In 1851, the life expectancy of men was 45, and only 28 in London. A third of deaths were due to ‘zymotic diseases’ — contagious diseases caused by a ‘microzyme’, the most common being small pox, typhoid, scarlet fever, measles, cholera, whooping cough and diphtheria. There were epidemics across the country usually originating in crowded cities and ports caused by poor sanitation and lack of hygiene. The overcrowded lodging houses were a hotbed for both crime and the spread of disease; Settle’s Rodger Preston was one of those affected.
Health and Safety was a lower priority than profit, although communities often had an ‘Inspector of Nuisances’. Many died as a result of unfortunate and unnecessary accidents involving drowning, shooting, railways and horses. Dr Edwin Septimus Green was one such casualty. On the railways one man was killed by per mile of line built including John Owen and Thomas Burton.
There was little effective medical treatment, but you could pay for laudanum for pain relief if you could afford it. The medical services were unregulated until the 1880s, so you just paid for the doctor you felt was best, and he did whatever was required to make a living. Even though surgeons were able to do basic operations, infection would often kill the patient afterwards because of the lack of hygienic procedure. Settle solicitor John Cowburn died in this way. PC Thomas Blanshard had to deal with a tragic murder case just before his most unfortunate end.