Although the Poor House preparations for the arrival of cholera had begun in December 1831, it was not until the end of February the following year that the first case of cholera was recorded in Belfast. A 34-year-old man called Brendan Murtagh died of the disease in Quay Lane. The knowledge of the first case must have spread slowly, as on 10th March 1832 the Board of Health approached the Belfast Charitable Society to see if it would
…undertake to supply them with coffins for the poor who may die of cholera in case it appears in this place.
The Charitable Society resolved to provide wooden coffins with iron handles for 11 shillings each (approximately £37 today) to the Fever Hospital. These coffins were produced on site by the Poor House carpenter. Other measures were put in place at this meeting including a request that Mr Suffern, a member of the Poor House Committee, was to ‘prepare one of the cradles as a bearer to convey patients’.
As cholera took hold in the town the Poor House Committee held a meeting on 21st April where it was
ordered that none of the Inmates be allowed to leave the House nor any person to be admitted to visit them ‘till further orders.
This social isolation for the residents of the Poor House helped to protect them against cholera, and inevitably saved many lives but it was not the only method employed by the charity to help protect the residents. Our next installment in The Cholera Pandemic of 1832 Series will explore other measures taken by the Charitable Society during the outbreak.
The Cholera Pandemic of 1832 Series