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Sewage Solutions - 1872

Local residents drawing the last water from the Stockwell pump before it is removed in 1934. L to R: Mrs Reed, Mrs Winkle, Mrs Robinson, Mrs Branaghan, Mrs Daniels, Jobey Capps, Arthur Haynes, Mrs Lowe, Annie Branaghan, Mrs Lawman and Mr Carvell

During 1872, many citizens of Burton Latimer were struck down with a severe case of typhoid fever. It began in the Summer, with several children noted missing in the school log as a result of the disease, this continued in August. When school began in September after the harvest holiday only 29 pupils attended, with three former pupils having died and been buried over the summer break. Absence due to typhoid was still being recorded at school in December.

A total of 250 inhabitants from a population of 1200 contracted the disease, and the Local Government Board instructed Dr Thorne (later knighted and appointed the Government Chief Medical Officer of Health 1892 -1899) to undertake an investigation in late October of that year. After examination, it seemed that a large part of the problem stemmed from the number of shallow wells in the village, where most of the local population drew their water. Many of these were open to the elements and situated in close proximity to various cesspools and privies. One well which supplied water to four cottages - in three of which, cases of typhoid had occurred, was positioned within 4 feet of a privy. Dr Thorne stated: "The privy was brim full and adjoined an open ashpit. These nuisances lie within 10 feet of the cottages, and the stench on the premises at the time of my visit was all but unbearable. The occupants of the cottage state that they do not, as a rule, use this water, but they mostly fetch water from the 'Stock Well'."

The 'Stock Well' was held in high repute in Burton Latimer and its water was largely used by the local population. However, within a 25-70 ft radius of the well there were several privies the contents of which fell into cesspools, with one cesspool also receiving pigsty drainage. There was also a drain in the local vicinity which was poorly constructed and its contents often failed to flow away. Much of the surrounding ground was on a slope, with the well being at the base. The ground in this area consisted of about 2 feet of surface soil below which was a layer of blue lias clay and then a 6 inch layer of ironstone rock. When the well was sunk, water was reached at the junction of the rock and the surface soil, so the Stock Well water was derived mainly from groundwater soaking through the soil and draining into the well.

In normal conditions the amount of excremental and general pollution would be limited, but in exceptional circumstances, such as a period of drought followed by heavy rainfall, pollution levels would be considerably higher. After the typhoid outbreak, a sample of water was collected and sent for analysis, and although there were only trace chemical remains, this proved that the water was in an organic and active condition during the epidemic. A combination of extreme climatic conditions and poor sanitation could have been the cause of typhoid.

During the course of the summer there had been a number of heavy storms in the village, far heavier than many had remembered. The sewerage and drainage in many places was extremely ineffective. There were also a numerous piggeries in Burton Latimer and living conditions in some areas were very cramped. These factors were highlighted by Sanitary Authority and a number of proposals outlined to the Local Government Board to improve the situation.

An article in the Northampton Mercury dated 30 April 1887 stated:

Mr Rains reported that a great nuisance exists in the principal street of Burton Latimer, near the Red Cow Inn. The sewage, from an imperfect drain, percolates through the top rock into a well on Mr D James's premises, contaminating the water so as to render it entirely unfit for domestic purposes. The nuisance was considerably increased by a drain from a neighbouring slaughter-house. The private drain from the premises is a properly constructed nine inch sewer, but the public drain, made of ordinary land drainage tiles, is altogether inadequate.

Mr C Barlow fully corroborated the Inspector's report, and urged that the matter should be proceeded with at once, as it was a serious inconvenience to Mr James's family and employees.

The report was referred to the two Guardians for the parish, the Inspector to take the necessary steps in effecting the improvements required.

Over time, conditions did improve, with the water from Stock Well no longer used for consumption. There were isolated cases over a number of years, with cases of typhoid reported in 1882, 1885, 1887 and 1890, and although fewer in number there were still fatalities occurring. Other diseases such as Scarlet Fever, Scarletina and Enteric Fever also occurred in Burton Latimer and the surrounding area. The water was still being checked on occasion, with the water being passed fit by the medical officer. These later outbreaks were due more to individual circumstances, as reported in 1895 where complaints were made about the number of pigs kept on the property of Mr Ayres after an outbreak of typhiod in the adjoining properties and the subsequent destruction of pig styes. There were also a further ten cases of typhoid related to two properties, where their closets were connected to the brook. The clerk requested that these be disconnected and alternative arrangements made.

By February 1903, pressure was growing on the parish council to act. The situation had not improved greatly - there was still no public water supply in the parish, and waste drained into the earthenware pipe sewers which then discharged from the main town into the Ise brook. All surface water also drained into the brook, this along with the three clothing factories and numerous boot factories led to significant pollution.

To deal with this, the Local Government Board sanctioned the application for a loan of £3,481 for the purposes of sewage and sewage disposal works in Burton Latimer

By 1904 both Kettering Rural District Council and Burton Latimer Parish Council were in discussion to resolve this issue. Mr B. Everard of Leicester was appointed to oversee the siting of any new wells, along with eminent geological expert Professor Lapworth. Together they compiled a extensive report which was forwarded to the Local Government Board. The report supported previous action by the district council and parish council. Mr Everard commented that although previous sink holes could not be considered a failure, with one well providing 12,000 gallons per day, this was insufficient for the growing needs of the town. The cost of this work also had to be taken into account, with the a 30 year loan taken to finance the project - any sink holes had to provide a significant source of water for this period. However, due to the complex nature of the strata, there could be no guarantee of success wherever a boring was made.

Council members felt that although there were significant factors to consider, action was needed. With the town growing and the recent sewage scheme well under way, the parish council was given approval to apply for a further loan to complete the Burton Latimer scheme. This was finally completed in June 1904 by architects Messrs Gotch & Saunders.

As the sanitation of the town improved, the older wells and sinkholes were no longer required and in 1934 the Stock Well was eventually closed and boarded up due to contamination. But the drought of 1935 forced the local authority to open the well and fit a new pump. This provided water for the top end of Burton Latimer, but for all other purposes other than drinking.

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