The Foxearth and District Local History Society

The Hysterical Hystorian

For occasional articles, snippets and announcements by the Resident Historians. (Andrew Clarke and GH) These articles are presented in date order, but if you explore the back-catalogue, you may find much of interest. Historical information doesn't really go out of date! Any member of the F&DLHS may add an entry or make a comment to an existing entry once they have got their userID and password from the Webmaster.

If you'd like to publish any interesting material about the history of East Anglia on the site, then please send an email to the Resident Historians at Andrew.Clarke@Foxearth.org.uk and we'll add it.

Family Historians have their own area on the site, so look there if your main interest is in tracing your family history.

Friday, August 02, 2019

The Princess level-crossing keeper.

The level-crossing lady at Cavendish Station, Amy Saunders, used to tell me the story of her colleague at Rodbridge railway crossing who was, for a while after the war,  a Polish Princess. The Level-Crossings on the railway were all manned, and the keepers were given free houses next to the gates. These small but well-built houses houses have generally endured after the railway closed, and have all been modernised and extended.

It was indeed a Polish Princess, Her Royal Highness Princess Madeleine von Dembinska of the royal house of Lothingen-Rawics who kept the crossing and opened and closed the crossing gates.
Her Royal Highness Princess Madelein von Dembinska 
It was, to be sure, an unusual job for a Princess, but she seemed to rather enjoy it, though she kept rather aloof from the other railway employees, I'm told. I'd assumed that she and her family were one of the many Polish refugees who fled to East Anglia from the German occupation and massacres that followed. Her job, she would explain,  was necessary while she and her mother fought to prove their legal right to a considerable family inheritance under the will of her paternal grandfather. When asked why she took the job with British Railways, she would always say it was because she loved trains and there was a 'cottage thrown in'.
She lived in the cottage at Rodbridge with her brother, the Prince.


A short film exists in the East Anglian Film Archive where she explained how she got to be a level crossing keeper.  http://www.eafa.org.uk/catalogue/98971.

 
There is some charming footage of the railway and the level crossing, and the Princess gave a grand performance.


Princess Madeleine Von Dembinsk died at Addenbrooke’s Hospital,Cambridge aged 58. At the time, he mother and sister were said to be still alive, but only her brother, the Prince attended her funeral.

She was actually English born at Richmond in Surrey, and after going on a visit to France for some time with her family, was brought back to England when she was six and went to The Limes School, Chiswick and then on to Notting Hill High School, Holland Park.

She lived in Chiswick with her family until 1931, and in Harcourt Buildings W, from 1931-41, still with her family. She never married. Her father died in 1931.

In 1941 the family more or less settled in the Belchamp Walter locality for a time, occupying singly or in company, several cottages. Eventually in 1957, the princess was attracted to the vacant railway cottage at Rodbridge Railway Crossing, thinking it would be at least a unique inhabitation.
On applying to the railway authority, however, she was told that the only condition of living in the cottage would be to undertake the duties of opening and shutting the railway crossing gates daily. She accepted it, and the ‘Princess in the Crossing Cottage’ became famous both in local and national press comments.

There was a certain mystery about her. Her family had evidently fallen on hard times after the death of her father. A painting exists of her in her youth, painted by Sir John Hare.


A lot of the mystery about the princess and her brother the prince is explained by John Heard in the chapter 'My Brush with Royalty' from his 'Collected Reminiscences of John Frederick Heard', published in  the Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 73, p.195

John Heard was looking for lodgings in London in 1932 .

"Chiswick being only a few stops on the Underground beyond Earl s Court,we got off there one day and found, almost next door to the station, the office of an "estate agent''. Did he have any flats listed which might suit us?
"Well, yes, maybe; there was the lower half of 69 Barrowgate Road, quite nice really: reception room, two bedrooms, kitchen and bath. But I could sense some reservation, and finally he came out with it: the owners, now living in the flat which they hoped to rent out, were, to say the least, queer.  
"There was the old lady and her son and two daughters, all three in their twenties. Some kind of European royalty, he understood, but quite harmless, he thought. He said we could go around anyway and take a look; no harm in that. 
"We went. Actually the house was quite nice. No central heating, of course, just coal and gas fires in some of the rooms, but in those days central heating was almost unknown in English middle-class houses. Her Royal Highness the Princess von Dembinska was quite a pleasant, stout, garrulous lady with a very broad Scottish accent. Princess Madelaine was quite a handsome girl, her sister. Princess Olga, a little on the dumpy side but quite pleasant. 
"H.R.H. Prince Eric gave every appearance of being retarded. It was immediately obvious that they took the Royal Highness bit very seriously and expected their friends and acquaintances to use Princess and Prince as forms of address. H.R.H. the Princess senior apparently earned the odd pound as a seer, and the girls worked as private guides for tourists; Prince Eric did nothing. They were renting the upper flat to a young B.B.C. pianist and his wife, and, once having let the lower flat, they proposed to move to their other London accommodation which was, they said, "chambers" in the Temple which was theirs on indefinite lease from the Barristers* Association, the late Prince having been a barrister of such standing as to have this coveted privilege.
"All four talking almost simultaneously, they told us the long and almost unbelievable story of the von Dembinski family. It was a Polish family, they said, of great antiquity. (They claimed direct lineage from King Canute and in that way relationship with the English Royal Family.) Until nearly the time of the death of H.R.H. the Prince von Dembinski he had been merely a Count and his wife a Countess. Then by the death of a co-lineal relative they suddenly inherited the titles of Prince and Princess and the claim to the Polish throne and to a large tract of land in Poland. They were realistic
enough to admit that the Polish throne was beyond reclaiming, but they were very much in earnest about the land which they said was being improperly held by a French syndicate. The late Prince had filed suit against these French gangsters who felt thereby so threatened that they set about to terrorize the family - faces at the windows and all that sort of thing.
"We did rent their flat and we saw a fair amount of the von Dembinskis during the year that we stayed there. They never let down their delusion (if that is what it was) but they were extraordinarily kind to us. The girls invited me to a party where 1 met many of their friends - very nice young English people who seemed to accept the von D. 's at their own evaluation.
"Also they had me to dinner at their chambers in the Temple - so that was real enough. Once they showed me a document which stated that the Princesses Madelaine and Olga von Dembinska were entitled to wear the White Rose of England (whatever that was). Phony or not. to tell the truth, I rather liked them, particularly Madelaine and Olga who gave every indication of being wholesome, well-bred and charming young English women.
"When I left England I lost track of the family and never heard the name again - except once. Years later a friend in England sent me a second-section front-page story entitled "Polish Princess a Crossing Guard". There was a big picture of Madelaine standing beside her little hut and holding up a huge stop sign at a railroad level crossing. Then followed the old story that I knew so well - the Royal House of von Dembinski, the claim to the throne, the land claim, the villainous French syndicate. And all in a jocular tone."


Friday, July 26, 2019

The Ingatestone Storm of June 24th 1897


Summer storms in Essex can be remarkably destructive, but when such a storm destroys pantile roofs with hailstones larger than hens eggs, kills pigeons, and snaps trees in half, then one can certainly agree that such a storm is remarkable. A letter in 'Nature' in July 1897 gives a first-hand account of the damage such a storm can cause.

I AM doubtful if an English thunderstorm has ever assumed the proportions that one reached here on Thursday last. Although there is nothing new under the sun, yet there is a good deal new to each individual, and the following facts were not looked on as possibilities by me before I witnessed them on that day.
The 24th was an intensely hot day, and after much distant thunder the storm broke on us about 2.45 p.m. (while hay-making was in full swing) from the north-west. After about ten minutes of the heaviest rain, hail began to fall, and soon a terrific hurricane, accompanied by hailstones larger than hens' eggs (mixed in with others of all sizes downwards), came on and lasted for five minutes, during which most of the damage was done. After this the storm gradually abated, and in something over half-an-hour had passed away.
The scene was quite unique and winter-like. The ground was quite white, and in many places the hail had drifted to a foot deep, and every ditch and depression in the ground was full of water and hail. Every window on the north-west sides of the houses and cottages was destitute of glass—not merely broken, but the whole driven through. Two greenhouses were completely smashed, only one pane in some miraculous way having escaped on the windward side. A bird-cage hanging in a window was demolished, and the bird found in a chair on its back under a bit of glass. Rooks and pigeons were lying about the fields dead and dying, and one of my men secured enough for a rook pie next day. Also we picked up next day some half-dozen small birds while turning over about eight acres of hay.
A stable roof covered by pantiles half-an-inch thick had half the tiles broken into quite small pieces, and has ihe appearance of having been shot at by rifles. Several chimney stacks had been blown on to the roofs, and in one case close by, through the house to the ground. All the farm buildings and cottages were unroofed more or less.
Trees had fallen in quantity, either torn up by the roots or broken oft in the middle. Branches had been twisted off everywhere and hardly a leaf remained ; the neighbouring common was beaten down as if an army had stampeded over it.
The crops presented a curious and melancholy sight. The grass intended for hay looked as if a steam roller had been over it. The oats had also been not only beaten flat, but broken off short, and reduced to a sort of long chaff; in some cases the ends of a piece of stem stuck up, while the middle had
been driven into the ground by a hailstone.
The mown ground and the lawn were indented to the depth of from one to two inches all over, much as if a flock of sheep had passed over them. This was, of course, also seen on the flower-beds and mangold fields. This last crop has also been destroyed to the extent of two-thirds, every leaf broken off, and often the root in two pieces.
A hedge at right angles to the storm and some wall fruit were completely stripped of leaves and twigs, and left with "bare poles" nearly half denuded of bark ; not a vegetable remains in the garden.
Luckily the area of greatest severity was very small and not in the centre of the storm. The advancing front of the worst part seems to have been only about a mile in width, and to have spent its greatest energy after advancing a like distance.
The hailstones were in appearance a conglomerate of smaller ones cemented together with ice, and generally the centre stone was bigger than (he others. They were much collected together in corners, and one was measured, twenty-four hours after the storm, four and a half inches round.
Sheffield Neave.
Ingatestone, June 28 1897

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

The last outbreak of The Plague in Suffolk

When, you probably occasionally wonder, was the last outbreak of  plague, the Black Death' in Suffolk? The seventeenth century? (see 'A Plague on Braintree') No. The last serious outbreak I can find was on September I3th, 1910 , a child nine years of age, the daughter of a labourer at Holbrook in Suffolk, fell ill with symptoms of a pneumonic nature complicated with diarrhoea and vomiting.

The last major outbreaks of plague were in the seventeenth century
The vomit and diarrhoea were hemorrhagic in character. There was high temperature, collapse, and death on September 16th. On September 21st the mother fell ill with the same symptoms. The case was fatal on September 23rd. On September 26th the woman who nursed the previous case and the
husband of the first woman fell ill with the same symptoms. Both these patients died on September 29th. It was identified as being pneumonic plague.

Bubonic plague is the most common form of plague and is caused by the bite of an infected flea. The bacteria travel from the site of the bite to a lymph node which becomes inflamed and painful. This is called a ‘bubo’.

Pneumonic plague is the most severe form of plague and is usually rare. It may result from spread to the lungs from advanced bubonic plague. However, any person with pneumonic plague may transmit the disease via droplets to other people. Untreated pneumonic plague, if not diagnosed and treated early, can be fatal.

At the start of the twentieth century, there were two, and only two, primary cases of infection. There was one at Shotley that was responsible for seven deaths, whilst the one at Holbrook was responsible for three others. They were both virulent. However, in nether case did the disease spread widely from the primary cause of infection.

At Holbrook, there were at least eleven contacts who lived in the houses in which the cases occurred. Of these one was an adult, whilst the remainder were children. These people came into more or less close contact with the infected, but none of them developed the disease. In addition there were four medical men, a clergyman and his daughter, and three nurses who were closely associated with the cases. None of these developed the disease, although in the case of the nurses exposure to
infection was prolonged and intimate.

In the part of East Suffolk where the infections happened, rats were dying of acute plague. and
infected rats were found all over the Samford district, near Manningtree in Essex, and at Hollesley Bay in Suffolk. They were also being found in Felixstowe, Woodbridge, Kirton, Trimley, and Levington. The disease was spreading to hares and even a cat. The plague was essentially a rat plague, caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis, spread by rat fleas. It was just occasionally that a human was bitten by infected rat fleas. How did it happen? Suspicion at the time was on the disease spreading from Ipswich Docks and an infected cargo, but the rat deaths were greater outside the Ipswich area. The Ipswich rats had a higher immunity, presumably picked up after previous bouts of the ship-borne plague. Why was this the last outbreak? It was really because of a continued and determined effort to reduce the rat population, in which the disease was endemic.This wasn't just about direct extermination of the rats, but a determined effort to clean up the types of waste that were food to the rats.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Blood-letting as a cure for madness. An East Anglian account.

We tend to forget the terrible state of knowledge amongst clinicians about the many forms of 'lunacy' or 'insanity', and its treatment before the first World War.  In fact, in the nineteenth century society was still in the grip of theories that had been discredited since the start of the nineteenth century. The public felt cheated if the insane weren't subject to 'blood-letting'. They still held to the theories of the 'Humours' and the phlogiston Theory'. Clinicians may have held fancy idea but it was commonsense to the general public that insanity was caused by too much hot blood, and the cure was a poor diet of plain fibrous food, and the periodic draining of blood. Doctors too often gave in to pressure and advised blood-letting as a general treatment for insanity, almost always making the problem worse.

East Anglia had a few Lunatic Asylums, in response to the County Asylums Act of 1845. the Lunacy Act required every county to have a Lunatic Asylum, with treatment to be provided by Medical Superintendents. Their regime was devised as a radical alternative to the rudimentary care offered by the workhouse. In some cases, the the patients admitted to these institution had been so harmed by the treatment already applied under the instruction of their doctors, that they became difficult to cure. Because diagnosis was almost entirely random, and patient records almost entirely absent, the effects of ignorant and appalling treatment of  insanity weren't obvious at the time. It was a bad time to go mad.

Dr D. C. Campbell, the first Medical Superintendent of the  Essex Lunatic Asylum at Warley, gave, in the annual report of the asylum, an interesting account in 1867, fifteen years after the establishment was opened, of his frustrations about the use of bloodletting, and the frustrating lack of clinical records or accurate diagnosis.

"THIS asylum contains 573 patients, of whom 250 are males and 323 females. Dr. Campbell, in his report, remarks, inter alia, that, in a number of the patients brought to the asylum, a practice not infrequent in cases of acute mania had been resorted to, viz. bloodletting; and he goes on to write
"Throughout all ranks of society, an opinion is pretty generally diffused that insanity is a disease of a very inflammatory nature, and that strong antiphlogistic means must be used to allay the excitement. Accordingly, low diet, powerful purgatives, and bloodletting, are had recourse to, and it frequently happens in those cases in which they are most detrimental. 
"That low diet in certain cases may be beneficial is not to be denied; great discretion, however, even in this is required, for a furious state of excitement may coincide with real debility, and may be best subdued by generous diet: nay, even in some cases, stimulants may be required to secure repose. 
Of all misapplied remedies, however, the worst is bloodletting, and yet in some districts it is frequently resorted to. So strong is the impression that insanity is of an inflammatory nature, that it often requires the authority of an experienced practitioner to persuade the nearest relatives that bleeding is unnecessary, if he cannot convince them that it is absolutely prejudicial. 
 It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that some surgeons who are not likely to see many cases of the disease should fall into the same error, and by doing what they consider to be useful, or at all events innocuous, gratify those around them. Surrounded with difficulties, struggling with the patient, destitute of proper means of control, worried by friends, and overwhelmed with suggestions, they perform what they deem a very simple operation. Blood is extracted, the patient for the time becomes quiet, or rather exhausted, and the surgeon congratulates himself, and is applauded by the bystanders ; but in a very short time the scene is changed: the patient becomes as furious or as incoherent as ever, and, if the plan be persevered in, soon sinks. Should, however, the want of success prove the inutility of depletion, the unfortunate patient is then sent to an asylum, and the medical officers have to contend, not only with the original malady, but with an aggravation so well known in lunatic asylums that such cases are looked upon as very doubtful, and in six cases out of ten, if the patient survives, he sinks into a state of incurable dementia."
No less true are the following remarks, made by Dr. Campbell, respecting the statistics annually presented with the reports of lunatic asylums : 
" The statistical tables,which I yearly lay before you contain such abundant and various information as to make any general commentary on the forms of disease admitted, the causes of the malady, or of the chances of recovery afforded, unnecessary. These tables are compiled from the records kept of each case, and, although every endeavour is made to obtain information that may be relied upon, I can never present such tables to you without stating the extreme difficulty of avoiding errors. In some cases I regret to say that no dependence whatever can be placed on the information sent with a patient on admission, and in others no information can be obtained. These remarks especially apply to the returns made of the duration and the causes of the malady."

Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Pickled Corpse of Danbury Church

We have not always been entirely fastidious in the way that we have dealt with relics of the dead in churches. In fact, some of the accounts of the work of curious antiquarians in the past make the hair stand up on end. Please read no further in this article if you are of a delicate nature or are easily offended. We are relating an account that deals with the disinterment of graves in an Essex church.

I was reading through Brayley and Britton’s ‘The Beauties of England and Wales, volume V of 1803. It dealt with the beauties of Essex, and was giving a description of the interesting church of Danbury when I stumbled over the following description. Of course, it is interesting to know that, at one time, corpses were pickled before burial in Essex churches, but the casual mode of investigation would not be tolerated nowadays; in fact it is more reminiscent of part of an M R James story, or part of a Hammer Horror film, well just the build-up, before Christopher Lee appears, in full costume and make-up, as the vengeful soul.

The article was describing the interesting carved wooden effigies of knights in the church.


“In October, 1779, as some workmen were digging a grave just beneath one of the arches in the north wall of Danbury Church, they discovered a leaden coffin, about thirty inches from the surface of the pavement. This was opened a few days afterwards, through the influence of Mr. T. White, who supposed that it might contain “the body of the Knight Templar represented by the effigy” in the arch above and who, some years afterwards, sent some particulars of the discovery to the Gentleman’s Magazine, Vol. 59. p. 337. from which the following is an extract.

“On raising the lead coffin, there was. discovered an elm coffin inclosed, about one-fourth of an inch thick, very firm and entire. On removing the lid of this coffin, it was found to enclose a shell about three quarters of an inch thick, which was covered with a thick cement, of a dark olive colour, and of a resinous nature. The lid of this shell being carefully taken off, we were presented with a view of the body, lying in a liquor, or pickle, somewhat resembling mushroom catchup, but paler, and of a thicker consistence. The taste was aromatic, though not very pungent, partaking of the flavour of catchup, and of the pickle of Spanish olives. The body was tolerably perfect, no part appearing decayed, but the throat, and part of one arm: the flesh everywhere, except on the face and throat, appeared exceedingly white and firm.

The face and throat were of a dark colour, approaching to black: the throat was much lacerated. The body was covered with a kind of shirt of linen, not unlike Irish cloth, of superior fineness: a narrow, rude antique lace was affixed to the bosom of the shirt; the stitches were very evident and attached very strongly. The linen adhered rather closely to the body; but on raising it from the breast, to examine the state of the skin more minutely, a considerable piece was torn off, with part of the lace on it.

The coffin not being half full of the pickle, the face, breast, and belly, were of course not covered with it. The inside of the body seemed to be filled with some substance, which rendered it very hard. There was no hair on the head; nor do I remember any in the liquor; though feathers, flowers, and herbs, in abundance, were floating; the leaves and stalks of which appeared quite perfect, but totally discolored. The coffin was not placed in a position exactly horizontal, the feet being at least three inches lower than the head. The pillow which supported the head, in process of time, decayed, and the head fell back, lacerating the throat and neck, which, with the face, appeared to have been discolored from the decay of the cloth, or substance, which covered them. The jaws, when the coffin was first opened, were closed, but on being somewhat rudely touched, expanded; owing, as was supposed, to the breaking of some bandage that bound them together. When the jaws were opened, they exhibited a set of teeth perfectly white; which was likewise the colour of the palate, and all the inside of the mouth. The limbs were of excellent symmetry: the general appearance of the whole body conveyed the idea of hearty youth, not in the least emaciated by sickness. The length of the corpse very little exceeded live feet, though the shell that inclosed it was five feet six inches within. When the parishioners, and others, had satisfied their curiosity, the shell, and wooden coffin, were fastened down; the leaden coffin was again soldered; and the whole left, as nearly as circumstances would admit, in statu quo.”

In Mr. Strutt’s letter, before mentioned, and which is dated August the sixth, 1789, are some particulars that render it very doubtful whether the remains thus inspected were really belonging to one of the cross-legged effigies, as supposed. “We dug at Danbury,” says this gentleman, “and found a skeleton of the hero who was buried in the tomb, and whose effigies was the cover of it.” It had been interred in the same manner as those at Little Baddow; that is, without any appearance of wooden coffin, or linen, or any other covering. “I am now convinced,” he continues, “that the mode of burying in pickle, is not so old as the time of the Knights Templars. The body found in pickle ten years ago, was nothing less than one of these old warriors: it lay at some distance from the wall, and was covered with a large flat stone, on which was a crossJleury and formerly an inscription in brass, not unlikely the following, mentioned by Weever: Hic jacet Geraldus quondam filius et Heres Gerardi Braybroke Militis qui obiit XXIX Marcii M.CCCC.XXII. The body had every appearance of youth, and was little more than five feet high; but being probably the son and heir of the above knight, was buried in this expensive manner.”


Tuesday, April 02, 2019

Essex Surnames

HERE is a- collection of personal names or surnames collected by Fred Beaumont, Coggeshall historian, in 1890, derived from animals, trees, trades, places, & borne by people who had been connected with Coggeshall in times past. They are typical of Essex names. 

Birds
Sparrow, Larke, Raven, Martin, Starling, Jay, Bird, Duck, Mavis, Sparhawke, Teale, Cocke, Cockerell

Meat
Mutton, Lamb 

Animals
Ram, Roe, Hart, Wilboare, Bull, Calfe, Colt, Coney, Hare, Seal, Sammon, Whitinge, Beeke, Maggot, 

Trees and plants
Olive, Armond, Peartree, Crab, Plum, Cherry, Berry, Beane, Pease, Rice, Pollard, Bush, Hedge, Root, Parsley, Garland, Lilly,

Trades
Butcher, Baker, Tanner, Turner, Skinner, Cooper, Fuller, Weaver, Tailor, Tiler, Draper, Glover, Dyer, Carter, Wheeler, Fisher, Chandler, Gunner, Potter, Slater, Mason, Sawyer, Miller, Cartwright, Gardener, Shepheard, Ringer, Groom, Clerk, Chamberlain, Smith, Grocer, Cooke, Nurse, Page, Swain, Man, Huntsman, Squier, Savage. 

Places
Stafford, York, Norfolk, Sudbury, London, Hedingham, Flanders, Tunbridge, Cornwell. 

The Church
 Pope, Monk, Abbot, Vicars, Righteous, Church, Death, Marriage.

The Seasons
 Frost, Summers, Summerson, Christmas.

Colours
 Black, White, Greene, Gray, Scarlet, Fairhead, Whitehead, 

Tools
Broome, Cask, Cape, Sling, Bell, Club

Temperament
Blud, Proud, Joy, Write, Streight, Weight, Miles. 

Landscape
 Waters, Rivers,Wells, Pool, Pond, Shed, Towers, Castle, Bridges, Cliff, Clay, Sand, Stone, Diamond, Farrow, Webb, Cotton, Keyes, Marsh, Field, Hills, Streete, Lee, Creek.
Woodland and farms
Wood, Boughtwood, Drywood, Dogwood, Eastwood, Westwood, Hazlewood, Underwood, Woodward, Hayward, Appleford, Walford, Fishpole, Whiteacre, Holmstead, Overhill, Holditch, Stanbridge, Highgate, Springate, Shortland, Cowland, Headland, Park, Archpool, Litherland. Pitchforke, Gimlet, Picknut, Glasscock, Cockshief, Slowman, Wiseman, Bearman, Deadman, Love, Loveday, Goodday, Goodwine, Crackbone, Spiltimber, Pinchback, Shakeshaft, Cutlipp, Wildblood, Jellebrowne, Goldwire, Leapingwell, Maydwell, Lesswell, Thoroughgood, Hopper, Skipwith, Hunt.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Diphtheria outbreak at Foxearth School of 1897, and the 'prolonged cesspit'

I came across this interesting document from 1897, that related a sad occurrence of Diphtheria at Foxearth school, and the resulting deaths of two children. The origin of quite a lot of disease and death came from outside the parish. Although the infamous Foxearth Culvert came in for its share of blame, it would seem that a visit to London was the ultimate cause of the tragedy.  These reports of the medical officer are interesting because they give a lot of information of the rather desperate living conditions of local people. So often one reads of disease caused by the very poor habitation, and lack of clean water supply. The death rate was a lot worse than the average in England at the time. 

BELCHAMP RURAL DISTRICT,

In the Administrative County of Essex.

Annual Report of the Medical Officer of Health, for 1897.

(Pursuant to the regulations of the Local Government Board,)
Population 1881, 6200; 1891, 5722. Number of Parishes 16. Acreage 26545.
Person per acre 0.46.
RATEABLE VALUE £25,891
Geological formation, chalk, covered on the higher ground with Boulder Clay, and in the valleys with brick earth, sand or gravel.    Superficially with alluvium.
Births. There were 120 births registered during the year equivalent to a birth-rate of 20.9 per 1000 of the population.   The births and birth-rates in this district during the past seven years were ; —
1891
1892
1893
1894.
1895.
1896
1897
Births
131
137
127
  127  
115
113
120
Birth-rate   
22.8
23.9
22.1
22.1
20.0  
19.7
20.9
Diphtheria.   An outbreak of eleven cases of this disease, two of which proved fatal, occurred in the parish of Foxearth, during the autumn.   It was evident that the infection started from the school, as the three cases first affected were children attending there. For some times enquiries failed to account for its origin, but afterwards I found that a girl who had been for a long visit to London had a severe attack of diphtheria when there, she was removed to hospital, and after six weeks was discharged convalescent and came back to Foxearth.   When she returned to school she was still suffering from a nasal discharge, which I have no doubt was still infected with the diphtheria bacilli, as a few days afterwards three children became infected. One of these a boy slept with an elder brother, the latter took the disease in a virulent form and died. Until this case occurred there was no suspicion of the mischief that was brewing. The school was closed for a week and disinfected and cleansed. But other cases occurring brought to light the origin of the infection, the girl was excluded and the school disinfected again.    At the same time attention was called to the insanitary condition of a main sewer in the village and the offensive smells arising therefrom, as a possible cause of aggravating the disease and of originating some of the diphtheritic sore throats.   This matter will be alluded to further on.
Deaths. The number of deaths from all causes registered in the district was 91 to which 9 deaths belonging to the district occurring in the Workhouse and St. Leonard's Hospital, Sudbury, have to be added, making the total deaths 100 equivalent to a death-rate of 17.4 per 1000 of the population. The deaths and death-rates during the past seven years were : —
1891
1892.
1893.
1894.
1895.
1896.
1897
Deaths registered
93
88
106
82
70
85
91
Deaths belonging to the District
97
104
112
88
78
92
100
Death Rate
16.9
18.1
19.5
15.3
13.6
16.0
17.4
Infant Mortality. The deaths among infants under one year of age were 11, being equivalent to the proportion of 91.6 deaths to a 1000 births. In 1896 the proportion was 194. The proportion throughout all England for 1897 was 156.
The seven principal Zymotic Diseases caused 8 deaths, equal to a death rate of 1.2 per 1000 of the population.
The deaths arose from Diptheria 2. Typhoid Fever 1. Whooping Cough 5. The mean death-rate due to zymotic diseases during the past six years was 1.0 per 1000
Deaths from all other causes belonging to the district wore 92 in number or 15.9 per 1000. The following diseases contributed to the general mortality. Phthisis 8. Bronchitis and Pneumonia 16. Heart Disease 7. Cancer 7. Injuries 4.
The death-rate from Consumption in this district during the past year was 1.3 per 1000 of the population as against a mean of 1.2 during the previous six years.
The Infectious Diseases (Notification) Act came into operation on 1st February, 1890. Since then the following cases have been notified per 1000 of Population.
Smallpox.
Scarlet Fever.
Diptheria and Croup..
Typhoid Feve cases.
Puerperal Fever.
Erysipelas
Total
Per thousand Population.
1890
0
29
6
1
0
5
41
7.1
1891
0
38
0
1
0
1
40
7.0
] 892
0
92
2
1
0
6
101
17.6
1898
0
43
47
0
0
11
101
17.6
1894
0
18
4
0
0
8
35
5.2
1895
0
20
1
0
0
4
25
4.3
1896
0
54
8
4
1
7
74
12.9
1897
0
i2
11
5
0
4
23
4'0
The following are particulars of the occurrence of zymotic diseases during the year in this district.
Scarlet Fever At the close of the preceding year several cases of this disease had occurred and were recovering when a fresh case appeared in the parish of Middleton evidently infected from a previous case close by. A second ease occurred in the parish of Alphamstone, a servant girl came home ill from Sudbury and developed the disease.
These two cases were the only ones in the district during the year, both recovered. The usual precautious were successfully taken to prevent any spread of the disease.
Diphtheria.  An outbreak of eleven cases of this disease, two of which proved fatal, occurred in the parish of Foxearth, during the autumn.   It was evident that the infection started from the school, as the three cases first affected were children attending there. For some times enquiries failed to account for its origin, but afterwards I found that a girl who had been for a long visit to London had a severe attack of diphtheria when there, she was removed to hospital, and after six weeks was discharged convalescent and came back to Foxearth.   When she returned to school she was still suffering from a nasal discharge, which I have no doubt was still infected with the diphtheria bacilli, as a few days afterwards three children became infected. One of these, a boy, slept with an elder brother, the latter took the disease in a virulent form and died. Until this case occurred there was no suspicion of the mischief that was brewing.   The school was closed for a week and disinfected and cleansed. But other cases occurring brought to light the origin of the infection, the girl was excluded and the school disinfected again.    At the same time attention was called to the insanitary condition of a main sewer in the village and the offensive smells arising therefrom, as a possible cause of aggravating the disease and of originating some of the diphtheritic sore throats.   This matter will be alluded to further on.
Typhoid Fever. Five cases of this disease occurred. The first case was in the parish of Borley, a farmer in delicate health returned ill from a visit to Lowestoft, typhoid fever developed and proved fatal. No insanitary conditions exists in his house or premises. The other four cases took place in the parish of Pentlow, in two families, both used the same water from a well in a farm yard, analysis of the water showed that it was contaminated with sewage matter, evidently derived from farm yard liquid percolating into the well. At the same time the typhoid germs had very likely another origin, as the first case who took ill, was a young man who a fortnight before had taken a day's excursion to Southend where he had eaten freely of cockles, a very probable source of typhoid. The two families intermixed, and in spite of directions, the neglect of absolute cleanliness may have given rise to the three cases which followed. The well, however, was closed, and water was obtained from a spring near the houses. Of the other infectious diseases not notifiable, whooping cough was the only one that was prevalent during the year, occurring in the parishes of Walter Belchamp, Bulmer, and Gestingthorpe, fortunately in the summer months or the mortality would have been greater than it was. Five children died, four of whom were infants under one year of age.
Water Supply.   At Chapel-hill, Walter Belchamp, where 12 cottages were reported last year as without water and notices had been served on the owners, a supply is now obtained from a disused well close to the chapel, this well has been cleaned out and a temporary pump put into it.
A well in Bures Hamlet got out of order through defects in the pump, the owners attention was called to this and a new pump was put into the well.
At Foxearth the water in a public pump entirely failed probably owing to the dry summer and autumn, and the people at this part of the village had resort to a stream of water which flows in a ditch by the side of the village, which water was unfit for drinking purposes, though useful for washing and slop purposes.   This was remedied by Mr. Ward, allowing and making access to the water from a deep well at his brewery, and notice boards were put up at three dipping places along the stream, that the water here was not to be used for drinking.
The water from a well in lower end Henny supplying six cottages, was found on analysis to be impure, notice was served on the owner who had the well cleaned out, the water was much improved, though not perfect yet.
A well in Pentlow parish was closed being contaminated with farm yard sewage, and typhoid fever existing in two cottages using it.
Ten analyses of drinking water were made during the year. In most parishes there are outlying cottages depending on pond or ditch water, in which nothing can be done except keeping these surface collections as free from contamination as possible.

Sewerage. The privy and cesspit system is in general use. As most cottagers have garden or allotment ground the cesspit contents are naturally disposed of. No new privies were constructed, five which were in a dilapidated condition were repaired
Owing to the outbreak of diphtheria in the parish of Foxearth and complaints of smells from gullies connected with the village sewer, a sub-committee of the District Council had the sewer opened in four places for examination. It was found to be a brick culvert 467 yards long, 2 feet deep, and 2 1/2 feet broad with nearly flat bottom and little fall, two or three inches of offensive sewerage matter covered the bottom. This prolonged cesspit was originally constructed of these dimensions in order to convey the storm water from the land above the village, and thus to sweep out the sewerage matter and keep the culvert clean. But for nearly two years sufficient storm water has been absent owing to the dry weather. While the sewerage which is derived from house slops and cask washings from the brewery has been accumulating. The brewery sends about 5,000 gallons of water through the culvert in 24 hours which is at the rate of 3 gallons in a minute, thus trickling through, it does more harm than good. The obvious remedy is to tank the brewery water for 48 hours and then let it flush the culvert.
This and the turning of a former water course into the culvert are under consideration. In the meantime quantities of chloride of lime have been thrown into the culvert.
The outflow from the Foxearth sewer, passes into a ditch running for more than a mile through the parish of Liston, this ditch is always foul and the cause of much complaint. If the Foxearth culvert was kept clean this ditch would soon cease to be offensive.

Houses Seven houses were reported as unfit for human habitation. Two in Henny, and two in Walter Belchamp have been put into habitable repair; two in Bulmer and one in Gestingthorpe have been closed.
Four cases of overcrowding were reported, and notices were served on the owners of the overcrowded cottages to abate this nuisance. One was remedied by reducing the number of the family. The other three cases still exist, but will be abated.   Two new houses were erected during the year.
Sanitary Inspection. Systematic as well as special inspection have been made in every parish in the district during the year. Many improvements  have been effected in the condition of cottage premises, such as the prevention and removal of offensive accumulations, the emptying and cleansing of cesspools, ashpits, and pig styes.
The following is the report of the Sanitary Inspector :—
Number of cottnges inspected
430
Number of notices served
16
Number of Nuisances abated
28
Number of houses reported as unfit for human habitation
7
Number of houses placed in habitable repair
4
Number of houses disinfected .
15
Number of bake-houses inspected
9
Number of slaughter-houses inspected
1
J. S. ROBINSON,
Sanitary Inspector.
There are no factories in the District. The only offensive trade is a small knackers yard in Walter Bolchamp
One Special Report was made relating to Diphtheria in Foxearth.
J. SINCLAIR HOLDEN, M.D.,
Medical Officer of Health.
 

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