This reminds me of a passage in the truly engrossing Bill Bryson book "At Home: A Short History of Private Life," describing the sanitary conditions in England in the 19th century:
[C]esspits in poorer districts were seldom emptied and frequently overflowed... In St. Giles... 54,000 people crowded into just a few streets. By one count, 1100 people lived in 27 houses along one alley; that is more than 40 people per dwelling. In Spitalfields, farther east, inspectors found 63 people living in a single house. The house had 9 beds — one for every 7 occupants....
Such masses of humanity naturally produced enormous volumes of waste — far more than any system of cesspits could cope with. In one fairly typical report an inspector recorded visiting 2 houses in St. Giles where the cellars were filled with human waste to a depth of 3 feet. Outside the inspector continued, the yard was 6 inches deep in excrement. Bricks had been stacked like stepping-stones to let the occupants cross the yard.
At Leeds in the 1830s, a survey of the poorer districts found that many streets were "floating with sewage"; one street, housing 176 families, had not been cleaned for 15 years. In Liverpool, as many as one-sixth of the populace lived in dark cellars, where wastes could all too easily seep in.