Sanitation to Rival Concentration Camp

After years of decay during the war, parts of town were beginning to deteriorate, including the water quality.

Although Horncastle did not suffer severe bomb damage during the war, the general condition of many buildings and services was not good. For many it was still the age of the privvy and bucket closet. The Medical Officer’s Report for 1946 notes that concerning closet accommodation:

“Building difficulties since the war have hampered conversions to the carriage water system. However, until the water and sewage schemes already mentioned come into operation, it is unlikely that there will be any appreciable number of conversions to report. Meanwhile the existing buildings in the district will continue with the present arrangements of privies and bucket closets. It is gratifying to see that all new buildings are being provided with WC facilities”.

The water supply and sewerage systems were criticised in the Medical Officer’s Reports. There were a number of small water companies providing services in the area, each without the necessary manpower to do an effective job.

For example, inspections and sampling of the Horncastle Water Company supply found that the supply was contaminated which lead to a “boil water” order being issued. Waste collection was by hand on with a horse and cart and no use of ash bin by householders. Disposal of sewerage waste from those without mains drainage was also by open cart and both ended up on an uncontrolled tip in the old brick pits on Hemingby Lane, which the officer said was in an “indescribable condition”.

Horncastle’s Manor House Road School, – Its conditions were condemed by Medical Officer in 1946.

He was appalled at the state of the town’s schools as well. Describing the situation at the Manor House Road School (now the Community Centre):

“It is difficult, if not impossible, to report briefly on this institution in moderate language. The only grounds that could justify its continued existence being those which justify the preservation of examples of long dead evils in museums.

During 1946 there were two washbasins for over 400 children. Some of the lavatory accommodation compares unfavourably with that provided by the German Government in its Concentration Camps.

In several class rooms the natural lighting is inadequate, whilst the antiquated gasoliers increase the gloom rather than mitigate it. Cloakroom accommodation is such as may be calculated to destroy any clothing committed to it. Whilst the entire building is so old and dirty that (despite the valiant efforts of the cleaners), an hour at school reduces all the children to a uniform state of grubbiness.”

So frustrated was the Medical Officer that in this his final report before he resigned, he concluded that:

“The persistent reluctance prevalent in Horncastle to admit the existence of unpleasant facts has contributed more than any other factor to the present unhygienic state of the Urban District. I feel that the time has come for these facts to be faced…On leaving the District I can only express the hope that for the good of Public Health my successor will experience a more sympathetic and more broadminded spirit of co-operation from the Council than I have done.”

The health service provisions were rather more modest than at the present day. Smallpox, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, Scarlet Fever, Whooping Cough and Measles were still of concern and hospital facilities basic in comparison with today. Horncastle was served by the Horncastle War Memorial Hospital and Lincolnshire County run clinics were held weekly at Rolleston House in Bridge Street for School Clinic (Minor Ailments) and a Tuberculosis Dispensary with Opthalmic and Dental services being by appointment.

The County Infirmary, Louth, under County Council Administration, was available for the inhabitants of the Rural District. The Horncastle War Memorial Hospital and Dispensary was a voluntary hospital which provided services. The Medical Officer’s report was more complimentary of them: “Amongst them an adequate service is provided both for inpatients and outpatients.” “

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