The Birmingham Street Commissioners used bye-laws to regulate the town. These were increasingly important as the population expanded through the nineteenth century. The list of bye-laws was amended as the commissioners deemed necessary, usually in response to complaints or a recognition that everything was not working quite as well as it could be. The following is an extract relating to sanitation, taken from a short list of new bye-laws introduced at the beginning of the nineteenth century. New regulations were placarded in prominent locations of the town and also published in the local paper – this extract is taken from an edition of Aris’s dated October 5th, 1801. The announcement was signed by Arnold & Haines, a local solicitor’s firm that also acted as clerks to the commissioners and opened with the following warning:
Whereas great mischief and inconvenience hath arisen to the Inhabitants of this Town, and others resorting hereto, from Persons acting contrary to and in disobedience of the several clauses contained in three Acts of Parliament passed in the 9th, 15th and 41st years of His present Majesty’s reign, for the better Regulation and Improvement of the Town and for preventing Nuisances and Obstructions therein – the Commissioners therefore, to prevent the same in the future and that no person or persons could plead ignorance thereof, have caused the following clauses to be inserted for the information of the Public.
The new clauses were mostly concerned with obstruction of the highways by carts, wheelbarrows and occupational tools, including ‘butchers’ gallows’. There was also the following clause relating to the disposal of human and animal waste. That the commissioners felt it necessary to include a bye-law for this suggests that it must have been causing some problems – likely very smelly ones!
And be it enacted – that no Necessary-house or Bog-house, Pigstye or Dunghole within the said Town shall be emptied at any other Time other than between the Hours of One and Nine in the Morning; and if any Person or Persons shall empty any such Necessary-house or Bog-house at any other Time, such Person shall for every each Offence, forfeit and pay any Sum not exceeding Twenty Shillings, nor less than Ten Shillings.
Birmingham’s nineteenth-century newspapers are available to view by subscription through the British Newspaper Archives or free of charge at the Local Studies centre, 4th floor Library of Birmingham. Staff and access hours at the Library of Birmingham are currently under threat from local government cuts – please support our local libraries and archives, once they’re gone they’re gone.