21st August 1858
Front page, 1st column
THE STATE OF LISKEARD
(Letter to the Editor of The Times.
Sir, I perceive in the Registrar General's quarterly report, just issued, the following:- Liskeard - Deaths during the quarter ending June 1856, 146. 1857, 186. 1858, 248. I beg to offer you the following remarks from my diary of June 1858, as to this Cornish town, made during my 14 days holyday in Cornwall:-
"Liskeard seemed under a cloud; it is sickly, and children are sent out of it to save their lives. The town stands well - upon seven hills, they say; it is not flat in the midst of a flat. Nature has not forgotten Liskeard, but man has; well, the law says, 'He shall suffer'. In this little town, getting richer and larger from the proximity of successful mines, the open pond receives and retains the refuse of houses and slaughtering places; and the hot weather in telling its tale in the shameful destruction of human life. It is the old story, the rulers sin, and the pestilence visits the people. Here are gullies badly formed and full of solid filth steaming in the sun; here semi-solid refuse slowly runs down before the houses, and well-nigh all is evaporated and taints the air before it can reach the equivocal gully. In one house I found one child dead, one also dead in the next house, another in one of these houses hopelessly ill with a putrid disease; the house is close, the roof very low, the ventilation scanty; six families live here; the three houses drain into one large cesspool, which also receives a tributary drain from a neighbouring street. The opening of this great pool of filth stands untrapped at the door, and sends its pestilential messages in where the head and dying children are; a vile smell often comes up, is in fact coming up now; there is a well in the yard; the people have ceased to use it; it stands almost under the same roof, side by side with the privy pit. In front of this poor mans house is a very characteristic drain, so rough, so wide, that, although this 'tanyard hill' is steep, the liquid evaporates and leaves a black, offensive deposit putrefying in the sun. The very prosperity of the place is against it; money is obtained, but health is sacrificed, the people are sadly overcrowded, and the doctors are from these causes powerless in the presence of disease they could otherwise most readily cure. Such was Liskeard at my visit a few weeks since. No wonder that measles is putrid, that this new low charactered disease of the throat prevails. If the pestilence would but stalk in and press his hand upon a few leading men of the place, these evils might be attended. I fear not else. I am glad to get out of Liskeard, and I pity my friends there."
Such were my words; and I now hear that the deaths are occurring amongst the better classes. Lest the cause of these visitations should be overlooked and disregarded, I pray you, sir, to give this note a place in your column, it will reach even Liskeard through you.
your most obedient servant,
Medical Officer of Health, St George's Southwark August 14th.