1902 Encyclopedia > Agriculture > Manures - Night Soil

(Part 45)

X. MANURES (cont.)

Night Soil

Night-soil is a powerful manure; but owing to its offensive odor it has never been systematically used in Britain. Various plans are tried for obviating this objection, that most is repute at present being its mixture with charred peat. From the universal use of water-closets in private dwellings, the great mass of this valuable fertilizing matter now passes into sewers , and is carried off by streams and rivers, and is for the most part totally lost as a manure. When sewage water is used for irrigation, as in the neighborhood of Edinburgh, it is to be the night-soil dissolved in it that its astonishing effects in promoting the growth of grass are chiefly due. We have already expressed our views in regard to the used of it in this diluted form of sewage water. That mode of applying it is necessarily restricted to lands in the vicinity of towns. Hitherto the numerous and costly attempts that have been made to separate the fertilizing matter from the water in which it contained have proved utter failures. The most feasible plan for the utilization of night-soil that we have hitherto heard of is that brought forward by the Rev. Henry Moule, Fordington Vicarage, Devon. In a tract addressed to cottagers he says. --- "Now, my discovery is this: The earth of your garden, if dried -- -or dried and powdered clay – will suck up the liquid part of the privy soil; and, if applied at once and carefully mixed, will destroy all bad smell and all nasty appearance in the solid part, and will keep all the value of the manure . There half pints of earth, or even one pint, will be enough for each time. And earth thus mixed even once is very good manure. But is, after mixing, you throw it into a shed and dry it, you may use it again and again; and the oftener you use it the stronger the manure will be, I have used some seven and even eight times; and yet, even after being so often mixed, there is no bad smell with the substance; and no one, if not told, would know what it is." To adapt a privy for using dried earth in this way, he says, --- "Let the seat be made in the common way, only without any vault beneath. Under the seat place a bucket or box, or if you have nothing else, an old washing-pan. A bucket is the best, because it is more easily handled; only let it have a good-sized bail or handle. By the side of the seat have a box that will hold (say) a bushel of dried earth, and a scoop or old basin that will take up a pint or a pint and a half, and let that quantity or earth be thrown into the bucket or pan every time it is used. The bucket may be put in or taken out from above by having the whole cover moved with hinges; or else, through a door in front or at the back." He has also invented and patented an earth-closet, as a substitute for the ordinary water-closet, which he described thus: --- "the back contains dried and sifted earth, which enters the pan through a hole at the back of it, and covers the bottom. The bottom is moved by the handle and lever; the side of the pan acts as a scraper; and all that is upon the bottom is pushed off, falling into the bucket or shaft below. The earth thus applied at once prevents fermentation, and almost all exhalation and offensive smell. The bottom returns to its place by means of a spring, and a fresh supply of the earth falls upon it from the box." [Footnote 350-1]

This scheme has now been tested for a sufficient length of time, and on a wide enough scale, to show that in the case of private houses in rural districts, as well as in prisons, asylums, hospitals, public schools, military camps, and factories, it is entirely successful as regards the sanitary results of its use, and the value of the manure when applied to gardens attached to the premises from which it is obtained. But the cost and annoyance of moving so bulky a substance, and small percentage of fertilizing matter contained in it, forbid the expectation of its being adopted in towns.


350-1 Manure for the Million, by Rev. Henry Moule, price 1d. Mr Moule has also published a pamphlet on the same subject, entitled National Health and Wealth.

Read the rest of this article:
Agriculture - Table of Contents

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-23 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries