‘The bone boiling nuisance in the Borough’.

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It was pretty hot in the summer of 1881 and this brought some particular problems to the inhabitants of Southwark. In Suffolk Street there were a number of soap manufacturers operating and while this might seem to be a sweet smelling occupation it was actually far from that.

I doubt many of us ask what goes into our soap or other detergents or household cleaners. I recall a boat trip off Skye where our pilot explained that the dead fish we could see in the enclosed fish farm would all end up in expensive  hand cream. I wonder if my other half has any idea what she is massaging into her palms!

Mr Ross (an inspector with the Metropolitan Board of Works) appeared in the Southwark Police Court in August 1881 to prefer charges against several persons for ‘causing a nuisance dangerous to the health of the inhabitants’ of the Borough. This ‘nuisance’ was an ‘offensive effluvium’ that had been allowed to escape from a number of small soap factories.

The factories were boiling bones (an established way to render fat and make soap) and normally the smell was contained. But this was such a hot afternoon that the workers had opened up a screen to allow air in (and the noxious smells to escape of course). The magistrate sympathized and handed down a ‘nominal penalty’ of 6s and 2s costs. But he warned them about their future conduct.

At least he didn’t wash his hands of the whole sorry affair….

[From Daily News, Wednesday, August 10, 1881]

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