Between 1831 and 1866 there were four cholera epidemics in England. The outbreaks were in 1831-32, 1848-9, 1853-4 and 1865-6. Most of the epidemics started in ports and spread through areas of intense population living in unsanitary conditions. The link between cholera and infected water supplies was made by Dr. John Snow in London in 1853.
Yorkshire suffered a severe epidemic in the summer of 1832. In Wakefield the first case was recorded in the House of Correction on 24th June. The Governor of Prison was one of the fatalities. Prisoners were removed from the House of Correction to Vicarage Croft, Thornes which became an impromptu Cholera hospital. The victims were buried at Thornes, 38 in 1832 and another another 106 in 1849. For outbreaks at Wakefield prison see ref:C118/98.
Large institutions were vulnerable to all epidemics especially where inmates were undernourished or in poor health. In 1845 there was a major outbreak at Stanley Royd hospital (see ref: C85/849 and 943). Another epidemic broke out in 1849 although it was not so severe as the 1832 epidemic. This outbreak mainly centred on the Irish Immigrants and poor sanitation around Nelson Street.
A report in 1851 relating to the sanitory conditions in Wakefield made little impact. The original report is held in the John Goodchild collection. By 1853 Wakefield Town Council established a Board of Health to examine issues of sanitation and public health (see refs:WW1, WWC2). A Joint Committee was established in 1866 between the Corporation and the Board of Guardians in 1866. Also see C265 'Notes on Public Health in Wakefield in 19th Century'.