book background

"Cholera in St. James's"

View this document as a PDF

Medical Times and Gazette
(30 September 1854): 351

[Alexander P. Stewart, M.D., was Assistant Physician to the Middlesex Hospital. This letter to the editor raises questions about the St. James Westminster Parish Vestry's handling of the recent outbreak of cholera in what he terms the Soho and St. Anne's districts of the parish. He is referring to what is generally termed the Golden Square, or Broad Street, outbreak in general, not just St. Anne's, Soho.]

Megan Anderson and Cori Heacock made the following transcription.

(To the Editor of the Medical Times and Gazette.)

Sir,--I have not yet quite completed the statement I hoped to have sent to you for insertion in this week's Journal of the general results of the recent epidemic, as seen in the Middlesex Hospital; but I cannot delay till another week several questions regarding the cause of the late fearful outbreak, which has clothed in mourning so many families in the Soho and St. Anne's districts of St. James's parish. They are questions, it appears to me, which all connected with the Hospital that has borne the brunt so heavily have a right to put, and which the public has a right to see answered, when they are called to contribute to the relief of the widows and orphans whom this visitation has cast penniless and friendless on the world. And it is not my fault that they were not addressed ten days ago to the St. James's Vestry, through the same columns in which the luckless Commissioners of Sewers are denounced by zealous correspondents as the chief cause, and castor oil is lauded as the only "rational" cure, of this inscrutable pestilence. Having repeatedly visited the district during the height of the epidemic, and made careful inquiry on the spot regarding the circumstances that led to so calamitous an invasion, it has struck me as very strange that no one has asked--

1. Whether the disease was not prevalent in the Soho district for ten days, and seriously so for a week, before Friday, the 1st of September?

2. Whether, in these circumstances, any such means as were proved to be useful in 1849--as house-to-house visitation and the establishment of houses of refuge in the neighbourhood--had been adopted to check its further progress?

3. Whether, on the contrary, the disease had not been raging with its utmost intensity for thirty hours before the Vestry met to ask each other what should be done?

4. Whether the medical visiters, who ought to have been appointed three weeks beforehand, were not appointed for the first time on the afternoon of Saturday, the 2nd of September, i.e., after scores of victims had been already sacrificed?

5. Whether, on their appointment, these gentlemen were not informed that their remuneration for attendance at all hours of the night and day, and for supplying medicine, would be at the rate of 3ll.3s. [three pounds, three shillings] a week?

As it is possible that common report has wronged the Vestry of St. James's, in giving an affirmative reply to all these questions, I think it but fair to give them an opportunity of disabusing the public mind, and of giving to the world a true statement of the case, before I venture to draw any conclusions from the tragical events which have startled so many during the first fortnight of September. But until these questions are met with a decided negative, it seems to me far worse than useless to be systematically leading the public mind on a wild-goose chase, among sewers that have been closed up for months or years, and plague-pits that were dug and filled in the days of Robinson Crusoe and his gifted biographer.

Yours, etc.

A. P. Stewart.

Grosvenor Street, Sept. 27, 1854.

bottom of book image