Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Chapter 12. The Aftermath of the Cholera

After a time, however, legends began to gather round the episode.  The combination of a clergyman and a pestilence naturally brought echoes of the well-known story of the plague-stricken Derbyshire village of Eyam, where the parishioners were persuaded by their vicar to shut the village off from the outside world, so as not to spread the infection to their neighbours. 

By the middle of the 20th century the cholera story had distinct overtones of Eyam.  In fact, by some the cholera mound was believed to be a plague mound, dating from many centuries earlier – which may have further confused the issue.

Doctors Lane was by then assumed to be the place where the medical officers coming out from Northallerton halted to discover the progress of the epidemic, coming no nearer for fear of infection.  In fact the name "Doctor Lane" is to be found in a deed of 15 September 1824 [1], and numerous doctors attended the sick, as can be seen from letters and reports – Mr Allardice of Stokesley, Mr Wisker of York, Dr Young of Yarm, Drs Keenlysides and Cock of Stockton, and the "junior aid" referred to by Mr Barlow, which included Dr Crummey. 

It began to be believed that Mr Barlow had quarantined the village, and the Revd Arthur Eddowes in his1924 history [2] relates how:
An old parishioner who died a few years back well remembered hearing how his father living at an outlying farm regularly sent eggs and butter to be placed on the barrier which barred the road leading to the village.  Barriers were doubtless erected in an attempt to isolate the stricken village where people through fear or sickness kept so closely within their doors that hares and rabbits were said to have fed regularly on the Green.
As has been shown, the authorities did not in fact attempt to impose internal quarantine, even in Sunderland; such measures had failed in Russia.  There were instances during the 1832 epidemic when communities succeeded in shutting out the epidemic – as when Dr Kell of Sunderland advised the regiment to stay within barracks, or when the spa town of Cheltenham excluded over 2,000 vagrants – and the towns and villages near Hutton Rudby hoped to achieve the same effect by posting watchmen. 

However, self-quarantine is quite another matter, which is why the heroic story of Eyam is still told.

Even if he had wanted to, or thought it necessary, Mr Barlow was evidently not in a position to urge self-quarantine on his parish.  And there is no reason to believe he would think it necessary.

Other examples indicate that this sort of approach was not applied – whilst in some cases patients were isolated by removal from home, and doctors sometimes advised people whose own health was compromised to stop nursing their sick, it is clear from Dr Simpson's accounts of cases in the York area in 1832 and again in 1849 that far from quarantining patients, relatives were expected to come to nurse their sick and often would travel to visit them.  Nor were there attempts to prevent people fleeing the epidemic; in the outbreak at Broad Street in 1854 most of the inhabitants fled.

The barrier used by the farmer to sell his goods in the village was probably either an agreed trading point or was erected by a neighbouring parish across their boundary to assist their watchmen in keeping out the villagers of Hutton.  In the latter case, to judge by the report in the Yorkshire Gazette, their attempts were futile; two-thirds of the inhabitants were said to have fled by the end of the first week.

Within Hutton itself, the East End of the green must quickly have become quiet and empty during that first week of October, no longer a busy place where men worked and children played.

The other houses in the village were scattered patchily over a wide area, separated by fields.  It would be an easy matter for an inhabitant of Enterpen, North End or the western end of the Green to avoid the area at the top of Hutton Bank by using the many other footpaths and bridle-ways then existing.

Another later legend held that the local joiner died in the early days of the epidemic, so that Mr Barlow found himself obliged to take on the duties of undertaker and gravedigger – this appears to be a confused memory of the death of the doctor combined with an explanation of the mass grave.  There is no evidence for it, and no joiner appears to be among the dead.  Mr Barlow does not seem to have been short of the men to carry out the cleansing and removal of nuisances, though it is easy to picture him lending a hand with the digging.

After the cholera, Mr Barlow had gained a new status in the eyes of his parishioners.

The outbreak must have been a strange episode for them.  They were accustomed to losing friends and family in epidemics – as happened in the typhus outbreak which seems to have followed the cholera – but the cholera had been a strangely public matter.  There had been an influx of visiting doctors, which was reported by the press as a source of reassurance, but which may have been seen by some as an invasion of outsiders prompted by curiosity – or even by a desire for their fees, which the Board of Health would charge to the parish.  To make matters worse, the village and its inhabitants had been described in the most condemnatory manner in the Leeds newspapers, almost certainly by the Stokesley correspondent, and the epidemic itself had been the subject of prolonged public debate, much of it within a moral framework. 

The victims included respectable village families.  Some, like Jonathan Eland and the family of the late churchwarden, James Catchasides, were Anglican; others were Methodist, like Henry Bainbridge, a Wesleyan class leader [3]

In the Evangelical and Methodist press there had been much comment linking cholera with personal and societal sin, so it was perhaps particularly on Henry Bainbridge that this view lay most heavily.  Here Mr Barlow's attitude must have been of great comfort.  It seems highly unlikely that Robert Barlow would have viewed the epidemic as a result of personal shortcomings.  His own dearly-loved mother had so undeservedly suffered, and his novel – in which he speaks of his drunkard father only with sympathy and affection – shows that one of his most attractive qualities was that (apart from in the case of his sisters-in-law) he was not judgmental.  This viewpoint must have been immensely reassuring to his parishioners in the aftermath of the cholera.

The men of the Select Vestry must also have been much affected.  Hutton Rudby had not taken any action before the arrival of the cholera and respectable householders had been badly hit by the epidemic.  We know that had they individually or as a community carried out the government's recommendations and removed the dunghill in the Bay Horse Yard, they would have been spared – perhaps they were fortunate enough never to realise this.

Nevertheless, it is likely that there was adverse comment locally on the failure of Hutton Rudby to carry out the government orders.  This may have produced a certain defensiveness in the village and possibly some shame.

It is possible that there was something a little odd in the dynamics of the Hutton Select Vestry before the epidemic, which prevented them from taking the sort of action seen in Great Ayton.  Certainly after the cholera there seems to have been something curious in the way it worked.

Two years later, on 6 October 1834, Thomas Harker wrote complaining of the Select Vestry to the Poor Law Commissioners. 

After the death of Thomas Pulman in the cholera, Hutton Rudby was left without a doctor.

Thomas Harker had come north – to his own and his children's inheritance from his late brother John – and in November had been appointed by the Vestry as medical attendant to the poor.  His actions in the Harker and Powell Chancery case may have been thought by some to have precipitated the death of young Robert Brigham and it will have been widely known that even his own sister Mary Harker did not agree with what he had done; consequently there may have been some feeling against him.  He was not a man to mind such things, and seems to have settled his family into Hutton House [4], recently vacated by Ann Shepherd, Brigham's sister. 

Arguments with the overseers over their dealings with the poor followed, and the following year Harker lost his post, which was given to an unqualified practitioner – he himself was already working as an apothecary in Edmonton before the Apothecaries Act came into operation [5], and so was not obliged to have the formal qualification of a licence of Apothecaries' Hall in order to practise. 

This dismissal evidently rankled with Harker, and when the Poor Law Commissioners were appointed in late August 1834 he instantly took the opportunity to take action against the Select Vestry.  His letter to them is apparently written in haste, the handwriting untidy, with words scratched out and others inserted between the lines.  It extends to four sheets, and unfortunately some of the words at the edge of the pages are lost in the binding of the letters book – however, all but a few are easy to guess.  I quote it in full below, as it enables us to hear Thomas Harker's own voice, and because it has been incorrectly and incompletely quoted in the past: 
Hutton nr Stokesley
N.  Riding of Yorkshire

Having perused one of the Circulars forwarded to the different Parishes, and judging they will not reach the abuses of this Parish;  I beg leave to lay before you the following remarks which have occurr’d here during my residence of two Years

I find with the exception of a name or two the same select Vestry as in the year 1832 one of whom Mr Hy [6] Bainbridge, general dealer, of this place, the leader;  he regulates the Accts, proposes the Select Vestry, nominates the Overseers, receives and answers Letters, receives the Poor Rate when collected by the Overseer and [pay]s the Paupers at his own Shop, and by contriving to let them get a little into his Debt, compels them to take goods or stop their Allowance until his Bill is paid; and furnishes the Cloathing wanted for the Poor;  and ever relieves them without the orders of the Select Vestry;  as the Accounts for the last half Year will prove;  when the enormous [number?] of Sundries to different Paupers [7] are examined by reference to the Vestry Books

I was appointed Medical Attendant for the Poor Novr. 1832 but in consequence of my exertion in their behalf and having reason to complain of the Overseers Neglect of Visiting them, and pointing out other abuses;  my [opponent?] Mr Jno Macfarlane was appointed last Year, altho’ I proved him at the Time not qualified to practice and compelled him in March last to go to London to a Licentiate of Apothecaries Company –  His Salary is paid, and I will not promise that some objection will not be made to it –

The Overseer last Year Hutchinson refused to relieve Paupers unless they went to Mr Bainbridge's Shop;  and this Year to put a Stop to it, I objected to the present Overseer (knowing him to be Bainbridge’s Party) unless he would promise not to pay [relief in] any public House or Shop;  and Mr H Bainbridge seconded the Motion, and Hy B.ge and Mr W. Wood a Farmer, pro[mised] that a stop should be put to it, and that it should not be done for the future, it is still done;  and will be unless orders are forwarded to prevent it;  had Mr W. Braithwaite been appointed he would have kept his own Accts, and paid the Poor at his House, and attended to the Instructions of the Vestry. 

Our worthy Clergyman who constantly visits and relieves the Sick, seldom attends the Select Vestry he finds so much attention is paid to Bainbridge by a Party – [an]d their Ignorance of the Duties of their Office – the Parish it appears has not been perambulated for some Years.

It is very seldom that the notices of Vestries are given out in Church, but stuck on the Door without, and scarcely as the Bell rings – We have no Workhouse, but Buildings might be got to form one, I should suppose very low –

Copy of the Accts for the last Year and half would show the mismanagement of the Parish and Funds –

I also take the Liberty to forward a list of Select Vestry[men] as near as I can recollect [8]

x Overseers – o Churchwardens

1832                                                     1833                            1834
Barlow.  Revd R.J.  – residt Curate     The same                     The same
xCatterson Thos, Farmer                     the same       )         
     Churchwarden                                churchwarden)
xTaylor Edmund, Carpenter                 Smith James, Weaver
oRickatson Jno Farmer                        the same
Chapman Michael  Do.
Braithwaite Wm  Do.
Johnson Richard  Do.
Hutchinson Joseph  Do.                        overseer                     overseer
Wood John  Do.                                                                     Robinson W
Bulmer John  Do.                                 Hutton Jno Labourer
Medd  Do.                                            Drydale Jos Weaver
Appleton Leonard  Do.
Harland Henry  Do.
Lincoln Robt  Do.
Rowntree Wm  Do.                                                               Jackson Wm
Longstaffe James  Do.                                                            overseer
Wood William  Do.
Kelsey Simon  Indep.  Surveyor of
                      Highways                      same
Bainbridge Henry.  gener.l Mercht
Bewick Geo  Weaver                                                              Sidgwick [M]
Drydale    Do.                                     forget the name             forget

In conclusion I beg to remark there are other Individuals in the Parish capable of fulfilling the duties of Select Vestrymen – [any] Enquiry or Remark which you wish as far as I [can], shall be forwarded with pleasure if desired.  I am

Yours most respectfully

Tho:  Harker
Hutton Oct 6th 1834 [9]
The Commissioners' clerk endorsed the letter:
thanks for information, which will be referred to the assistant commissioner [illeg] as soon as the Board [illeg] enables to send one into your district
sent 10 Octr 1834
We have only Harker's side of the story.  It is not known whether any particular action was taken by an assistant commissioner, when one finally arrived in the area.

Harker wrote again to the Commissioners on 25 February 1835, but on an unrelated matter.  The days of overseers relieving the poor were in any event over – the assistant commissioners' purpose was to form the new Poor Law Unions and organise the election of their Boards of Guardians and the building of workhouses, and Hutton Rudby would soon become part of the Stokesley Union.

As can be seen from his letter, Thomas Harker was filled with a mixture of righteous indignation, resentment and a feeling of indignant powerlessness.  Seeing the infringements of the law and dereliction of duty, he attacked immediately with the tenacity of a terrier.  He had reacted in much the same way to the behaviour of George and Robert Brigham as executors to his brother's estate, while his sister Mary had clearly believed that the matter could have been sorted out within their private circle, probably with no more loss of money than they had suffered at the hands of the Court of Chancery.

We have no means of knowing exactly what was going on in the Select Vestry, and whether Henry Bainbridge was a knave, an overactive busybody, or a bustling man who was privately dispensing charity to the paupers he relieved.  He would certainly have been given more consideration and leeway by his fellow vestry members as a result of his bereavement in the cholera.

He appears to be the Henry Bainbridge who was born in Coxwold and who married Mary Warin there [10].  They came to Hutton in early 1830 after a short period in Huddersfield, where he seems to have been a grocer and tea dealer for a time [11].  On arrival in the village they had their youngest child baptised, and in the baptismal register Henry was described as a paper manufacturer – possibly he had also worked in the Huddersfield paper mills, and may even have come to Hutton to replace Robert Norman at the mill.  Another son was born to Mr and Mrs Bainbridge in June 1832, and at the baptism Henry's occupation is given as grocer.  Evidently, when the paper mill closed he took on the shop recently vacated by James Catchasides junior in the Bay Horse Yard. 

Mr Barlow's position is interesting.  Harker describes him as "our worthy clergyman" but does not hesitate to implicate him in the vestry's failings.  He was ex officio a member of the Select Vestry, and as the only educated man and only gentleman would have been expected to take the lead, and yet he "seldoms attends" the meetings, and the notices are not read out in church, but "stuck on the door" just before services. 

Mr Barlow never placed himself firmly in charge of the select vestry, as had Mr Ibbetson in Great Ayton.  Perhaps initially this was because he was still feeling his way through the usual hidden internecine strife of village life.  Perhaps he also felt a certain aversion to vestry meetings, temperamentally and on principle.  He was not a political animal and was impatient of forms, seeing in the law and its requirements merely a collection of petty legalities.  He may not have agreed with the motive behind the Sturges Bourne Acts, believing it was not his duty to keep the poor rates down.  He did not think the church should be involved with secular administration, disapproving of clergyman acting as magistrates:
he was of opinion that it was more becoming in a clergyman to employ his time more usefully and quietly; gardening might suit the taste of some, but the bench of magistrates he greatly objected to as out of character, whilst he strongly recommended to them useful study and plenty of it, as a thing most likely to enlighten their minds. [12]
Perhaps the cholera episode influenced his feelings about the vestry, so that afterwards he no longer fully trusted it, or expected much of it.

Or perhaps he simply did not care whether the vestry was following the proper procedures, as long as it achieved the desired result – and as far as he was concerned, the vestry operated quite satisfactorily.  He was able to raise the higher church rates that he needed for church repairs, and when it became a question of replacing the old stoves he found that Henry Bainbridge, although a Wesleyan Methodist class leader, was most assiduous in his help, travelling to Stockton with the churchwarden on the matter [13].  His attitude would have been anathema to Thomas Harker.

Henry Bainbridge continued in the village for several more years – just across the green from Dr Harker.  He was prominent in the Wesleyan chapel, his name appearing in the class lists of 1838 and 1839, and he continued to be active in the Vestry.  He may have been left with a large family to bring up alone, and he evidently remarried, as in 1836 his daughter Mary Jane was baptised by Mr Barlow.  Her mother's name was Mary, and she had been born in Huddersfield.  Henry Bainbridge supplied his details to White's Directory of 1840, but by the spring of 1841 he and his family had left the village. 

Before leaving, he erected a fine sandstone tombstone to the family he lost.  It is the only memorial of the time to record deaths from cholera, and the inscription is fast becoming unreadable:

Sacred to the memory of Mary Bainbridge wife of Henry Bainbridge
who departed this life October 7th 1832 aged 41 years
and of Jane, daughter of the above
who departed this life October 6th 1832 aged 17 years
Also of William son of the above
who departed this life October 5th 1832 aged 13 years and 9 months
The above all died of the spasmodic cholera
after about 10 hours illness … great peace ...

I have been unable to find any trace of him afterwards, but the 1881 census shows that his widow Mary was then living with their daughter Mary Jane and her husband John George Cameron at 8 Westbourne Avenue, Cottingham near Hull.  Cameron was an engineer with the steamship line Thomas Wilson, Sons & Co; they and their three children lived in some comfort, with two servants living in and a laundress in the household on census night. 

When the Stokesley Poor Law Union was established in 1837, Thomas Harker recovered his position when he was made medical officer for the Hutton District at a salary of £26. 


[1]  Richard Eland to Edward Barry, FB 107 North Riding Deeds Registry

[2]   Church and Parish of Hutton Rudby

[3]   Stokesley Wesleyan Methodist Circuit Book 1815-37 [NYCRO: Mic 2254] Quarterly schedules for 1838

[4]   where he is to be found in the 1841 census

[5]   Stokesley News & Cleveland Reporter and The Cleveland Repertory 1 Nov 1843: report on Mr Harker's action to recover fees from a patient, James Cuthbert, farmer formerly of Crathorne

[6]   this was previously read as "H J Bainbridge"; on examination, it is clearly "Hy", ie. Henry

[7]   Harker originally wrote "People", but deleted this and substituted "Paupers"

[8]   Leonard Appleton farmed at Doddle Hill. William Braithwaite farmed at Rudby farm and occupied Rudby mill in 1831. Thomas Catterson (Anglican) farmed at Gardenstone. Michael Chapman farmed in Enterpen (generally an Anglican family). Joseph Hutchinson farmed at Toft Hill. Richard Johnson farmed at Hutton Thorn. Robert Lincoln probably farmed at Broad Carr. James Longstaffe farmed at Whacker Farm (Hutton Manor). John Rickatson (Anglican) farmed at New Close; he married Catterson’s daughter.
William Rowntree farmed at Middleton. William Wood (Anglican) farmed in Hutton; possibly Enterpen.
Henry Bainbridge and George Bewick were Wesleyan Methodists. William Jackson is probably the tailor, possibly Methodist, who later lived at Jakebarn. Joseph Drydale and James Smith were weavers, who were generally Methodists. The list of churchwardens in Eddowes shows that Harker omitted:  in 1832 John Duck, in 1833 John Sidgwick and in 1834 William Chapman.

[9]   I have broken up the text into paragraphs, for easier reading

[10]   see www.familysearch.org

[11]   Pigot's Directory 1829

[12]   Remarkable but still True

[13]   churchwarden's accounts 1833-4:  "Henry Bainbridge and T Catterson expenses to Stockton agreeing about stove … £1-6-5d"

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