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Linkinhorne Parish

The Housing of the Working Classes 
in the
Liskeard Rural Sanitary District

The Cornwall Record Office holds a report which is dated 26th January 1893 and is signed by William Nettle, Medical Officer of Health. It gives an interesting insight into the housing conditions of the working classes at the end of the 19th century and briefly mentions housing in the 24 parishes in the District.

In the introduction he notes that only one village in the District, Menheniot, had a public water supply with standpipes, most water being drawn from wells, private pumps or 'shoots'. 

The disposal of sewerage in virtually every village was by depositing it on the land, this is usually the garden. Fortunately most dwellings had a large enough garden to enable the disposal of slop-water, etc. without ill effect.

In all villages the old fashioned privy and cesspit is the form of water closet in general use, although many were built of wood and described as being in a dilapidates state. They appear to have had no roofs as they were described as being without cover, other than possibly some furze or material of that kind, so most were open to rain and flies which greatly increased the nuisance. The contents were allowed to seep into the neighbouring soil and the inspector deplored that fact that they did not put ashes or other suitable material in them to absorb the noxious smells and reduce the risk of ill-health. A critical comment, notes that the Authority had not adopted any Bye-Laws on the removal of house refuse and the cleansing of privies, even though this was urgently required.

The quality of the cottages varied considerably, some houses being very dilapidated to the point that they were structurally defective and unfit for human habitation. The usual flooring was slate slabs laid on bare soil which was invariably damp and the slabs were often cracked and there were holes in the floor. Bedrooms usually had no ceiling and the ground floor could be seen through gaps and holes in the flooring. The windows were often a bad fit and the rooms were very draughty, so much so that a candle would not keep alight. The walls could be very damp, especially if there was no form of guttering to carry rain water away, also the absence of a damp proof course did not help. Again the Inspector lamented that there were no Building Bye-Laws in place in the District.

No actual names are given to any of the cottages, but then not many had names, everyone knew who lived where!

Cheesewring Railway (Minions)
There were 35 houses and a large number of them were wet due to the porous nature of the stone and the mine sand that was used for making mortar. The water supply was from a public 'shoot'. Of the 35 houses only four did not have a closet of some description.

One cottage was found that had very wet walls with the bedroom walls being saturated and in another the back kitchen had no flooring other than bare earth.

A row of cottages had a filthy gutter at the back which was unpaved and full of an evil smelling mud.

Another row of cottages had defective closets in their gardens with a filthy cesspit close by which was "smelling abominably".

Upton Cross
The report here was fairly good with most of the houses considered to be reasonably dry and in good repair. There were two that were dilapidated and one of these was not fit for habitation. The water supply was a shallow dipping well at the side of the road.

Church Town
There were nine or ten houses here and six of them had no closets. The water supply was very poor being from a brook a good 200 yards away.

Rilla Mill
This village had about thirty houses and seven of these had no closet, however most of the houses were dry and in a fairly good state of repair, there being only one that was not fit for habitation. Water supply was from private pumps and a public 'shoot'.

About thirty cottages were inspected at Henwood and nine were found to have no closets, of the rest a large numbers of the closets were in a very poor condition. Most of the houses were dry and in fairly good repair with only two found to have wet walls due to a lack of guttering. Water supply was from a public 'shoot' and private pumps.

Comment was made about the decreasing population due to the mining slump, but despite this conditions did not seem as bad as in the fishing towns. For example in Polperro the inspector examined 114 houses of which 70 had no closet at all. Overcrowding was a considerable problem with up to 7 people sleeping in a room 15 x 9 x 7 feet. Sewerage was kept in the house during the day and disposed off in the river or harbour at night, however if you lived alongside the water all rubbish of all descriptions was simply thrown out of the window! The comments for Looe were much the same.