The Typhoid Epidemic in Lincoln
A look at the history behind the terrible outbreak of the deadly disease typhoid that struck Lincoln in 1904 . . .
Typhoid was a disease generally reckoned to be on the back foot in the early 1900s, indeed, primarily something only found in the worst slums.
Associated with unsanitary conditions clean water piped in and proper drainage was felt to have consigned the disease to the history books but then in 2nd December 1904 the first case of typhoid was reported in Lincoln !
One case didn’t arouse any real interest but by January 1905 there had been 18 victims and the water supply was swiftly blamed.
13,000 leaflets were distributed instructing people do boil all drinking water and such was the pressure on hospitals, and predicted pressure if the outbreak spread, that emergency accommodation for the sick was prepared.
These were at Newport Hall, Mission Hall, Long Leys Hospital, Blenkin Memorial Rooms and the Drill Hall which was kitted out to look after 100 patients . . .
Their worst fears were soon realised as by 24th February there were 697 recorded cases of which 49 resulted in death !
By now there was understandable panic in terms of water, the city supply was all but abandoned, some people tried to re-open old wells whilst Lincoln City Council was bringing in water by rail and long queues gathered at the Midland Railway Yard.
The good people of Lincolnshire pulled together and a great deal of water was donated and brought in from outlying towns and villages for the poorer inhabitants of Lincoln.
As always, the poor suffered the most, they were reliant on handouts from street water carts, whereas the better to do bought their own water in privately from safe sources.
By April cases were some 900 in the city alone but alarmingly it had also spread to outlying villages such as Branston, Bracebridge and Welton.
In total the typhoid epidemic lasted six months with 1,023 reported cases and 127 fatalities.
Life after the outbreak took a long time to recover, many still didn’t trust the water supply and water carts remained in operation long after the water supply was declared safe. Businesses suffered as people avoiding going out and places such as the Lincoln Horse Racing Course saw few attendees.
The outbreak saw also the building of the Lincoln Water Tower and eventually people regained trust in the water supply.
In the finish it wasn’t the water per se but leaks in the sewage system which saw the River Witham being polluted.
If you know anything at all connected to the typhoid epidemic in Lincoln then please do leave a comment, many thanks.
All the best