Families of Cholera                                           The new memorial to Alnwick’s Cholera victims 

Over the course of the 19th century, cholera struck down millions of people across virtually every part of the planet.

Before the real cause was accepted as a bacterium, and decades after that fact was known by scientists, authorities around the world were only too keen to blame the victims themselves, or factors beyond municipal control. They cited  loose sexual morals, the demon drink, changes in the earth’s magnetism or, a great catch-all phrase, the miasma, or local mist.

The cholera outbreak of 1849 left Alnwick devastated at the loss of 136 citizens. More died than at the recent Hillsborough and Grenfell Tower national tragedies, and in a small town.

Because the Alnwick authorities were overwhelmed by so many deaths in a very few weeks, the majority of victimes were buried in mass graves in St Michael’s churchyard. In a very few instances, the relatives of the dead were sufficiently wealthy to be able to arrange a separate grave.

The town obviously suffered a major loss of business as people held back from coming into an area which had become well-known for the severity of its outbreak. This led to reassuring updates being issued as per the handbill above (although some more deaths from cholera did actually follow this “all clear” announcement).

An independent inquiry into the tragedy in Alnwick, led by Robert Rawlinson a sanitary engineer. This was the first such investigation Rawlinson conducted, although he went on to carry out a number all around the UK. From his personal visits to the houses in Alnwick struck by cholera, he came down on a view that unclean water supplies, overcrowding and terrible sanitation lay at the heart of the problem. His map showing the concentration of deaths in the poorest part of Alnwick preceded the similar map of the Broad St area of London drawn up by Dr John Snow by four years. Most important of all, the Rawlinson report led to Alnwick gaining a new, clean water supply and in time proper sanitation, a move mirrored in other parts of the country.


Rawlinson's Cholera map of Alnwick

A new memorial to Alnwick’s cholera victims has just been erected in St Michael’s churchyard  Alnwick  (see above). It may be found just to the rear of the church. This was arranged by the Alnwick Branch of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society and kindly sponsored by the descendents of one of the victims, Henry Ferguson,  and Alnwick Town Council.

Although there have been numerous later studies of what happened in our town’s worst weeks, Alnwick Branch of the Northumberland & Durham Family History Society has focussed more than any investigation before the on victims and the families who lost loved ones. What are the stories of those left behind? In some cases those left with no father or mother, or parents without their children. Some family histories have been unearthed in quite significant detail, in other cases the trail has gone cold over the course of more than 150 years.

Attached are the stories of the 136 people who lost their lives in this tragic outbreak, in as much detail as is available from current records*

See also the story of how one Alnwick plumber helped to reduce the ravages of Cholera.  Click here


This project has been conducted by the Alnwick Branch of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society.

*If you believe your family lost someone in the 1849 outbreak, or you would like to give us any more information, we would love to hear from you.

Just email:        familyhistory@bailiffgatemuseum.co.uk



1849 Cholera Outbreak
Ann Allison George, Susan and Isabella Anderson Ann Appleby John Douglas Arnott John Balmer Ann Bamburgh Isabella Bell Jane Berkley Sarah, Robert, Sarah Black Dorothy and Jane Brankston Ann Brown Isabella Burn Elizabeth Burnett Sarah Burnett Mary Carr Thomas Carr John Cavenah Julia Dixon, Appalina Cooper Harvey and Catherine Cross Edward Davis George and Jane Davison William Dick John and Sarah Dickman Isabella Dixon Adam Dixon Rebecca Dobbs John Douglas Jane Douglas Jane Duncan Robert Duncan Ann Egdell Ralph Emmerson Ann Fawdon, Ann Fawdon Mary Ann Featherstone Henry and Ellen Mary Ferguson Isabella Flannaghan George and Eleanor Forster Robert Gardner Elizabeth Gray Dorothy Grey Robert Grey Thomasine Grey Mary and Henry Hedley Mary Henderson James and Ann Hindmarsh William Howey Ann Hudson, Ann Hudson George Hume, Alice Hume John Hunter Dorothy Jameson, Jane Jackson Joseph Jamison Thomas Jeffrey Elizabeth Jobson Mary Joicey James Keen, Margery Keen Frances Laing George Lindsay, John Lindsay Catherine Lockey James Lockey Ann Lough Patrick Macone Margaret Marshall Mary Maule Latitia McLaughlin James McMillan Thomas McMillan Neil McNab Elizabeth Mennim Catherine Metcalf Ann Middlemas Margaret Millar Mary Mills Margaret Moffit Jane Morrison Ann Nesbitt Ann Newton John Newton James Paxton Ann Pearson Mary and Isabella Pickard George Pike Rebecca Quin Mary and William Ramsay George Reed Thomas and Ann Robarts Michael Sanderson James Skelly George Slight Elizabeth Smails John Smith Sarah Smith John Snowdon Jane Snowdon Robert Stansfield John Stocker Robert Tate Dinah and Charlotte Tate George Taylor Grace and Jane Taylor Mary Thew Thomas Thompson Jane Thompson Henry Tinson John Walker Robert Wallace Alice Wardhaugh John and Robert Wardle Thomas Wilkinson James Williams Mary Wilson Elizabeth Wood Appendix-James Wood