A noxious business in Southwark

Those familiar with this blog might recall that some weeks ago I wrote about a prosecution brought as a result of the manufacture of soap in a factory south of the River Thames. A similar case from 1869 once again illustrates how industrial London was in the 1800s.

Charles James Clarkson, described as a ‘Government pontoon manufacturer and waterproofer’ was brought up from remand to appear at Southwark Police Court charged with ‘carrying on business of an offensive nature’ and endangering the health of local inhabitants. That business was coating corks and cloth (for making pontoons) and hats with a mixture of naphtha and petrol – presumably to make them waterproof.

Clarkson worked out of a premises at 49 Cornwall Road, now not that far from Waterloo Station and the National Theatre, but in the late 1800s a mixed area of houses and workplaces. The charges was brought by the Lambeth Board of Works in the person of its medical officer, Dr Puckle.

Acting on information from several local residents Dr Puckle visited Clarkson’s workshop ‘and found a filthy odour emanating’ from it. The smell, he attested, ’caused sickness, and was decidedly dangerous to the local inhabitants’.

The magistrate had looked into the case prior to hearing it (showing that on occasion magistrates did investigate some of the actions brought before them). He had visited government works at Pimlico where the process was also carried out and declared that ‘he had no doubt it was a nuisance, and injurious to the inhabitants’ health’. In consequence he levied a fine of £5 on Clarkson and told him to close down his operation within the week.

[from The Morning Post , Friday, October 01, 1869]

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