31st January 1930 Kentish Mercury
GREENWICH RESIDENTS’ COMPLAINT
Alleged Factory Nuisance.
Police Court Proceedings
At Greenwich Police Court on Wednesday Ernest W.J.West secretary of the United Lamp Black Works, Magnet House, Kingsway, WC was summoned at the instance of the Greenwich Borough Council for causing a factory at Tunnel avenue, East Greenwich effluvia which the inhabitants alleged to be a nuisance and injurious to public health.
Dr.E.G.Annis Medical Officer of Health for Greenwich prosecuted and Mr W Turner defended and pleaded not guilty.
Dr.Annis said that he did not think similar proceedings had ever been taken at that court. They were forced upon the council by ten inhabitants who presented a petition and appeared before the council who were therefore obliged under the statute to take action. There was a natural implication that the council had not carried out its duties properly because they had permitted the nuisance. As a matter of fact the council had always contended that defendants were doing the best they could to obviate the nuisance. Had not the council’s agents been satisfied on that point they would have taken proceedings themselves. The factory was used for the manufacture of lamp black and it was impossible to prevent every particle of soot from escaping from the building.
Making Lamp Black
Lamp black, the doctor added, is made by burning oil in a smoky lamp and defendants business is to make as many particles and they can and catch as many as they can. He did not think defendants would say they did not cause a nuisance. The Council had every sympathy with people of the district and defendants were always ready to accept any suggestions made by the council. Eight or ten hands were employed at the factory.
William Rusmden Drake sanitary inspector to the council said he had had the factory under observation for ten years and defendants had always carried out any suggestion he made for mitigating any nuisance. On July 17th last Mr. William Henry Webb proprietor of the dining rooms at 150 Tunnel Avenue complained of the state of his premises due to the blacks. Witness found the counter and crockery were covered with blacks and the bedrooms and sitting room were in a bad state. He visited the factory and was told a filter and fan were out of order and new parts were being prepared.
Webb complained again on August 20th and witness took a man from the factory to the dining rooms. On September 2nd witness took an inspector from the Ministry of Health to the factory to assist in advising him, but the only suggestion he could make was that the fan should be speeded up. It was promised that this should be done.
Dr. Annis: Had defendants always done everything they possibly could. Witness: Yes.
His Worship (to Dr. Annis): When I hear you I wonder which side you are on (laughter)
One of the complaints Mrs Mary Elphick 15 Sigismund Street said she organised the petition to the borough council. It was signed by 75 people and presented on October 23rd. The nuisance was very bad on July 17th. When there were blacks on her dresser and crockery. Her husband’s dinner was covered and she had to throw it away. Sometimes they got blacks as big as her little fingernail and since she got two shovefuls from underneath her copper. There was also a nasty smell resembling ammonia. Her house was 20 feet from the factory.
Mr. Webb gave similar evidence. He said that between 9 and 10am on July 18th ‘the blacks began to come over’. Pastry was being made at his premises for steak puddings, the blacks smothered everything and the stuff had to be wasted. Customers found the place cover with blacks and were saying ‘Hi Governor, what do you call this? Got a sweep knocking about here’. The linen on witness’s bed had all to be changed on that day.
Cross-examined witness said the nuisance was not so acute now but they that were because there was so much dampness in the atmosphere.
An Expert View
Mr. W. E. Gibbs, Ramsey Professor of Chemical Engineering in the University of London, said he had visited the factory on several occasions and found that every precaution was being taken to prevent nuisance. There were one or two places where blacks might accumulate and escape and caused trouble and he made suggestions which were adopted. He thought it was impossible to obviate the nuisance absolutely. Defendants had used the most up to date method to control it.