Cholera in 1853

Tuesday, November 1st 1853, The Morning Post
Tuesday, November 1st 1853, The Morning Post


From returns made to the Commissioners of Metropolitan Police by the superintendents of the F, K, L, M, P, and R divisions of police, and transmitted this day to the General Board of Health, it appears that, between the 18th and 28th instant,there have occurred in those districts 20 cases of cholera, of which eight have resulted fatally. In one instance one patients died in 13 1/2 hours, and in another after only eight hours illness. Five of these cases had previously been reported as being under treatment.

On inquiry into the cases of cholera which have occurred in Brentford, Dr. Milroy states that, on the 4th instant, Mr. Radcliffe, one of the parochial medical officers, was called to see a young woman on intemperate, immoral habits, in a low unwholesome lodging-house at the Bar, New Brentford. She was a tramp, and had recently come into the town. Mr. Radcliffe found her in a state of collapse; but neglected diarrhoea had existed for several days previous to the invasion of the malignant symptoms. She recovered; and no other case of sickness has occurred in the house, although there are nearly 20 inmates in it. About the same time Mr.Goodchild, another of the parochial medical officers, attended a case in Thames-row, Hollows, near the river side, an unhealthy locality. The patient was a fisherman; and, like most of his class, was improvident, and much [prone] to intemperance, living from hand to mouth -he was badly off at the time. This case was fatal. Several cases of severe choleraic diarrhoea have recently occurred at the adjoining houses in Thames-row. On the 6th instant Mr. Davis was called to a man aged 46, a pensioner, recently returned from Ireland, who had been engaged the day before on the river removing ballast &c. Shortly after his dinner he began to be purged; the diarrhoea continued until the evening, when cramps were first experienced; nevertheless no medical aid was procured until 11 o’clock p.m., when Mr. Davis found him verging to collapse. The vomiting and purging were checked under the use of sulphuric acid, but the collapse increased, and he died next day at three o’clock p.m. There were seven inmates in the house, but none of them, including the man’s wife, have been affected. On the 12th a fatal case occurred at a place called Cage-square, in a navvy, who had been suffering from neglected diarrhoea for three or four days previously. He was collapsed when Mr. Ralfs first saw him, at two o’clock a.m., and survived 30 hours. He has left a wife and three children. One or two cases of diarrhoea have occurred in the same house. On the 13th, a child, one year of age, was seen by Mr. Radcliffe, in a small house near the railway station. The child had been affected with diarrhoea for four days previously. It died on the 14th. No other member of this poor family, nine or ten in number, has been affected. On the 18th, two fatal cases occurred – one in a notoriously filthy Irish court, called Poppett’s-parlour, where several of the inhabitants had already been attacked with diarrhoea, and the other in Knight’s-buildings. Both localities are situated by the river side. Several of the houses in Poppett’s-parlour are stated by Mr. Goodchild to be so bad as to be utterly unfit for human habitation. The place where one of the above died, a woman aged 60, is described as a filthy shed, which should not be allowed to be occupied. It consisted of two rooms, in which eight or nine people slept. On the 24th a militiaman died of cholera at a beer-shop in the town; he was attended by the surgeon of the regiment. Besides the cases of developed cholera enumerated above, there has been a considerable amount, more especially within the last three weeks, of diarrhoea of a choleraic nature in Old Brentford. The localities chiefly affected are Thames-row, and other places near the river. In one house opposite the gas works several severe cases have occurred, in one instance with a fatal result. The privy is stated by Mr. Ralfs to be in a horrible condition. The same gentleman mentioned that he had recently attended a very sever case in a place called Eaton’s-row, which is a very narrow lane, where the stench from several open privies is so disgustingly offensive as to sicken those who are obliged to pass along to their dwellings. But this is far from being a solitary or exceptional case in Brentford. It is known to be in a shockingly filthy and offensive condition, nor will any one wonder at this when he learns that there is not a sewer or proper drain in the town, and that there is not a single house which water laid on, although the very source of the chief metropolitan water supply, the Thames, is at their doors, and the works of the Grand Junction Company are not half a mile distant. The water used by the inhabitants for culinary purposes, and for making tea, is sold in the streets at so much a bucket; it is derived from one or two deep Artesian wells in the town. Some of the wells from which the poorer classes obtain their water are stated to be contaminated with the contents of adjacent cess-pools. There is, of course, a large amount of preventable disease arising from such a state of things as has been described. The worst localities are mostly near the river, the bed of which, at low water, exhibits a black putrid slime, exhaling a most nauseous stench. The effects of this upon the health of the fishermen and their families must be most injurious, and may, in conjunction with other causes, account for the intemperate habits to which they are addicted.Taken altogether, there are few places which stand more in need of sanitary improvement than Brentford, and which would be more benefitted by the adoption of the Public Health Act.

November 6 1853, Reynolds Newspaper
November 6 1853, Reynolds Newspaper


The article continues with cases at Mortlake and further afield.

An extract from this article was published a few days later in Reynolds newspaper which summarises outbreaks of the cholera in the Metropolis and the Provinces, with Brentford being in the latter.

Thanks to Celia Cotton for supplying the articles and text. She also adds that Poppet’s Parlour appears to have been owned by John Bond at the time. Poppet’s Parlour was still occupied  1871 but by 1881 I reckon they it was demolished to allow expansion of the gas works.


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