NCRA NewsMail

17 October 2018

Sixty years ago - Part 2 by Jean Gammons 

In part 2 of her article, Jean writes :

The Chislehurst and Sidcup Urban District Council's Annual Report on the Health of the Urban District 1959 also reveals to us today how different things were back then.

In introducing his Report, the Medical Officer of Health, Mr H B C Carter-Locke, expressed his concern about several matters. A particular one was how few people in the newly eligible 26-40 age group had applied for vaccination against anterior poliomyelitis, especially as two very serious adult cases had occurred in 1959 (but happily no cases of children). He also considered unsatisfactory in the extreme the fact that deaths from violence (28) reached their highest figure of the past decade - a total made up of 12 motor vehicle accidents, seven suicides and nine other accidents. Regarding the suicides, he pointed out that with all the modern labour saving devices life should be easier but that this could not be said for the pressure on the mind. Here, he mentioned the modern craze for drug taking, especially of the tranquilliser type; and the problem of alcoholism, newly being recognised as a disease and not as an objectionable social habit. He also warned against the danger of smoking - pointing to the 42 deaths from cancer of the lung; and then referred to the really wonderful summer of 1959, when the hours of sunshine were so high and the rainfall so low. He said that he had come to the conclusion that so long as man-made radiation is not generally increased, the hazards were not great - adding that it should not be forgotten that natural radiation is much greater than that of bomb fall-out. 

The District's total population was estimated as being 89,020 (an increase of 480 since 1958) - equivalent to a density of 9.94 persons to the acre. Unemployment averaged 250 - local firms having held their own and being added to by a few small firms coming into the area. Open Air Recreational Amenities for North Cray people included North Cray Place Farm (29 acres), Footscray Meadows (49 acres) and Stable Meadow Sports Ground (17 acres).

Disinfection and Disinfestation was carried out by the Health Department. Some 208 premises had been visited, with infected bedding and clothing subjected to steam under pressure at the disinfecting station in Main Road, Sidcup. And 28 premises were visited for disinfestation. 

Hospital services were provided by the Cray Valley Hospital, the Sidcup Cottage Hospital and by Queen Mary's Hospital. For the latter, plans were being made for a new hospital to replace the existing buildings - with a planned beddage of 500, greatly increased provision for chronic sick, a maternity department and an opthalmic department and that this new hospital would rank as a major accident centre.

Four new cesspools had been installed during the year, and 10 abolished. In North Cray, there were 230 premises not connected to main drains, and 185 cesspools. Here, sewerage works were planned for 1960. 

For refuse collection, a new type of bin fitted with a rubber lid and rubber base was becoming available in an attempt to reduce noise. Plastic bins were also coming to the fore, but unfortunately they were easily damaged - particularly by hot ashes!

The District now had four riding establishments, with 30 horses and 46 ponies. And there had been a welcome decrease in the rat population, making it possible to dispense with the services of one of the two Rodent Operatives. Resulting from the Clean Air Act 1956, the District had installed five instruments for the measurement of atmospheric pollution - much of which was coming from the concentration of cement factories between Dartford and Gravesend. It was also looking towards the eventual control of the emission of smoke from all sources.

For Housing, a total of 315 new dwellings had been built during the year by the Council, 117 houses and 12 flats. Legislation covering Moveable Dwellings and the use of tents, vans and sheds for human occupation had not proved effective. A particular problem was at the Chalk Pit at Ruxley where the number of dwellers had increased since the war. There was one family at Ruxley Manor Farm, another at the Conservative Club in Sidcup, and another at Greenwood Nursery, Parsonage Lane. There were 28 families at the Chalk Pit, Ruxley; and another nine on the adjoining ground.

Food sampling was active: there were several instances of bread found to contain lubricating oil, dirty cotton wool, sacking or string, coal, rodent droppings and a needle. 

Those were the days!