Impact of Smallpox on Dore

There were two outbreaks of smallpox which affected the village. The first was in 1887, when there was a serious outbreak in Sheffield. As many as 100 fresh cases were occurring each week, and due to a shortage of hospital accommodation, isolation was impossible. In November it was stated to the press that ‘1,540 cases had come to the knowledge of the Health Department of which only 581 have been treated in hospital. The death rate has been – in the vaccinated in infancy 5% ; in the unvaccinated, 48%.

Land was bought at Lodge Moor and a temporary smallpox Hospital erected at a cost of £12,000. This was not sufficient so it was proposed that convalescent patients be brought out to the Victoria Gardens at Totley. The people of Dore and Totley immediately protested. At a public meeting held in Dore the Rev J.T.Aldred said that he was there :- ‘lest it should be supposed that the Sanitary Committee of the Ecclesall Board of Guardians had taken no steps whatever to prevent the Corporation of Sheffield from most unnecessarily conveying the germs of infection to what was at present a perfectly healthy neighbourhood.’ The Rev. Aldred brought the matter before the Board of Guardians who sent out a resolution to the Town Council. In a few days the Sanitary Committee received a reply promising that the building in Totley Gardens should not be used for any purpose other than as a temporary home for convalescent patients.

The arguments continued and legal advice was sought. Mr Dossey Wightman was employed and feeling that the committee had a good case, he suggested taking out an injunction. The arguments used against the Council were ; that if the patients were in a convalescent state – why not send them home ? ; the proposed site was near an orphanage with a tremendous number of children ; how would the smallpox patients be carried – by carriage or train – both methods would be dangerous.

The motion for the injunction was refused. The Town Council overcame some of the arguments by many special precautions. A special drain was constructed allowing no possibility of infection through normal drainage and a new cesspool was constructed 70 yards away from the nearest boundary.

There was an outbreak of smallpox in the village itself in 1893. In the months of March to June seventeen of the thirty deaths recorded have the letters S.P. by the entry. Of these seventeen deaths, ten were in infants of two years or less. The majority of the deaths were among the workmen employed on building the railway and their families as is shown by the type of address given ie. No 4 Shaft, Totley Moor.