Black Country Muse

Subtitle

Forums

Post Reply
Forum Home > Dead and Buried. > Bilston Cholera Epidemic. 1832.

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

In 1832, one of the worst outbreaks of Cholera the region had seen, raged around the Black Country. Tipton, Dudley, Rowley Regis, and Netherton were all affected, but the pestulence stayed away from one of the most overcrowded Towns. Bilston. June was " Wakes week ", and people came from near and far to join in the fun. Elizabeth Dawson, the first recorded victim, didn't have long to laugh, for on 3rd August she taken ill. Her husband, unable to cope with the children as well, made the long trip to Redditch, to ask his wifes mother for help. When they got back, Elizabeth Dawson was dead. Many of William Dawson's neighbours were also now ill. and the disease began to spread rapidly. William and his mother-in-law both stayed in the house, and they too went down with Cholera. She died, and he recovered in Hospital.


The list of dead began to mount, Richard Dyke, Mary Cleaton, on the 4th August, William Dyke and Amelia Cleaton on the 6th. On the 8th/9th/and 10th, the plague began to spread to the west of the town, the most populated, and overcrowded part. One woman, Elizabeth Shore, paid a heavy price for helping a neighbour, George Guest, when he fell ill. Unfortunately, she had visitors who helped her out as well and they all caught the disease. Ann Ames, and Ann Holmes, both died. The hospital was soon full, as the Cholera tightened it's deadly grip. One family of eight, the Thorntons, were virtually wiped out, only the two youngest girls surviving, and they would have died had it not been for the kindness shown by neighbours. Ettingshall Lane, ( the old Hell Lane ) was perhaps the worst affected in the town, and many people were to be seen wandering around, looking for refuge from the disease, as they had lost everything dear to them, their families.


Their now arose another problem, Coffins. There just simple were not enough, and supply failed to keep up with demand. The situation was so bad, that a local clergyman was sent into Birmingham to buy more. Even when a burial took place, relatives were so fearful of catching it, that they seldom followed the coffin to the grave. The medical staff were also going down, but more from exhustion than Cholera, that would come later. Factories and workshops began to close down, and in one day, there were 148 cases reported, and almost 50 deaths. George Hazeldine, gravedigger of the parish, was unwise enough to brag, " I'm mekin a forchun an I hopes this job gozz on fer another six months ". The next day he was taken ill and died. The Lord, as they say, works in mysterious ways. By September, the signs were that the disease was slowing down. Not before time either, as there were no families in Bilston, who had not been touched, or almost wiped out by the Cholera. Between 3rd August, and the 19th, 335 people had died. From the 20th to the 26th, another 275 went to an early grave. The 27th, to 10th September, saw a further 132 pass away, giving a total of 742. By way of a comparison, Wolverhampton, with a bigger population, suffered just 193 deaths, while Darlaston, had only 68. Sedgley, that other Black Country overcrowded town, also suffered, losing 290 of the population. There had of course, been outbreaks before, and over the coming years, there would be others, but nothing like the scale of the 1832 epidemic.



--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

September 30, 2011 at 4:45 PM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

This disease though, was not the only deadly sickness that could, and did, decimate a towns population. There was another, that actually changed the course of British history, Variola, or as it became more commonly known, Smallpox. Spread by contact, clothing, bedding, and even airborne virus, it attacked the skin cells, forming blisters or pimples, filled with fluid, which rapidly spread across the face and upper trunk of those aflicted. The death rate, amongst the young and the old, was from 30-35%. Those who initially survived, were left with either pock-marked faces,  lost the sight of one, or even both eyes, and even aquired deformaties of the limbs. It had a nasty habit of returning some time later, and finished off the unfortunate sufferer. Like all diseases of this type, it had no class barriers, Henry VIII had it, as did one of his wives, Anne of Cleves, indeed it killed his son after his death, the young Edward VI. Henry's daughter, Mary I was marked by it, as was the future Elizabeth I, which was one reason she is always depicted wearing very heavy makeup. Variola Minor, it's other form, was far less dangerous, the death rate being around 1%, but the facial and body scarring were the same. The world owes Edward Jenner a huge pat on the back for his work in vaccinating people with a form of Cowpox, a near relative, but harmless to humans, which became compulsory in Great Britain in 1853, and helped to eradicate Smallpox from all our lives. Today, it's a forgotten disease, the last recorded death in the UK, was a young research worker in Birmingham, in 1978. The culture she was working on was destroyed, and the man in charge of the work, unable to come to terms with his conscience, later committed suicide. According to the World Health Organisation, Variola, in either form, no longer exists. Thank god for small mercies.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

October 23, 2012 at 11:06 AM Flag Quote & Reply

Alaska.
Site Owner
Posts: 1404

A victim of the 1832 Cholera epidemic was a medical man, Doctor Allsop, who had arrived in Tipton at the height of the storm, and sadly, never left. He would have been sorely missed by his patients back in Birmingham.  It was sometimes what accompanied the Cholera, Diarrhoea, that proved to be the last straw for many. The years following this dreadful outburst, saw vast improvements in the treatment of Diarrhoea, which was a good job, because in 1849, Cholera came back. Townships like Bilston, where improvements had been made, didn't suffer so badly this time, but others, like Wednesbury, did. During 8 weeks of this new epidemic, over 245 deaths occurred up to December, when panic ensued in Tipton, where two new cases were reported. Thankfully, the final total was low, but in nearby Coseley, over 80 people went to an early grave. The low toll however, produced some surpising, and disturbing figures. Unlike the 1832 epidemic, where the young died along with the rest, wiping out whole families, this time, far more children survived. There were 69 Widows or Widowers in Wednesbury alone, leaving over 188 orphans, one women, completly destitute with 8 children to care for. The situation in Coseley was little better, with 120 orphans, two families of 7 children included. The call went out for funds, backed up by John Winter, curate of Saint John in Wednesbury, the Rev. J.B.Owen, Vicar of Saint Marys, Bilston, and the Rev. J.W. Ryland, Vicar of Coseley. John Winter, having graphicaly discribed the plight of the suffering, offered the following by way of a thought.


" I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had not to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me, and I caused the widows heart to sing for joy."


Echos there of the sacrifice, some 17 years before, of poor Doctor Allsop and others, who had really given their all to comfort the sick and dying. And people did give, enough it seems to alleviate some of the more intense suffering, which in Wednesbury, had killed 1 in every 53 of the towns population. There are many others who sacrificed either their health, or life, in the struggle to contain outbreaks like these, Walsall has it's very own angel of mercy, Sister Dora. Although it's not so fashionable today, Religion, has played an enormous part in our lives. The Church, the only place many had to turn for help, and it never let them down, or turned them away.

--

A wonderful thing is work, I could watch it all day.  ( See my Blog entry )

January 20, 2014 at 2:40 PM Flag Quote & Reply

You must login to post.