By Peter Ellis Jones
The news of the sudden and premature death of Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria, in December 1861 stunned the nation. He was much loved and held in high esteem by the populace at large particularly on account of his contribution to the industrial and cultural life of his adopted country. His initiative and drive had led to the staging of the highly successful Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in 1851, which afforded a window to the world of British industrial innovation and strength. His vision that the profits from the enterprise should be dedicated to learning and discovery on the site of the Great Exhibition in Kensington, London, were evidence of his deep commitment to the progress of the nation. 1
As was the custom of the time, those who had in their lifetime made an outstanding contribution to the life of the nation would be remembered by the raising of a memorial in a prominent position as a constant reminder of the country’s gratitude and as an inspiration to their compatriots. Within a month of the Prince Consort’s death the Lord Mayor of London had written to the mayors of urban boroughs throughout the country requesting their co-operation in eliciting subscriptions towards the erection of a national memorial in London.2 However, a number of towns and institutions wished to erect their own memorial; in particular the smaller nations of the United Kingdom desired to recognise their high regard for the Prince. Where to locate their memorial did not present a problem for Scotland and Ireland – Edinburgh and Dublin had been national capitals for centuries.3 Wales on the other hand had been administratively absorbed into England since 1536 and had never had a capital city to serve as a focus of its cultural life.
However, the green shoots of national awareness, based largely on the distinctiveness of the Welsh language, were beginning to appear, particularly in the counties of south east Wales. At Crickhowell, for example, the Welsh clergyman Thomas Price, was raising the profile of the language by his many contributions to the literary tracts of his day and in writing a History of Wales which he published in fourteen sections between 1836 and 1842.4 He founded a school in which Welsh was to be the principal medium of instruction and he condemned the practice of appointing English-speaking clergy to predominantly Welsh speaking parishes. He established Cymreigyddion societies in Brecon (1823) and in Abergavenny (1833) and a minstrelsy society to train boys to play the harp. The first national eisteddfod was held in Aberdare in 1861 and the song ‘Hen wlad fy nhadau’, composed in 1856, was soon adopted as the national anthem of Wales. In Monmouthshire, Lord and Lady Llanover, who were greatly influenced by Thomas Price’s works, became wealthy patrons of expressions of Welsh identity .Around 1840, Lady Llanover “evolved a homogenised Welsh national costume from various Welsh peasant dresses. ..and a very tall beaver hat.”5 She endowed two Presbyterian chapels in which services were to be held in Welsh. Lord Llanover rebuked the Bishop of St. David’s concerning the right of Welsh speaking people to have church services in their native language.6
The stirrings of national consciousness, however, “remained vague and unfocused” and did not represent a “coherent view of nationality”. 7 Unsurprisingly therefore no town came forward to raise a Wales memorial to the Prince Consort. This deadlock was broken by George White, mayor of Tenby.8 In the first week of January 1864, White convened a meeting in the Gatehouse Hotel, which he chaired, to gain support for his conviction that Tenby would be the ideal location for the Wales memorial. ” After waiting two years for some other place to take the initiative,” he declared that “Tenby should come before the Welsh people and ask them for their aid.” Tenby, he thought, would be an appropriate site in view of the “pre-eminence of its historical associations with the monarchy” – (Henry, the founder of the royal house of Tudor, was born and brought up in Pembroke and used Pembrokeshire as his base for his encounter with King Richard III at Bosworth), “its devotion to the throne and its unsurpassed beauties of situation, without mines and manufacturies.” White’s initiative gained the approval of the meeting and a circular was issued highlighting the claims of Tenby as the site for the memorial and canvassing “for subscriptions from all classes of the Welsh people” to fund the project.9
Soon, a committee of subscribers was formed to take the matter forward. Names of the committee members are not known. However, it is evident that Lord Llanover, no doubt a generous subscriber and a member of the committee, played a pivotal role in translating White’s aspirations into reality. As we have seen he was dedicated to supporting aspects of Welsh culture and would view a Wales memorial as a symbol of the nationhood of Wales. By the end of February £450 had been paid into the memorial fund. Such a generous response led the committee to conclude that a statue would be the most worthy memorial to the prince and since it was to be a Wales memorial the work should be entrusted to a native of Wales. The committee turned to John Evan Thomas ( 1810- 73) to advise them on the most appropriate form the statue should take. Thomas, a Welsh speaking native of Brecon “was the first Welsh sculptor to establish a significant career and reputation largely through Welsh patronage”.10 He opined that a statue, seven
feet high attired in royal robes and sculptured from Sicilian marble, would be “the most elegant. ..for a town as beautifully situated as Tenby”. He estimated that the cost of such a statue excluding the pedestal, would be £500 guineas.11 The subscribers’ committee commissioned Thomas to undertake the work and Tenby Corporation earmarked the centre of Tudor Place as the site for its erection.
Approval for raising the memorial and its location rested with Parliament (and ultimately the Queen). Lord Llanover would have been a persuasive advocate for the committee’s decision since he had long experience in Parliament -as an M.P. from 1831 to 1858, as First Commissioner of Works in Lord Palmerston’s first ministry (1855-8) and in the House of Lords after his elevation to the peerage in 1859.12 The statue, as finally approved, would be 8 ft. 9 ins. high carved from a block of finest Sicilian marble and representing the Prince with head uncovered, in Field Marshall’s uniform with baton in hand under the mantle and collar of the Order of the Garter.13 It became clear that a statue of these dimensions standing on an 18 foot high pedestal would be out of place within the confines of Tudor Place. Thereupon, the Rev. James Henry Philipps of Picton Castle, a major landowner in the district, came forward to present a plot of land on Castle Hill to site the memorial. He also conveyed to the Corporation a 99 year lease on the remainder of Castle Hill with the proviso that it should not be built upon but rather
laid out as an amenity area with walkways and seats to be enjoyed by the public at large.14 This gift of an incomparable picturesque and open site overlooking the town and harbour and with views across the bay to the hills beyond was a fitting setting for the memorial.
Foundation stones for the monument were laid in December 1864; they support a platform of three ranges of steps upon which a pedestal of native limestone, 18 ft. high, was erected. Four engraved panels of Sicilian marble were set into each flank of the pedestal. Two of the inserts, one incorporating the arms of Llewelyn ap Gruffydd, the last native prince, the other the red dragon of Wales banner carried to the battle of Bosworth by Henry Tudor in 1485, were designed to emphasise the continuity of sovereignty between the two nations. A third panel incorporates the arms of the Queen and her Consort and the front panel bears the bilingual inscription ” Albert Dda, priod ein gorhoffus Frenhines Victoria, Albert the Good, consort of our beloved Queen Victoria.This memorial of His Royal Highness Prince Albert was raised by the inhabitants of Wales and inaugurated at Tenby by His Royal Highness Prince Arthur, his third son, on the second day of August, 1865.” (This may have been the first bilingual inscription to appear on public property in Wales). The statue was sculpted in London and conveyed gratis by the Great Western Railway Company to Narberth Road station (Clunderwen) where it was transferred onto a wagon and drawn by teams of horses along its 16 mile journey to Tenby.
Prince Arthur (1850-1942), later Duke of Connaught, was only 15 years of age at this his first public function. It was said that he was the Queen’s favourite son, the one who most resembled his father.15 He travelled from London to Milford on July 31st. At Newport, the gateway to Wales, he was met by Lord Llanover, the Lord Lieutenant of Monmouthshire and other dignitaries. Lord Llanover probably travelled with Prince Arthur on the last leg of the journey; it would appear that Lord Kensington, the Lord Lieutenant of Pembrokeshire, was unable to undertake the customary duty of welcoming a member of the royal family to the county and Lord Llanover deputised for him. Prince Arthur spent the night at the home of the Superintendent of the naval dockyard in Pembroke Dock. The following day he was driven to the Gatehouse Hotel in Tenby where he was received by the mayor, the Bishop of St. David’s, Lord Llanover and members of the Subscribers Committee.
The day appointed for the unveiling ceremony was declared a public holiday in Tenby, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock and Haverfordwest. The hundreds of people who converged on Tenby that day by road, rail and steamer found the town bedecked with flags, banners and greenery .A detachment of the 62nd Regiment from Milford, units of the Volunteer Corps from Haverfordwest and Pembroke Dock and members of the Castlemartin Yeomanry lined the route and were drawn up around the monument. The royal procession which formed outside the Gatehouse Hotel comprised, besides the Bishop of St. David’s and Lord Llanover, the mayors of many of the principal towns of South Wales, magistrates, clergy, sheriffs, and members of Tenby Corporation. 16 At the monument an address was given by the mayor of Tenby to which the Prince replied; a prayer was then offered by the Bishop. As the Prince unveiled the statue bands played and guns from a battery on Castle Hill fired a royal salute.17
The royal party , members of clerical and military orders and subscribers to the memorial fund then retired to the assembly room at the Gatehouse Hotel “which was tastefully ornamented with flags, the Red Dragon of Wales, the national crest, being conspicuous”. After a sumptuous luncheon Prince Arthur proposed a toast to “the health of the Queen’s loyal people” to which Lord Llanover responded. During the luncheon items of music were played by Lord Llanover’s harpist who was dressed in Welsh national costume. Evidently, an attempt was made to give the event a Welsh flavour.
Later that afternoon the royal party left by train for Pembroke Dock where it boarded the royal yacht ‘Victoria and Albert’ bound for Osborne, Isle of Wight. Meanwhile the crowd lingered on Castle Hill, in the narrow streets of the town and on the beaches before returning home to reflect upon their impressions of the day that Wales could stand proudly alongside the other nations of the British Isles in honouring the memory of the Prince Consort.
Wales, however, had to wait another century before its status as a nation was recognised with the appointment of a Secretary of State and accompanying Welsh Office in 1964. And it was Cardiff and not Tenby that became the capital of Wales in 1955!
1. The site now houses a complex of museums (Victoria and Albert, Science, and
Natural History), colleges (Imperial and Royal College of Music), other
learned bodies, e.g. the Royal Geographical Society, and, of course, the iconic
Royal Albert Hall.
2. P(embroke) H(erald) and A(dvertiser), 14th February 1862. The Albert
memorial in Kensington, designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and sculptured
by John Foley was unveiled in March 1876.
3. An equestrian bronze statue designed by David Bryce and sculptured by John
Steele stands in Charlotte Square Gardens, Edinburgh; a statue sculptured by
John Foley was positioned in Leinster Lawn, beside Merrion Square, Dublin,
but was repositioned to a less prominent site in Leinster Lawn in 1921.
4. For Thomas Price (‘Carnhuanawc’; 1787-1848) see Y B(ywgraffiadur)
C(ymreig) hyd 1940 (the Welsh Dictionary of National Biography), London,
1953, pp. 74-5.
5. Prys Morgan, ‘The Hunt for the Welsh Past in the Romantic Period’ in E.
Hobsbawm and T. Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition, London, 1983,
6. For Lord and Lady Llanover see Benjamin Hall (1802-67) in Y.B.C. pp. 313-4;
John Davies, A History of Wales, Penguin, 2007; and Peter Lord, Imaging the
Nation, University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 2000, pp. 251-6.
7. Morgan, K.O., Rebirth of a Nation, Wales 1880-1980, Oxford University Press,
1982, n.b. Chapter 4, ‘The National Revival’, pp. 90-91.
8. George White (nat 1826) was a native of St. Florence and a Wine and Spirit
Merchant with premises in High Street, Tenby. Census 1861.
9. P.H.A., 15 January 1865. See also P.H.A. 12 February 1865.
10. Dictionary of National Biography & YBC. “He interested himself in Welsh
affairs. With the support of Lord Llanover he led the movement to save from
misuse the endowments of Christ College, Brecon” (translation).
11. PHA, 4 March 1864.
12. M.P. for Monmouthshire Boroughs, 1831- 7 and for Marylebone 1837 -1859.
Before becoming a baron his name was Benjamin Hall. It was during his time
as First Commissioner of Works that the great bell was raised to the top of the
bell tower of the Palace of Westminster and has been called ‘Big Ben’ ever
13. Although the Prince Consort is principally remembered for his patronage of the
cultural and industrial life of the nation, he took an active interest in measures
designed to reform the Army. One of his numerous honorary titles was that of
Field Marshall. See Hermione Hobhouse, Prince Albert: his life and work,
Hamish Hamilton, 1983.
14. PHA, 23 September 1864.
16. The High Sheriffs of Carmarthenshire, Montgomeryshire and Pembrokeshire;
the mayors of Pembroke, Carmarthen, Haverfordwest, Cardiff, Newport
(Mon.), Newport (Pembs. ), Swansea, Cardigan and Denbigh.
17. The event was reported in PHA, 4 August, Te by and Pembroke Dock
Observer, 3 August and the Illustrated London News, 12 August 1864.
By Ray Jones
Cholera was endemic in the Indian sub-continent in the nineteenth century. This was
Indian or Asiatic cholera also known as Cholera morbus or morbis distinguishing it from Cholera nostra or English Cholera which was used, as late as 1894, for the common diarrhoeas of the time. In 1854 Dr. John Snow conclusively showed that cholera was waterborne although the aetiology was not established. The causative bacterium, Cholera vibrio, was first described by Robert Koch in 1893 and although Koch’s work was not fully accepted for several years it was agreed that cholera was spread by contaminated water or food.
In 1817-1818 cholera began to spread from India so that by 1826 a pandemic covered China, Japan and eastern Russia. By 1829, Poland, Germany, Austria and Sweden were infected and the first British case was recorded at Sunderland in October, 1831.1 It reached Flint in May 1832, Newport (Mon) in late June, Swansea on July 26 and spread to Llanelli, Carmarthen and Haverfordwest as well as to other parts of Wales.
As the disease spread across Europe, it was realised it was inevitable that it would reach Britain so the Royal College of Physicians, ‘after hurried consultation [with] the Privy Council’ established a Board of Health in January 1831.2 This Board issued guides detailing precautions to be taken. It recommended inspectors be appointed to report on the diets, cleanliness and habitation of the poor and suggested cholera hospitals be set up. However, before the end of 1831, a Central Board of Health (later to be known as the General Board of Health) was established by the Whitehall Government. It worked alongside the College of Physicians Board for a time but eventually the Physicians’ Board was superseded. This Government Board allowed for the establishment of Local Boards of Health. This was not compulsory but Local Boards were quickly set up in Haverfordwest, Milford and Pembroke.
This first British epidemic, 1831-1832, was before the formation of the Registrar General’s Office (this was established in 1834) and details of the work of the Local Committees is sparse. Much of the information must therefore come from local newspapers. There were no Pembrokeshire based local newspapers at this time but the nearby Carmarthen Journal, first published in 1810, included news of Pembrokeshire affairs.
The November 18 issue reported:
‘Boards of Health are being established in the different
areas of Pembrokeshire. One has been formed at Milford
lately [and a meeting to form one at Pembroke was held
on 16/11/1831]. There has been little or no doubt as to the
contagious nature of the disease [cholera] and it behoves all
districts particularly those thickly populated to take every
means of precaution…[if it is] instrumental in the slightest
in preventing [cholera] it will more than compensate the
Government for the expenditure it causes.’3
On December 2, 1831, the Journal reported a meeting of the Haverfordwest Local Board.4 The town had been divided into districts and district committees formed with a medical officer attached to each. An address for citizens had been published reminding them that the cholera was infectious, they must immediately adopt the advice and suggestions given by the Central Board of Health, including the advice given on cleanliness and ventilation and the special danger to the ill fed and those addicted to spirituous liquor (their italics).
There was a further comment on Pembrokeshire in the December 16 issue.
‘A most efficient Board of Health has been established
[in Milford]…which from its exertions, may be quoted as
a pattern to such Boards in general. Its meetings are regularly
held and most respectably attended and the results are the
removal of all kinds of nuisances both in the town and in the
Advice on the treatment and prevention of the disease was also given.
‘Welsh flannel is recommended by the Board of Health
as one of the antidotes against the Cholera Morbus. The
wealthy and charitable will doubtless let a portion of their
benevolence be displayed in distribution to the aged and
infirm poor during the approaching season some of this
deservingly esteemed manufacture.’ 5
For the first six months of 1832 there were no reports of cholera locally although details of the disease in other parts of Britain were sometimes given. March saw a proclamation of a ‘General Fast’ ordered by King William ‘because the country was threatened by the progress of this severe disease’ and the same issue advised that the Archbishop of Canterbury was to compose a special prayer for use in all places of worship. Advice from the Central Board of Health was also printed: ‘looseness of the bowel is the first sign of the cholera’.6
An additional newspaper, The Welshman, began publishing in Carmarthen at this time, the first issue being January 13, 1832. This included a report on a meeting of the Haverfordwest Local Board of Health, at which ‘suitable and appropriate resolutions were proposed which were carried without opposition.’ A large number of blankets had been distributed to the poor and ‘a fresh subscription was entered into.’7 On June 22, 1832, The Journal reported a case of ‘true cholera,’ at Pembroke on June 20. At 4pm on June 22, the woman was still alive ‘and rather improved than otherwise.8 This appears to be the first case in Pembrokeshire in this epidemic or at least the first case reported in the newspapers. No further information was given until July 6 when The Journal stated: ‘for the last fortnight the cholera has been making rapid progress…but in order not to create an unnecessary alarm it has been kept secret…’.9
There was a meeting of the Haverfordwest Local Board of Health on August 31, 1832 when a hand-bill was produced. The handbill included information that no person dying of cholera should be interred in the usual burial grounds and must be buried within 24 hours. Cholera symptoms and treatment were described and
‘… as many persons in the working class of life are
prevented from sending for medical assistance fearful of
incurring expense, all persons should immediately apply
for medical aid, on the first appearance of the first symptoms
of the disease, and they are strictly enjoined to do so. The
charge for such medical aid be sent to the Board of Health,
who, in conjunction with the Parish Authorities, and taking
the circumstances of the party into consideration, will declare
whether the charge shall be paid by the parish in which the
party resides, or by the party himself. And that all expenses
for comfort and medicines for the sick ordered in writing by the
medical gentleman in attendance, be discharged in like manner.’10
On October 26, 1832 it was reported that on the previous day, the Commodore of the Steam Packet ‘Crocodile’ had died of cholera and the body brought to Milford. The ship was ordered to be taken to sea, the body thrown overboard and the ship placed under quarantine.11 No further mention of this outbreak in Pembrokeshire could be traced and it is not clear how badly the county was affected by this epidemic. One report gives 16 deaths in the county but no source is given.12 Nationally,
King William and the Privy Council ordained April 12, 1833 as a Day of Thanksgiving for the ‘cessation of cholera in this country.’13
The second great epidemic of cholera in Britain began in Edinburgh in 1848 and reached Wales by summer 1849. By this time a Pembrokeshire local newspaper, The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Observer had appeared, its first issue being January 5, 1844.14 However there was no mention of cholera during 1848-1849. The Carmarthen Journal continued to report Pembrokeshire news and frequently gave details of cholera in other parts of the UK. It also reported that the Bishop of St Davids had written to all clergy in his diocese with a view to check progress or mitigate the ‘baneful effects’ of cholera. The clergy were exhorted to preach ‘Temperance, Cleanliness and Ventilation’ as the three most important ‘preservatives’ from cholera. Use of the appropriate Liturgy for Plague and Sickness was advised and the wealthy should form societies for the supply of food and clothing to the needy.15
On August 10 1849 The Welshman reported:
‘Mortality has not exceeded that of the corresponding period
of previous years… [we] can most explicitly state that no portion
[Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Cardiganshire] of her Majesty’s
kingdom is more exempt from cholera at the present period.’ 16
By August 24, a naval ship had been directed to the Pembroke yard ‘for the accommodation of the arsenal and the town in general, if requisite.’ The ship had been fitted out as a cholera hospital ship. ‘Happily, not a single case has occurred in
that town and locality.’17
‘The particular salubrity of the atmosphere of this county
[Pembrokeshire] and its almost total exemption from the
Cholera are the means of filling its towns: Tenby, Pembroke Dock,
Milford &c. are being rapidly filled from affected districts…
the shire is in general exempt from the ravages of that fatal
malady the cholera.’18
The Bishop of St Davids told his clergy to continue to use a special prayer and to set aside a day (October 10) for public prayer and humiliation before God ‘under the present affliction of the cholera.’19 He suggested ‘our dissenting brethren’ do the same but had been pre-empted by the Wesleyan Methodists who held their day of ‘fasting, humiliation and prayer on September 21. Three services were held on that day in Hakin and Milford Haven ‘on account of the visitation [of cholera] which so many afflicted districts were suffering.’20
Although there was something of a resurgence of the disease in west Wales at this time with, for example, 33 new cases and 11 deaths in Carmarthen, things were continuing to improve in Pembrokeshire.
‘We are happy to state that although this fearful epidemic
[cholera] has at length visited Haverfordwest the number
of deaths has been very few and we have not heard of any new
cases this week. Every exertion is being made by the authorities
and inhabitants to remove nuisances and promote the cleanliness
of the town.’ 21
The report continued dysentery and diarrhoea ‘having made fearful havoc amongst the inhabitants of Pembroke Dock is now returning to its usual healthy state. Not a single case of cholera has occurred.’ It reproduced the General Board of Health’s instructions for burying cholera victims including covering churchyards with quicklime with extra lime at the bottom of the grave and the top of the coffin. 21
On November 11 there were reports of ‘several cases’ of cholera in the vicinity of Amroth castle. The diseased were ‘attended by physicians from Tenby, clergy and local gentlemen…we are glad to say that the disease is partially leaving the above neighbourhood.’22 The Registrar General’s Quarterly report, summarised in the November 16 issue of the Carmarthen Journal, indicated that the highest death rates in Wales were in the newly industrialising towns such as Newport (Mon), Abergavenny, Pontypool and especially Merthyr Tydfil, ‘Higher than in some parts of London.’ Llanelly, (sic) Swansea and Carmarthen had experienced double the usual mortality, but Pembrokeshire was better:
‘Pembrokeshire … escaped; diarrhoea was very prevalent
in Pembroke during September; and a few isolated cases
of cholera occurred in the [Registration] sub-districts around;
in the unusually healthy Cardigan, Newcastle Emlyn and
Tregaron the mortality did not exceed the average.’23
A Thanksgiving Day was observed at Pembroke Dock with the Dockyard closed and every shop shut. ‘A spirit of deep devotion and religious observance seemed to pervade.’ The final word on the epidemic came in the Carmarthen Journal in the same issue ‘The recent epidemic appears to have entirely left the neighbourhood.’24
Little of note of this epidemic could be traced in the Pembrokeshire newspaper or other contemporaneous documents perused. It is reported 37 people died of cholera in the County,25 but a different source states ‘records do not indicate any deaths.’26
Cholera then disappeared from the scene for several years, with no new cases being reported until 1853. Initially the infection, again coming from India via mainland Europe, spread rapidly throughout the Newcastle area causing more than 1500 deaths in two months. The disease then died down but reappeared, reaching Wales by late August 1854, the first case being in Cardiff.27
There were now more newspapers in Pembrokeshire. The Tenby Observer begun publishing in August 1853 and largely consisted of lists of visitors to the town. It
made no comments relevant to cholera during the whole of the 1853-1854 outbreak. Similarly, there was no commentary on the disease in the Pembrokeshire Herald but on November 24, 1854 it reported:
‘cholera has happily left this town [Haverfordwest] …
whilst it was present we scrupulously abstained… from any
unnecessary description of its course…. Some say that it has
been absent but there is no other conclusion that Asiatic
cholera has been present in Haverfordwest and its vicinity….
In the village of Guilford (Langum) (sic) it has raged with
much greater virulence. About 20 people have died in Langum
equalling [the mortality] which resulted in Haverfordwest.’28
The other new newspapers were the Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph first published February 1, 1854 and Potter’s Electric News, first published July 1855. Potter’s Electric News was too late for the 1853-1854 epidemic but the Telegraph was vociferous. There was a long piece on ‘the fever’ on March 1, 1854.
‘…assume that the Fever (sic) whether intermittent or
typhus, rheumatic or infantile or other zygotic diseases
as cholera, influenza and the like are caused by certain
conditions of the atmosphere acting like conductors of the
In early April the Haverfordwest Telegraph issued a stark warning: ‘the cholera is coming…it comes from our eastern coast’ and went on to give advice on the cleaning and whitewashing of houses.30 Further information was given on April 26, when the General Board of Health’s recommendations about thinking that the apparent disappearance of the current epidemic was the end, were published. It continued that Local Boards of Health must complete their works, ‘otherwise outbreaks of the pestilence must be expected.’31 A fortnight later, it added epidemics were greatly dependent on the state of the houses and drains.32
A Report from the Milford and Haking (sic) Local Board of Health requested authority to make house-to-house visits to ‘make inquiries into the state of health of
the inhabitants that may assist in the prejudice of the health of the inhabitants and their near neighbours.’ It goes on to say that with the exception of a few cases of diarrhoea the ‘entire district is generally healthy….’ However elsewhere, the same report, dated April 19, 1854, states there had been two cases of cholera in Milford and seven in Langum (sic).33 On September 13, 1854 the Haverfordwest Telegraph cited a Registrar General’s Report that deaths from other epidemics far exceeded those of cholera. Precautions against cholera from the General Board of Health were quoted: ‘cholera strikes only those who fear him (sic). Pure air, temperate habits, scrupulous cleanliness and a resolute mind are infallible safeguards.’34 On October 11, 1854 the newspaper reported that there had been 17 deaths in the Narberth workhouse and cholera would reach Haverfordwest in three weeks. ‘When there was dirt, damp and foul air, only typhus struck; cholera only came when there dirt, damp, foul air, bad food and a poison in the air. Further, inhabitants of asylums, despite being very close to towns and villages ravaged by cholera did not suffer the disease.’ This was because ‘being mentally decayed they are incapable of being impressed or excited by the fear.’35 (their italics). However, a different Report said that there was one death and one case of cholera in Haverfordwest on October 11, 1854.36 The Daily Return of October 27 reported a further death adding that there was ‘pus on two stagnant pools.’ 37 Outlying Haverfordwest parishes had three deaths on the same day –‘condition of locality – fair.’ There was one death and another case at Hakin on November 12.38 Fishguard saw four deaths from cholera in November.39 On November 24, a letter to the Haverfordwest Union (Workhouse Union Boards of Guardians were now responsible for aspects of Public Health) signed George Rowe said there had been no new cases in Haverfordwest in the last report (date of ‘last report’ not given). 40
Llangwm was badly affected with a reported 26 cases. A letter to the Narberth Union from the Board of Health dated October 25, 1854 described the cholera outbreak there as ‘sudden and violent.’ A Medical Officer must be placed ‘within the reach of the inhabitants urgently’ and if the Union could not find one then the Board would appoint one at two guineas (£2.2/-) per day; further, ‘every hour that is allowed to lapse without medical relief…may be attended with preventable loss of life.’41 As
well as these, three further cases were reported on November 24.42 Prior to this, the Pembroke Union had written to Haverfordwest Union offering to pay half the cost of extra medical officers made necessary by the outbreak of cholera at Langum (sic) and Burton.43 There was no response. A medical officer was unable to attend a meeting of the Haverfordwest Sanitary Committee to report on Langum because he was too busy attending to cases.44 On November 15, 1854, R. H. Byers (a Milford Physician) wrote to the Clerk to the Guardians at Haverfordwest reporting 17 cases of cholera at Langum and that he (Byers) had written to the General Board of Health.45 The Guardians had already received a letter, dated November 8, from the General Board drawing attention to these deaths saying that the Board of Guardians had not exercised their special powers in this field.46
Several months prior to this, the Guardians had received ‘Short Recommendations to Guardians in Times of Choleriac Disease.’47 Also sent was a much longer document, ‘Instructions to Local Authorities on Preventative Methods in relation to Epidemic Cholera under the Nuisance Act.’ Both these were promulgated by the General Board of Health. The latter document included advice to Guardians together with the qualifications needed for appointments to various duties, what should be cleaned and administrative instructions. It added ‘the filth, intemperance and wretchedness of the [lower classes] are peculiarly calculated to be the worst sufferers and the least likely to apply for medical aid.’48
Cholera then started to die out. In late November there were complaints that it was being reported outside Haverfordwest that there was cholera in the town. People were not visiting and boarding school children had been taken home. The Western Telegraph responded ‘There is a great fear of cholera everywhere but the newspaper had consulted medical men and there is not a solitary case.’ 49 (their italics). The last mention of cholera during the time of this epidemic was a suggestion that extra care should be taken because the cholera came at night.50 This 1853-1854 outbreak resulted in 40 reported deaths in Pembrokeshire. 51
The next major epidemic of cholera in Britain was in 1865-1866. It is believed that the disease transferred to Wales via Bristol with south Wales badly affected by summer 1866. There was no news of local cholera in the Haverfordwest and Milford Telegraph, Potter’s Electric News, The Welshman or the Carmarthen Journal in 1865 and although The Welshman ran some long articles on ‘fever’ in late 1865 there was
no mention of cholera.52 The Tenby Observer now called the Tenby and Pembroke Dock Observer, published a letter from Lord Godolphin saying that the two most important topics of the day were rinderpest and cholera – the diseases were similar and cleanliness was the ‘great preventative.’ As yet humans were only threatened and he recommended ‘periodic whitewashing, covering soil up to 12 inches from the house with quicklime and a regular sanitary inspection of every house.’ 53 Rinderpest, also known as cattle plague and now called foot and mouth disease, was important. In all local newspapers of the period scrutinised, considerably more space was devoted to this than to all human diseases put together!
In 1866, The Haverfordwest and Milford Telegraph changed its name to the Western Telegraph and first mentioned cholera by reporting the disease in Calcutta.54 One week later the death of one child with five others exhibiting ‘ cholera-like symptoms’ was recorded.55 The location was not stated but Haverfordwest was implied. In August 1866 the Telegraph reported a letter from the Chief Poor Law Commissioners saying to Boards of Guardians that vestries and District Boards were to be responsible for carrying out cholera regulations and Guardians and Boards would cooperate. Boards were allowed to supply medical aid and disinfectants free of charge but cholera patients were not to be admitted to workhouses. There was also an article on prevention, advising that towns should be sluiced as often as possible and lime and disinfectants should be used in the ‘various alleys, back slums and other crowded and confined parts…so that [these] hotbeds of disease can be rendered innocuous.’ The public should not eat any unripe or stale fruit or vegetables, foreign ships and coastal vessels entering local waters should be carefully watched and the condition of the water inspected.56 The newspaper repeated these precautions the following week adding rooms should be well-ventilated and in diarrhoea all discharges should be buried, covered with ashes or deep soil and then covered with lime. The slightest amount of diarrhoea should not be ignored and further ‘mortality in Haverfordwest is higher than in Carmarthen, Aberystwyth and Chelsea.’57
On August 15, a letter in the Western Telegraph complained about Haverfordwest water.58 There was further correspondence on water supply and quality, including a mention of the effect of impure water on cholera outbreaks and pointing out Dr Snow’s discovery saying districts with pure water did not have the cholera but other districts, with less pure water, had high death rates from cholera59. A further letter complimented Dr Snow (now deceased) on his discovery and urged Haverfordwest to provide pure water. 60 These were the last mentions of cholera in the Western Telegraph of 1866 that could be traced.
The correspondence prompted the Town Council to ask for an analysis of the water and when this was reported decided to utilise the 1866 Sanitary Act (the Act empowered Local Authorities to improve house drainage and water supplies and if the Local Authorities did not do the work, the Privy Council would arrange to carry out the work and charge the Local Authority). The Town Council agreed to borrow money from the Government to carry out the Act’s provisions and improved water and better sewage did eventually arrive in Haverfordwest.
Meanwhile Narberth improved its sewage system and distributed lime and brushes to poor people. Narberth was said to be ‘particularly healthy.’61 Langum (sic) was described as ‘in a perfect state of cleanliness…[and] a model of cleanliness.’62 However, Martletwy ‘[is] in a filthy state, houses badly ventilated, some smelling offensively and the water in the well is foul….’ In September 1866 there had been four deaths at Begelly and two at Templeton and ‘the cholera had prevailed very much in this and surrounding neighbourhoods.’ 63 By early October there was ‘a great decrease of cholera and diarrhoea in the parishes of St. Issells, Begelly and Jefferston.’ However, in Pembroke Dock all the soldiers in the garrison were prohibited from visiting the town ‘on account of the prevalence of cholera.’64
Potter’s Electric News, published in Haverfordwest, had no news of cholera until May, 1866 when it published a letter from the Admiralty, written in reply to separate
letters from both Haverfordwest and Pembroke Town Councils requesting a hospital ship for cholera victims be moored at Milford Haven. The Admiralty refused, saying that they had no suitable ships, it would cost up to £3,000 to convert ships and there would be the additional costs in moving and mooring any ships, staff and a guard vessel. 65 Pembrokeshire Quarter Sessions also tried, unsuccessfully, for a hospital ship but to the Home Office. The Home Office replied that the Admiralty had no ships available.66
In late September, the Sanitary Commission made a house-to-house ‘visitation’ to Kilgerrran (sic). The crier had been sent out to warn the inhabitants the previous week. This was following four deaths from cholera. ‘The dwellings were well white-washed and in every other respect clean. The Committee (sic) decided that it was dangerous to hold a funeral service in the house of a person who had died of cholera and also in the church…the corpse should be at once closed up in a coffin.’ The Committee also decided it was necessary to construct a new drain and to recommend the Union to give bedclothes to those without as it was ‘quite useless to endeavour to ward off the epidemic by cleanliness only….’67
Following the rejection of the appeal for a hospital ship, an application was made to the Lunacy Commissioners to move lunatics from Haverfordwest Asylum so that it could be made into a cholera hospital. This was agreed and lunatics were transferred to Carmarthen. It was also agreed that only patients from Haverfordwest County could be admitted to the cholera hospital and only on the recommendation of a doctor.68 No further information on the use of this facility could be traced.
The final report on cholera in Potter’s Electric News was on October 10, 1866 when it quoted a letter from the Registrar General’s Office stating that there had been 20 deaths from cholera in Haverfordwest up to September 30, 1866.69 A separate report gives ten deaths in Narberth and three in Pembroke up to the end of November, 1866,70 while a third states there were 18 deaths in Narberth and 42 in Pembroke for the whole of 1866. 71
The outbreak of 1865-1866 was the last major epidemic of cholera in the UK. Following this, a few sporadic cases occurred from time to time with a minor outbreak in 1893, 20 deaths in the whole of south Wales, none being traced in Pembrokeshire. A number of factors would have contributed to this substantial reduction in the morbidity and mortality of cholera, including general progress in public health and especially sanitation, better nutrition and hence greater immunological tolerance, better understanding of the aetiology of the disease and perhaps reduced pathogenicity in the causative organism. However, even if these facts could be individually elucidated it would not be possible to disentangle individual contributions.
What is clear is, of all the infectious diseases of the nineteenth century, cholera had the greatest impact on stimulating improvements in sanitation, water purity and general hygiene. This was despite the fact that several other diseases had greater mortality than all the cholera epidemics in the UK put together. It is now generally accepted this was because, while other diseases, such as typhus, tended to attack only the poorer classes and were thus considered less important, cholera indiscriminately assailed the poor and rich alike.
1. F. F. Cartwright. A Social History of Medicine (London, 1977), 98.
2. Antony S. Wohl. Endangered Lives: Public health in Victorian Britain (London,
3. Carmarthen Journal, November 18, 1831.
4. Carmarthen Journal, December 2, 1831.
5. Carmarthen Journal, December 16, 1831.
6. Carmarthen Journal, March 6, 1832.
7. The Welshman, January 13, 1832.
8. Carmarthen Journal, June 22, 1832.
9. Carmarthen Journal, July 6, 1832.
10. Pembs. Record Office. Printed Notice of Symptoms of Malignant Cholera
Produced as a Result of a Meeting of the Board of Health for Haverfordwest.
31 August 10 184916, 1832. HDX/1/1/159/9.
11. Carmarthen Journal, October 26, 1832.
12. The Welshman, March 22, 1833.
13. Charles Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain (2 Vols.). (London 1894,
reprinted 1965), 822
14. The Pembrokeshire Herald, January 1844 – November 1854.
15. Carmarthen Journal, November 17, 1848.
16. The Welshman, August 10, 1849.
17. The Welshman, August 24, 1849.
19. Carmarthen Journal, September 28, 1849.
20. The Welshman, September 28, 1849.
21. Carmarthen Journal, October 26, 1849.
22. Carmarthen Journal, November 9, 1849.
23. Carmarthen Journal, November 16, 1849.
24. Carmarthen Journal, November, 23, 1849.
25. Pall Mall Gazette 1892 quoted in Fredk. J. Jones. The Carmarthenshire Antiquary,
IV Part 3&4 (1962), 207-208.
26. Donald Jones. The Implementation of the 1834 PLAA with Special Reference to
the Haverfordwest, Narberth and Pembroke Unions. Unpublished MA
Dissertation. University of Wales, Trinity College Carmarthen. (2001).
27. G. Penrhyn Jones. ‘Cholera in Wales,’ National Library of Wales Journal, X
28. Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, November 24, 1854.
29 Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, March 1, 1854.
30. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, April 5, 1854.
31. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, April 26, 1854.
32. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, May 10, 1854.
33. Pembs. Record Office, Report from Milford and Hakin Board of Health (1854)
34. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, September 13, 1854.
35. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, October 11, 1854.
36. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from G. L. Millard Reporting New Cases of
Cholera at Haverfordwest. DB/19/70.
37. Pembs. Record Office: Return of Daily Deaths from Cholera and Diarrhoea
(Haverfordwest) 12/11/1854. DB/19/91/
38. Pembs Record Office: Letter from Thos. Williams (Hakin) dated 27/10/1854 – 1
case cholera, 1 case diarrhoea. DB/19/73.
39. Pembs. Record Office: Return of Daily Deaths from Cholera and Diarrhoea
(Fishguard), 12/11/1854. DB/19/93.
40. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from George Rowe (Haverfordwest) to (?)
Haverfordwest Union dated 24/11/1854 regretting being unable to attend meeting
of Board of Guardians; no cholera since last report. DB/19/79.
41. Letter from General Board of Health to Narberth Union re cholera at
Langham (sic) dated 24/11/1854. HD/X/4/77.
42. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from George Phillips reporting three cases of
cholera at house called Castkle at Langum (sic). 24/11/1854.DB/19/78.
43. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from Pembroke Union to Clerk of the Guardians
Haverfordwest Union, October 1854. DB/19/78.
44. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from Luke Heslop (Haverfordwest): unable to
attend Sanitary Committee because of cases of cholera at Llangum(sic). 15/11/54,
45. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from R. H. Byers (Milford) reporting 17 cases of
cholera. 15/11/1854. DB/19/76.
46. Pembs. Record Office: Letter from general Board of Health to [Haverfordwest]
Clerk of Guardians re cholera at Llangwm saying Board of Guardians have not
exercised their special powers. 8/11/1854. DB/19/72.
47. Pembs. Record Office: Table of Short Recommendations, Spring 1854, to
Guardians at Time of Choleriac Diseas. Issued by General Board of Health.
48. Pembs. Record Office: Clerk of Peace Quarter Sessions. Correspondence Papers.
General Board of Health Instructions for Prevention of Cholera. Spring, 1854.
49. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, November 15, 1854.
50. Haverfordwest and Milford Haven Telegraph, December 27, 1854.
51. G. Penrhyn Jones, op. cit,. 296-298.
52. The Welshman, December 1, 1865.
53. Tenby and Pembroke Dock Observer, August 31, 1865.
54. Western Telegraph, May 9, 1866.
55. Western Telegraph, May 16, 1866.
56. Western Telegraph, August 1, 1866.
57. Western Telegraph, August 8, 1866.
58. Western Telegraph, August 15, 1866.
59. Western Telegraph, August 29, 1866.
60. Western Telegraph, September 29, 1866.
61. Carmarthen Journal, August 17, 1866.
62. Carmarthen Journal, August 31, 1866.
63. Carmarthen Journal, October 5, 1866.
64. Potter’s Electric News, September 26, 1866.
65. Potter’s Electric News, May 23, 1866.
66. Potter’s Electric News, May 30, 1866.
67. Potter’s Electric News, September 26, 1866.
69. Potter’s Electric News, October 10, 1861.
70. The Welshman, November 9, 1866.
71. G. Penrhyn Jones, op. cit. 298.