The Repository of all Things Historical for the Ancient Welsh Town of Carnarvon

  Castle Square, Carnarvon. Published by Williams & Hughes, Bridge Steet, 1850



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Another outbreak of Cholera hit North Wales in 1849. As with the epidemic of 1832, very little was known about the disease, although as the year wore on, the link between the malady and contaminated water was first propounded. Dr. John Snow (left) was the first to observe this link, but although he publicised his theory in an article during the 1849 outbreak, other doctors and scientists were dismissive of his ideas, preferring to stay true to the popular notion that the disease was caused by breathing vapors or a "miasma in the atmosphere", and it was not until the 1854 outbreak in London that Snow was finally able to prove his theory.

Dr. John Snow, photographed in 1857.  Wellcome Historical Medical Museum and Library
Dr. John Snow, photographed in 1857.
Wellcome Historical Medical Museum & Library

By July the local Carnarvon Union Health Committee appeared to be actively following guidelines which embraced the "miasma in the atmosphere" theory, although they seem to have unknowingly been on the brink of discovering the link with open sewers and drinking water by actively clearing the town of any nuisances which might pose a health risk, as the following report from the Carnarvon & Denbigh Herald's edition of the 21st. of July clearly illustrates:

CARNARVON UNION HEALTH COMMITTEE - .....Since the receipt of the notification, several meetings of the Health Committe for Llanbeblig have been called, consiting of all the guardians of the parish. T. Turner, Esq., the chairman of the board, being present at each of them.

By Order of the committe, placards have been posted up, inviting complaints against nuisances, and offering the form laid down in the act gratuitously, and one thousand copies of a paper in Welsh printed for circulation, giving directions how to avoid the cholera. The medical officers of the district have been inspecting the various courts, lanes, &c., and have reported to the committee those in which nuisances existed, - on which reports the Guardians are acting. The committee have also divided the town into three districts, and the Guardians have been actively engaged in examining the respective portions entrusted to them. Several applications by householders have come in, complaining of nuisances, and the landlords of the premises on which they were have been served by the committee with notices to remove them, and as far as we are able to ascertain they have been promptly removed.

Mr. Turner, with his accustomed benevolence, has raised a subscription in order to offer prizes for the cleanest houses in the three districts, - the guardians to be judges, - the names of persons desirious to compete to be left with the Clerk by next Saturday evening. The result we shall state in our next.

Turner's cunning plan of turning nuisance clearing into a competition clearly had instantaneous effect, and the competition was a huge success, with 76 persons entering. There must have been a huge feeling of expectation during the following week, with householders all over the town competing for the coveted prizes, and the satisfaction of seeing their names appear in the press. There was also, one might add, the added pleasure of "getting one over" on the neighbours. The results apppeared in the Herald on the 28th. of July 1849:

CARNARVON UNION - HEALTH COMMITTEE - Several additional notices under the Nuisance Act have been served upon the committee, upon which they are now proceeding. On Wednesday last the clerk reported to the meeting that 76 candidates had sent in their names to compete for the "Clean House" prizes. After examination of their houses, the prizes were awarded as follows:-

First Prizes, 7s. 6d. each.
Mr. William Williams, Snowden-street
Griffith Pritchard, Court Richard Bragwr
Mrs. Rose Morgan, Turkey-shore

Second Prizes, 5s. each.

Mr. Daniel Jones, Harding's Court, Pentrenewydd
Mrs. Laura Parry, Baptist-street
Mary Hughes, Crown-street

Third Prizes, 3s. 6d. each.

Mr. Thomas Jones, Sheriff's Officer
Mrs. Jane Roberts, Boot-street
Mr. Evan Roberts, Vinegar-hill

Fourth Prizes, 2s. 6d. each.

Mrs. Ellin Parry, Vinegar-hill
Jane Parry, Pentre-newydd
Catherine Williams, Henwalia

Fifth Prizes, 1s. 6d. each.

Mrs. Jennet Roberts, Uxbridge-street
Mr. William Owen, New Poorhouse
Mrs. Elizabeth Roberts, Skinner-street

Certificates were made out to the successful candidates, written out on ornamental cards, and signed by Mr. Turner as chairman, which were delivered over to them, with the money to which they had become entitled.

The medical fraternity were, as ever, working hard to be able to present the public with a cure for the disease. Failing a cure, prevention was the next best thing, and during July this advertisement appeared in the Herald:

Just Published, Price 6d.
its Causes, Prevention, and Treatment.
Carnarvon: James Rees. Bangor: G. Humphreys.
Conway: W. Bridge. Pwllheli: J. Thomas.
Holyhead: J. G. Hughes. Denbigh: T. Gee and I. Simon.
Ruthin: R. Jones. Wrexham: R. Hughes.
Chester: E. Parry

By early August the disease seemed to be having very little effect on the town's health, and, indeed, the number of casualities actually lessened. The efforts of the Health Committee appeared to be successful, and were illustrated by two reports contained in the 4th. of August edition of the Herald. The first reveals that all dwellings considered to be a "pauper habitation" were to be lime washed, and that the nuisance removals were continuing unabated, While the second, much longer, report is a copy of a circular distributed by the Board to every guardian and other officials appointed to fight the disease, and contains much detail about the specific workings of the emergency measures, and a precise outline of every official's role in them:

CARNARVON HEALTH COMMITTEE - The labours of this philanthropic body have been and still are most arduous: distributing means for lime washing, &c., in every pauper habitation; and taking proper steps for the removal of every filthy accumulation, public or private, which the most vigilant search could detect. The health of the town, is generally speaking above par, with that of the same period in former years.

CARNARVON HEALTH COMMITTEE - SANATORY MEASURES - Through the kindness of the Secretary of the Board of Guardians for this Union, we are enabled to lay before our readers the following copy of a circular which is in the course of distribution amongst the various Guardians, and others appointed to attest them under the 14th. section of the Nuisances Act.

"SIR - There being reason to apprehend a visitation of the cholera to this neighbourhood, the guardians have formed themselves into committees for carrying out the provisions of the Nuisances Removal and Disease Prevention Act, 1848: and have, under the 14th. section of the act, taken the liberty of appointing you to assist them.

A season of danger like the present demands some, extraordinary exertion and sacrifice, on the part of all classes, and the guardians, being anxious to avoid the necessity of heavy additional paid officers, rely on securing your cordial co-operation in the discharge of the important duties which have now devolved upon them. At the same time should it appear that paid agency, whether medical or otherwise, be indispensable to effect the object which the act has in view, the committees are empowered, by a resolution passed at the last meeting of the Board, to engage it.

The committees are authorized, on receipt of a notice of householders complaining of nuisances of the nature described, in the form which accompanies this letter, to serve the owner or occupier of the place in which the nuisance exists with a notice, the form also sent herewith: and if, after the expiration of 24 hours from the service of the notice, the committee on inspection find the nuisance is not removed, they are authorized and directed to proceed against the owner or occupier, before the Justices of the Peace, who will order the removal of the nuisance, and the payment of the expenses which shall have been incurred in doing so.

The importance in attending to this will be apparent when it is considered that the chief predisposing causes of every endemic or epidemic, and especially of cholera, are damp, moisture, filth, animal and vegetable matters in a state of decomposition, and in general whatever produces atmospheric impurity, all of which have the effect of lowering the health and vigour of the system, and of increasing the susceptibility to disease, particularly among the young, the aged, and the feeble. The attacks of cholera are uniformly found to be most frequent and virulent in low-lying districts, on the banks of rivers, in the neighbourhoods of sewer mouths, and wherever there are large accumulations of refuse, particularly amidst human dwellings.

Your attention is called to the striking and consoling fact that formidable as this malady is, in its intense form and developed stage, there is no disease against which it is in our power to take such effectual precaution, both as collective committees and private individuals, by vigilant attention to it in its first or premonitory stage, and by the removal of those agencies which are known to promote the spread of all similar diseases.

The premonitory symptom of cholera is looseness of the bowels, which there is reason to regard as universally preceding the setting in of the more dangerous state of the disease. This looseness of the bowels may be accompanied with some degree of pain, which, however, is generally slight; but in many cases pain is wholly absent; and for some hours and even days this bowel complaint may be so slight as to appear trifling; so that, without previous knowledge of the importance of the warning, it might easily escape notice altogether. Whenever Asiatic cholera is epedemic, the slightest degree of looseness of the bowels ought to be regarded and treated as the commencement of the disease, which at this stage is capable of being arrested by simple means; but if neglected only for a few hours may suddenly assume a fatal form.

I have therefore to suggest that you should organize a system of daily house-to-house visitation, in the poor and bad conditioned districts, for it is in such places that the most severe visitations of cholera may be expected unless precautions be taken.

Each member of the visiting committee should be provided with proper remedies prepared in appropriate doses, for administration on the spot, in every instance in which the premonitory symptom is found to exist; and should report every person so treated as requiring the instant attention of the medical officer.

Medical authorities are agreed that the remedies proper for the premonitory symptom are the same as those found efficasious in common diarrhoea, that the most simple remedies will suffice, if given on the first manifestation of this symptom, and that the following which are within the reach and management of every one, may be regarded as among the most useful:- namely, 20 grains of opiate confection mixed with two table spoonsful of peppermint water or with a little weak brandy and water, and repeated every three or four hours or oftener, if the attack is severe, until the looseness of the bowels is stopped. Or an ounce of the compound chalk mixture with 10 or 15 grains of the aromatic confection, and from five to ten drops of laudanum, repeated in the same manner. From half a drachm to a drachm of tincture of catechu may be added to this last, if the attack is severe.

Half these quantities should be given to young persons under fifteen and still smaller doses to infants.

It is recommended to repeat these remedies night and morning for some days after the looseness of the bowels has been stopped. But in all cases it is desirable whenever practicable, that even in this earliest stage of the disorder recourse should be had to medical advice on the spot.

The success of the plan of searching out daily every house in infected localities, for incipient attacks, and bringing all such cases without delay under appropriate dietetic and medical treatment, has been so decided, wherever it has been adopted, as to establish the fact that we have now arrived at the knowledge of an effectual mode of dealing with this pestilence. [See fourth notification of the General Board of Health, and reports of Dr. Sutherland, on the system of medical relief, adopted for the prevention and alleviation of epedemic cholera - Dumfries and Glasgow.]

Though the issues of events are not in our hands, still there is ground for hope and even confidence in the sustained and resolute employment of the means of protection, which experience and science have now placed within our reach.

I am Sir, your most obedient servant

Clerk to the Guardians.
Wellington Terrace, Carnarvon, 31st. July, 1849.

On the 18th. of August the Herald carried the following prescription. Interestingly, on the 8th. of September, a further short piece was published, from Clarke himself, refuting the prescription, and stating that taking the nostrum in the quantities described could lead to death as the quantities of the contents were too high. This highlights perfectly the dangers of taking some of these so called "cures," although it does not tell us if the error in the quantities was made by Clarke himself, or by the person who passed it on to the Herald. Of course, it is perfectly feasible that the newspaper itself was responsible.

CHOLERA - We have been favoured by a friend with a prescription of Sir James Clarke, for Diarrhoea or Cholera:-

3 Drachms of spirit of camphor
3 Drachms of spirit of Laudanum
3 Drachms of spirit of Oil of Turpentine
30 Drops of Oil of Peppermint

To be taken in a weak glass of brandy and water, viz:- A tea spoonful of the mixture for dysentary, or ordinary bowel complaints; and a table spoonful for cholera or excessive diarrhoea.

Although the Health Committee's campaign to remove any nuisances which could possibly contribute to the spread of the cholera could be considered nothing less than successful, it appears that not everybody were satisfied by their response. On the 25th. of August the Herald published the following, which seems to indicate that perhaps the Board had not acted on a previous report which led the correspondent to highlight his complaint through the media. There is no indication as to whether the nuisance was removed after publication, but to our modern sensibilities it is inconceivable that such a monstrous situation would be tolerated today.

NUISANCE - A correspondent wishes us to draw the attention of the Sanitary Committee to the intolerable nuisance which exists at the entrance of Snowdon-street from Pool-street. There is a cow house on the spot, and the manure is scattered all over the place.

A sign that the epidemic was being contained seems to be the fact the no reports were carried by the Herald over the next fortnight. During this time only two deaths occurred in Carnarvon from the dreaded disease, and it was felt that the battle was being won. The religious among the town's inhabitants, both Church and non-conformist, set aside a day for worship and thinksgiving, although it was to prove to be slightly premature as there were to be a few more deaths during the next week or so. The Herald reported on the 15th. of September:

PENDREF CHAPEL - Wednesday last was observed by the congregation at the above chapel, as a day of solemn humiliation and prayer, on account of the prevalence of cholera in different parts of the United Kingdom. We understand also that Wednesday was set apart to the same purpose by the churches of the congregational order in the metropolis, and in many parts of England and Wales. Suitable addresses were delivered at Pendref, on the occasion, by the Rev. W. Williams, of London, and the Rev. D. Roberts, of Cemaes. The congregations were very numerous.

PRAYER AND THANKSGIVING - Wednesday last was devoted by the dissenters of this town generally to offer up thanksgiving to Almighty God for his mercy in thus far sparing the inhabitants of Carnarvon from the ravages of the prevailing epidemic, and humbly to implore his future forebearance. The meetings, which were numerously attended, continued throughout the day in the following places of worship:- Pendre and Joppa Independents; Ebenezer, Wesleyan; and Caersalem, Baptist.

Although the disease seemed to be on the wane in the town, it was deemed wise to have further regulations in place to prevent a recurrence. This was occasioned by a report of a death from the disease at Glanymor which was situated in an extremely poor part of town. Glanymor had a large population which was confined to within a small area. Furthermore, it had very poor sanitation. These extra precautions were ultimately proved to be of great importance as they kept the cholera at bay, and prevented its development at a time when the battle was on the verge of being won. On the 22nd. of September the Herald published a lengthy report concerning these precautions and the workings of the Health Committee:


We are glad to have it in our power to testify to the very efficient manner in which the Guardians of the Carnarvon Union have carried out the limited powers vested in them by the Nuisances Removal and Diseases Acts, 1848-9.

To the Health Committee formed by the Guardians for the Town, the Public are deeply indebted. Its exertions under the Divine blessing, have to all appearance, effectively checked the Cholera Epidemic, which at one time had laid its remorseless fangs upon a district of the Town.

The measures which have been adopted for the abatement of nuisances have brought the town to a state of almost unparallelled health. To accompish this, the Chairman and the Members of the committee have been indefatigable in their efforts, assisted by F. J. Walker Jones, Esq., the Mayor, and they have also met with cordial co-operation from the Harbour Trust. The Highway Board, which had in its power materially to aid the Committee by improving the drainage of the Town, and trapping the gully holes of the sewers, have only trapped a few, and left the rest to deal pestilence and death to the inhabitants residing in their vicinity, and have refused to open any new drains. No doubt, they were actuated by a desire to save public money, but it must be a short sighted policy to allow pecuniary considerations to outweigh the benefit, which of necessity arises to rate payers in general, out of good sanitory regulations.

In consequence of a letter received by the Committee from, Mr. R. Jones, Surgeon, reporting a death at Glanymor from malignant cholera, and describing the whole neighbourhood to be in a most filthy state, the drainage deficient, and a great number of persons in that locality suffering from diarrhoea, the Committee met for the purpose of deciding what course to pursue under the circumstances. The premonitory symptoms of cholera being so prevalent in Glanymor and Crown-street, and the above death being the second from cholera in the same house, and the third in the same locality, and the Committee being fully convinced, that the system of house to house visitation, as recommended in the Report of the General Board of Health was the only means to meet the present exigency by preventing the development of the premonitory symptoms into actual cholera, adopted the following resolutions:-

That the parish of Llanbeblig be divided into two parts, corresponding to the sections respectively under the superintendence of Messrs. J. Ll. Williams and A. H. Roberts.

That Mr. Robt. Jones, surgeon, be appointed to the first section of the parish, and Mr. W. Rumsey Williams to the second section.

That they are each to perform the following duties, within their respective districts.

1 To visit daily each house in his district so far as practicable, and especially houses where diarrhoea shall be know to prevail, or to occur in individual cases.

2 To inquire into the state of the health of the inmates, and particularly as to the existence among them of bowel complaints and other premonitory symptoms of cholera.

3 To carry with him medicines for administering on the spot wherever necessary.

4 To have his surgery open all day for the purpose of dispensing gratiuitously to all applicants, such medicines as their cases may require.

5 To attend to every case of premonitory symptoms or of cholera, day or night, whenever called upon, so to do with or without an order from the Relieving Officer, and to provide all the medicines required gratiuitously, that is, to all parties who are not well able to pay.

6 To inspect any nuisance he may be required by the directions of the Health Committee, and to certify thereto.

7 To attend each meeting of the Health Committee, and report to the state of his district generally, and to report daily to the clerk any case of diarrhoea or cholera occuring in his district.

That each be paid for the due performance of the above duties the sum of one guinea a day.

That the above arrangement be in force until the meeting of the Board of Guardians to be held next Saturday.

At the meeting of the Guradians, held on the 8th., this appointment was ordered to be continued until that day week, when the subject was to be further considered, and that in the mean time the commissioners' opinion be requested, as to whether the expences incident to the appointment were a parochial or a Union charge. The answer stated it to be the latter.

From the 3rd. to the 15th. September, the Medical visitors attended and treated 171 cases of diarrhoea, several of which if neglected would have resulted in cholera.

On the 15th., the visitors sent into the meeting the following gratifying report which connected with the above circumstances, proves the excellency of house to house visitation in cases of diarrhoea, &c., as a preventative of cholera:-

"Carnarvon, Sept. 15th., 1849.

"As the town is now tolerably free from diarrhoea, we beg to inform you that our services as district visitors may be dispensed with after this evening.


On this report being read out, the thanks of the meeting were voted to these gentlemen, for undertaking the duties of Medical house to house Visitation, in cases of diarrhoea, &c., and for the honourable manner in which of their own accord, they relinquished the appointment when they found that their services were no longer necessary - but lest the smouldering embers of the disease, should by any cause be rescuscitated, it was agreed that their services should at any time be available as before in the town, if deemed requisite by the Health Committee, and in any other part of the Union if required by a Guardian or a Relieving Officer.

The committee was appointed on the 28th. July last. From that time up to the 19th. inst., we find from a statement of the Superintendent Registrar of the district, that only 17 deaths occurred in the town, whereas during the same period last year, there happened 26 deaths, making 9 deaths less this year than within the same period in 1848. When this is considered, in addition to the sickly state of the season, and the prevalence of diarrhoea cases at one time as before stated, it will appear plain that the committee, by their exertions in removing nuisances, and by the precautionary measures they decided upon, have been the means of saving many lives, and preventing heavy burdens from falling upon the parochial rates.

The final cholera victim, 58 year old Mary Hughes of High Street, died on the 27th. of September. For the next few weeks it would be a case of waiting, hoping the disease would not show itself again. Finally, on the 17th. of October, the town's inhabitants felt able to celebrate the end of the epidemic, and celebratory services were held in all the town's religious houses, as the Herald reported on the 20th. of October:

Wednesday, the 17th., was observed in this town as a day of humiliation, with great solemnity. The shops were closed, and the different places of worship well attended. Appropriate sermons were delivered at St. Mary's, after the morning service, by the vicar, and in the evening by the Rev. R. Williams, and at the parish church by the Rev. H. G. Edwards in the morning, and in the evening by the Rev. B. J. Binns. The alms of the congregations amounted to above 12l., which will be appropriated to the use of the orphans who lost their parents by the late visitation. Services were held throughout the day in all the places of worship in the town. The manner in which this day was kept speaks well of the religious feelings of the inhabitants, and of the friendly spirit which prevails between the different denominations of Christians amongst us. May this spirit increase more and more!

A sentiment which would surely have been echoed by the townspeople who had been delivered safe and sound from the scourge of the dreaded cholera.

Name Abode Date of Death Date of Burial Age Cause of Death
John Thomas Twthill June 25   03 months Cholera Morbus
William Roberts Mark Lane June 30 July 03 22 Cholera
Susannah Lloyd High Street July 10 July 11 57 Cholera 12 Hours
Griffith Jones Chapel Street July 16 July 17 07 years 8 months Cholera 14 Hours
William Roberts Bowling Green July 26   63 Cholera 15 Hours
Henry Parry Castle Square July 26 July 27 42 Cholera 10 Days
Humphrey Thomas Pool Street July 27 July 28 68 Cholera
Humphrey Owen Union Workhouse August 01   01 month Cholera
Mary Reese Baptist Street August 04   50 N/K Cholera Morbus
Laura Morris Castle Ditch August 16   01 year 04 months Dentition & Diarrhoea
Mary Rowlands Turkey Shore August 24 August 25 08 Asiatic Cholera
Evan Edwards Court y Cross August 28   68 Diarrhoea
Gwen Rowlands Turkey Shore September 02 September 03 44 Malignant Cholera 14 Hours
Gwen Jones Turkey Shore September 19 September 20 36 Cholera 31 Hours
Catherine Jones Court Sign Horse September 21 September 22 33 Cholera
Laura Parry Crown Street September 22 September 24 18 Cholera
John Morris Court Sign Horse September 26 September 25 80 Cholera 24 Hours
Mary Hughes High Street September 27 September 29 58 Cholera & Malignant Typhus

There were also two persons noted in the Llanbeblig Burial Register as having died of Cholera, but the official cause of death in Civil Registration Registers was otherwise noted.

Name Abode Date of Burial Age Cause of Death
Elizabeth Southern Pool Street July 25 05 Cholera
Frances Thomas Crown Street August 13 60 Cholera


Cholera once more came to North Wales in the latter part of 1854, but although there were three deaths at Bangor, Carnarvon this time escaped unscathed, with no recorded deaths.


Carnarvon & Denbigh Herald - Various editions.
Llanbeblig Parish Burial Registers.
General Register Office - Register of Deaths.

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