Cholera 1849

Cholera Epidemic of 1849

An inspection of the Phillack burial records for 1849 will reveal a significant number of burials in the July to September period of 1849.  Most of those buried in this period were residents of the villages of Ventonlege and Guilford and it was likely that many of these had succumbed to an epidemic of Cholera that ravaged these two villages at that time.

The West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser in the edition published on Friday August 10, 1849 and headlined "CHOLERA AT PHILLACK" reported "We regret to state that the cholera has appeared in this neighbourhood, and that there have been eleven deaths up to Wednesday night. The disease has been thus far chiefly confined to the little village of Ventonleague, where the houses are low and badly ventilated, with filthy cess pools contiguous to the dwellings."

I am indebted to Judy Olsen for providing some details of a court case that arose from this epidemic:

"The handling of the epidemic in Phillack led to the libel case of VAWDREY vs MILLETT, held the following March.

When the cholera hit Phillack the local bigwigs set themselves up as a committee and appointed two medical men, including the plaintiff, to care for the sick.  The defendant was a younger doctor practising in the area who wrote to the authorities in London to complain about his older colleague.

Only the two appointed doctors were allowed to treat the patients which meant many could not see their usual trusted medical practitioner.  In order to help out, Millett, the younger doctor had made his services available for nothing.

One guardian was reported being exceptionally sanguine about the conduct of the two doctors - 'the more they kill the less the parish will have to support'.

Witnesses for the plaintiff included the vicar, but the defence produced nine or ten 'cripples' plus surgeons from London and  Plymouth who said that their condition was due to the poor practices of the plaintiff when treating accidents and fractures.

In the end the plaintiff won, but was awarded just 1s in damages, and the jury asked that both sides pay their own expenses."

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