A Cholera Chronology

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Swansea in common with most other industrial towns suffered greatly from public health problems in the nineteenth century. The dilapidated housing of the poorer parts of town became a breeding ground for frequent outbreaks of typhus, dysentery and particularly cholera. The table illustrates some of the notable events and milestones in the history of Swansea's public health.




Population of Swansea 6,099


Act of Parliament for paving, cleansing and lighting the town.  This is the first real attempt at trying to improve the town, unfortunately the Improvement Commissioners who were appointed between 1809 and 1850 proved themselves largely incompetent and ineffective.


The old bathing house on the seafront was recreated as Swansea Infirmary.


Swansea's streets were first illuminated with gaslights.


Population 13,265


Cholera Epidemic ( about 350 people die). See Greenhill


Poor Law Amendment Act. Changes the way in which poor people are cared for in the local community. This was to have great implications for health care in the years to come.


Municipal Corporations Act changes the nature of local politics and highlights new responsibilities for the Municipal Corporation of Swansea. The need to improve living conditions in Swansea was recognised early, but the  Corporation  had limited powers to combat the harsh realities of industrial life,


Act of Parliament for better water supply for the town of Swansea


Sir Henry de la Beche's report on the state of health in the town gives people a first authoritative glimpse of the public health problems in the town.


Only 470 of Swansea's houses have piped water (out of a total of 3,369 houses).


A national Public Health Act highlights new responsibilities for local government.


George Clark's report on the state of health in the town.


Swansea has five covered sewers (all emptying into the River Tawe).


Cholera Epidemic 


A Local Board of Health was established. In 1850 the Town Council was constituted as the Local Board of Health under the terms of the Public Health Act, 1848 (11 and 12 Victoria, cap. 63). The Act sanctioned the appointment of a Medical Officer of Health, but in Swansea this post was not filled until 1853, when Dr W.H. Michael was appointed. His appointment was not without opposition, since it necessitated a two shilling rate to support its functions. Michael resigned after a year and thereafter the post remained unfilled until 1865, when Dr Ebenezer Davies was appointed,  It was to be nine years before Dr Davies produced his first published annual report.


Population now 16,993


Swansea's Public Health Plan published.


Swansea's first Medical Officer of Health appointed (Dr W.H. Michael) resigned after one year.


The Lower Lliw reservoir starts construction.


Swansea's second Medical Officer of Health (Dr Ebenezer Davies) appointed.


Cholera Epidemic.


Swansea General Hospital built.


The Local Health Board becomes an Urban Sanitary Authority. In 1872, the Local Board of Health was reconstituted as an Urban Sanitary Authority under the Public Health Act of that year (35 and 36 Victoria, cap. 79), whose provisions were amplified by the Public Health Act, 1875 (38 and 39 Victoria, cap. 55).



The View for Sunday 4 December 2000

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