The issue of lodging houses and the problems they raised in terms of overcrowding, crime and vice, was a grave concern for social reformers in the nineteenth century.
The Public Health Act of 1848 empowered the local board of health to make by-laws to regulate common lodging houses in the interests of public health. This included fixing a maximum number of lodgers permitted to sleep in each house, promoting cleanliness and ventilation, providing for inspection visits and ensuring the segregation of the sexes. These powers were extended to local authorities in the Common Lodging Houses Act of 1851. This Act was strengthened by a second Act in 1853.
In addition to permitting local authorities to make by-laws to govern lodging houses, the Acts also made it a requirement for local authorities to keep a register of owners of lodging houses and the houses themselves. They also required lodging house proprietors to notify the local authority if any cases of contagious or infectious diseases occurred.
Our group found repeated references to the registration of lodging houses in Sunderland. You can see one example above, whereby the Sanitary Committee Recommended that the house of Thomas Birtley in Stamps Lane be registered as a Common Lodging House and that he be allowed to accommodate in Room No. 3 four Lodgers, in Room No. 4 – four Lodgers, in Room No. 5 – four Lodgers, in Room No. 6 – six Lodgers and in Room No. 7 – six Lodgers. Room No. 1 to be for the Keeper’s family and Room No. 2 to be used as a kitchen.