Glossop Urban Sanitary Authority.
Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health for the year 1899.

This article is a transcript of the original report, providing a snapshot of conditions in the Borough at the time.

To the Mayor, Aldermen, and Burgesses of the Borough of Glossop.

As required by order of the Local Government Board, I beg leave to present to you my Report on the Sanitary condition of the Borough of Glossop during the year 1899, together with the deaths during the year, classified as to cause, age, and locality, on Form A, and the notified diseases similarly classified on Form B, both of which forms accompany the report but are too elaborate to be printed and circulated.

To make the subject more clear to all readers, permit me to repeat the description of the Borough from the report of last year.

The Borough of Glossop is situated on the slope of the Peak of Derbyshire. Though at a considerable elevation above the level of the sea, it is mainly in a valley surrounded by hills. The St. James's and All Saints' Wards are in the valley through which the Glossop Brook flows to join the Etherow. Brookfield and Woolley Bridge, portion of the Hadfield Ward, are at the junction of Glossop Brook with the Etherow, while the main portion of Hadfield Ward is on the Etherow separated from St. James's and All Saints' Wards by the elevation of the Castle Hill, which forms a sparsely inhabited break of about a mile between the two portions of the Borough. Padfield, a portion of Hadfield Ward is, with the exception of Platt Street, Padfield, which is at the foot of the hill, on an elevation overlooking Hadfield proper.

The District is on a sub-soil of boulder clay with occasional deposits of sand and gravel overlaying shales and millstone grit.

The trade of the district is chiefly textile. There is a large Paper Works, also large Print Works and smaller Iron Works, with a few works for the making of Spring Mattresses, also Bleach Works. Most of the people, however, are employed in Cotton Spinning and Weaving Mills, chiefly of large size.

In connection with the geology of the district and the employment of its inhabitants, attention may well be given to the comparative statistics of Phthisis, and of the other respiratory diseases given for 1897 by Dr. Barwise in his report for that year.

The Death-rates, Phthisis 2.10 per thousand, Respiratory 8.90 per thousand, were higher than the average for the county, as they were also in 1898, but not appreciably higher than the general average for the whole of England. Our rates last year were much less, being respectively 1.97 and 2.98. The tendency to these diseases is increased in this district by employment by confinement in heated rooms during the day, and exposure to cold air in the evenings.

Further, the tendency is increased by our clay sub-soil. Our clay sub-soil we cannot remove, but when we consider how it acts we may arrive at conclusions as to remedies.

The clay acts by preventing the passage of water from the soil and keeping, as it were, “a wet blanket” over the surface of the district. It gives us a cold damp soil, especially with our great rain-fall.

The first evident remedy is drainage, and it is to be hoped that our Sewage Scheme, which is now fast approaching completion, will not only aid us in diminishing the Zymotic death-rate, but will, by draining the district, diminish the deaths from Phthisis and Respiratory Diseases.

I need hardly, I think, specify thorough drainage of sites for houses, but I may point out the usefulness of covering the sites of houses with concrete. The heated air in houses has, of course, an upward tendency, and, especially if sufficient air inlets are not provided, has a tendency to draw damp and polluted air out of the ground, if some impervious layer is not interposed.

This leads me on to another remedy, i.e., free ventilation both in workshops and private dwelling houses. This remedy will no doubt he readily appreciated by those who have read about the modern open air treatment of Phthisis.

May I point out a mistake I have observed in the ventilation even of better class houses. It is forgotten that for efficient ventilation both an inlet and an outlet are required. When Boyle's extractors, which are so constructed as to act only as extractors are used, it is necessary to provide some suitable inlet, so situated, if air previously warmed is not supplied, as not to blow directly on the inmates of the house. The tendency of an extractor without a suitable inlet is, when working its best, to cause draught from under doors cooling the feet of the inmates, draught from chinks of doors or windows, or even down draught from chimneys or the drawing of ground air from the basement.

We may, I think, hope by drainage and ventilation to diminish the mortality from these diseases.

The following were the death-rates from Respiratory Diseases in the Borough during the last three years :—
  Pleurisy. Bronchitis, Pneumonia and Phthisis.
1897 2.10 per thousand 3.90 per thousand
1898 1.48 per thousand 3.27 per thousand
1899 1.97 per thousand 2.98 per thousand

The water supply of St. James's and All Saints' Wards is mainly derived from the Swineshaw Reservoirs belonging to the Corporation, some parts of Whitfield having a separate supply.

The water supply of Hadfield is derived from Reservoirs belonging to Lord Howard of Glossop.

The supply of water for the Borough is very barely sufficient for its present requirements.

Last year in connection with the Typhoid Epidemic of 1898, I pointed out the importance of the general adoption of the water closet system and the doing away with privy pits, cesspools, and even pails, which lead to accumulations of offensive matter in the neighbourhood of the town.

For this purpose a more liberal supply of water will undoubtedly be required.

There is an excellent General Hospital provided by the munificence of the late Mr. Daniel Wood, and at Gamesley, beyond the limits of the Borough, there is an Infectious Hospital belonging to the Corporation.

Last year in connection with the Scarlet Fever Epidemic of 1898 I pointed out the importance of a larger Hospital. The expense per bed of a larger hospital would be less. The expense of an infectious hospital is necessarily rather large per patient on account of irregular use, but the great expense to individual burgesses of home treatment has to be considered, as well as the loss and inconvenience from epidemics to the works in the neighbourhood from absence of workpeople.

As has been already stated a Sewage Scheme for the Borough is in progress, and is fast approaching completion. It is intended to deal with the sewage by a process of precipitation.

At this time there are a couple of points regarding traps that I think a Medical Officer of Health may advantageously point out. I do not wish to dwell on questions of construction, which properly belong to an engineer, or to the evil of letting a trap run dry, which is obvious, but on two ways in which, in the absence of free ventilation of the drain beyond the trap and of frequent renewal of the water in the trap, the best constructed trap may fail to afford protection. Few traps have more than three inches of seal, probably many have no more than one-and-a-half inches or even less. Too deep a seal causes obstruction. It is evident that pressure of foul air in the drain or sewer equal to a column of water only three inches high will force any ordinary trap. Furthermore, if the water in the trap is not frequently renewed, and especially if there is pressure in the sewer, foul air may enter into solution on one side of the trap and escape from solution on the other side. In this way ammonia has been found to pass through an unbroken trap in fifteen minutes. I have mentioned these points because I have found an idea prevailing in certain ill-informed quarters that foul air could not possibly pass through water. Such an idea amongst the users of our sewers might lead to disappointing results.

An excellent motion has been made in Committee, by a member of the Council, that there should be a reform in the ashpits in the neighbourhood.

All Ashpits should be covered in so as effectually to prevent rain water from getting into them, and the bottom should be covered with concrete so as to prevent soakage of putrescent matter into the soil.

Last year in connection with the Typhoid Epidemic of 1898 I pointed out the importance, especially where the conservancy system of sewage removal is still retained, of paving back yards, so as to prevent accidental dropping of putrescent matter from contaminating the soil.

The Infectious Diseases Notification Act is in force in the Borough. I have frequently gone over the various parts of the Borough visiting every case of notified disease, investigating causes of the disease, such as surroundings of houses, milk supply, schools attended, &c. I have also recommended the precautions appropriate to each disease. I have been followed by the Inspectors, who have supplied disinfectants, distributed printed forms of instructions for disinfection, and disinfected houses when necessary. I have altered the paper of instructions for Scarlet Fever previously used in the Borough, so as to bring it more into accordance with modern ideas of disinfection. I have also had printed another paper containing the instructions appropriate to Typhoid Fever. I have good reason to think they are read and studied by friends of patients.

Beginning about the middle of February we had an epidemic of Whooping Cough.

This is not a notified disease, and from this fact and the manner of its onset it is extremely difficult to adopt measures for its prevention.

From about the middle of February until about the end of March we had an epidemic of Influenza. The question of school closure was discussed, but Influenza, when it comes, is so general and affects grown up people in so large proportion, that such interruption of education seemed of no use. Let us hope that as seemed to have happened in a previous generation, successive epidemics may render susceptible individuals insusceptible, and that we may again, as previously, have an interval of some forty years without an epidemic.

On July 18th, 1899, I visited the Duke of Norfolk's School and found that a serious epidemic of measles had broken out in consequence of a boy who had recently come into the town falling ill and infecting others. I found on inquiry that surrounding schools seemed to be free, and took immediate steps for closing the Duke of Norfolk's School during the time that intervened before the vacation. This measure for a time seemed to be attended by phenomenal success, but as there was so much measles in neighbouring towns we had an epidemic later.

There were last year 56 cases of Scarlet Fever as against 249 cases in 1898. Of the 56 cases 15 were removed to Gamesley Hospital.

The popularity of the hospital seems to increase, but the accommodation at our disposal is limited. For an air borne infection like that of Scarlet Fever, removal to Hospital is very important, especially for cases occurring in large families, densely populated districts, or in families engaged in trade. In the early part of the year, indeed up to the end of September, with the exception of a few imported cases, the disease was mainly confined to the relations of one family, and those connected or brought in contact with them. The first case in the series was one that was long unrecognised and medical aid not sought.

In October and November the disease became epidemic in Higher Whitfield and Padfield. The Whitfield epidemic seemed again to be traceable to a case to which medical aid had not been summoned.

Near Padfield the disease was found in a milk seller's family, but the precautions adopted were so effective that only one case was found in his milk round. This was considered no more than the probable proportion from other causes.

In the case of the epidemic in Padfield and neighbourhood, there seemed a probability that the disease had been imported through contact at a cycle parade.

In October the danger arising from unrecognised cases led to my publishing in the local newspapers an account of the most evident symptoms of Scarlet Fever, and of the duties devolving on parents and guardians when such symptoms appeared.

I think my letter attracted general attention. No case notified in Padfield after December 4th.

For Disinfection of Clothing, &c, in cases of Scarlet Fever, my instructions include boiling, or when that is inadmissible, scalding with hot water, chemical disinfection, washing, and exposure for two or three days to fresh air. I must again state, however, that the possession of a steam disinfector, managed under official control, would be a great boon to the Borough.

To prevent the spread of air borne diseases by books from the Public Library, I recommend that a rule be adopted and prominently posted up by the Library Committee, that no Books be issued to families when there is Small-Pox, Cholera, Diphtheria, Croup, Scarlet Fever, or Plague in the family; that books already lent to such houses be returned to the Sanitary Inspector and not to the Librarian ; and that books from houses where there has been Small-Pox be destroyed.

In July there was some Summer Diarrhoea. As in the previous year a letter was published in the local papers detailing the necessary precautions.

We have had 45 cases of Typhoid Fever in 1899, as against 85 cases in 1898. Of the 45 cases 14 were sent to Gamesley Hospital.

No common milk, water, or general food supply could be discovered.

Last year I entered at some length into the subject of causation and prevention of Typhoid Fever, and my conclusions were that the Sewage Scheme might be expected to do good, but that the general use of water closets, paving of back yards, and cleanliness of surroundings of houses were further requisites.

Where cases have seemed due to special sanitary defects, these have been pointed out to the Inspector for removal, if possible.

In the beginning of December cases of contagious Ophthalmia appeared in Bowden's Yard and neighbourhood. Acting on my instructions the Inspector visited the yard, supplied carbolic soap, and ordered cleansing and disinfection.

The total number of cases of Infectious Disease notified in the Borough during the year was 140, as against 879 notified in 1898.

There were 56 cases of Scarlet Fever, 45 of Typhoid, 3 of Diphtheria, 3 of Membraneous Croup, 4 of Peurperal Fever, and 29 of Erysipelas.

The Zymotic Death-rates for the last three years were:
1897 2.85 per thousand.
1898 2.38 per thousand.
1899 2 02 per thousand.

In April my attention was called to the supply of water to a farm within the Borough. I mentioned the matter to Mr. Abraham, Lord Howard's Agent, and he, with admirable promptitude, supplied the farm from Dinting Reservoir.

In June and July, owing to complaints of an offensive odour from a ventilator in the sewer at the foot of the hill leading from the Main Street into Queen Street, I paid several visits to Queen Street, and I came to the conclusion that the odour was due, apart from defective ventilation in Queen Street itself, to the deposit of putrescent solid matter in crevices in the old stone built sewer, I advocated a properly ventilated sewer for Queen Street. Since then a well-ventilated pipe sewer has been laid from the Main Street all along Queen Street. The nuisance at the foot of the hill is not now, I believe, complained of.

On August 25th and 28th, in consequence of long continued dry weather, I visited the Reservoirs at Swineshaw, Blackshaw, and Dinting, I found them very low. For dry seasons, as well as for sanitary improvements, we shall want more water.

Nuisances brought under his notice were attended to by the Inspector.

The Births during the year were 272 Males and 250 Females, making 522 in all. The greatest number was in June when there were 57. The least was in May when there were 31. The Birth-rate for the Borough during the year was 21.9 per thousand inhabitants.

The Deaths of Infants under one year of age were 83, giving a mortality of 159.0 per thousand births.

The Deaths for the whole year, as you may see from the form accompanying this report, were 407 from the following causes :—
Scarlet Fever 2
Membranous Croup 3
Typhoid Fever 7
Puerperal Fever 2
Erysipelas 1
Measles 1
Whooping Cough 9
Diarrhoea and Dysentry 26
Rheumatic Fever 1
Phthisis 47
Bronchitis, Pneumonia, and Pleurisy 71
Heart Disease 42
Influenza 2
Injuries 15
All other Diseases 178
Total 407

There were 19 Inquests during the year.

The Census Population of the Wards was:—All Saints', 7,326; St. James's, 8,055 ; and Hadfield, 7,033. Adding one per cent, for each of eight years, and deducting 500 for removals in consequence of stoppage of machinery at Waterside Mills, we get for the middle of 1899—All Saints', 7,928; St. James's, 8,718; Hadfield, 7,107. The Borough, 23,753.

These numbers are only approximations, but are probably fairly correct as far as the Borough is concerned. As regards the population in the Wards, I have no doubt that St. James's Ward has, in recent years, largely increased at the expense of the other Wards. This I infer from stoppage of machinery in Hadfield, houses falling empty in All Saints' Ward, and new property built in larger proportion in St. James's Ward. I do not therefore consider that, until the next census has been taken, we can draw safe conclusions from the comparative mortality of the Wards.

Taking the above-mentioned population and the deaths we get—
  Population Deaths
All Saints' Ward 7928 106=18.3 per thousand
St. James's Ward 8718 159=18.2 per thousand
Hadfield Ward 7107 98=13.7 per thousand
The Borough 23753 363=15.2 per thousand

To this has to be added—
Union Workhouse 32
Wood's Hospital 9
Gamesley Hospital 2
Manchester Infirmary 1
=1.8 per thousand

Total Death-rate = 17.0 per thousand

I am, Gentlemen,
Yours sincerely, Duncan John MacKenzie, M.D.
Loch Maree House, Glossop,
January, 1900.

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Last updated: 18 December 2022