Why were Victorian Cities so unhealthy? In 1801, 33% of the Englishpopulation lived in a city. That increased to 78% by 1901. The Victorian Eralasted from 1837 to 1901 and it was the period when Queen Victoria was on thethrone of the United Kingdom. During that time, the Industrial Revolutionoccurred. Many people came to England to find a job. I think that thepopulation explosion led to Victorian Cities being unhealthy. Diseases, poorhousing, lack of hygiene and overpopulation created a harmful environmentin these Victorian cities and many people died.
Firstly, the hygiene in Victorianhomes was bad because there was no proper sewage disposal and the water wascontaminated. For the first 40 years of the Victorian Era, people thought thatcesspools were the answer to sewage disposal. Cesspools were holes dug into theground where people would dump their waste. These would be cleared out by dungfarmers, who would use it as fertilizer or sell it. This was an unhealthy job.
Later on, the distance to the farms grew because of the growing cities and thedung farmers started to charge more. As a result, fewer people payed them andthe cesspools started to overflow. This made the citizens dump the waste intothe river Thames.
However, this led to even more problems. People got theirwater from Water Sellers, who said their water was clean, or from a river. Alsoin England’s rivers was industrial waste from all the factories. Everyone wasdrinking this industrial and human waste and that led to diseases.
Next, the diseases, such as choleraor tuberculosis, made Victorian Cities unhealthy. Cholera was a water-bornedisease, so both the rich and the poor got it. It would cause humans to diewithin 24 hours.
They tried to cure it using methods, such as mustard,champagne or even tobacco. In 1848, there was an outbreak of cholera and around15,000 people died. Every year, 6,500 died because of tuberculosis. In the1840s, the average age of death was 19, compared to 71 in 2017, and only 40% ofpeople born in the 1850s lived to the age of 60.
In 1858, an event called theGreat Stink happened. The warm temperature heated up the human waste in andaround the Thames and created a horrible smell. In response, Joseph Bazalgette,a civil engineer, created a sewer system for London. Part of the reason cholerakilled so many people, was the fact that if one person got sick, the illness wouldspread quickly because everybody lived and worked so close to each other. Overcrowding was a serious problemin those times because everybody wanted an opportunity to work and earn somemoney. George Macdonald, a Victorian author, wrote about the city, saying itwas ‘A crowded street, where men and women went to and fro in multitudes’. Thepicture below showed housing during the Victorian Era. There was a main floor,where everybody ate and socialized, a sleeping floor and a cellar.
Many peopletrying to work earned low wages, therefore, as many as 20 people would live inthe same house, with some of the poorest people forced to live in the cellarwith animals and waste, while the others slept in the cramped bedroom with asmany as 10 people. If more houses had been built, people could have had moreliving space and diseases would have not spread as quickly. Lastly, not only were housesovercrowded, they were in poor conditions. Owners built many houses but did notput any money into making them good and safe.
Some houses were back to back,which blocked airways. This was bad because the pollution would go into thesehouses but not come out. The houses were also dark because there were not manywindows or openings. Also, the houses were damp because the floor and wallswere only one brick layer, so the moisture from the soil came into the air ofthe house.
There were other types of houses, like the yard houses. Owners wouldbuild many living spaces around one square yardm that contained a playgroundand a privy with a cesspool. Since the waste was in the middle of the houses,all the residents would smell the scent of dung. There was no buildingregulation and the owners wanted to build as fast as possible. However, there were some people,such as Edwin Chadwick and John Snow, who were trying to find solutions tothese problems. John Snow made a map of the homes and marked which housespeople died in.
He concluded that cholera came from unhealthy waters and inspiredchanges to the sewage disposal in England. Edwin Chadwick was a big activisttowards improving public health and sanitation. Charles Dickens wrote books,such as ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘A Christmas Carol’, in which he spread the newsabout the horrible living conditions in Victorian Cities. Joseph Bazalgettecreated a sewer system for Central London, that cost eight million pounds, 14billion pounds today. He also started the cleanup of the Thames.
I believe that Victorian Cities wereunhealthy because of the population explosion. People in search of work, movedto cities and lived in overcrowded houses. At the same time, poor hygiene andbad housing made these cities so disastrous. We were lucky that the Victorian experiencedsuch sad times.
Because they did, we were able to develop their inventions andfix all the problems that society had.