Health in the Borough of Bexley

Trevor Tamsett has written a short history of Erith Sanatorium 1893-1945. (Belmont School now stands on the site). Download it below:

Erith Sanitorium.pdf
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Annual Report 1894 of Bexley's Medical Officer of Health


When the Bexley Local Board was established in 1880 one of its first priorities was to recruit a local doctor as Medical Officer of Health for the district. In 1894 the Bexley Local Board had its status upgraded to that of an Urban District Council. At its meeting on 1 April 1895 the new UDC received its first annual report from the Medical Officer of Health Dr Sutherland. The report was written longhand filling nearly seven pages of the Council’s Minute Book (see Bexley UDC Minutes for 1895 pp81-87 held at the Local Studies Centre at Bexleyheath Library). Bexley Historical Society member Richard Diment has transcribed the report, reproduced below.




The population of this district at the middle of 1894 may I think be estimated at 11,200; The number of births registered during the year was 304, equivalent to a birth rate of 27 per 1000: 140 of these births were of male children and 164 were of female children.


The total number of deaths registered was 118, giving a death date for the whole district of 10.5.

The number of deaths in 1894 was considerably less than in 1893, the reduction being chiefly noticeable in Christ Church ward.


Three deaths occurred from diphtheria, one from enteric Fever, one puerperal fever, one erysipelas, one whooping cough, one diarrhoea. Four of these deaths were in Christ Church Ward, and one in Holy Trinity Ward. The synoptic death rate for the whole district being 7.


Infectious Diseases

The number of cases of infectious diseases notified during the year was 34. In 1893 the number notified was 99, and in 1892, a still larger number was reported, namely 159.


The 34 cases comprised six of scarlet fever, ten of diphtheria, with three deaths, four of erysipelas, with one death, three of enteric fever with one death, ten of smallpox and one fatal case of puerperal fever.


Small Pox:- There were two separate outbreaks of small pox during the year, one in April and the other in May, and both were in Christ Church Ward. The origin of the first I could not trace, but the second was brought into the district from Blackheath by a navvy working on the new line.

The first outbreak remained confined to the one house from which I had six persons suffering from the disease removed at once to the Isolation Hospital in Long Lane.

The second outbreak also remained confined to the house in which it occurred, and from which four patients were removed to the Isolation Hospital. There were thus ten cases in all and of these ten patients five were unvaccinated and had the disease in a severe form, three of them with serious complications. The vaccinated patients however were only slightly affected, and were all well enough to be out of bed in a few days.

Both of the above outbreaks occurred in localities which were rather thickly populated and where the disease would no doubt have quickly spread had not your Board had means for prompt isolation.


Diphtheria:- Diphtheria was very prevalent in the Metropolitan Areas during the year 1894 and unfortunately the district did not escape the disease.

Ten cases were notified to me namely five in St Mary’s Ward and five in Christ Church Ward. Three of the cases however were considered doubtful, and in my opinion were not true diphtheria. Three deaths occurred from the disease.

I find from examining the facts in connection with the above cases that one patient came into the district while already suffering from the disease, that another had come into the district only a few days before being taken ill and that he eventually imparted the disease to another person being in the same house with him. These with the three more than doubtful cases count for six out of the ten.

Of the four remaining cases two were living in houses that were obviously unsanitary, and another attended a school where the premises were found to be in a condition not at all unlikely to give origin to the disease.

For the remaining case I could discern no cause as the patient was living under favourable conditions and could not trace having been in contact with anyone suffering from the disease.


Enteric Fever:- Three cases of Enteric Fever occurred during the year. The disease in two of the instances having been contracted outside this district. In the other instance the patient was living under conditions which were not at all unlikely to give rise to the disease. There was one death.


Scarlatina:- Six cases of scarlatina were reported of a mild type, several were of rather doubtful nature, and the disease did not spread in any instance.

I could not with certainty trace the origin in any case, but one patient came into the district already suffering from the disease.


In the matter of the fatal case of puerperal fever in Lamorbey Ward, very serious sanitary defects were found in the house where the disease arose. The patient had been subjected to the influence of these defects for some months, and there is no doubt they were the primary cause of the fever.

Inspection and disinfection were carried out in each case of infectious disease and where necessary the usual notices were served to put premises into sanitary condition.


Isolation Hospital

The hospital was open 75 days, from 14th April to 28th June for the treatment of ten patients suffering from small pox, all of whom were discharged well. This was the only time during the year that it was found necessary to open the hospital.

The nurse carried out her duties very satisfactorily, but part of the time had to have assistance, which was given by a former patient. Approximately the cost of the hospital for the year was for maintenance of patients £25.16.9 (including their removal) Nurses’ wages £15.4.-. Disinfection of bedding £7.13.3; incidental expenses £10.


Samples of water from two wells were submitted to the County Analyst, and in consequence of his report the wells were closed.

Five cases of overcrowding were dealt with.

The Inspector made 361 inspections and 3266 re-inspections of premises and also disinfected 31 rooms. He also served 137 Notices.


I am Gentlemen

Your obedient servant


O. Sunderland M.O.H


Bexleyheath 30 March 1895


Meetings are held at the hall of St John Fisher RC Church, Thanet Road, Bexley

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