Cholera

Due to the crowded and insanitary conditions in the town there were instances of cholera. One family fell victim and all 3 had died within 3 days in 1849: Same day (17th August), at New Malton, aged 46, Elizabeth, wife of Mr. David Oxendale, after suffering from spasmodic cholera, 30 hours; on the 18th inst., at the cholera hospital, Malton, aged 2½ years, from spasmodic cholera and consecutive fever, Rebecca, daughter of the above David and Elizabeth Oxendale; and on the 19th inst., at the above hospital, aged 26, the above named David Oxendale, after suffering from diarrhoea 18 hours, and from Asiatic cholera [1]’ The coroner’s inquest concluded that the wife and daughter had ‘died from cholera brought on from want of sufficient food, through the neglect of David Oxendale, husband to the above’ [2]
On the 21st August Samuel Walker, Clerk to the Malton Union Committee of Health issued a notice in The Messenger regarding the recurrence of Cholera in various places throughout the country. They requested that householders would remove any nuisances from their premises and to check the state of drains, privies, ashpits, cesspools and piggeries to make sure they were in good order. They were also instructed to whitewash their dwellings with lime and to improve ventilation where possible. It was felt that these measures would prevent or check the progress of cholera and other diseases from spreading. [3]
An order of precautions against Cholera from Samuel Walker, Clerk to the Malton Union Committee of Health was published in the Malton Messenger in October 1854. The General Board of Health issued these warnings: 1. Apply for medicine to stop loose bowels as it may bring on Cholera. 2. Do not take any Strong Opening Medicine without medical advice. 3. Excess in alcohol is likely to be followed by Cholera. 4. Only drink boiled water that is clear and tastes well. 5. Don’t eat tainted or decayed meat, stale fish or raw vegetables and eat cooked vegetables and fruit in moderation. 6. Avoid fasting and be moderate at meals. 7. Avoid great fatigue and being heated and then chilled. 8. Avoid getting wet and remaining in wet clothes. 9. Keep your body and feet clean, dry and as warm as your means and occupation allows. 10. Clean and lime wash your rooms removing any dirt or impurities. 11. Open your windows as much as possible and remove any offensive smells with chloride, lime or zinc. 12. If you know of any dust or dirt heaps, foul drains or smells or any other nuisance in your house or neighbourhood report immediately to the Board of Guardians, Committee of Health, or to the Relieving Officers of the Union [4]
[1] York Herald, 25 August 1849.
[2] Yorkshire Gazette, 25 August 1849
[3] Malton Messenger, 2 September 1854
[4] Malton Messenger, 5 October 1854


Smallpox

Towards the end of 1871 rumours were rife of a serious outbreak of smallpox in the town [1] ‘the wildest and most unfounded rumours were afloat, and to such an extent that some people gave their orders at shop doors, and positively objected to enter houses, and others coming by train refused to leave the railway station, and sent for their goods from the town.’ An outbreak had occurred, but on a much smaller than imagined scale. A boy infected by the disease, arrived by train from Scarbro’ on 18th November 1871, and died on 23rd November, being buried the next day. Around 40 cases subsequently occurred; all were traced back to the single case. By late February it was reported that due to the rumours the trade of the town had greatly suffered and ‘Returns from the medical men show that out of a population of 8,000, 210 cases have occurred, and 36 deaths’ [2] The first quarter of 1872 recorded 31 deaths in the Malton Union from small-pox and concluded ‘The health of the town greatly improved during March, only two deaths from small-pox having occurred throughout the district’ [3] The Board of Health meeting on 26 June 1872 ordered ‘that a sum of £24 be devoted for gratuities to the board’s inspector, and others for extra services rendered during the recent epidemic of small-pox ...’[4]
[1] York Herald, 23 December 1871
[2] York Herald, 2 March 1872
[3] York Herald, 6 April 1872
[4] York Herald, 29 June 1872


Smallpox Vaccination

Would you believe there were riots in the Malton streets over demands to have children vaccinated against smallpox? Smallpox was a prevalent disease throughout the Victorian era but despite government attempts to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated the uptake was low. A series of Vaccination Acts introduced increasingly stringent provisions around vaccination and how this was to be enforced. The usual practice was to vaccinate a child and then, if the child was well at an examination eight days later, to take lymph from the vesicles on their arms with which to vaccinate other children. Some parents objected to having their children vaccinated on religious grounds, while others felt that smallpox vaccination caused more illness than it prevented.
The local Boards of Guardians (which looked after health and some other matters in each area) had to prosecute parents who did not have their children vaccinated. Any unpaid fines would lead to imprisonment or to the seizure and sale of their personal possessions. The process would then be repeated until the person complied. The strength of feeling against vaccination appears to have been high in Malton. An Anti-Compulsory Vaccination Society was formed in the town (York Herald 14 February 1874.) Little seems to have been reported about the conduct of these meetings and their propaganda efforts but in the The Malton Gazette, Saturday, July 8th, 1876, there is a report covering The Vaccination Question - Extraordinary Proceedings at Malton A further response to the several prosecutions instituted by the Board of Guardians was a letter being ‘ ... sent to one of the local magistrates, in which the writer threatens to take his life if he convicts in any further prosecution of non-vaccination’ (York Herald 4 September 1875.)
At a public meeting held in the Spittle-street school on Tuesday, 27 March 1877, a Malton branch of the AntiVaccination League was formed. Membership was 1s. Mr. J. Appleby was appointed president and Mr. Edwin Hall (photographer), secretary [1].
Mr. Rawling, cordwainer, of Malton, was sent to Northallerton Gaol for seven days for refusing to comply with the law. On his return, thousands lined the streets from the railway station to the Market place where a meeting took place and the boisterous gathering broke windows at the town hall (Sheffield and Rotherham Independent, 2 October 1876.) The Vaccination Act of 1898 allowed parents to register their conscientious objection to vaccination. The Yorkshire Evening Post of Monday September 19th 1898 reports that 'The Malton Guardians have resolved, in consequence of the passing of the Vaccination Act, to give up the vaccination stations in the Union.'
[1] York Herald, 31 March 1877


Typhoid and Typhus

These are different diseases and it may be that historical references, for example in the local newspapers, are inaccurate. Typhoid is generally caused by a bacteria called Salmonella typhi and can be spread through faeces. Those drinking water or food contaminated with the bacteria stand a very good chance of contracting typhoid. Complications include internal bleeding and the splitting of intestine and bowel with consequent widespread infection. By contrast, Typhus is a bacteria disease spread by lice and fleas and can pass from rats to fleas to humans. It can be imagined that where there are crowded and insanitary conditions both these diseases can take their toll.
Local press death announcements may give cause of death - September the 17th, at New Malton, of typhus fever, Sarah Ann Loftus, aged 21 [1] and hint at the spread of these diseases - Same day (the 5th) at New Malton, of typhus fever, aged 27, Hannah Peckett, cook to William Simpson, Esq., of that town,solicitor. On the 28th ult., at New Malton, of typhus fever, aged 22, Mary Ann Peckett, servant, sister to the above Hannah Peckett [2]
[1] Hull Packet, 29 September 1848
[2] York Herald, 8 February 1851


1932 Typhoid Outbreak

On 24th October, 1932 typhoid fever broke out at Malton. There were 270 cases, 23 proving fatal. Many events were abandoned owing to the epidemic and the town was practically deserted, people refraining from visiting the town and residents living in fear behind closed doors. A relief fund was set up. A government inquiry found that the epidemic started when a patient was admitted to the Workhouse with a severe fever, later found to be typhoid. His use of the lavatory led to contaminated water entering the soil via a cracked drain, which had been accidentally ruptured with a pickaxe. From the soil the infection soon reached the town's well, the sole public water supply. One Malton G.P., Dr Parkin worked day and night to combat the infection, and his dedication almost certainly saved the lives of many. He died on December 3rd, his fourth wedding anniversary, becoming victim 20. At his funeral weeping crowds lined the streets and several thousands gathered in the market place for a service. The Gazette of 12th June 1964 compares the typhoid outbreak in Malton (270 cases, 23 deaths, less than 5,000 population) with an outbreak in Aberdeen (400 cases, 1 death, population 298,000). During the outbreak, Malton people working in other districts were dismissed or suspended by their employers. In 1932 the public water supply came from the Ladywell, about 300 yards east of the workhouse at the bottom of Castlegate. The district council had been urged to abandon this supply 40 years earlier because it was liable to pollution due to the periodic flooding of the Derwent, into which the town's untreated sewage was discharged. Interestingly, when the local surveyor observed the flood water in the Derwent reaching a certain level he would stop pumping from the well! The man with the initial infection was admitted to the workhouse on 23rd September. It was not until 24th October that townspeople, via the town crier, were told to boil all water until further notice. At that point, 20 cases had been reported in three days. The Yorkshire Gazette reported regularly on the progress of the epidemic, naming those who had succumbed to the infection, the hospital they were in and the status of their condition. On 28th October 1932, 60 cases were reported and by 25th November 245. The edition of 11th November hints at the seriousness, quoting the librarian at Malton "All books returned from infected houses are being burnt," and, a Malton ambulance driver who took a patient to Leeds as being refused assistance when the ambulance had broken down as the vehicle had been employed on typhoid cases. "A United Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance" was held at St. Michael's Church, on 23rd April 1933. The service booklet listed the following as the victims of the epidemic: Louisa Richardson, Alice Ann Sedman, Doreen Standing, Peter Noel Hick, John Wm. Pounder, Roy K. Packwood, Arthur Barker, Mary Heseltine Blades, Violet Baker, Mary Berriman, Gladys Berriman, Evelyn Bannister, Thomas Churchman, David Nendick, George Colley Parkin, Matilda Miles, Olga Humphrey, Irene Lythe, Bertha Newey, Martha Lapish, Sydney Dent Bowman, Peggy Bradshaw, Doris Smith, Dorothy Barnes, Annie Boggitt.


1918 Influenza Epidemic

The influenza epidemic may be said to have reached its crisis during the week-end so far as Malton was concerned … … The outbreak with its serious consequences highly increased the death rate, and more funerals took place in Malton and Norton in one week than was ever known before… … Several pathetic instances have occurred. The death of Misses synan within a few hours of each other has created the greatest sympathy. In another case a Malton soldier arrived home on leave to find his wife had passed away an hour or two previously… … the difficulties of labour spread to the Malton Gas Works, and on Friday and Saturday the gas supply gave out, and both Malton and Norton were in darkness. Business had to be carried on with lamps and candles, and on Sunday the evening services had to be cancelled, being held in most instances, in the afternoon… … This is the first time since the flood of 1878 that the gas supply has failed.
Malton Messenger, 16 November 1918


MALTON
SMALL POX IN MALTON.-We are very sorry to have to state that this fatal disorder is now prevalent in Malton; several children have died of late in it, and some families have had, and have at this present time, several of their younger branches much afflicted with it. Under such circumstances we should hope parents will not neglect the precaution of vaccination.
York Herald, 24 November 1838



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