881 on an annual subscription basis.
Early estimates proved optimistic, however. The site cost £425
and the buildings erected between 1878 and 1879 (that is, the first
ward pavilion, administration block and probably the mortuary) cost
£1975, making a total of £2400 — 50% more than the original
estimate. In 1897, when another new block was being considered
at a projected cost of £700, the loan still stood at £1167.
The discharge block (later used as another ward pavilion) was to be
added in 1899 for £171 and the porter‘s lodge in 1900 for £428.
A sample statement for the autumn of 1898 shows that the then cost
of maintenance and management amounted to £209 15s 7d (£209.75)
excluding the repayment of the loan. This running cost was
shared between the newly constituted Berkhamsted UDC and Tring UDC,
the area which was to benefit including Berkhamsted, Northchurch,
Tring Urban and Tring Rural, Aldbury, Puttenham, Wigginton, Little
Gaddesden and Nettleden.
In this year, when a second pavilion was to be added, it was again
suggested that the Tring Council should come to a proper joint
ownership agreement, paying a full proportion of the new loan
calculated on rateable values, and so acquire a permanent interest:
but this proposal was not accepted. In the event, a new
isolation hospital to serve Tring was built
in 1901, on the outskirts of Little Tring, by the generosity of Lord
The estimate for the Aldbury hospital in the second half of 1900
included £67.50 for salaries (doctor, manager and wife, matron and
clerk), £51.50 for wages and the upkeep of nurses and laundry maid,
and£34 for the upkeep of matron and managers. “Necessaries”
amounted to £200 and £35 was paid for furniture, drapery and
fittings. Repairs to the existing buildings would cost £114.
The total, including petty cash and interest on the loan, came to
The manager (or master) and his wife lived in the upper floor of the
administrative block, and when the hospital was in use he was
expected to give it his full attention and his wife had to act as
nurse if required. They also had “the privilege of making
such as they choose of the garden ground”. As revealed in
the census for 1881, the “Master” was a 32-year-old general
labourer from Essex.
Local Government Board Report, 1882
A report and papers on the “Use of Hospitals for Infectious
Diseases”, submitted by the Medical Officer of the Local
Government Board, gave considerable space to Aldbury’s isolation
hospital, which he rated highly. It is said (A Short
History of Berkhamsted, Percy Birtchnell, p.65) that the plans
were regarded as so good that they were borrowed by several other
The entry for Berkhamsted Rural District estimates a population of
11,000; the (then) number of beds as eight, or 0.7 per 1,000 of
population; the floorspace per bed as 144 sq ft; the ward capacity
per bed as 2,000 cu ft; the cost of the hospital, excluding the
site, as £2,162; and the cost per bed (ex cost of the site) as £270.
“The addition of the second pavilion will increase the number of
beds to 16, the administrative building sufficing for the
requirements of the increased accommodation, and the cost per bed
will then amount to somewhat under £180."
The Hospital Buildings
The report deals in detail with the construction work. The
architect for the project was Mr. John Ladds, of Chapel Street,
Bedford Row in London. As originally designed, the buildings
consisted of “two detached ward pavilions of eight beds each,
communicating with an administrative block by means of a corrugated
iron way; and also of two detached buildings, one containing a
wash-house, an ironing room, an ambulance shed, a disinfecting room
and a store-room for dry earth [to be used in the ‘earth closets’];
the other being a mortuary”.
White stock bricks, with red brick strings and window heads, were
planned for the earlier buildings (although yellow stocks or local
Slapton bricks can be seen to have been used) and the result was
modern and decorative — far more so than the homes of most of the
eventual inmates. The roofs were enlivened with brick
patterns, the ridges neatly tiled, the doors panelled, the partly
tile-hung gables unusually smart and the sash windows had single
large panes on the bottom half, with six small ones above.
Each of the two ward pavilions, one of which was built at a later
date, was designed in three bays. The nurse’s room occupied
the centre bay, a ward for beds on either side; and at the
extremities of the block were two small lobbies, each containing a
sink and an earth closet. The ground floor of the
administrative block, which was also the home of the manager and his
wife, contained a surgery, matron’s room and kitchen quarters, with
coal house and earth closet. The sleeping accommodation was
upstairs. This later became known the Matron’s house, the last
Matron being Mrs. Starkis. The lodge adjoining the road,
originally designed as a porter’s lodge, was said to have been later
used to house the night nurses.
Water was pumped from a 50-foot well into the chalk at the north end
of the grounds, with a cesspool 350 feet to the south, . . the flow
of springs in the chalk being from north to south.
Fittings and Equipment
Newcastle-upon-Tyne isolation hospital ambulance
Floors throughout the wards were
to be tongued and grooved. Investigation proves that the
tongues were of metal, and the floors were suspended well above the
ground level. The sash windows were designed for maximum
ventilation, and openings in the ceiling (estimated to have been 15
feet high) were fitted with “Boyle’s ventilators”.
These uninsulated buildings, on an exposed site, must have been like
an ice-box, despite the effons of the “Galton stoves with warm
air shafts behind”.
At the outset, no ambulance was provided for the hospital, although
a temporary vehicle was later housed at the Workhouse in
Berkhamsted. In general terms, it was to be “such that the
patient can lie full length in it; and the bedframe and bed should
be movable, so that the patient can be arranged upon the bed before
being taken out of his house . . . If intended for journeys of not
more than a mile, it may be made so as to be carried between two
people, or it may be on wheels and be drawn by hand. if . . . above
a mile, the ambulance should be drawn by a horse.” It is
doubtful whether the local ambulance was ever as grand as the one
illustrated, designed for Newcastle-upon-Tyne.
At a later date, a splendid fold-up carrying chair made by Leveson
and Sons of New Oxford Street, London, was donated to Aldbury’s
hospital. The stout frame was of oak and the back and seat
were of woven cane. Two pairs of handles were provided behind
the patient, and one pair in front.
The End of the Aﬂair
The last entries in the Admission and Discharge Book were made in
1948, when the hospital was declared redundant. Applications
to change the buildings into dwellings were later granted for the
lodge, the original ward block and the administrative block, but
attempts to adapt the second ward pavilion were unsuccessful.
This was subsequently pulled down, as were the covered ways; and, at
a later date, a new access was provided to the two lower buildings.
Now the lodge, which acquired an adjacent paddock of some four
acres, has doubled its size and it was described, in estate agents’
jargon, as “a magnificent country house”. The other two
major buildings have been made into attractive homes.
Ward block - former
Aldbury Isolation Hospital as it is today.
The surviving ward pavilion, enhanced by a new bay window, a new
porch and many internal improvements — including a lowered ceiling,
solid floors and other devices to retain the warmth — would be
unrecognizable to former inmates. The garden which surrounds
it, and constitutes the whole of the end of the plot, includes the
washhouse block, now used as a garage, and the mortuary, which
houses gardening paraphernalia. A comer of the site provides a
paddock for a smart grey horse, whose primary function is to pull a
trap for its owners. The foundations of the demolished
pavilion form the basis of a splendid pool and rock garden, while
trees, shrubs, lawns, herbaceous borders, a sunken garden and tubs
of flowers raised in the greenhouse provide a landscape visited
mainly by badgers and rabbits — undreamed of by the earlier
occupants, yet isolated still, as they were, from other human
Patients and Epidemics
The number of patients in the hospital fluctuated greatly.
Council records show that the number of bed-days of occupation in
1899 was 12,950; in 1903 it was 24; and in 1904 it was nil, partly
explained by the fact that, from January 1902 to May 1905, the
hospital was reserved for smallpox cases in the Committee’s own
district and Tring RDC, all fever cases from both districts being
treated in the new fever hospital at Tring.
The most detailed information, however, appeared in the Admission
and Discharge Book for the Aldbury hospital, jealously guarded by
the late owner of one of the remaining buildings (now private
houses) until his death some years ago, when it was removed from the
The record covered the years 1899 to 1942 (with one or two pages
probably missing) and shows that patients suffered from five major
illnesses: diphtheria (417 cases - 24 deaths); typhoid (46 cases - 6
deaths); scarlet fever (1,575 cases - 6 deaths); meningitis (3 cases
- 1 death); and smallpox (1 case). Other admissions were for
erisypelas (4 cases - 1 death); measles (13 cases); paratyphoid (4
cases); gastritis (2 cases); chicken pox (1 case); mumps (1 case)
and whooping cough (1 case).
The average stay in the hospital in the last few years before the
hospital closed in 1948 was about 40 days, and those still alive who
stayed there (some more than once) describe their families coming
and peering through the iron gates, waving and calling as they were
not allowed to come any nearer.
During the first world war, a number of diphtheria patients were
sent from service hospitals at Tring and Halton; in the second world
war they came from Ashridge hospital, set in the grounds of Ashridge
College. Evacuees provided another source of patients, as well
as those from the Workhouse, and the “Foundling Hospital” in
Berkhamsted after 1936.
Comparison between the Admission Book and the Log Book for Aldbury
School shows that sometimes a very small proportion of cases were
serious enough to reach the hospital. For example, in the
measles epidemic of 1901, when school attendance was cut from 110 to
16, no cases were sent to the wards; and in four years when the
school was completely closed with measles, no admission to the
hospital were considered necessary, although there was at least one
Further examination of the Admission Book highlights the areas where
disease was prevalent, such as the “yards” and the clusters
of farm cottages. When such large families were crowded into
too few rooms, germs were hard to escape and the progress of an
epidemic of, say, scarlet fever, could be traced as, one by one, the
children who comprised a very high proportion of the hospital
inmates were attacked.
In 1914, an epidemic of diphtheria, in which altogether 29 patients
were admitted and two died, started at 11 New Street, Berkhamsted on
1st April, when William Gilbert aged eleven was admitted. Over
a 2½-year period, a succession of 13 children and young people were
admitted from New Street and Bridge Street near the canal. The
last was May Gilbert, aged 13, probably a sister of the first
admission, though six other families were involved during the course
of the epidemic.
A similar outbreak occurred in the Shrublands/Gossoms End area of
Berkhamsted, again covering a period of 2½ years.
The average age of the Aldbury invalids was just over ten, the
oldest being Mr. Dale, the village schoolmaster, who died of typhoid
in 1928 at the age of 55. Ironically, considering his everyday
contact with the children, there was apparently no other case in the
village that year.
Among other adults who were isolated with diphtheria were two of the
Miss Craufurds of Brightwood, aged 24 and 25, together with another
adult from that address, perhaps one of the staff. Captain R.
Q. Craufurd was also isolated, with scarlet fever, in 1908 at the
age of 30.
Turnpike trusts were bodies set up by individual
acts of Parliament to improve the standard of principal roads.
These Acts gave them powers to collect tolls from road users, the
money so raised being used to maintain the roads under their care,
which became known as ‘turnpike roads’, or simply ‘turnpikes’.
Turnpike trusts came into existence towards the end of the 17th
century, proliferated during the 18th century, and were gradually
replaced by local or central government administration in the later
years of the 19th century.
The reservoir referred to was never built, at least not in the
Private Acts applying to public infrastructure projects came to the
fore during the early 18th century, first with the
construction of turnpike roads, each of which had its own private
Act of Parliament (see fn. 1 above). The turnpike Acts were
followed by similar private legislation applying to the construction
of canals, railways, and public gas, water and drainage utilities.
The Aylesbury and Buckingham Railway Company, located in
Buckinghamshire, operated between Aylesbury and Verney Junction.
The company was incorporated in 1860 and opened on 23rd September
1868. It served intermediate stations at Waddesdon Manor, Quainton
Road, Grandborough, and Winslow Road, but never reached Buckingham.
‘Local boards’ or ‘local boards of health’ were local authorities in
urban areas of England and Wales from 1848 to 1894. They were
formed in response to cholera epidemics and were given powers to
control sewers, clean the streets, regulate environmental health
risks including slaughterhouses and ensure the proper supply of
water to their districts. Local boards were eventually merged with
the corporations of municipal boroughs in 1873, or became urban
districts in 1894.
Samuel Collett Homersham (1816–86) was an English hydraulic engineer
and hydrologist. He studied rainfall patterns and subterranean water
in various parts of England, impurities in water, and the effects of
softening water supplies.
Clark’s process is a type of water treatment used for softening
water on a large scale. A calculated amount of lime water
[Ca(OH)2] is added to tanks containing hard water. The bicarbonates
of calcium and magnesium present in the water are converted into
soluble carbonates that settle at the bottom and the soft water is
then drained off.
A description of the wells sunk at Dancers’ End appears in A
Treatise on Waterworks for the Supply of Cities and Towns, by
Samuel Hughes FGS, Civil Engineer, 1875:
“These works are
of considerable magnitude, and consist of three wells, each 236 feet
deep, with adits 541 feet in length, and five borings of 7 inches
diameter, each about 55 feet deep. The surface of the wells is 562
feet above sea-level, and the water line is 178 feet below this, or
384 feet above mean sea level.
The three wells
are respectively 4½, 5. and 6 feet in diameter, and are wholly sunk
in chalk. The adits are 5½ feet wide and 7 feet high, and are
driven at 226 feet below top of wells. The average quantity of water
pumped per day is about 400,000 gallons.”
It was not apparent at first that lime could be obtained on the site
― this became clear later, as is apparent from the report of the
1872 company general meeting, when it was stated that:
“The works were
in a very satisfactory state, both with respect to the machinery and
plant; they now burned their own lime, as has been stated, and it
was a marvellous thing that their great engineer who had backed up
their case, although he had finally laid them on their tacks, should
have overlooked that fact, and they had gone scouring the
neighbourhood for lime when they had the very best that could be
obtained for the purpose on their own premises.”
rather suggests the directors and their engineer, S. C. Homersham,
parted on a sour note.
Well being sunk.
In this context an adit is a horizontal or nearly horizontal tunnel
or shaft extending outwards from the main vertical shaft of the
well - see diagram.
The 1866 cholera epidemic was mostly confined to the East End of
London, where it claimed 5,596 lives. By then the mechanism of
contagion was more clearly understood and modern sewerage was
functioning in the large cities. At the time London was completing
its major sewage and water treatment systems, but the East End
section was incomplete. Epidemiologist William Farr used the work
of John Snow and others to identify drinking water supplied by the
East London Water Company as the source of the contamination, and
quick action prevented further deaths. In the same year, the use of
contaminated canal water in local water works caused a minor
outbreak at Ystalyfera in South Wales leading to 119 deaths.
Although cholera swept across the European continent in the 1870s
and 1890s, it did not cross the Channel in epidemic force.
A capital project is a long-term investment requiring relatively
large sums of money to acquire, develop, improve, and/or maintain a
capital asset (in this case the Dancer’s End waterworks and pipeline
network). Generally speaking, income from which to pay dividends to
the shareholders in such a project can be delayed for many years,
depending not only on the progress of construction but on the amount
of interest due on additional money borrowed to help finance the
venture. In the case of the CHSWC, business commenced in 1867 but
its shareholders received nothing for the first six years of
operation, revenue being absorbed by capital and operating costs.
In 1874, a dividend of 2% was declared; in 1875, 3%; in 1876 3.5%;
in 1877, 4%; in 1878, 4%; in 1879, 4.5%; between 1880 and 1883, 5%
(a 5% dividend was not paid again until 1899); and in 1884 and 1885,
For many years after its supply became available, people preferred
to save money by drawing their water from public and private wells,
thus reducing the company’s projected revenue.
produced each year by the Medical Officer of Health of a district
and set out the work done by his public health and sanitary
officers. The reports provided vital data on birth and death rates,
infant mortality, incidence of infectious and other diseases, and a
general statement on the health of the population.
Charles Edward Saunders (1843-1904) M.D.Aberd., M.R.C.P.Lond.,
D.P.H.Camb. Commenced training at St. Thomas’s Hospital in 1861 and
took the M.D. Aberdeen with honours five years later. He later held
the post of Surgical Registrar at St. Thomas’s, Medical Officer of
Health for certain combined districts of Hertfordshire and
Middlesex, and Superintendent of the Sussex County Asylum at
District Medical Officers of Health published annual reports setting
out the work done by his public health and sanitary officers. These
reports provided vital data on birth and death rates, infant
mortality, incidence of infectious and other diseases, and a general
statement on the health of the population. They often highlighted
the prevailing standards of public health in particular localities,
such as Tring.
Under the provisions of the Local Government Act (1894), an Urban
District Council of 12 members was formed in 1894 to govern the
parish of Tring. This new body superseded the Tring Local Board
of Health, which had been established in February 1859 to
improve standards of public health in the town. Under the same Act,
Tring was divided into two civil parishes, ‘Urban’ and ‘Rural’, the
latter having a Parish Council of 7 members. Tring Urban District
Council first met on 3rd January 1895 and continued in
being until April 1974 when Tring became part of the new Dacorum
The Silk Mill Pond was used to gather and store the water that drove
a large waterwheel (which still exists) in the Silk Mill; this wheel
originally powered the Mill’s machinery, but was later replaced by a
steam engine. The Silk Mill Pond still exists, although it is now
much reduced in size and obscured by modern housing, but in 1867 it
extended from the site of today’s fire station down to the Silk
Mill, and occupied an area of some 3 acres.
John Bailey Denton (1814–1893): surveyor and civil engineer, and a
specialist in land drainage and sanitary engineering.
The Local Government Board was created under the Local Government
Board Act (1871) to supervise local administration in England and
Wales. It existed until 1919 when it was replaced by the new
Ministry of Health.
The Public Health Act (1875) aimed to combat filthy urban living
conditions, which caused various public health threats including the
spread of many diseases such as cholera and typhus. Reformers wanted
to resolve sanitary problems, including a lack of effective sewage
disposal. The Act required all new residential construction to
include running water and an internal drainage system, and led to
the government prohibiting the construction of shoddy housing. It
also required every public health authority to have a medical
officer and a sanitary inspector, to ensure the laws on food,
housing, water and hygiene were carried out. Towns also had to have
paved and lighted streets.
Under drainage: the drainage of agricultural lands and removal of
excess water by drains buried beneath the surface.
William Henry Corfield was an expert in the treatment and
utilisation of sewage and afterwards became known as an exponent of
land filtration and sewage farms. He was ahead of his time in
accounting for the causation and spread of acute infectious diseases
and was responsible for many practical measures afterwards justified
by bacteriological discoveries. He was likewise in advance of his
contemporaries in advocating healthy living conditions for the
populace. He wrote and lectured widely on these subjects, and his
Laws of Health, first published in 1880, reached a ninth edition
Thomas Mead owned the land on which the previous sewage farm stood,
and operated it ― for which the Council paid him £100 p.a. ― until
it had to be abandoned by direction of the Local Government Board.
It was replaced by the new sewage farm, built on the opposite side
of the Wendover Arm canal to the Tring Flour Mill, which Mead owned
and where he and his family lived.
Joseph Edward Willcox (1857-1941) was a sanitary engineer and
partner in the firm of Willcox & Raikes, Civil Engineers, Temple
26a. Aldbury Isolation Hospital
was built in 1871 by the Berkhamsted Sanitary Authorities for the
use of the inmates of the Berkhamsted Union. It had 16 beds in
1871 although by 1948 that number had increased to 24. The
hospital was situated in Newground Road. On 13th June 1898 the
Aldbury Hospital Joint Committee took responsibility for the
Hospital. It held its first meeting on 13th June 1898, and
consisted of three members of Berkhamsted Rural District Council,
three members of Great Berkhamsted Urban District Council and 3
members of Tring Urban District Council. In 1902 Tring
Isolation Hospital and Aldbury combined services, with Tring taking
all the smallpox cases and Aldbury all the scarlet fever cases.
It was used during the First World War as a military hospital.
In 1948 when the National Health Service was created the future of
Aldbury Hospital was uncertain; however, in September 1948 the
hospital was closed.
The two hospitals
appear to have coordinated their activities, as is illustrated from
this report on the Berkhamsted diphtheria outbreak of 1935:
cases and contacts [of diphtheria] were admitted to the
Aldbury Isolation Hospital where rapid steps were taken to devote
all wards to diphtheria - a few cases of scarlet fever being
evacuated to Tring Isolation Hospital and a case of Paratyphoid
fever fortunately being just fit to return home. This turnover
involved much detailed work and a considerably augmented nursing
staff was installed to nurse the cases of diphtheria, some of which
were of a severe type. At one time there were 22 cases and 4
carriers in the Hospital. There were altogether received into
this Hospital during the outbreak 34 cases and 6 carriers.”
From the Annual Report South
Herts Sanitary District 1935.
Poor law unions existed in England and Wales from 1834 to 1930 to
administer poor relief. Prior to the Poor Law Amendment Act (1834),
the administration of the English Poor Laws was the responsibility
of the vestries of individual parishes, which varied widely in their
size, populations, financial resources, rateable values and
requirements. From 1834 the parishes were grouped into unions,
jointly responsible for the administration of poor relief in their
areas. Each was governed by a ‘board of guardians’. Tring came under
the Berkhamsted Poor Law Union, which was formed in June, 1835. It
comprised the parishes of Aldbury, Berkhamsted, Little Gaddesden,
Nettleden, Northchurch, Puttenham, Long Marston, Wigginton,
Marsworth and Pitstone, the latter two villages being in
“By the Public Health (Interments) Act, 1879, it is provided that
any local authority may acquire, construct, and maintain a cemetery;
and for that purpose all the provisions of the Public Health Act,
1875, as to a place to be provided by the local authority for the
reception of the dead before interment, therein called a mortuary,
shall extend to such cemetery. The cemetery may be either within or
without the district of the local authority (S. 2); and the local
authority may accept a donation of land for the purpose of a
cemetery, or of money or other property for enabling them to
acquire, construct, or maintain a cemetery (S. 3).” ― From
The Law of Burial by James Brook Little, B.A. (1902)
The graveyard extension was cleared of most of its stones in 1973,
when adjacent area of slum housing was redeveloped to provide the
awful Dolphin Square shopping centre and the Frogmore Street car
In England, in its day, the Parish Vestry was an important element
of local government. The parish vestry committee was equivalent to
the modern parochial church council, but with responsibilities for
secular parish business ― now the responsibility of a parish council
― and other activities, such as local administration of the poor
By the late 19th
century, the proliferation of local government bodies led to a
confusing fragmentation of responsibilities and this became a driver
for large scale local government reform. The result was the Local
Government Act 1894. Under the Act, secular and ecclesiastical
duties were separated with the introduction of a system of elected
rural parish and urban district councils. Secular matters were
removed from the parish vestries and transferred to these newly
bodies, leaving parish vestries with the management of church
affairs. In 1921 ―
under the Parochial Church Councils (Powers) Measure 1921 Act ―
parochial church councils were established to succeed parish
vestries, and since then the only remnant of the vestry has been the
annual meeting of parishioners convened solely for the election of
churchwardens of the ecclesiastical parish.
30. The decision on a new cemetery for Tring was
taken at the end of the period in which the parish vestry still
played a role ― albeit of diminishing importance ― in local
government, as is evidenced by the Tring Vestry’s
deliberations on the need for a new cemetery, which were reported at
length in the local press. This article is reproduced for
historical interest at APPENDIX
Of the 30,000 Londoners who contracted cholera in 1849, 15,000 died
as a result.
John Snow demonstrated a clear understanding of germ theory in his
writings before germ theory had been generally accepted by the
medical profession. He first published his theory on cholera in his
1849 essay On the Mode of Communication of Cholera. In it he
suggested (correctly) that the fecal-oral route was the mode of
communication and that the disease replicated itself in the lower
intestines. He later proposed that the structure of cholera was
that of a cell. However, more formal experiments establishing the
relationship between germ and disease were carried out in France
during the early 1860s by Louis Pasteur, whose medical discoveries
provided direct support for the germ theory of disease and its
application in clinical medicine.
William Budd (1811-80) recognised that the “poisons” involved in
infectious diseases such as cholera and typhoid multiplied in the
intestines of the sick, were present in their excretions, and could
then be transmitted to the healthy through their consumption of