#BookReview for The Grimy 1800s: Waste, Sewage, and Sanitation in Nineteenth Century Britain by André Gren @PenSwordBooks #TheGrimy1800s

In the nineteenth century, as towns grew, Britain became increasingly grimy. The causes of dirt and pollution were defined legally as ‘nuisances’ and, in 1835, the new local authorities very rapidly appointed an army of ‘inspectors of nuisances’.

This book is the inspectors’ chronicle: it offers their eyewitness accounts and a plethora of details pertaining to the workings of the scrutinizing Parliamentary Committees that were set up in an attempt to ease the struggles against filth. Inspectors battled untreated human excreta in rivers black as ink, as well as insanitary drinking water, home to tadpoles and portions of frogs so large that they blocked taps. They dealt with putrid animal carcasses in cattle markets and slaughterhouses, not to mention the unabated smoke from mill chimneys that covered towns with a thick layer of black grime. Boggle Hole Pond was a source of drinking water full of dead dogs; ice cream was coated in bugs; stinking rotting crabs, poultry and pigeon smells polluted the air. Even the dead floating out of badly drained burial grounds were ‘nuisances’, leading to the practice of burning the remains of the dead.

This is the history of a grimy century in the throes of the Industrial Revolution, illustrating the many ways in which the country responded to the ever growing demands of a new age of industry.



I enjoyed this book I will admit that if the author had not taken the time to get the records he had and put them together in this book, I would not have though to go and look for them myself.

The book is a good introduction and it is one that sparked my interest to look further in to what would have been like where I like.  I know when my dad was born in the late 1950s my grandparents lived in a traditional back-to-back property in Birmingham where they had one toilet at the end of the block of houses for communal use so this was a book that hit home for me seeing what my relatives could, and did live through.

I really liked the way that the book was set out with the different chapters focussing on the different type of “nuisances” and some of what was described was shocking and it did make me shiver, and my skin almost crawl.  I am so pleased that sanitation and the sewers were introduced and accommodation (generally) has improved for all.

I liked the images that were added to the book, personally I would have liked a few more if possible to really highlight what it was really like.

It is 3.5 stars from me for this book rounded up to 4 stars for Goodreads and Amazon – I really enjoyed it and it was great to get a glimpse of what life was life in the “Grimy 1800s”.