Cork St Fever Hospital

Readers may be interested in keeping an eye on the Royal College of Physicians’ blog which plans to feature some posts on the Cork St Fever Hospital archive preservation and cataloguing over the next year. The first post in the series includes this engraving of the hospital, clearly a substantial building.

Cork St Fever Hospital (Click to go to RCPI blog)

Cork St Fever Hospital (Click to go to RCPI blog)

Eugene Dudley’s recent article in Dublin Historical Record is a good read on the hospital and the social conditions at the time of opening. Citing John Rutty’s Natural History of County Dublin, he writes that there were no sewers, the city had 19 graveyards with people buried in shallow graves, and the water supplies contained dead animals. No one was safe from the threat of fever. The hospital chaplain, Rev James Whitelaw,* himself died of fever in 1813. He had conducted a survey of the city, reporting that

the labouring poor and beggars [were] crowded together ‘to a degree distressing to humanity in truly wretched habitations with often 10 to 16 persons of all ages and sexes in a room not of fifteen feet square’. (Dudley, 2009)

Having opened the Sick Poor Institution on Meath St. in 1794, it was decided that while this dispensary was successful, there was a further need for a hospital in the area. In 1801, 15 Trustees were named at the Royal Exchange for the new hospital. These included Samuel Bewley, William and Thomas Disney, Arthur Guinness Jr, and John David La Touche. Money was raised with relative ease. Reporting to an inquiry in the middle of the nineteenth century, a La Touche descendant stated:

Dublin was at that time in a very different position from that in which it is at present. There were a great number of wealthy manufacturers who resided in the Liberties, and employed a great number of people; they were very charitably disposed. (Dudley, 2009)

Site of Cork St Fever Hospital from Rocque's map 1756.

Site of Cork St Fever Hospital from Rocque’s map 1756.

The site for the hospital was selected to be “Widow Donnelly’s Orchard”. It is unnamed, but clear on Rocque’s map that an orchard existed on the site of the hospital. The site is bound by Love Lane (now Donore Avenue) to the west and Brickfield Lane to the east. Construction began in 1802 and was complete by 1808. The hospital opened after the ward ranges were complete in May 1804. It clearly had immediate success: in 1805, 1028 patients were admitted from the hospital’s catchment area of south of the Liffey to the South Circular Road. 874 of these were “discharged and cured”, 97 died, and 57 were still in care at the end of the year.

Fever Hospital Site ca 1840 (Ordnance Survey of Ireland)

Fever Hospital Site ca 1840 (Ordnance Survey of Ireland)

The fever hospital is visible from the early OSi map (ca 1840); and its foot print remains relatively unchanged today, save for an additional building in the south west of the complex. It is easy to see the relationship of the buildings in this map to the etching shown at the top of the article.

Notes

E. Dudley (2009) A Silent Witness – Cork Street Fever Hospital, Dublin Historical Record, 62(1), 103-126.

*An interesting article on Rev James Whitelaw and his Survey of the City is available on the Come Here to Me blog.

 

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