Seething Wells Water - Surbiton’s Hidden Heritage


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The Broad Street Pump

 



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In the 1854 epidemic there was a ferocious outbreak in Soho, on Dr. Snow’s doorstep.  From his earlier researches, Snow was sure that the cause would be in the water supply, and he rapidly observed that there was a pattern of deaths among people for whom a pump in Broad Street was the most convenient supply.  He acted with determination on this conviction, and persuaded the Parish vestry-men to disable the pump. 

Snow continued his researches, aided by the local curate, Henry Whitehead, and all the data supported him, including such evidence as the death of the widow Susannah Eley, far away in Hampstead, discovered to have had water from Broad Street sent to her because she had become accustomed to its taste when she lived in Soho!

The negative data also supported Snow: the brewery-men in Soho who escaped the cholera had been drinking beer, not water.  The family of four living in Broad Street who survived without any symptoms. The parents insisted they always drew water from the Broad Street pump.  But Whitehead discovered that their little girl, whose job was to fetch water, had a bad cold at the time, and the family had been using water from the cistern in the house.

The outbreak in Soho died away, after claiming 720 victims in two weeks. Snow’s action may have shortened the outbreak – probably only by a little, but his researches in Soho and elsewhere had a gigantic impact on the control of cholera.


More on the Broad Street outbreakhttp://www.ph.ucla.edu/epi/snow/broadstreetpump.html