Oxford History: Cholera


Cholera in 1832, 1849, and 1854

There were three main outbreaks of cholera in Oxford in the nineteenth century, in 1832, 1849, and 1854. G.V. Cox, in his book Recollections of Oxford (1868) has references to all three outbreaks:

Oxford, in this July, was visited with many cases of cholera, including forty deaths. A great cry was raised against that filthy stream, which empties itself into the Isis at Folly Bridge, and whose banks were lined with “pigsties and other abominations”. The Christ Church authorities, however, succeeded in making the stream partially cleanse itself, by a system of flashes of water, and at a very great expense shut it out, at least from the eye, by carrying a wall along its course on the west of Christ Church meadow. Strict rules were enforced, pigsties were relegated to the suburbs, and a standing Board of Health kept a watchful look-out. St. Clement’s also has its dirty stream, and the greatest number of cases (and fatal ones) occurred there, especially at the house of the Common-room man at Magdalen College, — not indeed by the river-side but on Cowley Road, and belonging to a very respectable family. The cholera carried off Mrs. G–, two grown-up daughters, and a maid-servant. Of the total number of deaths in July and August (viz. forty), twenty-nine occurred in St. Clement’s.
Footnote by Cox: It is very remarkable (we may well call it providential) that the cholera on its two appearances in Oxford broke out at the commencement of the Long-vacation, and happily went down as the young men were beginning to come up for the Michaelmas Term.

August. Cases of cholera were reported as spreading in Oxford; great care was taken by the Board of Health to check it.
Oct. 6. The disease began to relax; there had, however, been 121 cases and 64 deaths. About the middle of October it was publicly announced that the cholera had entirely disappeared in Oxford. Deo gratias!

Sept. 7. The dreaded cholera again showed itself in Oxford, and continued to carry off its victims through the month, though in small numbers compared with the former visitation. Happily, it disappeared as October commenced; but it was thought safer by the authorities to call up the Undergraduates a week later than usual.

Report by Ormerod on the 1832 Oxford outbreak

Acland's Oxford Cholera Map of the 1832 and 1854 outbreaks
(showing the Field of Observation the site of the present Southmoor Road, where victims were nursed in tents)

Table showing all outbreaks in Oxford by street in 1832

Dire warning of the dangers of going to St Giles’s Fair in 1832

  • Henry Wentworth Acland, Memoir on the cholera at Oxford in the year 1854, with considerations suggested by the epidemic (London: John Churchill, 1856) Available online here
  • R.J. Morris, “Religion and medicine: The cholera pamphlets of Oxford, 1832, 1849, and 1854”, Medical History 19 (1975), 256–270
  • W.P. Ormerod, A few plain words about the cholera (Oxford: W. Baxter, 1848)
  • W.P. Ormerod, On the sanatory [sic] condition of Oxford (Ashmolean Society, 1848)
    (Analysis of the 1832 outbreak, including a folded map showing the address of every victim)
  • Oxford Board of Health Minute Book, 9 September 1832
  • Vaughan Thomas, Memorials of the malignant cholera in Oxford: MDCCCXXXII (Oxford: W. Baxter, 1835)

Report on 1832 outbreak

Outbreaks by street, 1832

St Giles’ Fair warnings

© Stephanie Jenkins

Last updated: 23 May, 2020

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