03. Architect’s Report – Good Water – Sweeter than Leeds

July 1920

Mexborough and Swinton Times July 24, 1920


Henry Laughton Smethurst, architect, said he had been frequently engaged as architect and property manager for the complainant company for over 27 1/2 years. He spoke to the erection of houses and the making of roads in Denaby, and said all work had been done in accordance with plans passed by the local authority.

His Lordship: Has the Rural authority Urban powers?

Mr Waugh: This I believe, urban powers have been adopted by them for some districts. In fact, he added, at the enquiries at which the applications from this district for urban powers were considered, one of the points made was that the district had Urban powers under the rural Council

Mr Smethurst continuing his evidence bore out the particulars stated in councils opening speech as to the progress of the building of houses in Denaby, and stated that the improvement in the class of house showed consistent progress. Insufficient water supply had prevented the converging of proving middens. At one period, but he had orders to go ahead with the conversions.

Mr Waugh: You have now a sufficient water supply? – Yes, for every house.

At what charge? – At a very small charge; the 3/6 houses became 3/7.

Mr Waugh: Houses the plans of which were passed showing privvy middens, have now got water closets? – Yes

You did that voluntarily? – Yes.

At whose expense? – At the company’s.

That was part of the scheme for converting the whole if the war had not come? – Yes

Regarding the remaining houses – for the batch of which plans were passed in 1901 – witness said he had had instructions for some considerable time that when they were able to build again –

His Lordship: I don’t think we can have his instructions.

Mr Waugh: I am dealing with a suggestion that we are prepared to perpetuate the horrors in the place

His Lordship: very well; go on.

Mr Waugh: speaking generally, has the standard improved in each batch of houses?

Witness: Considerably.

What are the ranges of the rents? – From 3/7 to 7/6, the latter for the superior type of house.

HIs Lordship: we had better have the pre-statute rents.

Mr Waugh: Has there been any alteration?

Witness: Only to new tenants.

Mr Waugh: Does that include water? – Yes.

Mr Waugh: And public lighting? – Yes.

Mr Waugh: With the exception of the main roads all the streets were private streets, repairable at the expense of the company.

Witness: They were in good condition.


Witness said the scavenging of the district was controlled by the Doncaster Rural district Council.

Cross examined by Mr Mortimer, witness stated that in Denaby there were 1143 privvy middens and 566 water closets. He agreed that the privvy middens system was unsatisfactory, and that the work of conversion should be done as soon as possible.

Mr Mortimer: The difficulty up to 1905 was that there was an insufficient water supply?

Witness: One of our difficulties. We have been more educated since.

Mr Mortimer: There would be no difficulty in boring for water before 1905?

Witness: I don’t know I am not a water engineer

Mr Mortimer: But you are architect for these houses?

Witness: Yes. It is very good water. (Laughter.)

Mr Mortimer: What is the reason there were so few converging between 1905 and the outbreak of war?

Witness: It takes time to put in mains

His Lordship: When the conversions were made were the roads takenup to put the mains in?

Witness: Yes; water mains were put in.

Mr Mortimer: So far as you know there was no reason between 1905 and 1914, why you should not convert the whole of the privvy maidens?

Witness: it is a big contract.

Council: and a large number of years – 10 years!

Further cross examined, witness said he was working to instructions to proceed as quickly as possible.

Mr Mortimer: Do you live in one of these ideal home is yourself?

Witness: No

Further questioned as to a series of epidemics in Denaby, witness agreed that Dr Farrar was sent down by the local government board to enquire into the state of Denaby Main. He did not remember whether Dr Farrarhad reported adversely on the privvy midden system. He did not know whether Dr Dunn, Medical Officer of Health for the Doncaster Rural Council, had also reported adversely on the system in Denaby in 1911. His attention might have been drawn to these facts at the time, but he could not “stick to a date.”

Questioned on the Balby Street property, witness said it was built in 1893. Have you done anything to the property since it was built? – Yes; we have repaired it.

Temporary repairs?

We hope they will be permanent. (Laughter.)

Mr Mortimer: Have you noticed that in the block of houses near the Council schools the matter is leaking through the walls out into the yard?

Witness: In one or two instances.

Witness did not agree that the matter was human excrement and suggested that in might have been caused by the tenants throwing slops into the ash pits, and another reason for the presence of the water was the high ground behind.

His Lordship: can you show me 17,000 houses anywhere where you cannot find a leaky water closet?

Mr Mortimer (resuming cross-examination): how long has this state of affairs existed?

Witness: It may have been there one day and gone the next.

Mr Mortimer: Is it true that the houses are built in long streets of parallel rows? -Rows of 10.

Mr Mortimer: Is there a place called “Packey’s puzzle?” – Yes, it is only a nickname

Mr Mortimer: Are there generally uniform open courts? – Yes

Mr Mortimer: Do the back kitchen´s and larders face the privvy middens? – Yes


Mr Mortimer: Is there sometimes as little as 13 feet between the privvy middens and the larders?

Witness: The regulation is “15 to 20 feet.”

Mr Mortimer: Is it true that anybody passing through the streets diagonally would pass large numbers of privvy middens?

Witness: They have no need to go that way.

Mr Mortimer: They would pass that way to go from one street to another?

Witness: They needn’t go that way.

Witness strenuously denied that decent privacy was not possible in the privvy middens.

Mr Mortimer: Are they dark? – No.

Mr Mortimer: Are they approached by a narrow passage, and the only light is the light which reaches that passage? – Yes

Mr Mortimer: Is the street lighting, in your view, satisfactory? – Yes, excellent.

Mr Mortimer: Are the backyards lighted at all? – Many of them

Mr Mortimer: Do you know the case of the fishmonger shop? Is it within 20 feet of the privvy middens – No, sir

How many feet? – 22 feet 2 ½ inches

Do you consider 2 1/2 inches makes a difference? – 2 feet 2 1/2 inches

Mr Mortimer: I beg your pardon. Do you think it makes any difference?

Witness: If the buildings are clean, I see no objection to it

Mr Mortimer: Do you think a fair person might make a comment based upon that? Do children play about the privvy middens?

Witness: Mostly in the streets.

Mr Mortimer: You will agree you found children playing in the privvy middens?

Witness: I have never, I have seen them playing in this yards.

Mr Mortimer: Are many of the yard’s badly in need of repair?

Witness: Not badly; they need re-facing, some of them

Mr Mortimer: Is the surface very uneven? – No


Have the surfaces become impregnated with filth?

Witness: They are of tar macadam. The reason it is a little uneven is that they take the coal at the back

Mr Mortimer was proceeding to question witness after the state of certain privvy middens, Mr Waugh said he did not want to interrupt his friend but he must point out that the plaintiffs were not responsible for the scavenging.

His Lordship: It is certainly remote, but I am sure Mr Mortimer understands he must deal with principles.

Mr Mortimer: Of course I shall when the time comes

(To witness): Are these places entirely swarmed with flies?

Witness: Swarmed? – Absolutely untrue. I have seen flies, but not swarms of them.

Mr Mortimer: Are the contents of the privies taken through the yards? – Yes

Mr Mortimer: Is the stuff place on the ground before it is placed on the carts?

Witness: Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not.

Mr Mortimer: Does the yard become impregnated with the filth?

Witness: Not if it is disinfected afterwards.

Mr Mortimer: In the summer, is the smell very bad?

Witness: It was summer last Friday and there was not a smell in the village. It is a great deal more sweet than coming from Leeds station here (laughter.)

His Lordship: there cannot be a libel action by the Leeds Council because he has the witness´s privilege (renewed laughter)

“Water is bound to go through holes” said witness, in reply to a query whether; as a result of missing slates rain enters some privvy middens.

Mr Waugh (re-examining): Since you have had a sufficient water supply, has a privvy midden been erected?

Witness: No; plenty have been converted.

Mr Waugh: Is the colliery company in any way responsible at the present time for the scavenging or the way in which it is done? – No

Mr Waugh: Is there any truth in the suggestion that in the hot weather there are unpleasant smells in Denaby? – No

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