Sanitary, Sewage, and Farm Committee of the Wrexham Town Council 1895


Wrexham Cemetery
Cemetery, Ruabon Road, Wrexham. 1895

At a meeting of the Sanitary, Sewage, and Farm Committee of the Wrexham Town Council, on Tuesday afternoon, there were present: Alderman W. E. Samuel (chairman), the Mayor (Councillor C. Murless), Alderman G. Lovan, Councillors J. Whittingham, J. Fraser, H. V. Palin, J. Hopley Pierce, Thomas Jones, and C. K. Benson; Mr. Thomas Bury, town clerk; Mr. J. W. M. Smith, borough surveyor Mr. C. Moore, sanitary inspector; and Dr R. W. J. Evans, medical officer of health.


Dr EVANS read his report for the quarter ending 31st of December 1894. Calculating from the registrar’s returns, 128 births had taken place, as compared with 106 during the corresponding quarter of 1893. The deaths of 66 persons were recorded, as compared with 73 during the same time in 1893. Adding the deaths of five Wrexham persons who died in the Workhouse, and two deaths of children who died in the Sanitary Hospital, and deducting the death of one person from the rural district who died in the Infirmary, the death-rate was 19.55 per 1,000 inhabitants, as compared with 22.12 in 1893 and 22.6 in the year previous.

During the quarter 110 notifications of infectious diseases had been received, nearly all of which were scarlet fever. The borough, independently of this, had been remarkably free from a other cases of infectious complaints.

Out of the 110 notifications 49 cases were admitted to the Hospital. The rest of the case were isolated and treated at home and were all of a mild nature. Every case had had attention, and he believed the epidemic was now abating. The coroner had investigated the causes of four deaths.

During the three months, one case only of infectious disease proved fatal and that was from scarlet fever with complication. Overall, this being for the autumn and winter quarter, the health of the Borough must be considered satisfactory. Dr Evans added that, on looking over the causes of death, he found that there were only eight deaths due to complaints of the chest, which was most unusual at that time of the year.

The chairman said the report was highly satisfactory when compared with previous years. Mr Bevan moved the adoption of the report. Mr Whittingham seconded, and it was agreed to.


The Sanitary Inspector reported that the following cases of infectious diseases had been notified to him since his last report, as follows:  Scarlet fever, 14 in the North Ward, three in the South Ward, two in the East Ward, and two in West Ward, total 21; typhoid fever, one in the South Ward erysipelas, one in the South Ward, two in the West Ward, total three diphtheria, one in the West Ward membranous croup, one in the South Ward. The total number of cases was thus 27.

There had been two deaths in the borough, and one urban patient in the hospital had died from infectious disease. The bedding, clothing, etc had been thoroughly disinfected. The number of urban patients in hospital on the date of presenting the last report, was 17, and 15 had since been admitted. Eight had since been discharged, leaving twenty-four at present in the hospital.

Mr Benson said that there were several cases of scarlet fever in the North. Ward. They did not know that cases there were outside the Ward in Stansty. Evidently the North Ward wanted looking to.

Mr Fraser said the fever originated in the colliery houses and had been brought from there. Children attending Stansty Board School had contracted the disease, and it had thus gradually extended.

Mr Bevan: Of course, it all comes from Stansty.


The INSPECTOR reported that he had received several complaints as to the state of the town brook, and found it was caused by the slack washing at the Plas Power Colliery works. He had an interview with Mr Findlay, the manager, relating to these complaints. While admitting that the washings from coal dust were turned into the brook, he stated that they did nothing more than they were justified in doing, as the Rivers Pollution Act, 1876, stated that “minute particles in suspension were not a deposit,” and “innocuous discolouration’s not pollution“.

The coal dust was neither a deposit nor did it pollute the stream, and he did not think that his company would be justified in incurring additional expense in purifying the water before turning it into the brook after using it for their trade purposes. For a short time after the above interview, the brook was in its normal condition. On January 2nd he found the pollution had appeared again in a most objectionable state, the water being quite black with suspended matter, and so bad that it was impossible for one large manufacturer to utilise the water for the purpose of his business and consequently he had been put to a great expense in being compelled to use the Company’s water.

He wrote to Mr Findlay on the 4th January, and received a reply, stating that there was no question of pollution in the true sense of the word. The pollution continued intermittently. He noted it on the 17th January. It was then so bad that he called the attention of several members of the Council to the state the brook was in and took a sample of the water as it was then flowing. He took another sample of the brook water on the 29th January, when not polluted with coal dust washings, for comparison. He was afraid this great nuisance and annoyance would not be abated until pressure was brought to bear on the offending party. The same complaint occurred in November 1891.

Dr Evans also called the attention of the committee to the disgraceful state of the town brook, notably on the 17th, when its appearance resembled black liquid mud. On several occasions since it had been quite as bad. The pollution was evidently caused by colliery works situated above the town, which used the brook as a vehicle to convey their refuse from the works at the least possible cost and trouble to themselves, nor care as to how it affected places of business and manufacturers below, from whom frequently constant complaints had been received at the Guildhall offices.

Special reports on this question of pollution had been made by him on two or three former occasions. Messrs Hugh Price and Co., Bridge Street Tannery, wrote drawing attention to the State of the brook, and stating that for some weeks past the water had been inky black.

They could not use any of it and were being put to needless expense. If it was not in the power of the Corporation to stop the pollution, they would take steps themselves to do so.

The following letter had been received by the Town Clerk: February 2nd, 1835.

Dear Sir. Will you kindly permit us to bring before your notice the matter of the nuisance and damage caused to us and other owners and occupiers of property on the banks of the river Gwenfro by the action of the colliery companies higher up the stream, who after using the water to wash their slack permit the whole residue to be discharged into the stream, which is thus reduced black and filthy along its whole course ? Also, we notice that someone is discharging a mycelial growth into the brook. We and our predecessors have used the brook water since 1770 for tanning and boiler purposes.

So serious has the trouble become that we have had to spend thousands of pounds upon boring wells, whereas the brook should be enough to supply our wants. This water passing through our works in this foul and dirty condition causes us very considerable damage, and our object in laying this matter before you is to ask you to bring it before the proper authority with a view of putting a stop to what is becoming an intolerable nuisance.

We are, yours truly, MEREDITH JONES AND SONS.

The Town Clerk said the question was one of some difficulty. The matter had previously been before the Council, but since Mr Higgins wrote to the colliery there had been no serious complaints as to the state of the brook. Regarding the question as to the Urban Authority taking action in the matter, he was afraid that there was something in the point raised by Mr Findlay as regarded proceedings under the Rivers Pollution Act.

Supposing the pollution took place in the borough then he thought that they might take proceedings under the Public Health Amendment Act, 1890, which prohibited anyone discharging into a stream cinders, ashes or coal dust, under a penalty. The pollution, however, took place two or three miles above Wrexham.

He was afraid that it could not be contended that the discharging of coal dust into the brook affected the water in such a way as to be injurious to public health. As Urban Sanitary Authority of the borough, they had to see to all matters relating to the public health, and if the brook was contaminated with noxious matter such as affected the public health, then he thought they had power to deal with it. But the colliery company said that this was discharged into the brook was carbon in suspension, that the water was not injuriously affected, and that it could safely be drunk. (Laughter.) Well, it was commonly known that charcoal was used for the purpose of filtering water. Then, regarding the traders who had used the water from time immemorial, their first impulse was to come to the Corporation and say that such and such a thing were happening, and that they hoped the Corporation would put a stop to it.

If they, as the Sanitary Authority were responsible for putting into force the Rivers Pollution Act, then they were quite within their rights to come to them. But as he thought Mr Findlay might be right in his contention that the discharging of coal dust into the stream was not an offence against River Pollution Act, then what was the remedy for those persons who used the water for the purposes of trade, for watering their cattle or for other purposes ?

In The Law of Nuisances, by Garrett, with regard to nuisances arising in respect of the pollution of waters as affecting private rights, was the following: When we turn to the question of pollution as a affects riparian owners, it is important to bear in mind that whereas a riparian owner has, subject to the corresponding rights of his fellow riparian owners, the right to the temporary use of water as it passes his land for the ordinary purposes of life, it cannot be suggested that he has any right, apart from prescription, as against other riparian owners to pollute it in the smallest degree.

It follows that, if a riparian owner or other person, not having acquired a prescriptive right to do so as against other riparian owners, prejudicially affects the condition of the water, so as sensibly to injure a riparian owner lower down, the latter has bis remedy by action.” Then further on, And by injury we must understand the infringement of “the legal right as distinguished from damnum, which latter may, in cases where the water is already in some measure polluted, be slight, for it is well established that the mere fact that the water is in some measure polluted aliunde, does not justify further pollution, however it may affect the question of damages, where these are sought to be recovered.”

He (the Town Clerk) was not able to recommend the Corporation to institute any proceedings in the matter.

They had, through their inspector, called the attention of the Colliery Company to the matter, and it seemed to him that the riparian owners had their own remedy, if they choose to enforce it. Mr Bevan said that the state of the brook was disgraceful, and it was in flood at the time.

Mr Fraser said he contended that the fault lay with those in charge of the settling tanks at the colliery. He maintained that the brook was rendered very offensive. He thought if they approached the Colliery Company, and made a strong application, that they would be willing to properly clean out the tanks and keep them in order.

The TOWN CLERK said the strong application had been made on previous occasions. He had seen the managing director, and he pooh-poohed the right of the Corporation of Wrexham to interfere in any way. The company meant to carry on their business in their own way and would not be dictated to. The contention of the Colliery Company was that they had a right to do what they were doing, so far as the Corporation of Wrexham was concerned.

The Mayor suggested that an opinion might be taken. In answer to Mr Bevan as to whether he gave it as his opinion that the Corporation could not take proceedings against the colliery company, the Town Clerk said that in law he was afraid he must.

Mr Bevan said that they had no justification then for proceeding against the colliery company in their capacity as the Urban Sanitary Authority. On the other hand, it lay with the riparian owners and the traders on the brooks, who were affected by the pollution, to take such action as they thought fit to protect their own interests. He should propose that no action be taken in the matter, leaving it to the discretion of the riparian owners to take such action as they might think fit.

Dr Palin said that, in his opinion, the discharge of coal dust into the brook was not deleterious to health.

Mr Pierce said that if they took an opinion upon the question it might settle it.

The Mayor moved that an opinion be taken. Mr J. H. Pierce seconded.

Mr Bevan said that he should support it. They ought to do their best for those large traders. The resolution was carried.


The Inspectors reported that he had visited several shops and the markets in the borough and found the articles of food exposed for sale apparently good and wholesome.

Source: Welsh Newspapers Online; Wrexham and Denbighshire Advertiser; Cheshire Shropshire and North Wales Register.

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