13th August 1849 - Dr Finch's letter about the Salisbury cholera epidemic appears in The Times

On the 13th of August 1849, a letter from a Salisbury doctor, Dr Finch appeared in the Times.

Headed ‘THE CHOLERA IN SALISBURY’, Finch wrote

Sir, - In your communication of to-day as to the malignant epidemic occurring within this borough, you mention the fact that one fatal case has happened in the large suburb of Fisherton.

The parish of Fisherton contains about 1,400 inhabitants, chiefly of the poorer class, and for the sake of description may be divided into the old and new part or suburb, the old part being intersected by two running streams, amd the new (which is less thickly inhabited) rising gradually several feet above the level of the water, and therefore addording the fullest opportunity of drainage.

The main street is tolerably wide, but imperfactly and badly paved. In the reat of the first 15 or 20 houses at about the distance of 30 feet, is an open ditch, some feet wide and deep, without any outlet. It contains the foulest, blackkest and most pestiferous matter that could be found. Many privies are over and run into it. The waste water of the street gutters and soil from privies of cottages on the opposite side of the road is conveyed by a drain partly open under the passage floor of one of the houses.

On one side of a parallel road or lane, not far distant, and close to seeral cottages, is another open ditch, filled with similar matter and constantly emitting the most foul and noxious odour.

In the main street on either side, throughout its whole extent, is a surface drain, always out of repair, receiving the house drainage of almost all the dweliings, and the rain water than happens to descend. A good shower will cleanse and improve it but imurities still remain, and are increased by the daily supply of potato parings, cabbage leaves, and decomposable matter of every description.

Many of the cottages have not been lime-whitened for years and some are not fit for pigs to inhabit. The cottage in which this poor woman alluded to died, vix., the reported fatal case, is one of this description - a small stinking place (a room I cannot call it) measuring about eight or nine feet square, and about seven feet in height; a place above of similar dimensions for the sleepingof a man, his wife and nine children; one bedstead without any kind of curtain, the other beds placed upon the floor. The eldest girl about 17 years of afe, the next 15, a bouy 13 and a half, and so on downwards. The cottage, which is attached to others, is perfectly filthy, snad surrounded by pigsties, a slaughterhouse, cesspools and everything that is uncleanly and disgusting.

I visited this poor human creature in the last stage of spasmodic cholera. She had no covering but a thin counterpane and the skeleton of one blanket. I urged the necessity of more clothing, and this was readily volunteered by a poor neighbour, who had known and experienced the kindness and attention of an industrious and deserving woman already the victim of a loathsome disease. Picture, Sir, to yourself this scene of misery!-a wretched hovel without necessaries or comfort; a distracted husband, an all but motherless family of nine squalid children, crying, alarmed, and horror stricken at the aproaching end of a good parent; neighbours innumerable, who had experienced the frequent kind offices of the victim before the,, bewailing her condition, and suffering mental anguish for their own personal safety.

I refrain from mentioning many nuisances in the ever-neglected parish of minor importance, but having only this morning been entreeted to see a poor boy lying upon a wretched bed in a half comatose state, I took the opportunity of examining the back premises of this deplorable hove. the stench was so intolerable that sickness imeediately overtook me, I made a precipitate retreat after noticing an old privy with the soil exposed, a stagnant drain, a pump without water, and contiguous cowsheds emitting the most overpowering effluvium.

The new or pper part of the parish is clean and healthy and does not require particular comment.

I have in vain made daily complaints to those I thought most likely to remedy the evils of such magnitude; I have called a parish meeting - I have made the subject known to the mayor. The guardians are in full possesion of the facts, as also the surveyor of the highways, but after a delay of upwards of a month, not one thing is yest effectually done.

I now, Sir, make this public appeal, in the hope that it might be the means of awakening those in authority to a sense of their duty, or that, through your influential medium, a ppublic officer might be immediately appointed to carry out proper sanitary regulations in order that the sacrifice of human life may not at least be wholesale.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

W.C. Finch, M.D.,

Physician to the Salisbury Infirmary

Fisherton-house, Aug 10

W. C. FINCH. “The Cholera In Salisbury.” Times [London, England] 13 Aug. 1849: 8. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 16 Nov. 2017. URL http://find.galegroup.com/ttda/infomark.do?&source=gale&prodId=TTDA&userGroupName=hamlib&tabID=T003&docPage=article&searchType=AdvancedSearchForm&docId=CS134643981&type=multipage&contentSet=LTO&version=1.0