Cholera in Swansea - Greenhill in the 1830s

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The map below shows the Greenhill area of north Swansea as it must have appeared in the 1830s. Lots of very poor quality housing was built here in the 1820s and 1830s to house the large numbers of new immigrants coming to Swansea to work in the industries of Hafod and the Lower Swansea Valley. 

Although the houses were new they were built very cheaply e.g. very thin slates on the roofs that would break easily. There were no rules about building toilets (privvies), drains or pavements. Although most of the houses had only three or four rooms they may have held as many as thirty people. Most of the streets would be mud in the wet weather or fine sand-like dust in dry weather. People would get their water from the many streams that flowed through the area. In wet weather almost every street would have a stream running through it. Often, the water carrying with it all the filth and waste that ran off the rubbish and dung heaps, would flow into the houses. 

From time to time, people would dig out the contents of the earth closets or privies and throw them into the streams hoping the water would carry the filth away. They would also use the streams for their water supply so they could not avoid infecting themselves with all kinds of illness. The people that lived here were the poorest in Swansea, so they couldn't afford coal for their fires, so they would scavenge all around for wood to burn in the grates of the houses. This meant that the whole area would be completely empty of trees or large bushes as everything had been chopped down. The brown areas on the map would be covered with ash, rags, animal remains (because people would often slaughter pigs in the street if they had them), bones and toilet waste. The poorest of Greenhill's residents would scavenge in town for scraps of food or anything thrown out of the markets such as old potatoes, old fish and anything else. 


The View for Sunday 4 December 2000

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