Disinfecting library books, banishing diseases, clearing manure and inspecting ice cream parlours was all in a day’s work for Enfield’s inspector of nuisances.
The Enfield Independent unearthed documents revealing the duties of Enfield’s very own nuisance inspector, Andrew Munro, who rooted out the borough’s smells, noises, and other troubles between 1881 and 1926.
Desperate to see whether the borough’s naughty levels have rocketed over the years, I tracked down Enfield Borough Council environmental health officer of 17 years, Sue McDaid, who I suppose we could call 2013’s answer to Mr Munro. Unfortunately, the humorous job title has been lost in the mists of time.
The Report of the Sanitary Inspector For The Year 1925. Not the catchiest of titles, but Enfield’s nuisance cop had bigger fish to fry than memorable tag lines.
And first on his list: disinfecting library books. This is a strange one to me, and to be honest, I am now considering carrying around a pair of trusty Marigolds at all times. Mr Munro disinfected 110 library books that year – of what, and which books, unfortunately remains unclear.
I can’t say I’m surprised Ms McDaid admitted disinfecting library books is no longer in the environmental health inspector's remit. However, she said the job would have been an important way to rid the borough of grim bugs and infectious diseases.
If nausea-inducing novels are not enough to put you off your lunch, I’ll move on to Mr Munro’s next task of the day. In 1925, 217 people with scarlet fever, diphtheria, mumps, whooping cough and the nasty skin infection erysipelas were sent to hospital while they recovered. Although the diseases aren’t quite the same, Ms McDaid said the council has powers to keep people – usually suffering from E. Coli poisoning – away from work and in hospital.
Only one or two orders are made each year nowadays, which I’m putting down to people not needing an excuse to be dragged away from work. She said the council has old powers to keep people in isolation, exclude people from the workplace or school and have their house and clothes rid of disease.
Once Mr Munro banished the borough of bug-filled books and infectious diseases, he tackled stables, manure heaps and dustbins. He ordered two stables to be cleansed – no longer necessary in Enfield in 2013 apparently – and called for 19 piles of manure to be removed. A total of 163 dodgy dustbins also needed to be repaired.
Enfield in olden times also appears to be a place for those with a sweet tooth, with 48 ice cream parlours inspected in 1925. Ms McDaid says this would have been important to make sure the pasteurisation process was top-notch. This is still checked, and I admit I am peeved I missed out on Enfield's ice-creamier days.
Somewhat surprisingly, Ms McDaid said she was not hugely taken aback with the range of nuisances Mr Munro had to tackle. She said although times have changed, people haven’t, and the role of the public health officer has stayed quite stable over the years. Minus the stables, I suppose.
Noise is the biggest nuisance in our borough, with 2,500 complaints investigated at domestic properties last year. Pests also cause a stir in Enfield, with the council investigating 543 cases of critters including cockroaches, rats and mice.
The council keeps an eye on properties regarded “filthy” or “verminous” and can charge the owners to clean up their act – it sounds like a television show if you ask me. A total of 104 properties were forcibly cleaned last year - I had better keep on top of cleaning the oven. It also seems people in Enfield want to keep the borough’s scent sweet – with 75 cases of domestic dodgy smells reported to the council last year alone.
Okay, so a couple of quirks in Mr Munro’s report may have vanished, but it seems keeping the borough free of nuisances hasn’t really changed over the years. People still make trouble, others still don’t like it, and the nuisance inspector is there to make sure the borough remains (relatively) smell, noise and germ-free.