In the 19th century local urban administrations were beset by multiple problems caused largely by burgeoning populations impinging on an inadequate civic infrastructure. In many towns Improvement Commissioners were established in an attempt to strengthen local government. As early as October 1836 the Southampton council had appointed a committee to consider “whether and what specific improvements can be effected which may tend to increase the value of the town property, relieve the borough rate and generally improve the appearance of Southampton”.

The Paving Commissioners, a body set up in the 18th century to repair and clean the streets, was now looking to branch out into other areas of the town’s administration. In 1844 an Act of Parliament was obtained for “paving, lighting, draining and cleansing, and otherwise improving the town, and for removing and preventing nuisances and annoyances therein”.

In 1845 the Paving Commissioners were renamed the Improvement Commissioners and other committees were set up to look at the burial of the dead (the town’s churchyards were severely overcrowded) and the enclosure of the Marsh area. Improving the town’s water supply was placed under the auspices of the Waterworks Commissioners. In 1850 the responsibilities of all these bodies were passed to the Local Board of Health which had been set up in 1848.

See also

Further reading:

History of Southampton Vol. 1, by A. Temple Patterson, passim. (HS/h)


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