A court of King Cholera

Leech’s carton in Punch (1852) shows the association of cholera with poverty. A child stands on his head on top of a rubbish heap in the left-hand corner. An old woman scavenges from the heap, another child shows off his own find, and washing flutters in the breeze overhead.


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Cholera was one of the most fatal diseases in the 19th century. Nausea and dizziness led to violent vomiting and diarrhoea, “with stools turning to a grey liquid until nothing emerged but water and fragments of intestinal membrane… extreme muscular cramps followed, with an insatiable desire for water”. It is estimated that 16,000 people died during the 1831-1832 epidemic.

Only working-class people appeared to suffer from cholera. Stories began to circulate that doctors were spreading the disease as an excuse for getting their hands on corpses to dissect.


Cartoon from the Wellcome Library, London.



The cholera pump was in Soho, but its now in York


This humble kerb stone in Soho, London marked the spot where John Snow ripped the arm off the contaminated water pump. A replica of this pump has now found its way to York riverside close to John Snow’s family church.

Designed to celebrate the life of John Snow the epidemiologist these ceramic cholera pieces are placed carefully inside an old medical box (my mum’s old war time midwives box)  with a map or Broadwick Street, Soho showing the cholera hot spots. Significant redevelopment of this now expensive area of central  London means that any memorial to this famous man has long since gone and you now need to travel to York to see his memorial.

And here is what cholera looks like under the microscope.


Cholera graves in York

Close to York station you will find these poignant reminders of the Cholera epidemic of the early 19th century.  Around the corner from these gravestones is the renowned epidemiologist, John Snow’s Memorial. He was born in York so it is fitting that the water pump handle he so famously ripped off the contaminated well in Broad Street, Soho should find its home on his memorial next to the river in York.


Kitty Wilkinson – Liverpool’s saviour

Kitty Wilkinson – ‘indefatigable and self-denying, she was the widow’s friend, the support of the orphan, the fearless and unwearied nurse of the sick, the instigator of Baths and Wash houses for the poor ‘ reads her gravestone in St  James’ Cemetery, Liverpool.  Kitty Wilkinson opened Britain’s first public wash house on Upper Frederick Street in 1842 and through her brave actions saved many lives and brought comfort to countless others.

At the time of the Liverpool Cholera Riots in 1832  1,523 died from cholera from a total of 4,912 who suffered with the disease.

A satirical cartoon of the day depicting  Liverpool as a A Court of King Cholera.

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A marble statue has been unveiled in Liverpool, in memory of a woman known as the saint of the slums.  Hers will be the only female statue in St George’s Hall and will join 12 statues surrounding the Great Hall depicting Victorian and Edwardian men.

Years’ later a crowded funded launderette has been opened outside Liverpool called Kitty’s Launderette to celebrate this phenomenal woman.