January 1809 witnessed a resurgence in an issue which had plagued the Poor House… the presence of fleas in the bedrooms! This had been an issue from the earliest days of the Poor House as in July 1775 David Hackett’s bed was recorded as being “overrun with vermin”.
This was in a period before there was pest control as we know today and the Belfast Charitable Society were forced to employ the children in some rudimentary pest control to help alleviate the problem and stop the potential spread of disease. The Orderly, who examined conditions in the Poor House described how he “had a number of the boys and girls employed in cleaning the beds of fleas and it would be well done to continue them at least another week of the same work”.
The work was not pleasant, but at least it had some impact on the children as they could sleep in their beds without getting bitten! The Ladies Committee went so far as to appoint an “Inspectress of Cleanliness” to report on conditions when they formed their own committee in the 1820s.
Anyone else feel itchy after reading that?!