How health chiefs tackled diseases

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IN recent weeks, we have looked at the devastating diseases which have blighted families in Hartlepool and shaped the town’s history.

Our in-depth study of Hartlepool’s way of living is part of our attempt to paint a picture of times gone by and to help bring colour to our family trees.

We have only been able to do this thanks to the help of the experts at the Reference section of the Central Library in York Road, Hartlepool.

They believe the key to family tree research is to bring it to life.

This week, we continue our look at the many diseases which cost hundreds of lives in the late 1800s.

But this week, we move on and focus on the way Hartlepool fought back from it all.

By 1901, the town’s medical officer of health Fred Morison had drawn up recommendations on how to beat disease.

He recommended that officials from the sanitary authorities should go from house to house in the diseased areas of town with a disinfectant powder and “use it when required”.

He also recommended that advice should be issued to people whose homes were blighted by disease – especially to the “evil of bad smells, want of fresh air and dirty conditions of all kinds.”

Mothers should be given advice on how to feed their children, how to clothe them and how important it was to send them to school.

And there was some very specific advice on how to deal with people once they had become ill.

They should be separated from the rest of the family and kept in a room without carpets, curtains or any other unnecessary wool or linens.

The fire should always be lighted, even in summer, and the windows kept open.

A sheet should be hung outside the room and kept wet with a quarter pint of carbolic acid mixed with a gallon of water.

And all “discharges” from the patient should be received into a solution of carbolic acid.

As always, I am indebted to the Central Library’s reference services officer Sandra McKay for this step back in time.

Her expert advice – and lots more fascinating insights into Hartlepool’s past – can be obtained at the Central Library where the Tracing Your Ancestors sessions take place every Wednesday, from 10am to noon.

The session takes place in the reference library in the first floor of the building.