Punch,  54 (1868), 87–88.

A Village in Arcadia





Sanitation, Public Health, Health, Disease, Government, Medical Practitioners, Medical Treatment, Patronage, Hospitals, Politics, Industry, Manufactories, Pollution

    Begins by reminding readers of the criticism aimed at Mr Punch for his views on the manufacturing districts in the Black Country (see PU1/51/23/13, , PU1/51/24/2, , PU1/51/26/3 and , PU1/52/2/6) and in New Zealand. Urging readers to 'fly' to the 'pure air and primitive simplicity of the country', introduces and presents extensive extracts from a damning report, by Dr Thorne, a medical inspector of the Privy Council Office, of the grim conditions in the village of Terling. Punch stresses that villagers endure stagnant water, ramshackle houses, and a poor diet. The extracts reveal the poor mental and physical health of the villagers, a state of affairs owing much to 'inter-marriages' and the 'moisture of the soil and the atmosphere'. Thorne laments that the cottages are surrounded by cesspools, dilapidated privies and other filthy nuisances that are associated with outbreaks of typhoid. Adds that the owner of the land on which the village is built, John J Strutt (2nd Baron Rayleigh), has given his tenants allotments on which they can store 'foul accumulations'. The following extract contains Thorne's description of the shocking state of the wells and drainage in the village, facilities which make the water 'nothing better than stinking pools'. (87) Expresses no surprise that Terling was recently visited by 'King Typhus', killing hundreds of people, and presents Thorne's damning evidence against Terling's poor-law guardians who had taken measures to disinfect the village and to supply villagers with medical provisions, but had ignored Thorne's repeated calls for the removal of the foul 'nuisances'. Thorne adds that the guardians could have prevented the cholera outbreak had they performed their duty, and adds that Lord Rayleigh had informed him of the properly constructed cesspools with which he was supplying villagers. Includes an extract from Thorne's second report on Terling, which presents further evidence of the board of guardians' signal neglect of Thorne's advice, the continuing presence of 'abominable' nuisances in the village and of the board's failure to build properly constructed cesspools. Punch sarcastically concludes that this illustrates what 'a great principle is "Local Self-Government"' whose prophet is Bumble (the parish beadle in Charles Dickens's Oliver Twist.) Presents Thorne's praise for Dr Gimson, who has attended sick villagers, and Lord Rayleigh and his wife Clara E L Stutt (Baroness Rayleigh), who have embarked on such philanthropic schemes as establishing a convalescent hospital for children. In a final extract, Thorne describes the equally dire conditions of Witham, a village near Terling, whose guardians have also ignored the unsanitary conditions of the houses and streets. Concludes by pointing out that the Sanitary Act of 1866 empowers the Secretary of State to inquire into such cases of neglect, and to force boards of guardians to perform their duty. (88)

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