Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Pity the little children . . .
I blame my daughter - the eldest one that is. She has been doing graveyard research in one of her Uni courses and led me to a fascinating website set up with information about burials in the Sheffield General Cemetary. Link: http://www.gencem.org/ The period I was looking at - 1836 onwards - made grim reading. Infant mortality was very high and about 80% of the burials were children, often small babies.
The causes of death included (W)Hooping cough, Croup, Convulsions, Measles, Scarlet Fever and inflammation of the brain or lungs. A one month old baby died of St Anthony's Fire - Erysipelas. I have had some experience of this - in my horse - it is a Streptococcal infection which needs to be swiftly treated. Neglected and death can occur from septic shock or even necrolizing fasciitis - the flesh-eating disease which has been in the news recently. Poor little mite. Many children died of water on the brain, which can be a side-effect of meningitis or of a general infection. Many children were said to have died from "teething." A 3 month old baby died from Cutaneous disease - a bacterial infection? A child of 4 died of Dropsy. A 2 year old died from a neck tumour. English Cholera was not unknown and was the term given to various diarrhoeal diseases. Interestingly, diagnosis was more precise if you came from a well-heeled family, who could afford a decent Doctor and diagnosis - not that he was any more capable of saving the life. Spare a thought for those in the workhouse - where the choice of fatal infection was much broader. There you could die of Scarlet Fever, Smallpox, (both at the same time in one case), Consumption, and even Typhus (which was typically spread by body lice). One year old twins Grace and Prudence Boyland died on the same day in the Workhouse of Scarlet Fever . . . With the mothers often sickly and malnourished, it was no wonder that the death toll was so high.
Amongst adults Consumption was a common cause of death, as was natural decay and apoplexy amongst older people. A Solicitor died of Typhus, someone else apparently died of Consumption after an ulcerated leg. A Merchant had putrid fever, another worker died of Locked Jaw (Tetanus). Stomach Cramp, Bladder inflammation, Windpipe Inflammation, Decline from a wound in the foot,Lung inflammation and childbirth all took their victims. Two, an 11 week old infant and Mary Hunter, aged 66, defied diagnosis and "Sudden Visitation of God" was put down as their cause of death . . .
No-one was exempt - the dead and the parents of the dead were hosiers, soldiers, brewers, brass casters, table knife hafters, file smiths, solicitors, butchers, frame smiths, stove grate fitters, gardeners, farmers, shoemakers, spring knife grinders, pawnbrokers, whitesmiths, excise officers, razor smiths, joiner's tool manufacturers and merchants.
This link makes interesting reading: