Smallpox epidemic 1871

Liverpool Mercury, Feb 22nd, 1871

Small pox and fever patients in West Derby

An adjourned public meeting of the rate payers of West Derby was held last night at the Wesleyan schoolroom, Whiterock St, for the purpose of protecting against the existence of Starfield House, Smallpox Hospital, West Derby Rd. The Rev Henry CARPENTER presided and there was a large attendance. The chairman read a letter of apology from Rev T. TOBIN, the Roman Catholic priest of the district, stating that he sympathised with the movement, but he most respectfully declined to attend the meeting, because it might lead to remarks being made as to his character as a priest, for a priest was as a "soldier on the battlefield" and his presence at the meeting might be misconstrued into a feeling of fear. A letter of apology was also read from Mr Thomas HAIGH.

The Chairman said, that during the last few weeks fever and smallpox had been more prevalent in that neighbourhood than in almost any other district of Liverpool. The localities of West Derby and Everton had been considered to be the most healthy in Liverpool. Finding therefore that these terrible diseases fever and smallpox, were ravaging the district, there must be some cause for it, and one of the causes undoubtedly was the existence of Starfield House Hospital. The fear of the disease was as bad as the disease itself, and when men became panic stricken, it was attended with serious consequences, and had a bad effect upon small property. Gentlemen who said Starfield Hospital was not detrimental to the health of the locality would not like such a place situated near their villa residences, and he thought they would all agree that its present situation was not a proper one. [Hear, hear.]

Mr Councillor Edward WHITLEY who was loudly applauded, said it was admitted that isolation was the only means of stopping the spread of the dreadful disease that was unfortunately raging amongst them. It was therefore obvious that the establishment of a hospital like that of Starfield House, in the midst of a densely populated neighbourhood, must be prejudicial to health [Hear hear.] He did not see why the select vestry of Liverpool should send their sick patients into that locality [Hear hear] If such a hospital as Starfield House had been proposed to be sent to Aigburth there would have been such a hue and cry raised as would have prevented it from being attempted - [applause] - and he thought it was too bad to place such an establishment where it now was, in the midst of a locality where some of the most hard-working of the population resided. If the select vestry would not remove the hospital, then, they must go to the Home Secretary on the subject. He [Mr WHITLEY] had been told that the smallpox epidemic was likely to continue during the hot weather, and therefore it was dreadful to think of the hospital being amongst them - Hear hear] - and if it were continued it would be the ruin to the tradesmen in the neighbourhood. He had heard with surprise that it was proposed to place next to the public baths in Cresswell St a mortuary chapel. He could not think of anything more horrible than to place a mortuary chapel in such a situation - [Hear hear] - and he hoped that it would not be persevered in. He would be glad to assist the meeting in any way he could to carry out the object they had in view. [Applause]

Mr Councillor Edward SAMUELSON said, that he sympathised with the objects of the meeting and would be glad to assist them as far as he could. He mention that he informed that the medical officer of health had reported that he noticed no exceptional sickness in the neighbourhood, and since the commencement of the epidemic there had been only three cases from smallpox in that part of the town. In reference to the mortuary chapel, he was afraid that the medical officer of health might feel it his duty in the present emergency to advise that it should be gone on with.

Mr JACKSON [Chairman] of the burial board said there were two mortuary chapels at the Anfield Cemetery which were not used, and he therefore did not see why they should erect the other near the baths.

Mr LUPTON surgeon, said that from his own knowledge he knew that the figures furnished to Mr SAMUELSON was utterly wrong [Hear hear]

Mr WHITLEY, said the sanitary condition of Liverpool was a disgrace, and he could not understand, after the thousands of pounds that had been spent, why the death-rate was higher than any other town in the kingdom. He thought they had been too long hoodwinked by the supposed power of the health officer, and when the Act of Parliament was proposed, which was before he was in council, he held that it was a mistake to give such absolute power to one man. [Hear hear]

It was ultimately proposed that a committee should be appointed to wait upon the health committee and the select vestry and urge upon those bodies the desirability of removing the Starfield House and Mill Rd, Hospitals.

A vote of thanks to the chairman concluded the proceedings.


Liverpool Mercury, Feb 24th, 1871

Health Committee

The weekly meeting of the committee was held yesterday at the Municipal offices Dale St, Dr TAYLOR in the chair, other members present, Messers HOLDEN, CAMPBELL, WHITTY, VINING, HORNBY, DENTON, S. G. RATHBONE and WILLIAMS

The localities for the fatal prevalence of Smallpox were, Scotland ward 29, Vauxhall ward, 6, St Paul's, 4, Exchange ward, 1, St Annes ward, 2, St Peter's ward, 1, Pitt St ward, 1, Great George ward, 3, Rodney ward, 2, Abercromby ward, 2, Everton ward, and Kirkdale ward, 31, West Derby ward 4, North Toxteth, 2, South Toxteth, 3. The residences of 9 who died in the Ashfield workhouse were not mentioned, and the residences of 5 who died in the union workhouse Mill Lane were outside the borough.

Dreadful disclosures of the smallpox epidemic

A deputation of a dozen gentlemen headed by the Rev H. CARPENTER and Mr E. WHITLEY, who were appointed at a meeting on Tuesday night, waited upon the committee for the purpose of stating the objections of the residents of West Derby Rd and Everton to a mortuary being erected near to Margaret St, Baths, Everton. The Rev H, CARPENTER, said it was felt that the erection of a deadhouse in such a populous district would be very dangerous and they asked the committee to consider the desirability of not erecting it. It would also be in the vicinity of the public baths, and they would have the singular anomaly of having a house of death and a house of health close to each other.

Mr WHITLEY,, said they had heard with considerable alarm that there was an intention to build a mortuary on a vacant piece of land in the vicinity of the baths and he could hardly conceive a more objectionable situation for a mortuary, and hoped the health committee would abandon the idea, and remove the alarm which such a proposition had created, the proper place for a deadhouse was at the cemetery.

Mr S. B. JACKSON said, he was the deputy chairman of the burial board for Anfield Cemetery, where they had already mortuaries to which the dead could be removed.

Mr ATKINSON [the law advisor] said that under the Sanitary Act of 1866 the nuisance authority may provide places of reception for dead bodies, and where such places are provided and dead bodies found in rooms, so as to be dangerous to the inmates, then a magistrate may, upon the certificate of a medical practitioner, order the body to be removed, but it must be removed to the place provided by the local authority. The borough magistrate's order would only extend to the borough of Liverpool

Mr JACKSON said, by act of parliament Anfield Cemetery was constituted a part of the borough for all parochial purpose.

Mr ATKINSON, said there would be conflict between the poor law authorities who had ultimately buried the bodies and the nuisance authority, who had charge of the body up to the point of burial.

Dr TRENCH said the mortuary in Margaret St was intended to be a place in which bodies could be removed under a magistrate's order. They would not be retained there for an hour possibly, the borough magistrates must have a mortuary or else they would have no power to ask for a magistrate's order of removal.

Mr JACKSON said there were three mortuaries in Anfield Cemetery, and also a separate building on the boundary of the cemetery, which was constructed for post mortem cases after exhumation, in fact, every provision was made there for an emergency of this sort. To erect a mortuary in Margaret St seemed an unnecessary expense, besides incurring great danger and running the risk of extending the mischief which it was their object to prevent. He also thought that great danger arose for the want of some arrangement by which funeral parties coming from infected houses should be kept apart from funeral parties not coming from places where there was infection.

Mr WHITTY said that there could surely be no hesitation on the part of the health committee entering into such an arrangement with the burial board as that indicated by Mr JACKSON. As to the legal difficulty, it was monstrous if they were to be tied to straight routine in a case of life and death. If the burial board helped the health committee in the matter he felt certain there would be no legal difficulty, he hoped they would not allow legal difficulties to stand in the way in a time of danger like at present.

Mr ATKINSON said the difficulty would not arise with regards to the magistrate's order, but with the relieving officer in the body being removed into another township. There would be no difficulty with respect to interments from the parish of Liverpool, but with reference to those from Everton, as they would be taken from that township into another if removed into a deadhouse at the cemetery.

Mr WHITLEY said they might make arrangements with the relieving officers, he was sure there would be every disposition to meet them.

Dr TRENCH said the local authority, with the c0-operation of the relieving officer, need not keep the body at the deadhouse beyond a single moment, but what they wanted was a place to remove the dead to, to separate the dead from the living. He would relate to them a few facts to show that they should have prompt action. In a cellar dwelling in Prince Edward St, a child died of smallpox, and a baby, and the mother, and a son of ten years of age slept in the same bed with the corpse. In Chisenhale St, a woman died of smallpox on the 14th of February. The house was visited at 2am on the 17th and more than a dozen persons were found in it all intoxicated, or under the influence of drink, holding a wake over the corpse. The assembly was broken up by the inspector, and two of the women were so drunk as to require to be carried from the house. In Gildart's Gardens, a child died on the 18th of smallpox. An application was made for a magistrates order of burial on the 21st, because the father, mother, grandmother and a little brother of the dead child were found living by day and sleeping by night in the same room with the corpse. A wake was held on the body of the child on the 20th. In Limekiln Lane a man died of smallpox on the 18th and a wake was held on the 20th, the body being buried on the 21st, after the inspector's interference. From the time of death to the time of burial the room was never empty of visitors. In a cellar in Blundell St a child died of smallpox on the 17th, and a wake was held on the 20th, the father and mother and four brothers and sisters were living by day and sleeping by night in the cellar room with the corpse. The state of the corpse when taken away on the 21st to the deadhouse at St Martin's was extremely offensive. He had another case which showed the brutality of some people. In Aintree St a child died of smallpox on the 16th, on the 17th the mother during the absence of her husband, took the corpse from the bed, placed it on a table, and then carried the sheets and blankets to a pawnshop in the neighbourhood. This horrid fact was told to him by the husband, and it had been inquired into and found correct.

Mr S. G. RATHBONE said he thought they had better proceed to discuss the question whether, with regard to the public health, Anfield Cemetery was not the best practical place to remove the bodies to.

Dr TRENCH said if there were no legal objections to Anfield Cemetery there were no physiological objections whatever, and he would be delighted if the arrangements spoken off could be made.

The smallpox hospitals

A deputation of the inhabitants of West Derby Rd and the neighbourhood, headed by Rev Mr CARPENTER, the Rev Mr MACDONALD and Mr Edward WHITLEY, attended for the purpose of laying before the committee the result of the meetings recently held in West Derby Rd to protest against the use of Starfield House, West Derby Rd, as an establishment for the reception and treatment of smallpox cases. Dr de ZOUCH in charge of Starfield House, Dr ROBERTSON, medical officer of the Ashfield St sheds, and the governor of the workhouse, were present during the interview. The resolutions adopted at the meeting having been read.

Mr WHITLEY said the district in which Starfield House was situated had long been known as one of the most healthy in Liverpool, and beyond all doubt the district opposite the hospital, comprising the three Rock streets and Norwood Grove, was the locality where the disease first broke out, and those streets had, had, more smallpox in them than any street in the neighbourhood. This was no doubt caused by the nurses and others connected with the hospital mixing with the public, and in the whole neighbourhood there was a feeling of alarm which contributed to some extent to the spread of the disease. It was now spreading from house to house, and there was a strong feeling that the hospital, with windows open and clothes hanging out in that crowded locality, was the cause. The consequence was that the tradesmen in the road were nearly ruined, for people would not enter their shops for the purpose of making purchases. They felt that they had enough to do to deal with the sick of the parish, without being burdened with the sick of the parish of Liverpool. What would be said if the vestry would take the vacant piece of ground in Church St ? Would they have the whole of the tradesmen in Bold St creating such an uproar that no hospital, he was sure, could exist, and the tradesmen in West Derby Rd, who were less able to protect themselves, and who were struggling for existence, ought not to be exposed to the danger of utter ruin by the course adopted be the vestry. They had as much right to protection as larger tradesmen, and they ought to receive that consideration which he was sure they would receive at the hands of the vestry. In the interests of human life, and in the face of the terror that prevailed and the evidence of several medical men that they believed the cause of the outbreak was the propinquity of the hospital, he asked that the select vestry would give the matter their most serious consideration.

Mr HAYMAN read a letter from a medical man protesting against the location of the hospital in the neighbourhood. It was stated, however, in the letter, that during the last epidemic, when this establishment did not exist, the district suffered more than any other district in the town.

Mr J. G. BROWN a scripture reader said, the neighbourhood was panic stricken. He understood, that during the frost Starfield House had no water, and the officials had to go out and beg it. One day one of the officers from the hospital went to a public house, and the assistant was so frightened that he would not serve him.


Liverpool Mercury, Feb 25th, 1871

The smallpox epidemic

The mortuary question

The burial board and a deputation from the health committee met yesterday at the municipal offices Dale St, to consider what arrangements could be made for the use of the mortuaries at Anfield Cemetery, in which to place the dead bodies of persons who have died from infectious diseases and for the removal of which the sanitary authorities of Liverpool receive orders from the magistrates. Mr S. B. JACKSON, deputy-chairman of the burial board presided. Messers WHITTY and VINING, the town clerk, Mr ATKINSON, legal advisor and Dr TRENCH, medical officer of health, attended on behalf of the health committee and Mr CLEAVER, clerk to the West Derby Guardians represented that body. Reporters were not admitted to the meeting, the results were as follows :-

Mr CLEAVER stated he was certain that the poor law authorities of the West Derby Union would give every facility for the removal and burial of corpses of persons who died in that part of West Derby union which was in the borough of Liverpool, and with regard to which corpses magisterial orders had been obtained. He was sure no objection would be taken by the guardians on the ground that the mortuary in which such corpses had been deposited was not situated in the township in which the person had died, but the poor law authorities would require the repayment from the nuisance authority of the cost of removing the body to the mortuary. Mr S. B. JACKSON on the part of the burial board, said the board was willing to grant the use of the three mortuaries at Anfield Cemetery for the reception of bodies removed by magisterial orders obtained by the Liverpool nuisance authority, on the condition that the corporation provided trestles, screens, biers, and suitable disinfectants. The terms were considered most satisfactory and the deputation of the Health Committee will recommend them for acceptance at the meeting of the Health Committee on Thursday next, so that the residents of the neighbourhood of Margaret St may allay their fears as to the erection of a mortuary in that district.


Liverpool Mercury, March 3rd, 1871

Health Committee

The weekly meeting of the committee was held yesterday at the Municipal offices Dale St, Mr TURNER presided, and the other members present, Messers CAMPBELL, WHITTY, VINING, YATES, BARTON and W. WILLIAMS

Disinfection of clothing in the West Derby Union

A deputation consisting of Messers HUNT and M'CONNAL, members of the West Derby Board of Guardians and their clerk [Mr CLEAVER], from the smallpox committee of the board, waited on the committee in reference to the means for the disinfection of houses and clothing etc, in the part of the union lying in the borough. Mr LUNT had pointed out that the guardians had appointed inspectors to look after the disinfection of houses and clothing, but it was thought desirable, if possible, that greater facilities should be afforded by the health committee for this purpose. The committee of guardians now had 72 bundles of clothes awaiting disinfection owing to this alleged difficulty, and they suggested the health committee should provide a depot for clothing until clothes were in a fit state to be returned to the houses. After some conversation it was understood the guardians should point out a suitable site, and the committee would provide it and place a temporary erection upon it for the purpose.

It was reported that since the last meeting of the committee orders had been obtained from the justices, and three bodies of children who had died from smallpox had been removed to the mortuary at St Martin's Cemetery.

The Anfield Cemetery mortuaries

The resolution of the board to give the use of mortuaries in Anfield Cemetery, when necessary, for the bodies of persons who have died from smallpox, was submitted, and the law clerk was directed to accept the offer. A communication has also been received from Mr LEAVER, clerk to the West Derby guardians, stating that the guardians agreed to the offer made by the burial board, and would afford the committee every assistance in their power.

The committee resolved that the inspectors involved in the departments of the borough engineer, medical officer, and inspector of nuisances be directed to be re-vaccinated.


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