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1st August 1896

Public Health Committee in Belfast

The council set up a committee to investigate public health in the city after a 1891 report by the Medical Superintendent Officer of Health stated that death rates in Belfast were highest of any other city in Ireland apart from Dublin. The report found that infectious disease was high for Belfast and that rates of disease could be reduced by proper sanitation in the city.

Over 20,000 houses in Belfast had a privy and ashpit in a backyard with no back entry. The privy had to be cleaned out four times a year, with the human and household waste carried through the house from the backyard and left on the street.

The report described a square that contained six dwellings: "... the entire filth, night soil and refuse from these houses were taken through the front door and deposited in a common pit in front of the windows of the houses... you could not walk ... without going over your shoe mouth in human excrement.”

As horses were used for transport, the city was full of stables and manure heaps were often left to pile up in the streets.

The remains of the common lavatory used by residents of Hope's Court, Millfield.
Deputy Keeper of Records, PRONI LA/7/8/HF/4/204