~ History ~
Typhoid Epidemic
Life was hard for the simple nailers and miners of Gornal, the following describes the conditions they would have to endure.
Overcrowding with little sanitation or clean water meant disease was rife in the 1870s, the following extract gives a window into how it was in those times.

An extract from the Dr. Ballard report of sanitary conditions from 1875 in the area including the village of Lower Gornal.
Dr Ballard was stressing the need for a proper water supply and sanitation needed to quell the epidemic and describes the squalor he witnessed in graphic detail, this is grim reading!.

This report covered a wider area and this edited snippet gives a brief look at sanitation and how it affected the local folk.
It was brought about by a very bad epidemic of Enteric Fever [Typhoid] in 1872 which affected one in ten inhabitants of the area, many of those infected resulted in death.

The Village of Lower Gornal consists of one long street running along a declivity from Ruiton (near Upper Gornal) towards a place known as East Street and West Street. This main street is called Ruiton Street.
Near the church, a street called Robert Street joins it from the direction of Upper Gornal, and opposite this by the side of the church, is Summer Lane, a filthy narrow, steep road, running towards Abbey Road and Gornal Wood, and having on the right or north side a considerable hamlet known as Barr's meadow, through which is known as the Straights road (at a lower level) can be reached.

Much of the sewage from the houses in Ruiton Street flows into a ditch in the fields at the rear of that street towards Barr's Meadow; this ditch is not many yards distant from a spring, known as Caldwell Spring, which is unprotected from pollution, and to which many of the inhabitants of this part have recourse for drinking water.
But the spring does not appear to receive pollution from the sewage ditch. The sewage from the houses in Summer Lane runs down the lane at the side of the roadway as far as Abbey Street, at the bottom of the hill, obtaining there the addition of sewage from houses and pigsties.
After collecting in a large sewage swamp near the gas works, and receiving additions from land springs, it flows off into, or rather forms, a brook "Bobs Brook", at the side of the Straights Road.

In Summer Lane there are two so-called springs, which are little roadside stone cisterns, or dipping places. One of these cisterns received its spring water from the overflow of a well at the rear of a house in Summer Lane, in which one of the earliest cases of Entric fever occurred, and the well could scarcely have failed to receive excrement pollution from the privy of the houses.
The other and lower well also receives water from a spring on the opposite side of the road. But the most startling facts are, that while the lower cistern is actually situated in the sewage channel before mentioned as running down Summer Lane, and so receive a large admixture of sewage, the upper one is similarly polluted through the sewage from a broken drain pipe within a foot of it. Inhabitants say that the water in this 'spring' is sometimes actually discoloured when washing is going on up the hill. Yet these two springs are largely resorted to for drinking water by people from all parts of the village, from Barrs Meadow and Gornal Wood; some people from Gornal Wood travel half-a-mile to fetch it for drinking purposes, so scarce is drinking-water in this neighbourhood.

There is another dipping place in the sewage channel at the beginning of Arbury Road [?] and both this and 'Bob's Brook' in the Straights Road are used by publicans in the neighbourhood for brewing...
The use of the brook water, thus polluted is well known to the local board, not only because it is notorious, but because the inspector of nuisances has specially reported upon it to the board.

In one row of 21 houses, the occupants of which derived their drinking water from a well situated 4½ yards from some filthy over-full privies where drainage into the well most assuredly took place, only one house escaped invasion by the fever.
As I visited from house to house in the village of Lower Gornal I found whole families had been ill with the fever, and sometimes that the disease spread in part through the medium of infected privies and in other less obvious ways, yet I fully ascertained that the principal agents in this spread were the waters of certain wells which - at all times more or less polluted with excremental matter and sewage matter soaking into them from privies and imperfect drains - had become specifically polluted by excremental matter containing the contagium of the fever.

Source: Appendix 3 to Report from the Select Committee for Public Health Act (1875) Amendment Bill (1878).


The following report from 1892, shows things were not much better several years on.

A revolting case of overcrowding which was reported to Sedgley Sanitary Authority last week, shows that it is not only in the slums of our great cities that "the poor are hovell'd and hustled together, each sex like swine." It was stated by the Medical Officer that in a dwelling in Himley Road, Gornal Wood, a man who was suffering from typhoid fever, his wife, their three sons aged eleven, fourteen, and sixteen, and two daughters aged seven and twenty-one years, respectively, all occupied one bedroom, and slept in three beds, one of them made up on the floor. Another son and hs wife slept in the wash-house! No doubt an end will now be put to this particular case, but the scandal is that it should ever have been allowed to occur. There is clearly a fine field of labour open to the sanitary reformer in the Black Country.

Source: 'The Truth' magazine, July 21, 1892.

The Lower Gornal and Gornal Wood sewer system was completed in 1926.