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Public Health Act 1875

Culmination of campaigning

The Public Health Act 1875 was largely seen as a mechanism for consolidating all previous Acts of Parliament relating to public health made during the 19th century.

The Act was seen by many as the culmination of all campaigning for sanitary conditions in Victorian Britain. Under the Act, previous legislative provisions of sanitation, nuisances and public health were brought together. 

Role of local authorities

The Act established named local authorities as rural and urban sanitary authorities, replacing local boards of health. These sanitary authorities would have jurisdiction over the newly created urban and rural sanitary districts.

Authorities were obliged to provide clean water, dispose of all sewage and refuse, and ensure that only safe food was sold. It gave them the power to ensure that homes were connected to the main sewerage system. The Act forbade the building of new homes without such connection.

A duty was imposed on local authorities to inspect for nuisances and they were given the ability to serve abatement notices for nuisances. The Act defined a 'nuisance' as anything that would be 'a nuisance or injurious to health', for example, growing deposits of refuse, overcrowding in homes and unclean workplaces.

The Local Government Board was given the power to make regulations to prevent the spread of diseases such as cholera. They also had the power to require two or more local authorities to work together to prevent or reduce epidemics. 

Framework for the next 50 years

The reforms instigated by this Act set a framework for the next 50 years in public health.


House of Commons.
Public Health Act, 1875.
Legislation.gov.uk; 1875.


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Department of Health.
Prevention and health: everybody's business. A reassessment of public and personal health.
HMSO; 1976.

Jones K.
Making of Social Policy in Britain: From the Poor Law to the New Labour.
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