Black and white Mill bank cottages, Tewkesbury

Cholera in England

Cholera morbus, also known as cholera, is a severe diarrhoeal disease caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. It is typically spread through contaminated water or food and can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalances in affected individuals. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps. In severe cases, it can lead to death within hours if not treated promptly. Cholera is still a significant public health concern in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries with limited access to safe water and sanitation facilities.

The first occurrence of Asiatic Cholera reaching England was in the Autumn of 1831 in Sunderland, and then rapidly spread throughout the country, reaching Exeter by 1832. Other less severe outbreaks were recorded in the UK in 1849 and 1853.

At the time it was believed that the disease was transmitted via breathing in foul air and the importance of clean water was not realised.

It wasn’t until 1854 that Dr John Snow proved the connection between cholera and drinking water.

Cholera Morbus in Tewkesbury

The summer of 1832 brought a dark and devastating shadow to the town of Tewkesbury, as cholera arrived and claimed its first victim on 24 July. Despite striking individuals from all walks of life, it was the humble and impoverished who were hit the hardest. Those without access to clean water, proper nutrition, and those who lived in cramped, overcrowded dwellings, were particularly susceptible to the deadly illness.

Faced with the unrelenting spread of cholera, the people of Tewkesbury turned to their faith for solace and healing. Daily services were held at the Abbey Church and other places of worship, as the community came together to pray for an end to the pestilence.

As the number of casualties grew, so too did the shortage of space for proper burials. The churchyard was soon filled to capacity, and the victims were then laid to rest in the corner of the workhouse garden, often in the dead of night.

In just two months, it is believed that 158 cases of cholera occurred in Tewkesbury, with 76 residents losing their lives to this devasting disease. The names of these unfortunate souls are forever marked in the Abbey burial register, with the letters ‘CM’ serving as a sombre reminder of the town’s loss.

Name Age NameAge
Daniel Wilson 15Sarah Laing29
Thomas Salt     22Ann Morse6
Samuel Hawkins54Thomas Painter34
Ann Hawkins49Ann Painter40
Caroline KingAnn Preece        60
Mary Baldwyn        74Elizabeth Hancock        53
James Farmer40Lovewell Fleetwood
Joseph Wiltshire45William Parker  57
Richard Underwood   50 Harriet Haynes22
Julia Symonds 28Charlotte Hodges9
Hannah Rice8John Cullis   10
Simon Woolcott32Henry Hughes    44
Henry Woodward5Sarah Butt75
Lucy King37Martha Finch   10
Susannah Jeynes        28Sarah Wood35
Mary Wilkins    36Thomas Burns15
William Hawkins5Maria Huntley     30
John Vosper43Alice Parker54
Alfred HowesWilliam Wood        32
Ann Webb52Elizabeth Jones64
Hester Morse35William Court76
Ann Russell  Ambrose Pitman5
Ann Beale60William Kinson2
Elizabeth Hughes   4Esther Vosper     12
William Mann        24Ann Stephens alias Weaver6
Frederick Burns6Elizabeth Edgewick65
Mary Birchley4Sarah Weaver [Stephens]50
Esther Darke34Margaret Webb55
Elizabeth Allen   50Joseph Ricketts79
William Birchley26William Smith        32
Thomas Butt        75Sarah Hook      11
Thomas HaynesMaria [Mary] Jones 2
Thomas Cooke    35Comfort Grimmett60
Esther Parker61William Pardoe40
Ann Davis36James Stallard2
Eliza Finch9Thomas Cossam60
John Greenfield53William Ricketts53
Henry Tandy69Margaret Jones23
The 1832 Tewkesbury Cholera Victims

During the autumn of 1832, when the Cholera epidemic had just subsided in Tewkesbury, the town was struck again by another highly contagious disease called smallpox. Unfortunately, the smallpox resulted in many more fatalities among the town’s residents.

1849 Cholera Outbreak in Tewkesbury

Cholera returned to Tewkesbury in 1849, and as cases spiked in neighbouring towns, the community sprang into action. To prevent the spread of the disease, the town washed the streets, alleyways, and even whitewashed the dwellings of the poor. Despite their best efforts, Cholera finally arrived in Tewkesbury near the end of July, with the first death being reported on 1 August.

The first nine victims were laid to rest in the Abbey churchyard, joining the ranks of those who lost their lives to Cholera in 1832. However, as the number of casualties continued to rise, space for proper burials soon ran out. The remaining victims were taken to the Union Workhouse garden, where a large, deep pit was dug to accommodate the growing number of bodies.

The last burial took place on 8 October, and it is estimated that a total of 54 Tewkesbury residents lost their lives to the disease during this outbreak, including the 5x great-grandmother of the author. The memory of these unfortunate souls will forever be etched in the town’s history, a testament to the devastating impact of Cholera on the community.

NameAge NameAge
Jane Curtis23James Bailey25
Mary Ann Hunt6Robert Harris25
Janet Dickson43Benjamin Barnes65
William Hollands26Henry Hughes 5
John Thomas37George Ricketts
Ann Hodges59Charles Cook 7
Lewington Pacey 6Ann Boulten64
Charles King 7Harriet Hovey 3
Harriet Bevan43Samuel Summers 5
Ann Savage22Elizabeth Lyes67
Mary Anderson43Ann Cook39
Joseph Webb 4John Chitty66
Mary Craddock80John Hope67
George Yarnall 6John Symons41
Gregory Yarnall60Edward Collins
Thomas Yarnall 2Daniel Townley4
William Allen78Jane Russell18
Elizabeth Allen75Joseph Collins64
Thomas Pitts 4Thomas Chamberlain 3
Emma Bowers14Charles Whatton54
Joseph Bowers 8Elizabeth Hyrons74
Mary Ann Heath 2William Taylor11
Samuel Roberts 5Thomas Taylor 9
Thomas Samuel Collins 5Hannah Mann50
Mary Nicholls45Robert Mann52
James Rogers 43John Gallagher36
William Hitchcock 3William Parrott61
The 1849 Tewkesbury Cholera Victims

Thankfully, Tewkesbury was able to avoid another nationwide Cholera outbreak that took place in 1853-54. Despite this reprieve, it would be several more years before the town could fully address its sanitation problems, after it was declared that “Tewkesbury was the dirtiest town in the kingdom.”

It wasn’t until 1868 that Tewkesbury began to implement proper drainage systems and by 1870, the Mythe Water Works started supplying filtered and piped water to the residents. These improvements were a critical step in preventing the spread of diseases like Cholera.

Cholera monument in Tewkesbury cemetery

As a tribute to those who lost their lives to the devastating disease, a monument was erected close to the pit where many of the Cholera victims were buried. Today, the monument can be found near the entrance to Tewkesbury cemetery, serving as a powerful reminder of the impact that Cholera had on the community.

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