Friday, 10 June 2011

Audit trail

As I have been auditing the parliamentary papers, I was reminded of the diverse collection of subjects discussed by Parliament. Normally the parliamentary papers that stick in my head concern current legislation eg Rosemary Nelson inquiry report or ones which cause a media stir such as MPS expenses.
It is only when you are auditing or doing enquiries on the older items that the more unusual subjects are bought to your attention, for example, one enquiry I dealt with was about the amendment of the health and morals of Apprentices Act, and the state and condition of chidren employed in cotton manufactories.
The following items are a few of the interesting things I found in the many volumes we have in the collection:
One volume (PP 1847-48 vol XXXV) is about prisons of Great Britain. I was particulary impressed with the dietary facts - if the prisoners were doing hard labour they were entitled to 1 pint of soup per week, the soup was made from the liquor of meat with peas, oatmeal and vegetables. Gruel, by the way, contained 3 ounces of oatmeal per quart!
Disturbance in Hyde Park, (PP 1856 vol. XXIII),contains all the information from the inquiry with one paragraph stating; "the confinement of the prisoners in Vine Street Station during the night is a painful part of our enquiry."
Apparently 43 people were shut up in a basement cell without proper ventilation, water on the floor and an open convience in one corner. One person who had to stay 2 nights in a cell reported that he has never been well since.
Another volume I was intrigued by was about cholera (PP 1850 vol XXI) under the heading "Fatal effects of emanations from town refuse," it explained, "those noxious matters are collected by a number of persons who make a trade of accumulating and selling them for agricultural purposes and they have become so accustomed to live amongst this horrible garbage, that they not only heap it up against the walls and immediately under the windows of the houses." Ugh!

This photo is part of a plan of Glasgow showing locations of cholera hospitals and districts most affected by cholera are marked with the blue lines.
These are just a few of the fascinating items I have recently seen, offering a wealth of information about living and social conditions in the past.

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