Scarlet Fever Epidemic 1874

In 1874 Weaverham made the National newspaper headlines. Doctor Frazer, the medical officer for the area, reported that, “Since August 1874 scarlet fever has spread in this Township until it has become epidemic. Until the 9th. of November there had been 165 cases in Weaverham and 241 in the local area, with 29 deaths in the village, a death rate of 16.84 per thousand and 17.57 of persons attacked by the fever.”

There was terrible loss of mainly young lives, even today there can be up to 14,000 cases a year of scarlet fever, with 89% affected under ten years of age. The schools in Weaverham were criticised for their slow response in closing schools from September to December. From January until July five children up to 10 died of all causes in Weaverham, During the epidemic from August until December 42 children had died, of all causes. 30 of them girls, most burials taking place in October.

Copyhold Cottages in Northwich Road had two families who both lost two children to the fever, Joseph Shallcross a navigation labourer married to Ellen, lost James aged one and Anne aged five. The Allman family of George Allman agricultural labourer married to Mary, lost two of their four children, John aged 12 and Elizabeth aged 4.

The report that really caused a scandal came from the Inspector of Nuisances in the Manchester Guardian. Weaverham contained 221 houses and 876 inhabitants. The Inspector found eleven houses with no windows to open on the ground floor. The houses formed two sides of a square with eleven pigsties, six privies and open drains. The houses were occupied by persons with fever raging between them.

The Inspector went on to say, “In an area in Forest Street there were two sleeping rooms, having a family of five persons and two lodgers. Upstairs was a small back room for lodgers and in a room lay a little girl in whom the fever had turned to dropsy, and by her side lay another in an earlier stage of the disease. Apparently, both were quickly following those that had been carried from bed to the Churchyard, and yet all the rest slept in the same room with them. Taking these things into account, in connection with a pig sty a few feet from the door, with an open cesspool which probably had not been emptied for two years and all the drainage being in the grid holes in the street, I found enough to account for the rise and progress of disease of an epidemic nature.”

District nursing while begun in 1850s Liverpool had not started in Cheshire, In Weaverham the Morris directory for 1874 gives Doctor Samuel Smith as Surgeon, John Janion Manifold, pharmaceutical chemist, family grocer and dealer in British wines. Arthur Arrowsmith was the relieving and vaccination officer.

Northwich workhouse had a fever ward. Weaverham came under the newly formed Northwich Rural District for Sanitation.

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