Skip Navigation

Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Home > Community Histories > Clifton > Insanitary Clifton

Insanitary Clifton

The Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834 created poor law unions, each run by a Board of Guardians, centred around towns, which included a union workhouse for the poor of the union area. The union was also responsible for other matters, such as public health. Clifton was in the Biggleswade Union. The Biggleswade Poor Law Union minute book of 1868 to 1871 ends with a description of the sanitary conditions of the major settlements in the area, including Clifton for 3rd May 1871 [PUBwM10 ]. The entry for Clifton is below.

"At Clifton where there have been deaths from scarlet fever and typhoid, there are filthy pigsties, foul drains, stopped up and clsoe to the back windows; shallow wells close by &c. In a plaiting school here, Mr. Hilliard the medical officer, told me that he found from thirty to forty children in a small room with a little child belonging to the mistress lying in the corner ill with scarlet fever; he, of course, sent the children away. In that house three children had the fever and one died of it".

In 1875 sanitation ceased to be a function of the poor law unions and was transferred to sanitary authorities, in Clifton’s case Biggleswade Rural Sanitary Authority. These were replaced in 1894 by the newly created district councils, in Clifton's case, Biggleswade Rural District Council. This was replaced in 1974 by Mid Bedfordshire District Council and in 2009 the new unitary council (incorporating the functions of the former district councils with the abolished county council) of Central Bedfordshire became responsible for all sanitary matters.