Thursday 28 February 2013

Cholera Cruelty

I love this complaint, from a medical man obliged to scour the Thames for cholera cases:

The gentleman, who was in naval uniform, stated that in purusuance of directions from Her Majesty's Government, he was rowed up and down the river every day in the King's boat, with the pendant flying, to afford immediate assistance to any person on the Thames who might be attached with cholera, and remove them, if necessary, to the floating hospital. While engaged in this duty, he had been frequently called alongside barges and small sailing vessels by the bargemen and others to attend upon a person said to be sick or attacked with cholera; but when he got on board he was laughed at and ridiculed. On the previous day, he was told by some bargemen that a man was attacked with cholera on board a ship off the Tower; but when he proceeded there, he found that he had been misinformed and jeers were thrown out. Only a few minutes previous he heard someone call out "Cholera boat, ahoy!" and on proceeding to the barge from which the noise proceeded he was told that his services were not wanted, and a general laugh was set up. In fact, his duties had become exceedingly irksome from this species of annoyance ...

The Times 3 Arpil 1832

Removing a Cholera Patient

Yesterday afternoon, between 2 and 3 o'clock, the neighbourhood of Barratt's-court, Edward-street, Portman-square, was thrown into a state of violent uproar and confusion,in consequence of the messengers of the Marylebone Board of Health attempting to remove to the cholera hospital, in Nutford-place, Edgeware-road, an Irishman, named John Heron who was suddenly taken ill on Thursday, and who was alleged to have been attacked with cholera. The messengers  brought with them the usual sedan chair to carry away the patient, and were attended by five of the police force of the D division, to prevent any interruption being oflered to them in taking the man away. They had no sooner arrived opposite to the house, No. 4, in Barratt's-court, where the man Heron lodges, than they were assailed with groans, hisses, and yells, of a most discordant character from a number of Heron's countrymen, who expressed their determination not to allow him to be removed out of his own apartment. The messengers however succeeded, after much difficulty, and with the assistance of the police, who were compelled to use their staves in placing the man in the chair, and had proceeded with him but a few yards when a simultaneous rush of the Irish, who had by this time assembled in the court to the number of between 500 and 600, was made, and in an instant the policemen were hemmed in by the crowd, and had their staves wrested from them. A scene of the utmost confusion and disorder then ensued, the sick man was dragged out of the chair, and pulled about in a most violent and shatnefitl manner, the chair was broken to pieces, and after much contention and disturbance the man was carried back to his lodging, amidst the shouts of the victorious party, who declared that they would resist any attempt that might be afterwards made to remove him. The disturbance assumed such a serious appearance at one time, that most of the neighbours closed their shops for the remainder of the afternoon. The whole of the neighbourhood remained in a state of excessive tumult during the rest of the evening. The necessary measures were afterwards taken by the police to preserve tranquillity.

The Times, 31 March 1832

Wednesday 27 February 2013

In addition to being a strumpet

Yesterday a young woman named Crafter was charged with robbing William Buntline, a sailor, just come home from sea.

Buntline said that he was paid off a few days ago from a frigate which had been some years on the South American station. He knew the prisoner previously to going abroad and kept up a correspondence with her, intending to make her his wife when he came home. On landing, however, he heard some strnage reports about her, such as that she was a mother, and had got two "young uns" while he was away. He would not have minded this much, he said, had she promised for the future to men her course; but when he got into the neighbourhood where she lived, he there learned that in addition to being a strumpet she was also a drunkard. After deriving all the information he could on the subject, Bill Buntline said, that he was about to sheer off, when who should come up and grapple him but the very woman herself. Isntead of expressing any delight on seeing him after so long an absence, the first thing she said was, "Come, let's have a glass." Not wishing to be thought ill-natured, he consented, and they had a half pint of rum between them. He threw down a sovereign on the bar to pay for it, and the moment Moll Crafter got a sight of the gold, she snatched it up and putting it into her mouth, bolted it, as he supposed. She was to be off, but Buntline took her up in his arm, and carried her off to a chymist's shop, with the intention of having a dose administered to her. Her screams, and violent exertions to get free, caused a crowd, as it was suspected that she had been suddenly sezied with symptoms of the cholera; and the belief was increased upon seeing the sailor carry her into the apothecary's shop. The apothecary, on being made acquainted with what had happened, refused to administer medicine for the purpose the sailor required; but advised that the prisoner should be taken before a magistrate. This advice was accordingly adopted, and Buntline was compelled to carry her in his arms to this office, she having refused to walk.

Mr. Chambers inquired whether she had been searched for she might have slipped the sovereign into her pocket or perhaps had it still in her mouth. By direction of the magistrate, a search took place for the sovereign, and it was found, after much resistance on the "lady's" part, in her mouth, under her tongue.

Buntline was rejoiced to get his sovereign back; but said that he had no wish to prosecute her, for old acquaintance sake.

It having been proved that the prisoner was a disorderly prostitute, the magistrate committed her for one month to Brixton.

The Times, 17 February 1832

Sunday 24 February 2013

The introduction of the Cholera Morbus

Twenty thousand copies of this guidance on dealing with cholera were printed for the City of London in November 1831. The Chairman of the City's Board of Health was Charles Pearson, who would later campaign for the establishment of an underground railway (though dying six months before that dream was realised).

The City of London Board of Health, anxious to prevent the introduction of the Cholera Morbus into this city, and to arrest its progress, should it unfortunately make its appearnce, feel it is their duty to direct the attention of their fellow citizens to the following precautions and observations, and earnestly to recommend that every householder should make them known among the members of his famiy and use his influence towards carrying them stricrly into effect.

House – To guard against accumulations of refuse matter in drains, cess-pools, dust-bins, and dirt-heaps, and to purify such receptacles by solution of chloride of lime, to be procured on application at the medical stations of each ward.

To maintain in a cleanly and wholesome condition all reservoirs, cisterns, and sinks, and to allow impurities, where practicable, to be carried away by running water.

To keep inhabited apartments clean by frequently washing and very carefully drying the floors, and to ventilate them thoroughly as well by fires and a free access of fresh air.

To have the windows, especially of bed rooms, put in good repair, so that the occupants may not be exposed during sleep to currents of night air.

To change bed linen and furniture frequently, and to clear out those spaces in inhabited rooms which are concealed by beds and other furniture, and which are so often made the depositories of filth and rubbish.

Where persons live in crowded apartments, which shoujld be avoided as far as may be practicable, additional vigilance should be used to preserve a free ventilation; and where offensive exhalations arise, they should be destroyed by the solution of chloride of lime.

Person – To maintain personal cleanliness by frequent washing and change of clothing, and, if available, by occasional warm bathing.

To guard against sudden changes of temperature by wearing flannel next the skin more especially round the bowels, and to protect the feet and legs by woollen stockings.

To avoid excessive fatigue, profuse perspiration, and exposure to cold and wet, particularly at night and to change damp clothing without delay.

Dirt – To let the diet consist of plain meats, bread and well-boiled vegetables, rejecting as injurious all indigestible kinds of food such as salads, raw fruits, nuts, rich pastry, and in general such articles as each individual may have found by experience to create acidity, flatulence and indigestion.

Beverage – To abstain from undiluted ardent spirits, acid drinks and stale soups or broths, and be sparing in the use of sugar, especially if it give rise to sour fermentation in the stomach.

To maintain regular habits, using moderate exercise, keeping early hours, and taking nourishment at limited intervals, so that fatigue or exposure may never be encountered during an exhausted and empty state of the stomach.

Finally to preserve a cheerfulness of disposition, a freedom from abject fears, and a full reliance that such measures will be taken by the Government and the local authorities as are best calculated, with Divine assistance, to meet the exigencies of the occasion.

The Board of Haelth are aware that these precautions cannot be take in every case, but they feel convinced that the more closely they are followed the greater will be the probability of security; and though they may be thought to be of a general nature, they become more immediately important at a time when the community is threatened with the visitation of a malady which especially affects the stomach and bowels; which usually makes it attack during the night; which falls with the greatest severity on the poor, the ill-fed, and the unhealthy; and which rages most destructively in those districts of towns where the streets are narrow, and the population crowded, and where little attention has been paid to cleanliness and ventilation.

J.F.DE GRAVE, Medical Secretary
Guildhall Nov.6 1831

Saturday 23 February 2013

His age was thirty-three, and his habit spare

The first reported death of a cholera victim in England, Oswald Reay, engine-man at Mr. Crawhall's ropery, Sunderland:-


His age was thirty-three, and his habit spare. At 11 p.m., 26th of October, 1831, having been previously in ill-health, he experienced a feeling of death, lips and aspect blue, purging of a liquid like thin gruel, spasms of the feet, extending up the legs to the stomach, occasional vomiting of similar fluid. In the night the neighbours alarmed by his groans. Domestic aid given. Brandy refused. At 8 o'clock a.m., sent for professional advice ; not obtained. At 3 p.m. prescribed for by Mr. Parr. At half past 5 visited by Dr. M'Whirter and Dr. White. Extremities then cold, pulse imperceptible, skin cold and clammy, extreme thirst, but mind tranquil; no urine passed since the commencement of the attack; distressing symptoms relieved by the measures employed. At half past 9, easier, but no re-action. At 12, breathing slow and laborious, incipient coma. Died tranquilly at half past 4 a.m., 29.5 hours from the commencement of the illness.

The Times, 5 November 1831

Thursday 21 February 2013

Water Works

The 1819 crisis in which 'monopolist' London water companies, having clubbed together to carve up the capital between them, then raised water rates, doubling many Londoners' bills, created something of a furore. When householders refused to pay, their supply was simply cut off.  This is an excerpt from a contemporary street ballad which - I think you will forgive me for suggesting - may contain the occasional double entendre.

For fear of their Water Works

Being a Comical Dialogue and a Funny Song.


O HERE is fun riding upon fun,
The Ladies cry they are undone,
They storm and rage like any Turks,
For spoiling of their water works,
Our housewives all do scold and fight,
And fire the house from morn to night,
For fear their water should run dry,
Their husbands can't them pacify.

My water works if they should spoil,
How will I get my kettle boil'd,
My husband cannot boil his pot,
If there's no water to be got,
Cod's head and shoulders I did buy,
But they useless now do lie,
I cannot get my dinner dressed,
Since my water is suppressed,

O good master, hear me I pray,
Do not cut the cock away,
Let me water freely run,
Or I will surely be undone;
I've fish and fowl and rumps to boil,
It breaks my heart to see them spoil,
I surely will be in the lurch,
If you spoil my water works.

Lady: John, step over the way, and read that large bill stuck against the wall, and let me know what it contains.
John: I read it this morning, my Lady, and, as far as I can remember it something about cutting off cocks, and stopping water works.
Lady: Oh, dear! will they cut mine off?
John: That I cannot say Madam, but I should suppose that if they do not interefere with yours, they will have master's off safe enough!
Lady: That is all the same thing. I will go distracted I'm afraid - oh my poor water cock; I will feel your loss night and day.

[excerpt from a broadside ballad, J. Pitts Printer, 6 Great Andrew Street, 7 Dials]