On this day

24th December 2013

Christmas 1831 was a busy time for the Manchester Special Board of Health. The outbreak of cholera that was affecting the country was not taking a festive break, and Manchester needed to be prepared. So the Committee met at 11 o'clock on Christmas Eve under the Chairmanship of Rev Dr Thomas Calvert, the Warden of the Collegiate Church. Sixteen members were present in the Manchester Town Hall, including seven doctors - J D Hume, J P Kay, S A Bardsley, W Johns, E Lyon, H Gaultier, and R W Whatton. They first considered a report about whether it was safe for ships docked at Liverpool to sail to Spain or whether there was too much of a risk of carrying infection and then they decided to write to the Privy Council about their exact legal status. After appointing Dr Bardsley as the official Medical Correspondent of the Board, they adjourned until Boxing Day. That meeting brought bad news - George Murray has refused to let his factory in Union Street for the purposes of a temporary cholera hospital. Cholera eventually reached Manchester in May 1832, when a 29 year old coachman called James Palfreyman was "seized with vomiting and purging" at 1am on a Friday and died the following day.

The fascinating records of the Board of Health are published in volume 145 of the Record Society's publications, The Challenge of Cholera: Proceedings of the Manchester Special Board of Health 1831-1833, edited by Alan Kidd and Terry Wyke.