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Wiltshire has been particularly fortunate in the quality and extent of voluntary work devoted to the health services. About the same period growing humanitarianism, reinforced by legislation, led to stricter inspection of private lunatic asylums and the opening of the County Asylum for pauper lunatics.For the future such persons were to be ordered to the house of correction for a month. 11) About the same time a number of towns and villages were reported to be infected and many weavers of Salisbury, Devizes, Marlborough, and Fisherton Anger were losing work on this account.
48) and Salisbury in 1723, when 1,244 persons contracted the disease, of whom 165 died. 49) An epidemic in Calne lasted from July 1731 until October 1732 and caused 176 deaths. 50) Inoculation, introduced from Turkey by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu in 1722, progressed slowly against medical advice and popular prejudice.
The opposition was not unreasonable where due care was not taken to prevent inoculated persons becoming sources of infection, for they usually developed a mild attack of the disease.
At Calne in 1636 the house of William Ingram in the Alders was taken for a pest-house; Ingram was provided with another house and paid £1 compensation for leaving and for certain goods left for the infected persons. 28) At the same time the materials from a pest-house in the Marsh of Calne were sold for £6. 29) There was a pest-house at Trowbridge in 1665, (fn. 32) it was possibly the same house as a house for the poor and sick established at Bugmore in 1623. 33) Other precautions included killing stray dogs and cats at Marlborough in 1666, or the pigs which had fed on the excrement of infected persons at Calne in 1636. 34) At Marlborough in 1666 particular supervision of children and servants was enjoined, and the streets were to be kept free from soil and dung. 35) No mention appears of the rat which acted as a reservoir of infection and carried the fleas which transmitted the disease.
( Rates were levied by town councils and by the justices to relieve distress caused by interruption of trade and by sickness.
Brown wrote: 'Since the receipt of your letter, inoculating has been much practised here, and with great success; of which the account I now send may be looked upon as pretty authentic.
From 13 August, to the beginning of February, have been inoculated in this city and neighbourhood, 422 persons.
Viscount Folkestone then purchased a house and land in Bugmore which he vested in the corporation for use as a smallpox hospital and the money raised by subscription was spent on equipment. 57) An epidemic in 1766 spread from neighbouring counties into Wiltshire, reaching Salisbury in June. 58) In the autumn of the same year Edward Spencer, surgeon, announced that Fonthill Lodge would again be opened for inoculating in September, (fn. Wilks and Poore opened Pill Farm for the reception of patients in October. 60) Both these establishments boarded patients until they recovered from their attack of the disease.
About this time the new Sutton method of inoculation arrived in Wiltshire.
Principal among them were plague and smallpox, and many of the regulations of town councils and county justices reflect both the inefficacy of treatment and fear of infection of both these diseases.
The early history of public health is largely a chronicle of epidemics.
In 1646 Melksham was also assessed to contribute but the full sum not being collected several of the constables were indicted at quarter sessions. 44) A relief was levied for Maiden Bradley and Horningsham in 1646. 45) In January 1666 a tax was levied on several hundreds for the relief of Donhead St. had been received; the epidemic had ended but there were still 694 families of 2,192 persons on relief, and the town was £700 in debt. 47) Smallpox was endemic in the 18th century, becoming occasionally alarmingly epidemic, and ranking high among the causes of child mortality.