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Baths and Washhouses

public, act, commissioners, council, paid, parish and poor-rate

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BATHS AND WASHHOUSES. The establishment of these places for the general convenience of the public, forms a novelty in domestic legislation, and evinces a regard to the health and comfort of the poorer classes of the com munity creditable to the age in which we live. Buried in the depths of the me tropolis and the large provincial towns, numerous classes existed to whom the facilities for either bathing or washing were next to unattainable, and by which they became liable to destructive and enfeebling diseases, as well as precluded from the needful appliances to cleanli ness, cheerfulness and salubrity. But the establishment of Public Baths and Washhouses places the means of deter gency within everybody's reach ; and we are glad to remark that both in London and some of the large towns, the laud able intentions of the legislature have been promptly acted upon.

The first act to encourage the estab lishment of Public Baths and Wash houses in England was passed in 1846, and is the 9 & 10 Viet. a. 74. By the first clause it is declared that " it is desirable for the health, comfort, and welfare of the inhabitants of towns and populous districts to encourage the es tablishment therein- of public baths and washhouses and open bathing places," and then proceeds to enact in several clauses, that all incorporated boroughs by their councils, and any parish by its vestry, or more than one parish jointly if they concur by their vestries, may establish such baths and washhouses. In parishes, on a requisition signed by ten rate-payers, a vestry is to be con vened, but no resolution in favour of them to be deemed to be carried unless two-thirds vote for it, and a copy of the resolution is to be forwarded to the Se cretary of State for the Home Depart ment. Commissioners are to be appoint ed, who are to appoint the officers and keep the accounts, which are to be open to the inspection of the rate-payers and others, under a penalty of 51. for refusal.

The expenses of carrying the Act into execution are to be paid out of, and levied as part of, the poor-rate, and if any surplus income should arise, it is to be paid over to the proper persons in relief of the poor-rate. In order to erect the necessary buildings, money may be borrowed by councils or vestries of the Public Works Loan Commissioners, upon security of the borough-fund or on the poor-rate, and with the consent of the Treasury. Land belonging to a borough

or parish may be appropriated for sites, or such sites may be purchased, or ex isting baths and washhouses may be pur chased. The trustees and commissioners of gas-works, water-works, canals, &c., may, in their discretion, grant and fur nish supplies of water and gas for such public baths and washhouses and open bathing places, either without charge, or on such favourable terms as they shall think fit. If, after having been established seven years, any such baths and washhouses shall be found too ex pensive, they may be then sold, and the proceeds carried to the borough-fund or the poor-rate, as the case may be. The borough council and the parish commis sioners are empowered to make bye laws for regulating the use of the baths and washhouses, and the charges, but in conformity with the schedule afterwards given, and they must be approved by the Secretary of State ; a copy of such bye laws to be hung up in every bath-room, washhouse, &c. "The number of baths for the labouring classes in any building or buildings under the management of the same council or commissioners, shall not be less than twice the number of baths of any higher class if but one, or of all the baths of any higher class if more than one, in the same build ing or buildings." The charge also for the use of washing-tubs is not to be higher than are stated in the sche dule, except when used for more than two hours, when the council or commis sioners may fix such sum as they deem reasonable. The officers are empowered to detain clothes in cases of non-pay ment, and if the charge is not paid within seven days, the same may be sold, and the surplus above the expenses to be paid on demand to the owner. The officers and servants are forbidden to take fees; and any member of the council or com missioners accepting any fee or reward, on account of anything done or ordered to be done in pursuance of this act, or holding any office under the provisions of this act, or being parties to any bar Fain or contract in connection therewith, is rendered incapable of ever serving or being employed under this act, and also forfeit 301.

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