The workhouse
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Diseases in the workhouse

Cholera victims turned blue and had terrible sickness and diarrhoea. At least half of those who caught cholera died. It was spread by unclean drinking water. Dysentery was similar with many victims dying of dehydration.

The extract shown below lists the symptoms of Cholera as printed on a warning notice from around 1840. The references to the "extremities of the body" means fingers and toes. "Stagnant" means still or very slow moving, and if the flow of blood around the body is slower than usual it causes the coldness mentioned.

Dehydration - loss of fluid from the body.
Opthalmia - the inflammation of the eye.


Typhus fever was carried by lice that lived in the hair and clothes. The patient usually had a swollen face, smelt terrible and the skin often turned black.

Scarlet fever was common and recognised by headache, fever and a red rash all over the skin.

Smallpox usually attacked babies and quite large number recovered. Unfortunately the pus filled blisters often left survivors terribly disfigured.

Opthalmia was very common in workhouses. It affected the eyes and left untreated it often led to blindness.

Find out more about food and disease in the workhouse from the links below...

  smallpox victimFish or meat in Llanfyllin workhouse  
  Stale bread for Crickhowell workhouse  
  Diet sheet  
  A celebration dinner  
  Smallpox in Forden