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Hard Times

Cholera was unknown in England before 1832. It was prevalent in Calcutta and Bombay, and spread along the routes taken by traders and pilgrims to all parts of Asia. During 1831 it spread from India to Russia and from Russia to Poland, Hungary and Germany. It probably came to the Durham area by boat from the infected German port of Hamburgh. The pilot who brought the boat into Sunderland Harbour developed the illness and died 24 hours later. By Christmas 1831 there was an outbreak in Newcastle-on-Tyne, and in June 1832 it was raging in London, especially in the riverside parishes and the City.

In 1834, Cholera came to Braunston. It would seem likely that it had come from London by canal. It has been noted how the East End of London was badly infected by Cholera. Three suspicious cases were noted at Rotherhithe on the south bank of the Thames opposite Limehouse. The Regents Canal commences at the Regent Canal Dock in Limehouse. The canal proceeds north through London's East End, then westward to reach the Grand Junction Canal at Brentford, from where the canal goes north to Braunston.

Our source for a description of the outbreak is in a leaflet printed by J Castell of High Strret Daventry in 1835. It had been written by "A Looker-on". We know that the" Looker-on" was the Baptist Minister at the time; the Rev R Miller. He wrote the record "for the parishioners of lead them to see"the hand invisible that performs works of judgement and mercy"

Cholera came to Braunston on the weekend of a Feast Day, the Feast of All Saints'tide. This was a great time in the village. There was no radio, no television, no outside entertainments to enjoy. The villagers congregated with friends and relatives, there were stalls on the Green, and the public houses were filled with folk.

The Rev Miller noted that no company was to abscene debauched, or viciously disposed to answer there purpose. He looked upon the Cholera as a divine intervention upon the evil ways of the villagers.

The first case occurred on 7th October 1834 from an infected boat. A bed from the boat was left with a Mrs L, for the bed to be washed. Mrs L caught Cholera and died.

About 2nd November, a legger named Patmore, who lived in Cross Lane in Braunston, died , but Cholera was not concidered to be the cause.

Then on 16th November, a Feast Sunday, a child of Patmore died, and another boatman named T Fall also died in Cross Lane. Fall had come from Derbyshire, and after feeling unwell, had left his boat at Crick Wharf a few days before.

The following Monday 17th November, the day of the Celebration of the Feast, there were stalls on the Green, side shows on the road and private parties in the houses with dancing and drinking. The public houses were full of people.

Tuesday 18th November dawned with the news at 5am that the widow of Patmore the legger, and the remaining two of there children, had died. the daughter of JD and M had also died. Great worry, tension and anxiety descended on the village folk. All the stalls were removed from the Green; the sound of the joiner's hammer could be heard making coffins. At 2pm by the notice of the village bellman, the street leading to the Church was cleared for the burial of six bodies in two carts.

Among the families affected at this time were; Patmore the legger and his wife, Nancy;R.M.and his daughter(described as a poor young woman) and J.D. Mrs L Leader, the nurse, who had been caring for the sick, died on Wednesday 19th November. The curate, who had been attending at the funerals, was taken ill but subsequently recovered.John Walden, a non-conformist, who had been working all day with only a little relaxation of the bowels, was taken ill in the evening and by 4am the next morning was dead. He left a wife and 7 children.

On Wednesday and Thursday 19th and 20th November. A Board of health was formed of medical men and two inspectors whose job it was to clear the streets of "nuisances" and to see to the destruction of bedding and clothing of patients which they had about their persons.Also to see to the "cleansing" of the yards, lanes etc. to visit and cleanse infected houses, to procure the best medical aid and to promote the comfort of the afflicted by extra food, medicine or clothing.

Five dwellings were cleared of tenants and used as an Isolation Hospital. Nursing care was to be carried out by the families of the patients. If one member of a family was infected, all the rest of the family was isolated

Precautions were taken by the use of slaking with lime, burning of pitch etc. The dead were buried in the churchyard at night

R.M. had buried his daughter. He disputed the right of the board of health to interfere by destroying the bedding and linen about his child at the time of her death, unless the parish would pay for the things. At some time after the bed had been buried, he went and dug it up. In washing the bed, he caught Cholers and died a miserable death.

On Thursday 20th November Nancy Fall Died.

Altogether 70 cases occurred out of a population of 1400, and the total number who died was 19. The cost to the parish amounted to£460.

The Board of the Grand Junction Canal resolved on 24th February 1835 "that the disease having first introduced by a boatman on the canal, it be recommended to the General Committee to contribute £50 to the subscription (i.e.for the expenses incurred in the Parish in the previous autumn). Other contributions came from surrounding villages to help with the cost.

Thus ended what must have been a most devastating time for the villagers of Braunston. Let us remember the close-knit community of Braunston in 1834, overwhelmed by an illness about which they knew so little, shattered by the deaths of relatives, friends and neighbours, and torn by worry and anxiety.

Perhaps we will walk down Cross Lane with new thoughts of the past.

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