cholera in Nottingham

Cholera in Nottingham

There were outbreaks of the disease in 1832, 1848, 1853 and 1865 - 1,110 cases were recorded in 1832, with 289 deaths. While excavating the site for National Ice Centre in 1999, no evidence was found to support the belief that the bodies of cholera victims from the 1832 epidemic in Nottingham were buried in a mass grave pit.

In 1854, Sir John Snow, one of the founding fathers of modern epidemiology, traced an outbreak of cholera to polluted water from a single well in the Soho area of London. He stopped the entire epidemic by taking the handle off the well's pump.

"Nottingham is supplied with filtered water obtained from the river Trent, some distance above the town. In 1832 this supply did not extend to all the inhabitants, and the cholera was somewhat prevalent amongst the poor, of whom it carried off 289; the population of the town being 53,000. After that time the water was extended copiously to all the inhabitants, and there were but thirteen deaths from the epidemic in 1849. The local Sanitary Committee placed the supply of water amongst the chief causes of this immunity from cholera, and I believe justly. There were but seven deaths from cholera in Nottingham last summer."

He also made some interesting observations about about the incidence of cholera in different occupations.

"The persons who suffered less from cholera than any other part of the male population, are footmen and men-servants; and it is impossible to conceive a class less exposed to the disease. They live in the best parts of London, and go from home much less than their masters. The low rate of mortality amongst medical men and undertakers is worthy of notice. If cholera were propagated by effluvia given off from the patient, or the dead body, as used to be the opinion of those who believed in its communicability; or, if it depended on effluvia lurking about what are by others called infected localities, in either case medical men and undertakers would be peculiarly liable to the disease; but, according to the principles explained in this treatise, there is no reason why these callings should particularly expose persons to the malady."

"One master-brewer died of cholera, being 1 in 160 of the trade; but no brewer's man or brewer's servant is mentioned as having died of this malady, although these men must constitute a very numerous body in London. There must be a few thousands of them. I have, indeed, met with the deaths of two or three of these persons, in looking over the returns of some of the most fatal weeks in 1849 ; but the brewers' men seem to have suffered very slightly both in that and the more recent epidemics. The reason of this probably is, that they never drink water, and are therefore exempted from imbibing the cholera poison in that vehicle."

In conclusion he observed:

"The great prevalence of cholera along the course of rivers has been well known for a quarter of a century; and it meets with a satisfactory explanation from the mode of communication of the disease which I am inculcating. Rivers always receive the refuse of those living on the banks, and they nearly always supply, at the same time, the drinking water of the community so situated. It has sometimes been objected to the propagation of the disease by the water of rivers, that the epidemic travels as often against the stream as with it. The reply to this is, that people travel both against the stream and with it, and thus convey the malady from village to village and from town to town on the banks, whilst the water serves as a medium to propagate the disease amongst those living at each spot, and thus prevents it from dying out through not reaching fresh victims."

On the Mode of Communication of Cholera
by John Snow, M.D.