3rd March 1866 - Salisbury observes a 'day of humiliation'

Cow illustrating Cattle and Wool Fair Salisbury

On 3rd of March 1866 a ‘day of humiliation’ was observed in response to a serious ‘cattle plague’[1].

The 1857 National Day of Humiliation

A ‘day of humiliation’ was a day of fasting, and prayer. Such a day seems to have been appointed in the face of some ongoing disaster. So, for example, in 1855 in the House of Lords:

The Earl of Roden said he wished to address a few words to their Lordships on a subject of the greatest importance - namely, the appointment of a day of humiliation and prayer to be observed throughout the country on account of the present disastrous state of things in the Crimea[2].

I don’t know whether the Earl was successful in his campaign but there was a national Day of Humiliation in 1857 - prompted by events in India.

The Evangelical Times website says that:

So seriously was the call for a day of humiliation taken, that the country virtually shut down. Almost the entire population attended their nearest place of worship. The nation was stunned and people turned to prayer[3].

Bentley’s Miscellany said that:

NOTHING could be more gratifying than the tone assumed by nearly all the ministers of our religion on that solemn day set apart for the humiliation of the nation before an offended Creator[4].

The 1866 Salisbury Day of Humiliation

This seems to have been the last national Day of Humiliation[5], but clearly people in Salisbury decided that there should be a local event in view of the ‘cattle plague’.

More prosaically, Parliament passed a ‘Cattle Diseases Act’ in 1866, and the Council introduced restriction on the movement of livestock on the 14th March[6].

I think the ‘cattle plague’ itself was a disease called ‘rinderpest’ - there was was ‘a major outbreak covering the whole of Britain in 186566[7]. It was characterized by ‘ was characterized by fever, oral erosions, diarrhea, tenesmus, lymphoid necrosis, and high mortality’

It appeared in a dairy in the north of London in the month of June 1865, and spread with great rapidity. ... During this outbreak between 200,000 and 300,000 cattle died of the plague, or were ordered to be killed on account of it[8]

The disease was eradicated in Britain in the 1860s through ‘surveillance, culls and import restrictions’.

The disease was globally eradicated fairly recently. The UN announced that they believed the disease had been wiped out on 14 October 2010. John Anderson, the head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, called the elimination of rinderpest “the biggest achievement of veterinary history”. [9].


[1] The Popular History Of Old & New Sarum. T. J. Northy, Published by the Wiltshire County Mirror & Express Co. Ltd., 1897. Available digitally on the Internet Archive - URL: https://archive.org/stream/popularhistoryof00nort/popularhistoryof00nort_djvu.txt.

[2] DAY OF HUMILIATION. (Hansard, 22 February 1855)

[3] The 1857 Day of Humiliation

[4] “The Day of Humiliation.” Bentley’s Miscellany 42 (Nov. 1857): 458-66. Online here: The Day of Humiliation

[5] (Page 18 of 38) - War, Shame, and Time: Celebrating National Humiliation Days in England and America. authored by Callahan, William.

[6] London Gazette, 20th Match 1866

[7] Rinderpest - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[8] Rinderpest - From The Probert Encyclopaedia

[9] Scientists eradicate deadly rinderpest virus | Science | theguardian.com

Image Credit

By Pikaluk (Flickr: One Gorgeous Cow) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons