‘Little Hell’ and the Douglas Slums: Source A

From the report of the Special Commissioner of the 'Sanitary Record', Mona's Herald, 19th March 1879

“Not far from this was a place known, I believe, by the singularly appropriate name of ‘Little Hell,’ which is in an equally disgraceful state. Coming from these rookeries, thoroughly nauseated at the abominable stench, and sick at heart at the misery I had beheld, I walked up a slope called Shaw’s Brow, and, turning to the left, entered a yard where the excrement from a privy [toilet], imperfectly screened from observation, formed a mound of reeking filth right in front of one’s eyes and nose. Beneath was one of the old streets of the town, with its narrow and cramped back yards. Each had its own little repository of filth, the oozings from which were lying about the imperfectly paved surface. I am told that even in these yards pigs were kept in large numbers, with the tacit approval of the Town Commissioners, until, during the small pox epidemic, the sanitary commissioners routed them all out. They are coming back again, however, now the commission’s labours are finished, and the town authorities seem to take no steps to prevent it.”

Questions to consider:

  1. What can you learn about sanitation and living standards in ‘Little Hell’ in 1879?
  2. What is the inspector’s reaction to the conditions?
  3. The inspector came from England to conduct his report. What does this tell you about the Isle of Man’s progress in this area by 1879?
  4. What can you infer about the problems faced by the authorities in solving the issues?


Back to top