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Title: A Letter to the Parishioners of Fulham
Author: Baker, R. G. (Robert George)
Language: English
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Transcribed from the 1849 Lavis edition by David Price.  Many thanks to
the British Library for making their copy available.

                                 A LETTER
                                  TO THE
                         PARISHIONERS OF FULHAM.

                                * * * * *

                                  BY THE
                          REV. R. G. BAKER, M.A.

                                * * * * *

                            BARKER, NORTH END

                            _Price Fourpence_.

                                * * * * *

                   R. CLAY, PRINTER, BREAD STREET HILL.

                                * * * * *


                                                          FULHAM VICARAGE,
                                                       29_th_ _Oct._ 1849.


THE Cholera has visited Fulham the second time.  When it prevailed in
1832, it was always understood that two deaths only in this parish were
to be traced to that fearful pestilence as their cause.  But in the nine
weeks closing on the 8th instant, not only had the mortality exceeded
fourfold the average of the same period for the five preceding years, but
in this unusual number of 127 deaths, no fewer than 56 were certified to
the registrar, by the medical practitioners who attended the cases, as
having arisen from cholera.  In 35 instances, the previous illness did
not exceed twenty-four hours; and in 18 of them, it was less than twelve

There is another striking circumstance which attended our recent
visitation.  Of the deaths registered within this short and fatal period,
it is recorded that

      11  occurred between           5  and             10  years.
          the ages of
       9  ditto     ditto           10  ,,              20  ,,
       9  ditto     ditto           20  ,,              30  ,,
      12  ditto     ditto           30  ,,              40  ,,
      12  ditto     ditto           40  ,,              50  ,,
       5  ditto     ditto           50  ,,              55  ,,

Thus it appears that 58 of these deaths, a number not far removed from
one moiety of the whole, occurred within those ages which are commonly
considered the least susceptible of the influences which shorten life.
The year was passed below which the highest range of infantine mortality
prevails: for it is well known that in England at large, one quarter of
the children born, and in some of the larger towns one half of them, die
_before_ they attain their fifth year.  Nor had the period of life
arrived when the growing infirmities, or the confirmed chronic diseases
of extreme old age bring so many to the grave.  Fifty-eight of our
fellow-parishioners were carried off in nine weeks, between five years
old and fifty-five; and in some of the most distressing instances, those
constitutions gave way the most rapidly which appeared the healthiest and
the hardiest of the neighbourhood.

But there is one more remarkable fact to be noticed in reviewing, as we
are now mercifully permitted to do, the results of this dispensation,
that in all the cases of cholera which ended fatally, the sufferers, with
three only exceptions, belonged to the class of our poorest neighbours.
They are recorded as either labourers, or the wives, widows, or children
of labourers.  They were, therefore, living in those parts of the parish
where the dwellings are the most easily to be procured, which fall within
reach of the means possessed by persons of this description.  And I
grieve to say that they are for the most part overcrowded with inmates,
badly ventilated, badly drained, and commanding a very scanty supply of
good water, whether adapted for drinking or for household purposes.

It is not my object in this letter to dwell upon the painful reflections
which are suggested by the fact of so many of our immediate neighbours
having been summoned thus rapidly into eternity in the very midst of
life; nor upon the profitable, and, indeed, most awakening lessons, of
spiritual and eternal import, which their removal has left to be
treasured up by us, who have been spared in mercy to survive them.

Still less do I feel myself called upon to inquire how far the facts to
which I have above referred, in showing the mortality of our own parish,
are confirmed by the experience of others more or less similarly
circumstanced, whether in respect to their level, their population, their
sewerage, or their supply of water.

It would seem to be a main practical advantage to be gained from the
national judgment from which we are now recovering, if the inhabitants of
each district, bound together by many common ties and responsibilities,
would apply their minds diligently to consider by what preventable causes
the calamitous results of it have been aggravated in their own immediate
localities, and by what attainable measures it may be hoped to avert or
to mitigate the recurrence of them, before another such dispensation
shall arise.  While the impressions are yet vivid and authentic of the
trial through which we have passed, let us endeavour, as far as we can,
in the faithful discharge of our duty towards God and our neighbour, to
turn to account, at our own doors, the experience which it has left us.

The truth is, that I am the more anxious to submit to you the proposal
contained in the present letter, and to solicit your intelligent and
impartial examination of it, because it is nothing more now than a sequel
to those measures which were brought under your notice at our meeting on
the 17th instant, and which you unanimously sanctioned.

It was agreed by us on that occasion to address a memorial to the
Metropolitan Commissioners of Sewers, calling their attention to the
utterly defective state of the drainage of the parish, and requesting
them to effect an uniform and complete provision for it in all the
inhabited districts.  This memorial has since been forwarded to the
Commissioners, with 160 signatures affixed to it, representing a
proportion of the property assessed to the parochial rates equal to
15,000_l._ {7a}

Another resolution, for promoting the immediate erection of public wells
and pumps for the use of the poor, was also adopted at the meeting in
question.  A subscription of above 250_l._, since increased to 293_l._,
was raised to defray the expenses of them; and there is every reason to
believe, that through the exertions of the Committee who have undertaken
to administer this fund, several of these wells will forthwith be
completed in different parts of the parish, in situations most easily
accessible to the larger populations of the poor, and the least likely to
be affected by the cesspools and other collections of impurities, which
in most instances make their present pumps perfectly useless.  They will
thus enjoy near their own doors a constant supply of that pure drinking
water, which, it is well known, may easily be obtained within a few feet
of the surface, in almost every locality of this neighbourhood; and of
which the want has been most confidently declared, by the medical
inspectors of the Board of Health, to have been one of the chief
aggravations of our late unhealthiness. {7b}

There were several persons, indeed, present on the 17th inst., who were
prepared and even desirous to hear another proposition brought forward,
connected with the domiciliary condition of the poor, and tending to
correct an evil in their present dwellings, confessedly far more
difficult to reach than either their defective sewerage, or their scanty
provision of water.  And it is one which not only affects most seriously
their sanitary state, but impairs all the decency of their daily habits
of life, and nearly defeats whatever means can be attempted for the
improvement of their spiritual and moral character.  I allude to the
crowded manner in which they live together; the landlord of the house too
often entirely regardless of any rule for restricting the number of its
inmates; and his tenants sometimes deriving a large profit, beyond the
amount of their own rent, from the numerous under-tenants whom they
admit, without scruple or restraint, to share in the occupation of them.
Thus it happens not unfrequently, that into a cottage with two small
bed-rooms, built and adapted only for a single family, two or even three
other families, besides individual lodgers, are admitted.  And from that
hour must the inmates of it be compelled to abandon all the happy
arrangements of household cleanliness, decency, and order.  Mr. Rouse, in
his faithful and elaborate MS. Report on the sanitary condition of a
large part of this parish, states, that he has known in the summer
twenty-six persons living in such an house: and from fifteen to twenty is
the frequent number of their inmates.  But while it ought to be stated
that the worst cases of this kind occur among the Irish labourers, they
prevail to a greater or a less extent in all the following districts,
viz.: Parson’s Green Lane, Peterborough Row, Sand End, Garden Row,
Carpenter’s Row, Dawe’s Lane, Wheat-Sheaf Alley, Gain’s Buildings,
Bedford Place, Stanley Place, the cottages near Normand House, Orchard
Place, Buckler’s Alley, the Old Greyhound Cottages, Marsh Croft, Sun
Street, Star Lane, and Willow Place.

And it is a melancholy fact, that while in some other parts of Fulham a
considerable number of small houses have been built within the last few
years, of a more substantial and commodious style, in order to meet the
increasing wants of this portion of the inhabitants, better drained,
better ventilated, and in some more healthy localities, they are
gradually lapsing into the same state.  A very few of them once becoming
occupied in this comfortless manner lower the credit of those contiguous
to them.  One tenant sets a bad example to the rest: and thus in the very
districts where some hope had been encouraged for a time of better
things, the same baneful system of crowding the houses with lodgers is

The history of these masses of ill-regulated dwellings is, alas! uniform
and instructive.  Some speculating builder or other, oftentimes unknown
in the neighbourhood, and having no sympathy with the miseries which he
inflicts upon it, becomes possessed of a narrow slip of land, the mere
frontage of a road or a footpath, and erects upon it a collection of low,
slightly built cottages, with windows wholly unsuited to them, with no
drainage but that of cesspools, confined in their dimensions, rarely
emptied, and saturating with their noxious contents not only the adjacent
soil, but even the walls of the houses close to which they are often
placed; with no pumps for drinking-water but such as soon become tainted
by the contiguity of these very cesspools; and with no provision of other
water, but that which an occasional cart, drawn by a miserable donkey,
brings dear-bought to the door.  High rents, far beyond the means of the
tenants, but sternly collected as each week comes round, can only be met
by the vicious practice of subletting each room or fraction of a room
which can by any sacrifice be dispensed with.  Even the essential
whitewashing of the walls within is sometimes imposed as a burden upon
the occupier, who of course does it in the most careless way, instead of
its being undertaken by the landlord.  And whenever the work of
dilapidation begins in one of these tenements, each successive tenant,
flying from his hard bargain, leaves it of course more dismantled than he
found it; until they become utterly unfit for the occupation of human
beings, whether under the summer sun, striking upon their slight and
exposed roofs, or the winter wind, penetrating the settlements of their
walls and the cracks of their windows.

This account may, I believe, be taken as an accurate description of the
average character of these dwellings which are now provided, without the
option or alternative of any others, for the large and rapidly increasing
poor populations of the suburbs of London.  Such, I am confident, is the
character of those at Fulham.  Let it be remembered that every
improvement of the worst built streets of London has a direct tendency to
swell the number of these inhabitants of its suburbs.  And if it be true
that they enjoy, some from the very nature of their occupations, and all
from the position of their houses, a more free ventilation during the day
than is attainable by the pent-up inhabitants of the narrow alleys and
courts of the metropolis itself, yet is there not one among them who can
have access to the improved dwellings, or to the baths and wash-houses,
now in successful operation for the health and comfort even of the
poorest classes, (though still upon a scale too limited to be extensively
useful,) in the parishes of Whitechapel, St. Pancras, St. Martin, and
Marylebone.  Within the last ten days the boon of these last-named
valuable institutions has been promised to the densely peopled district
of Lambeth.

There is one fact connected with the late epidemic to which I cannot
forbear requesting your serious attention, and which, I have little
doubt, would be abundantly confirmed, if requisite, by a reference to the
experience of other places.  Whenever the disorder affected the inmates
of some of the less crowded and better regulated houses, its progress was
comparatively slow; the symptoms were accessible to those medicines or
palliatives, of which the gracious Providence of God has taught us the
value; and by these means the last fatal issue was sometimes averted.
But whenever it assailed even the healthiest inmate of one of those
wretched abodes which I have described, the subtle poison took its course
at once; no remedies availed to reach it, and the only symptom was Death.

Does not this fact speak volumes as to what we ought to do in
endeavouring to improve these dwellings of our poorer brethren, before
the Cholera comes again to visit us?

Of the extreme difficulty of the question, indeed, no one who has ever
considered it can deem lightly.  Nor is it likely that this difficulty
will be effectually removed until the country has the wisdom to bear, and
the legislature the firmness to enact some new statute that can reach it.
Hitherto, unhappily, our legislation, with the best purpose, has only
aggravated the evil which it sought to correct, and has thus been moving
in the wrong direction.  The Building Act made it penal for any person to
lodge in a cellar, of which the height came below a certain standard, or
its window within a certain width; and the only effect of this
prohibition has been to drive the cellar lodgers into the attics, where
they are stowed more closely than before.  The claims of reason, and
morality, and common decency have been urged in vain against this fearful
state of things.  But since it has been proved, by the history of such a
season as that through which we have been lately carried, to involve the
actual considerations of life and death, some power will surely, ere
long, be called forth to correct it.  If the cupidity of the proprietors
of a steam-boat or an omnibus can be restrained, in order that the
capacity of those vehicles may be defined, and that we may travel
uncrowded in our journeys to and from the metropolis, has it not become
at length necessary that some attempt should be made to regulate the
stowage of a bed-room, and to rescue civilized and immortal beings from
the ruinous consequences of their present mode of living?

If ever such a measure is passed, it will afford a better scope than now
exists for the operations of those useful schemes with which we have
become familiar under the title of the “_Labourers’ Friend Societies_,”
the “_Societies for Improving the Condition of the Labouring Classes_,”
and the “_Associations for Improving the Dwellings of the Industrious
Classes_.”  Whenever any considerable number of the inmates of the
present houses of the poor are compelled to quit them, there will then be
a demand created, and at length, it may be hoped, a taste formed for
others more conducive to their health, and better adapted to their social
improvement than those to which they are now doomed. {14}

Meanwhile these Societies have solved one most important problem, which
cannot too forcibly be urged upon us.  They have shown, that without any
appeals to the benevolence of the public, healthy and comfortable
dwellings can be provided for the working classes of the community, upon
reasonable rents, with a remuneration of higher interest for the
investment than can be obtained in the Public Securities to those who may
be induced to embark their money in such undertakings.

My wish is to propose to you a plan for securing to the poor of our own
parish the benefits of one of these institutions, and for gaining the
sanction of our own Vestry to the first measure required for the adoption
of it.

It must be well known to many of those whom I am now addressing, and
ought to be known to all, that in the year 1837, with the joint consent
of the copyholders of the two parishes of Fulham and Hammersmith, nine
acres of the waste land known by the name of Wormholt Scrubs, were taken
by the Directors of the Great Western Railway Company, at 150_l._ per
acre, for the prosecution of their works.  The sum paid for this purchase
was invested in 1487_l._ 12_s._ 1_d._, 3 per cent. consols, in the names
of G. Carr Glyn, Esq., Mr. John Knight, and Mr. George Bird, the first of
these gentlemen being selected to represent the interest of the
Directors, and the other two those of the parishes which have a common
interest in the land in question.  The stock still remains in the names
of the same individuals, and the dividends having been regularly invested
as they accrued, although in a different account, the whole amount now
exceeds 2,200_l._  There is a prevalent, and, I believe, a well-grounded
opinion, that under the terms of the agreement made between the
Copyholders and the Company, the period has expired, within which the
latter had the option of giving land instead of money in exchange for the
waste of which they had thus become possessed; and that consequently the
whole amount of the stock thus described, the original investment, as
well as the accumulated dividends, will fall, under the provisions of the
Railway Act, in equal moieties, to the disposal of the Vestries of the
two parishes.

I am well aware that other schemes have been devised for the
appropriation of this fund, which, I apprehend, the Vestry will in that
case deem it their duty to devote to some object of permanent utility and
benevolence.  A disposition exists in favour of alms-houses, either the
erection of new ones, or the better endowment of those already existing.
But I may surely remind you, that within the last year the intention has
been announced of a most munificent, though unknown benefactor, to found
twelve new and amply-endowed alms-houses at Fulham, and thus to meet the
additional demand, which, I admit, always exists in such districts for
these valuable institutions.  And I would submit to you, whether a wiser,
or more seasonable mode can be found for applying the fund in question,
than to devote it to the purchase of a piece of ground, centrally and
conveniently accessible to our poor, in the several occupations which
they follow, upon which either common dwelling-houses or separate
cottages may be built, with airy and well-ventilated rooms, with moderate
rents, to be collected weekly, and with an absolute exclusion of lodgers
beyond the members of the family to which each house or apartment is
separately let.

The land, thus purchased, might be conveyed to trustees named by the
Vestry, for the express purpose of building upon it such dwellings as I
have described, upon an uniform and well-considered plan, and with an
efficient agency to ensure an adherence to it.  And if a suitable site
could thus be attained for the object, there is reason to believe that
persons might offer the capital requisite for the building, from the
two-fold motive of the dividend which they would realize, and of the
benefits which they would confer upon the poorer parishioners.  An
improved sewerage, whenever it can be effected upon a proper scale, would
provide a better scheme of drains than that to which they are now
accustomed in their ill-placed and inadequate cesspools.  And since the
proprietors of the West-Middlesex Water-works have already carried their
supply into the northern and western extremities of the parish, the
further demand that would be created for their water would induce them to
bring it to the buildings in question; and would not only enable the
proprietors of them to lay on soft water to every room at a very moderate
expense, for the convenience of the immediate occupiers, but also for a
supply to baths and wash-houses to be erected on a portion of the site,
for the equal use of other districts of the parish, if any sufficient
encouragement can be given to such a scheme.  And such establishments, it
has now been ascertained, can also be maintained upon the self-supporting
principle, whenever an adequate quantity of water can be gained for their
consumption, and a proper drainage for carrying it off.

It only remains for me to suggest, that if you should shrink from the
adoption of a scheme at once so extensive and so responsible, from the
obvious difficulty of creating an agency in this parish adequate to the
proper superintendence of it, we might, having secured a site for the
buildings, confide the erection and management of them to the Association
incorporated by Royal Charter in 1845, and known as “_The Metropolitan
Association for improving the Dwellings of the Industrious Classes_.”
The following sentence is quoted from its prospectus; and any person who
may wish to make himself acquainted with its actual operations, has only
to visit the houses erected by the Directors in the old Pancras-road,
leading from King’s-Cross to Camden Town, or those now in progress near
Spicer-street, Spitalfields.

    “The terms of the Charter do not restrict the operations of the
    Association to the metropolis; and the Directors have made
    arrangements for imparting the benefits, privileges, and immunities,
    granted by the Charter under this Association to Branch Societies, in
    districts wherein a sufficient number of shareholders shall be
    desirous of erecting improved dwellings for the industrious classes.
    The effect of these arrangements will be to ensure (as far as
    possible) the success of local undertakings, at the same time that
    those benevolent individuals who may be disposed to subscribe for the
    benefit of their respective neighbourhoods, will be made secure
    against all individual claim and liability whatsoever.  Application
    has already been received from the parish of Hampstead to be admitted
    as an Incorporated Branch Association, and similar applications are
    expected from other quarters.”

I am well aware, indeed, that objections are often raised to any scheme,
either of public benefit or of private accommodation in this parish,
which requires the command of ground, from the alleged difficulty of
obtaining it; and no one can be ignorant how well founded these
objections are, who has adverted to the tenures under which large
portions of the land situate within the bounds of Fulham are held.  But,
on the other hand, we cannot forget within what a comparatively recent
period sites have been purchased for different purposes, all requiring,
like that for which I am here pleading, open space, free ventilation, and
ready means of access.  I need only enumerate the Roman Catholic church,
schools, burial-ground, and residence for the priest; the new Union
Workhouse; and the situation secured for the Alms-houses already referred
to.  The successive fulfilment of these schemes serves to show what may
be effected by influence and perseverance.  Nor can I allow myself to
doubt, that, if it shall please God to excite among us a real feeling of
interest and anxiety adequate to the object, we may, even before the
present year has expired, see some plot of ground placed at the disposal
of the Vestry, combining all the requisites which the project calls for.
And surely, if we may rejoice in the reflection that an improved
_Workhouse_, with all the watchful and humane administration which, we
may hope, will characterise it, will provide for our orphan, or deserted,
or disabled poor, deserted in their infancy, or disabled through the
infirmities of old age; and that our various _Alms-houses_ will secure a
comfortable maintenance to many respectable individuals who have known
better days, and have been brought, without any fault of their own, to
need the helping hand of others; we may value it as an equal, if not a
paramount duty, to do at least what we can in improving the dwellings of
some families among our hard-working and intelligent, and still
independent poor; providing for their health, advancing their comforts,
and rescuing their children from the demoralizing associations of their
present homes.  I cannot believe that the difficulties, which confessedly
surround the question, are insuperable.  Let us, at least, give our minds
faithfully to the consideration of them.

                               Believe me,

                                                     My dear Parishioners,
                                      Your sincere friend and well-wisher,

                                                              R. G. BAKER.

                                * * * * *

MEMORIAL _of the undersigned_ OWNERS _and_ OCCUPIERS _of_ LAND _or_
HOUSES, _situate within the Parish of Fulham_, _and assessed to the
Poor-rate in the amount annexed to each of their Signatures_.

    This Memorial sheweth,—

    That the Sewerage of the parish of Fulham, containing by
    admeasurement 1,648 acres, with a population, according to the census
    of 1841, of 9,319 persons, but since very considerably increased,
    with about 2,000 inhabited houses, and with a property assessed at
    40,000_l._, is at this time in a most defective state;

    That some portions of the parish are liable to a Sewers rate, without
    deriving any benefit from the application thereof;

    That nearly the whole of the houses have no drainage whatever beyond
    that of cesspools, which in many of the districts occupied by the
    labouring classes, who are chiefly employed in the market gardens,
    are badly constructed, placed in situations closely contiguous to the
    dwellings, and wholly inadequate to provide for the large
    accumulation of dirt constantly formed and decomposing in such

    That during the prevalence of the recent epidemic, the mortality for
    nine successive weeks, ending on the 8th instant, exceeded fourfold
    the average mortality of the same season during the five preceding
    years, nearly one-half of the deaths being certified to the
    Registrar, by the medical practitioners who attended the cases, as
    having arisen from cholera, in many instances of the most malignant
    character, and nearly all in those districts where the drainage is
    most neglected, and among the poorest classes of the inhabitants;

    And that, without insisting upon the personal privations and
    discomforts accruing at all times to the Parishioners at large, and
    especially to the poor, who are the worst provided with means to
    correct and palliate them, from such a state of things, the parish
    will be exposed, upon any recurrence of so fearful a visitation, to
    the same calamitous results, which the Memorialists believe might
    mainly be averted by an uniform and effectual Sewerage, extending
    throughout the inhabited portions thereof.

    The Memorialists, therefore, desire to represent to the Metropolitan
    Commissioners of Sewers their earnest desire that they will, as soon
    as may be compatible with the other demands upon them in the
    fulfilment of their arduous office, direct their special inquiries
    and care to the parish of Fulham, and provide it with a complete
    system of Sewers, adequate to the wants of its large and continually
    increasing population.

                                * * * * *

LIST OF SUBSCRIPTIONS _to the Fund for providing_ PUBLIC PUMPS, _for the
use of the poor Inhabitants of Fulham_.  (6th NOVEMBER, 1849.)

                                  _£_    _s._    _d._
Baker, Rev. R. G.                  10       0       0
Bathurst, L. Esq.                   5       0       0
Batty, Rev. E.                      1      10       0
Bell, Wm. Esq.                      5       5       0
Beltz, S. Esq.                     25       0       0
Burgoyne, Lady                      5       0       0
Chasemore, Mr. W.                   1       1       0
Chasemore, Mr. H.                   1       1       0
Dawson, Mr.                         1       1       0
Flicker, Mr.                        1       1       0
Garratt, Rev. Wm.                   3       0       0
Green, Mr. James                    1       0       0
Gunter, J. Esq.                     5       0       0
King, Mr. W.                        1       0       0
Knight, Mr. J.                      2       2       0
Lindsay, Mr. J. W.                  2       0       0
Lock, Mr. P.                        0      10       0
London, the Lord Bishop of         50       0       0
Maclean, Major                      1       1       0
Matyear, Mr. R.                     2       2       0
Moseley, Mr. A.                     2       2       0
Nelson, P. Esq.                     5       0       0
Osborn, Mr. H.                      1       0       0
Palmer, J. Horsley, Esq.           25       0       0
Pearson, Rev. T.                    2       2       0
Pollock, Mr. J. H.                  1       0       0
Porter, the Misses                 10       0       0
Potter, Mr. W.                      1       0       0
Stanham, Mr. G.                     1       1       0
Sulivan, L. Esq.                   25       0       0
Sutherland, Dr.                     5       0       0
Walford, T. Esq.                   10       0       0
   Anonymous, by ditto             25       0       0
Walpole, C. Esq.                    5       0       0
Wild, Mr. J.                        2       2       0
Wilshin, Mr.                        1       0       0
Wilson, Mr. J. T.                   0      10       6
Wing, C. Esq.                       2       0       0
Wood, R. R. Esq.                   25       0       0
Wrangham, Mr. Serjeant             20       0       0
Wright, Mr. J.                      1       0       0
                                 £293      11       6

_Any further Contributions to this Fund will be thankfully received by_
J. HORSLEY PALMER, ESQ. _the Treasurer_; _by the Parochial Clergy_, _or
by_ MR. HACKMAN, _the Vestry Clerk_.

                                * * * * *

                                * * * * *

                   R. CLAY, PRINTER, BREAD STREET HILL.


{7a}  See page 21.

{7b}  See page 23.

{14}  It is stated by Lord Ashley, in a Letter published by him on the
16th instant, that not a single case of Cholera, and two only of
Diarrhœa, which yielded speedily to medical treatment, occurred in all
the establishments of the Labourers’ Friend Society in London.  And this
statement was confirmed by the experience of the Association for
Improving the Dwellings of the Poor.

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