Smallpox - Ogbourne St Andrew History Group

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Smallpox

Parish
 

Smallpox
Smallpox is believed to have emerged in human populations about 10,000 BC. The disease killed an estimated 400,000 Europeans annually during the closing years of the 18th century and was responsible for a third of all cases of blindness.  Of all those infected, 20 to 60% (and over 80% of infected children) died from the disease.  Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300 to 500 million deaths during the 20th century.  As recently as 1967, the lt World Health Organization estimated that 15 million people contracted the disease and that two million died in that year.  It has now been effectively eradicated.

Our parish records show that in the 18th century several outbreaks occurred.  There are references to "Down House", "the smallpox house" and the "pest house", where victims would have been housed.  The whereabouts of these houses is not known, but there is a "Pest House" (now re-named the "Rest House") just off the Minal road in Marlborough, opposite Tin Pit.  There are references to providing straw (for bedding?) and also food and drink as well as transport and "tending".  One item is for "clothing parish people after the smallpox".

In earlier times victims were often hastily buried, apparently often away from their parish churches and it is said that the Mound in St Andrew’s church was called by local children "The Plague Pit" (!) (Nan Simmons).  The fact that Cunnington during his excavations in 1885 found scattered hasty burials in the top layers of the Mound might give some credence to this story.

In the 20 th century, Professor Shooter of the Jenner Trust (the independent charity which runs Dr Jenner's House & Garden at Berkeley) personally hand-wrote over 3000 letters to Ports, Health Authorities and Local History Societies worldwide in order to collect data on the spread and defeat of smallpox.  Nan Simmons was one of the volunteers who extracted such data and her notes are below.


from the Overseer’s of the Poor records  (Swindon History Centre ref:  902/8)

 
 

1768?  -  1770?

£

s

d

Pd:

Mrs Harris  for the use of the smallpox

0

6

1 1/2

Pd:

for straw for the use of the smallpox

0

12

6

Pd:

for meat for the use of the smallpox

0

4

10

Pd:

a bill for the use of the smallpox

1

19

11

Dec 30

Expenses for several people for the smallpox

3

15

9

 

Apr 21

Pd:

Sparring’s bill for clothing parish people after the smallpox

2

14

1

Pd:

Thomas Keen a bill for smallpox and other things

8

4

11

May 19

Pd:

Thos. Mason’s bill for smallpox

12

17

7 1/2

Pd:

Farmer Sawyer’s bill for his going to the Down House with his waggon and cart and straw

1

17

6

Pd:

Farmer Sawyer’s bill for meat and beer and wine and tending and other things

4

17

7

June 16

Pd:

Thomas Mason’s bill for ye use of ye smallpox

8

2

Pd:

for a shoulder of veal and other things

4

Pd:

Hannah Coates(?) for nurse tending

2

11

Pd:

Betty White for nurse tending
for going to the Down House twice and straw
for tending of the Down House



1

1

11

6
6
6

July 7

Pd:

for meat for the use of smallpox

3

6

 

1776
June (?)

Pd:

a man for tending the smallpox

6

Pd:

for James North’s wife in the smallpox

1

6

9

 

June 7

Pd:

the widow May for tending the smallpox and other expenses

3

16

4

 

Aug 6

Pd:

Mrs Neate’s 3 bills for the smallpox

2

19

7 1/2

Pd:

Mrs Merriman’s bill for the smallpox

3

8

8

Pd:

Betty Waldson(?) for tending the smallpox

2

6

0

Pd:

Daniel Dixon bill for the smallpox

1

14

2

Pd:

Mrs Warnes bill for the smallpox

1

16

0

Pd:

at Thos. Mason’s for shopthings
for carrying people to the smallpox house and bringing back

2
5

0
0

 

1779

Nov 22
Pd:

gave Thomas White for the use of the smallpox
expenses at the Pest House

1
16

6
10 1/2

 

Sept
Pd:


the smallpox bill for Phebe Page


6


12


4

 

1780
Mar 12


for the smallpox for Phebe Page


1


1


0

 
 
 
 
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