The Public Health Act 1875 (c 55) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is one of the Public Health Acts.[2]

Its purpose was to combat filthy urban living conditions, which caused various public health threats, including the spread of many diseases such as cholera and typhus. Reformers wanted to resolve sanitary problems, because sewage was flowing down the street daily, including the presence of sewage in living quarters.

The Act required all new residential construction to include running water and an internal drainage system. It also led to the government prohibiting the construction of shoddy housing by building contractors. With the rapid urbanisation that accompanied the Industrial Revolution, huge swathes of terraced houses had been built to accommodate the factory workers. The contrast between the housing stock built before the passage of the Act and that built after it was stark.

The Act also meant that every public health authority had to have a medical officer and a sanitary inspector, to ensure the laws on food, housing, water and hygiene were carried out.

Many factors delayed reform, however, such as the fact that to perform a cleanup, the government would need money, and this would have to come from factory owners, who were not keen to pay, and this further delayed reform. But reformers eventually helped to counteract the government's laissez-faire attitude, and a public health Act was introduced in 1875. Home Secretary Richard Cross was responsible for drafting the legislation, and received much good will from trades union groups in the consequent years for "humanising the toil of the working man".

The Act also meant that towns had to have pavements and street lighting.[3]


  • Halsbury's Statutes. Third Edition. Volume 26. Page 38.
  • Thomas Whiteside Hime. Public Health: The Practical Guide to the Public Health Act, 1875, and Correlated Acts, for the Use of Medical Officers of Health and Inspectors of Nuisances. Bailliere, Tindall and Cox. 1884. Internet Archive.
  • William Cunningham Glen and Alexander Glen. The Public Health Act, 1875, and the Law relating to Public Health, Local Government, and Urban and Rural Sanitary Authorities. Eighth Edition. Butterworths. Knight & Co. London. 1876. Internet Archive.
  • James C Stevens. The Public Health Act 1875: Arranged in a Dictionary Index Form. Shaw and Sons. London. 1876. Internet Archive.
  • Robert Rawlinson. The Public Health Act 1875: Suggestions as to the Preparation of District Maps, and of Plans for the Main Sewerage, Drainage, and Water Supply (Revised to 1878). HMSO. London. 1878. Internet Archive (the description of this book, on that webpage, as another work by William Glen is erroneous).
  • World History 4th Edition by William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spielvogel
  1. ^ The citation of this Act by this short title is authorised by section 1 of this Act.
  2. ^ The Short Titles Act 1896, section 2(1) and Schedule 2
  3. ^ "History - Government and Public Health". BBC Bitesize. Retrieved 2010-05-02. 

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