In 1847, Sunderland’s local authorities attempted to pass an Improvement Act. This would have given extensive powers to improve conditions in Sunderland.
The Bill was opposed, which meant that it was considered in detail by an Opposed Bill Committee made up of MPs who heard evidence from a number of local residents.
The evidence of local people gives a detailed impression of what the conditions in Sunderland were like at this time. Amongst others, the Committee heard evidence from the Mayor, Robert Brown, and from one of the largest shopkeepers in Sunderland, James Hills.
James Hills described Sunderland as one of the only towns in the country almost entirely without sewers: the sewers there were existed only to take surface water off the street.
You can read their evidence to find out more about what Sunderland was like at this time:
Evidence of Robert Brown
Evidence of James Hills
The Bill was unsuccessful. This may have been due to an unpopular clause which granted 50% rate relief to some of the larger businesses in the town. It may also have been because the Public Health Act, at that time known as the Health of Towns Bill, was then making its way through Parliament. When the Sunderland Improvement Act was passed 1851 it incorporated many of the clauses of the 1848 Public Health Act.