Discover how Wisbech was affected by three devastating epidemics of cholera in new book by local historian

PUBLISHED: 11:11 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 12:43 11 September 2019

The ‘Wisbech Cholera Epidemics’ book by historian Kevin Rodgers tells the story of three epidemics that struck the town in the 19th century. Picture: CLARE BUTLER

The 'Wisbech Cholera Epidemics' book by historian Kevin Rodgers tells the story of three epidemics that struck the town in the 19th century. Picture: CLARE BUTLER

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Devastating outbreaks of cholera that took the lives of around 80 people in Wisbech have been written about in the latest book by historian Kevin Rodgers.

The 'Wisbech Cholera Epidemics' tells the story of three epidemics that struck the town in the 19th century.

It was the fourth worse place hit in the UK with no water supply or no sanitation.

The book is ninth for Mr Rodgers, who felt compelled to research how Wisbech was affected by Cholera after hearing about its victims.

"I became interested twenty-five years ago when my late wife Heather, who was a teaching assistant, brought home a sheet of paper listing some of the victims from 1849," he explained.

"The list contained names of ordinary Wisbech people, long since forgotten, who died in three short months of autumn 1849.

"All the history books state that there were sixty-six victims but further research showed this number as doubtful and more were listed in newspapers at the time.

"Most were poor working-class people who could be healthy in the morning, catch the disease and die in degrading conditions the same day."

The book includes a list of old street names and where they were in relation to modern Wisbech to plot the disease.

False cures promised by chemists and doctors in the town are also listed, to show how medicine has greatly advanced in the last 100 years.

There was also an opinion that cholera was a "form of 'Divine Retribution' from a God who sought to make the populace mend their ways and stop living in drunkenness and debauchery".

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Mr Rodgers continued: "Three separate epidemics within twenty years of each other, hundreds of deaths and the misery of those that were left mark these epidemics.

"There was no effective cure at that time.

"Victims are listed, their homes, usually overcrowded one or two room hovels, and the comments of some who realised their own depredations.

"The arrival of fresh water from Marham was the biggest influence on health in Wisbech, no more serious outbreaks occurred and the town gradually advanced."

The book is available from Mr Rodgers directly or Etcetera in York Row Wisbech.

Kevin will also be giving at talk at March Museum on Friday (September 13) at St Peter's Church Hall about 'Marcam Hall - music Mecca of the Fens' at 7.30pm.

Next week he will be at Wimblington Over 50s meeting on Tuesday (September 17) about sixties music and then back in March on Wednesday evening (September 18) at the Conservative ladies for a similar show.

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