Slaughterhouse stench

Photo:Vine Street in 2008

Vine Street in 2008

Photo by Maureen Brand

Debate on public health in the 19th century

In the mid 19th century a heated debate on public health was being waged in Brighton. Among the main targets of attack were slaughterhouses, and the stench and mess they created.

Slaughterhouse in Vine Street

One slaughterhouse lay in Vine Street and "H", in his letter to the Brighton Gazette of 12th May 1853, voiced the concern of a public health campaigner. He referred to cholera outbreaks that hit Brighton – and North Laine particularly – during the 1840s. These were outlined in Edmund Crecy’s 1849 health report on Brighton.

Letter by "H"

The letter says:

“Are slaughterhouses public nuisances? Whether in the open thoroughfares, as in Air Street, or in confined and crowded situations, as Vine Street or Oxford Street, or with a small open space behind, as Gloucester Lane, they are not wholesome companions.

It has been remarked to me: ‘Are not butchers healthy men? How then can you support your opinion?’ Thus: the slaughterhouse is not the habitation of the men; they do not eat, drink and sleep there. But there is another clue to this: butchers’ men are well fed but is it always so with the inhabitants who live in the immediate neighbourhood of the slaughterhouse?

Would it be as well with the latter as with the former should pestilence rage within our bodies? Is it not an admitted fact that the poorly fed are more susceptible of its consequences and they become the medium of communicating it to others?

Is it not right then that these dens of muck should be removed? While the cholera prevailed here, the public medical officers could remove the poor man’s pigsty and justly too, since it was injurious not to him alone but his neighbours; but how was it the slaughterhouses were not then marked?

....Let those who doubt visit Vine Street in the dog days; they will admit that these places should be avoided almost as much as mad dogs...”



[The above was researched by Lotte Kaniuk, former North Laine resident now sadly deceased, and written up by Tim Curran, another North Laine resident. It was previously published in the North Laine Runner, No 18, Feb/March 1979 and reprinted in No 206, September/October 2010.]

This page was added on 08/11/2010.

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