Monday, 10 August 2009

Nothing changes

This statement by Dr R Lumb, onetime medical officer of health to Whitehaven, was found during a trawl of our archives in the January 20 1870 edition of The Whitehaven News. But it will ring bells with many town centre residents today.

"I wish to call attention to an evil of a very dangerous nature, viz, the emptying of refuse matter into the streets, and allowing it to remain there till the town's carts are ready to remove it. This exists to a great extent in the high parts of the town, many people having complained to me of this abominable evil."

People today living in the town centre where the streets and alleyways are almost continually littered with rotting food, soiled nappies and other detritous pecked out of thin plastic bags by seagulls will wonder why, 139 years on, little has changed.
At the time Dr Lumb made this statement, the town was in the grip of a typhus epidemic that became so bad a Government Inspector visited the town and was, of course, suitably horrified, describing it as having "a stagnant foulness of atmosphere hardly to be surpassed in any English town". Things are not quite so bad today but we still don't seem to have made the link between disease and our streets being covered in the ripped-open contents of bin bags, urine from late-night revellers realising there are no public toilets in this town, dog dirt from lazy or ignorant dog owners and spit.

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