Unlike other nuisances, manure was a useful and valuable resource. Sunderland Corporation let out its manure.
Manure has a value because it is used by farmers to enrich their soil and provide nutrients to their crops. Our group found references throughout Sunderland Corporations’ minutes to the letting out of Sunderland’s manure.
In 1855, manure was let to John Thubron, Joseph Bowman, Arthur Bell and Robert Greenshields at 2s 6d per wagon – this is roughly £10 based on the Retail Price Index and £80 based on average earnings. A special platform was erected at Monkwearmouth Railway Station for the loading of manure, and there was also a manure depot in Sunderland.
The financial value of manure was also a source of public health problems however, as people were tempted to stockpile it. Our group found much evidence to show that middens were kept in people’s yards and even basements. The middens in yards often leaked into neighbouring rooms, and people would be living in rooms above the middens in their basements, which would also often overflow and leak into rooms and the streets outside. There were also issues around hatches which were often forced open or even just completely absent, causing hazards for people passing by. In 1873 a Mr Coxon was proceeded against by the Sanitary Committee for having a cellar overflowing so as to be a nuisance – you can see the entry from the Committee minutes above.