I came across the article below from a 1900 newspaper. I'm adding it for local interest. (Also, it is worthy of note that the John Davis mentioned was one of the builders of the Ladder. His story has been built up in the comment body of another discussion).
The piece below ran in the North London Echo and Crouch End Observer in December 1900. (I am reproducing a scanned version because the original newspaper article is rather difficult to read).
Let me introduce you to the members of the deputation:
Harry West, 207 Wightman Road, (Commercial traveller, aged 30, living with his wife Isabella, 32. Also a boarder couple, Sherry Walker, aged 39 and his wife Cecilia aged 38).
The Reverend Cecil White, St Peter's Vicarage, Wightman Road, (Church of England Vicar, aged 40, living with his wife Annie, 30, son Hugh, 2 and three (yes three!) servants, Eileen Rutland, 28, Harriet Seward, 19 and Edith Wilson, 20)
Dr. Thomas Esclome Fisher, 272 Wightman Road, (Physician/Surgeon, aged 32, living with his sisters Susan, 29 and Harriet, 34. Also his niece Dorothy Beddoe, 11, and a servant Annie Loughton, 22)
Arthur Wells, 339 Wightman Road, (Engineer Revolving Shutter Manufacturer, aged 51, living with his wife Margaret, 48 and a servant, Elizabeth Dent, 39).
Henry Charles Ingram, 127 Wightman Road, (Accountant, aged 57, living with his wife, Harriet, aged 50).
Charles Fisher, 129 Wightman Road, (Banker's Clerk, living with his wife Annie, 40, his sons Eustace, 11 and Lawrence, 5, and his daughters Bertha, 13 and Mildred, 9. Also a servant Ethel May, 29.
John Davis, 201 Wightman Road, (Builder, aged 46, living with his wife Blanche, 43, his daughter Clara, 21 his son Frank, 16 and servant Alice Cavill, 20). (For more on John Davis, see the link given a the end of the opening paragraph).
The Harringay Protest
Mr. Harry Green, of Harringay, rose and said that he wished to hand in a memorial signed by 138 residents of the neighbourhood in the vicinity of the new sheds erected by the Great Northern Railway Company, in Hampton Road (sic), complaining of the nuisance caused by the emission of black smoke from the chimnies (sic) of those sheds. Mr. Green added that there was also a deputation attending that night, and they desired to lay their grievances before the Council on the subject.
The Chairman outlined the procedure with regard to receiving memorials and deputations. He said there would be no discussion until the memorial had been put in and the deputation had been received and the Council had heard what they had to say. He proceeded to remark that there was one thing he wished to allude to — that it was not at all usual at that Council to have a deputation sent there at almost a minute's notice as was the case on the present occasion. As the deputation was in attendance, however, they would be glad to see them, but he thought two or three days’ notice at least ought to have been given the Council of their intention to be present. He knew their bye-law was a little vague on the matter of notice, but it was not customary at any district council or corporation to receive deputations a t almost a minute’s notice. He thought the subject of the bye-laws with regard to notice should be considered by a committee.
Mr. Harry Green remarked that the bye-law did not provide for any notice being given.
The Chairman — You are not out of order.
The deputation, consisting of the following gentlemen, were then introduced to the Council: The Rev. Cecil White, Dr. Gemmell, Dr. Fisher, Messrs. A. Wells, H. C. Ingram, Charles Fisher and John Davis.
The Clerk read the memorial, the text of which was as follows:
- To the Chairman and members of the Hornsey Urban District Council: - We, the undersigned owners, ratepayers and tenants living in the vicinity of the new sheds erected by the Great Northern Ry. Co. in Hampton Road, beg to draw your attention to the very great and serious nuisance caused by the black smoke which is continuously issuing from the engines and engine-sheds belonging to the G.N.Ry. Co. It is simply impossible for the tenants of the houses in Wightman Road to open their windows owing to the continuous smoke and showers of black smuts. The smell also existing from this is most objectionable. Numbers of persons have already left the district for this reason, and others are determined to do so at the earliest opportunity, unless the evil is remedied. We are of opinion that this nuisance is so aggravated as to be very injurious to health, and, in the interests of all in this district should no longer be allowed to continue. We, therefore, ask you as the local sanitary authority at once to take steps to bring about an abatement of this nuisance. We are willing to help you by evidence, and by every means in our power; and, in conclusion, we have to add that as the matter is-most serious and very urgent, we trust you will give it your immediate attention.
The Chairman informed the deputation that there would be no discussion on the subject until the deputation (after they had made known what they wanted to say) had retired. It was the rule that two members only of a deputation should speak.
The Rev. Cecil White then rose and said he had been asked to speak on behalf of the deputation. The deputation by their presence desired to assure the Council that the nuisance they complained of was by no means imaginary. (Personally, he lived opposite the engine sheds of the Great Northern Railway Company, and he could testify that the discomfort and nuisance produced by the smoke and the dirt were very great indeed. The rev. gentleman proceeded to remark on the fact that most of the ratepayers in the part affected - or at any rate a great many of them - owned the properties they occupied, and which were acquired long before there was any idea of the present large sheds being erected there. Therefore, he need not say that anything like a serious nuisance arising from the sudden emission of smoke in the manner complained of meant a great depreciation in the value of the properties. He interviewed the manager of the Great Northern Railway Company some months ago, when the sheds were about to be built, and the manager assured him that there would not be many engines and not much smoke, and added there was an old saying that where there was smoke there was always money. He (the rev. gentleman) considered that the Harringay people had had the smoke, and the Great Northern Co. had the money. He considered they had a right to ask the Council to protect them against the nuisance of which they complained. He had been told also by another officer of the Company that there would be no nuisance caused, as by some sort of system the smoke was to be focussed and brought into one large chimney and disposed of. Any one who had seen the shed was aware that there were from 80 to 100 separate chimnies (sic), and a great number of them at frequent intervals emitted dense, black smoke, and not only did this take place during the day, but also went on during the night. The deputation now came to the Council, by their kind permission, to ask whether the Council had not the power to protect them against the nuisance, and to say that the Great Northern Railway Company should take such steps as they were bound to take to bring about a satisfactory abatement of the nuisance, and to protect them against what they considered was, to a very great extent, unnecessary and excessive.
Dr. Gemmell also spoke. He said they came to that meeting to represent what was a very strong feeling in the neighbourhood on the question — a strong feeling as regards the inconvenience and injury to health which they suffered in consequence of the excessive smoke. He need not remind the Council that the powers which they possessed under the Public Health Act of 1875 enabled them to deal with the nuisance complained of. Dr. Gemmell proceeded to quote the section of the law dealing with nuisances. (Section 91, sub-section 7, read as follows:
- Any fire place, or 'furnace which does not as far as practicable, consume the smoke arising from the combustibles used therein, and which is used for working engines by steam . . . . . and any chimney hob being the chimney of a private dwelling house, sending forth black smoke in such quantity as to be a nuisance shall be deemed a nuisance, liable to be dealt with summarily in the manner provided by this Act.
Continuing, he said his object in reading that extract, which no doubt was as well known to the Council as to himself, was to try to satisfy them as a sanitary authority that a nuisance existed. And if they were satisfied that a nuisance existed they could serve notices on the Great Northern Railway Company to abate the nuisance. He had heard it objected that no nuisance existed and that no smoke had been seen by sundry persons who went there especially to look for it. That might have been the case at that particular time, and he would not deny it. But he might say this, that since the agitation was known to be in progress with regard to this matter, the amount of smoke that had been emitted during the day had been, to some extent, minimised. He assured them, however, that that was quite made up for by the amount of smoke emitted during the night. On Friday night last he had the curiosity to observe these chimnies (sic). He stood on Hornsey bridge and he observed black smoke began to pour forth, there was no other word to describe it — at 23 minutes past eleven, and a stream of this black smoke continued to pour forth till two minutes to twelve o’clock.
The Chairman — Was that in the evening?
Dr. Gemmell — Two minutes to twelve o’clock midnight. Proceeding, he said that at the time the black smoke poured forth a large quantity of grey smoke came from other chimnies (sic). The grey smoke continued until a quarter past two o’clock in the morning. He went down there prepared to take a sample of the smoke, but was prevented by the north wind blowing from him. He contended that what 'he had described was a nuisance, and was a sample of what they were subjected to daily. If people did not observe very much during the day, yet when they were asleep and lying in their beds, perhaps with windows open for the purposes of ventilation, the air which they were compelled to breathe was polluted with the carbon which was floating about in the atmosphere. He observed that the smoke came largely from a low chimney about the middle of the eighth block of buildings from the Hampton Road side, going south. That low chimney was about level with the top of the house, and there had been no attempt in that shed, so far as he was aware, to erect anything in the nature of a smoke stack, or to provide any means by which the fumes could be consumed or carried off at a higher level. It would be in the recollection of some of the members present that some years ago, when the refuse destructor was erected in the High Street, Hornsey there was a great outcry from a fear that the proceeds of the destroyed refuse might by smell and otherwise become an offensive nuisance. That was obviated, however, by the erection of a tall shaft. The Great Northern Railway Company had taken no steps whatever to minimise the nuisances they caused. He thought it was in the power of the sanitary authority to bring pressure to bear upon the company to do something, either by the erection of such a shaft, that the smoke might be completely consumed, or to compel them to use some such apparatus as "Elliott's Smoke Evacuator". He could not see why it was not possible to do away entirely with the nuisance of which they complained by the addition of the latter invention. Dr. Gemmell concluded by describing the working and the capabilities of "Elliott's Smoke Evacuator", and said not only would it do away entirely with the nuisance now complained of, but it was such an economical and absorbing process that it would result in a saving of 20 per cent, to the Great Northern Railway Company over the fuel at present used in the chimnies (sic). By adapting some such invention the company would be augmenting the funds at the disposal of their shareholders.
Mr. Harry Green asked if any member of the deputation could give a definite instance of persons having left the district because of the nuisance of the smoke?
The Chairman ruled that he could not at that juncture put the question. There was a report from the Health Committee dealing with the subject of the smoke nuisance, and perhaps it would be best to receive that now. (Hear, hear.)
This suggestion was acted on.
Mr. F. W. Lawson, as chairman of the Public Health and Hospital Committee, presented that committee's report. Under the heading of "Sanitary Work," the committee reported:
The Council inspectors reported that on the 5th inst. and on several subsequent days they observed chimnies (sic) of engine sheds belonging to the Great Northern Railway Company, and situate near to Hampden Road, Hornsey, sending forth black smoke in such quantities as to be a nuisance. The committee recommended that notice be served on the company requiring them to abate the nuisance within seven days from service, and that, if necessary, summonses be issued.
On the same subject the following resolution was now moved by Mr. Lawson:
That the Council being satisfied of the existence of a nuisance arising from chimnies (sic) of engine sheds belonging to the Great Northern Railway Company and situate near to Hampden Road, Hornsey, sending forth black smoke in such quantities as to be a nuisance, hereby instruct the Clerk to sign and serve, or cause to be served, on the company a notice requiring them to abate the nuisance and to execute any works which may be necessary for the purpose, and also instruct the solicitor to take such legal proceedings as may be requisite.
Mr. Lawson said the committee sympathised deeply with the object of the deputation. They had been considering this matter for a long time, and, as could be seen by their report, they had really anticipated the purpose for which the deputation had just visited them. The present was the only action the Council could take in accordance with the regulations of the Public Heath Act.
Mr. Harry Green, in seconding, said he had felt for some months past that the grievance was a very real one. Hi» was determined not to let the matter slide, and he was glad the committee had at last taken the action they bad. He did not, however, think the action taken was enough. The Council, satisfied that a nuisance existed, proposed to write the Great Northern Ry. giving them seven days in which to stop the nuisance. If the company stopped the nuisance during seven days, the Council would have nothing further to say and the thing would drop; but three weeks afterwards the company would be doing he same thing as it had done before. Proceeding, Mr.Green complained that summonses had not been issued against the railway company. He was told three week« previously that as soon as a case could be made out the company would be summoned. The next day two others and himself went down and made a beautiful "catch." They caught two engines standing outside the shed, and by the help of opera glasses they took the numbers of the engines. They were willing to be put on oath "and to give evidence as to the nuisance the engines were causing, and he wanted to know why a summons was not applied for.
The Chairman - It would have been illegal.
Mr. Harry Green, continuing, maintained that it was no use to say that the company must first of all be told to abate the nuisance, for they had seen cases over and over again in the newspapers of railway companies being prosecuted for allowing their engines to remain standing and emitting black smoke. In such cases there could not possibly have been notice given to abate the nuisance. He thought the resolution ought to be made stronger, and that the two words "if necessary” should be omitted and that summonses should be applied for. He did not know if he should be in order in moving a resolution to that effect.
The Chairman - It would be absolutely illegal. The Chairman added that it was not quite right if Mr. Green to lay blame on the committee, because to his knowledge for weeks past they had been considering this question. But they must go to work in a proper manner, and they could not summon the Great Northern Railway Co., or anyone else until they had first passed a resolution at that Council calling upon the company to abate their nuisance. If the nuisance was not abated, then they could proceed by summons, but they could not before. If they had applied for a summons against the company at the police court it would not have been granted, for the first thing the clerk would ask would be "where is the resolution of the Council calling upon the company to abate the nuisance" and if they could not put the that in, a summons would not be granted. They might like to go a much quicker way in this matter, but they must go as the law allowed them. He thought the committee had been very wise in not rushing into court, and the action they had taken was the proper one. (Hear, hear.)
Mr. Chamberlain supported the committee, who (he said) were perfectly alive to the nuisance complained of. He had no intention to play to the gallery in this matter. Mr. Green was a member of the committee and knew what was being done.
Mr. Harry Green — No, I'm not a member of the committee.
Mr. Chamberlain said he would withdraw this part of his statement. But he must say, emphatically, that Mr. Lawson, the chairman of the committee, had done everything that was possible, and as for what Mr. Green had said he (Mr. Chamberlain) must stand up for his chairman (Mr. Health Committee Lawson).. The subject of the nuisance had been before them over and over again, and as soon as the Health Committee had a good case they would be quite prepared to have the matter fought to the bitter end. He could assure Mr. Green that the interests of anyone residing near the engine sheds were quite as well looked after by the Health Committee as the interests of residents in other parts of the district. He hoped they would get the company into a corner and then get a conviction.
Mr. Harry Green - Then I shall be satisfied.
Mr. Chamberlain - I am satisfied that everything is being done that can be done and you ought to be satisfied, too.
Mr. Harry Green — When we have stopped the nuisance I shall he satisfied and not before.
Mr. Balfour Was very sorry Mr. Green formed such a poor estimate of the capabilities of that Council as to insinuate that they would have to let the matter go to sleep supposing the railway company abated the nuisance for seven days and then recommenced it. He had more faith in the commonsense of the authorities than to suppose they would be guilty of such an act. (Hear, hear.) Or if they were so guilty, then he was sure that the Council would not tolerate it for one moment.
Mr. Lawson - We should treat the railway company as we should treat every one else. I don’t believe in a policy of bluff. When we get good sound evidence we can go into court, but until then I do not recommend the committee to do so.
The proposition was then put and agreed to.
The deputation, which had withdrawn during the above discussion, then re-entered the room.
The Chairman, in informing them of the decision of the Council had every sympathy with the ratepayers of the district affected, and if the deputation had not been present that night the resolution would have been passed in the same way as it had been. The Chairman reminded the deputation that in a matter of this kind the Council must go to work in a legal manner, and must not do anything in a hurry, but wait until they had several good cases and the notices required had been properly issued. On the notice referred to in the resolution being served, if its terms were properly complied with there would be an end of the matter. If a nuisance were not abated, then they would go to court and apply for a summons against the company. He might add that supposing the nuisance should at first be abated and afterwards repeated, it would not be necessary during six months to get another resolution from the Council to take further action. If six months elapsed and the nuisance was repeated then they would have to move by another resolution. He thought the deputation would agree that for the present the Council could do no more and what they had done would, he hoped be a satisfactory answer for them. Before the deputation retired, he added, that one of the members of the Council wished to know if any member of the deputation would give any evidence of ratepayers having left their houses on account of he smoke nuisance.
Mr. John Davis — I can: several tenants have left my premises on account of the nuisance.
The Chairman — That is evidence perhaps
Mr. Davis wished the Council had included “engines" as well as "engine-sheds" in their resolution.
The Chairman thought they had better go step by step. They wanted to send out the notices on the following day, and any alteration of the resolution would cause delay.
The deputation then withdrew, the Rev. Cecil White as the leader, thanking the Council, through the chairman, for receiving them.