Deaths from hydrophobia

Let’s start this first blog post with one of the most distressing stories connected to the Wrenthorpe area in the 19th century. It’s difficult to imagine a time when rabies was common in the UK but easy to picture the dog in the story making his way from Lindale Hill across the Foster Ford valley to Carr Gate.

Leeds Mercury
Saturday 8 September 1849


About ten weeks ago, on the Sunday afternoon, a dog belonging to a person named Pickles, residing at Lindal[e] Hill, showed symptoms of madness, and was straying about Lownds Lane, [Lawns Lane] when a farmer there shot at but did not injure him much, he then ran away towards Lownds village, where a number of people attacked him with stones, and he seized one of them named Fred Arundel, a young man about 16 years old, and bit him in the left arm near to the shoulder, and upon his right hand. He also bit a young man named Solomon Hartley at the same time. The dog continued his course to East Ardsley, where he was still pursued, and he there bit a young man named William Bedford, aged about 24 years, severely upon his left hand. One tooth mark was in his fore finger, and another upon his thumb. He was then destroyed and buried. No signs of illness showed themselves upon the persons bitten for some time afterwards, but about three weeks ago, Bedford complained, and went home from his work. He was attended by Mr Hepworth, surgeon, of Morley, but medical skill was of no avail, and he died in the most frightful state of madness, on Monday week. He was ill in bed only about two days, but his sufferings were dreadful. On Wednesday week, Arundel was walking out but on Thursday he was a corpse, having died in the same stage of the disease as the unfortunate Bedford. It had been intended to try the long wished for experiments with Mr Waterton’s ‘wourali’ poison, and an eminent physician was telegraphed for from London to conduct them, but previous to his arrival, the unfortunate youth had ceased to live. His illness was short, after the paroxysms came on, but his agonies were appalling to witness. In the intervals between the paroxysms both sufferers were sensible, and could recognize and speak to their friends. Mr Jewison, the coroner, held an inquest on the body of Bedford; and Mr Lee holds one upon Arundel this day. The other young man has not yet showed any signs of the disease. He is better in the thumb, but as his wounds bled very freely, it is hoped the poison may not have been imbibed into the system. This distressing event has cast a sad gloom over the neighbourhood.

Bedford was buried at St Michael’s Church, East Ardsley on 21 August.

The Sheffield Times takes up the story a couple of days after the Mercury and this in turn is picked up by a newspaper as far away as Dublin. The poignancy of Arundel’s last hours is captured brilliantly in the report. The mother cheated out of a sizable amount of money by a quack; the kind offer of Squire Waterton which was taken up too late; the regrets at not calling for the London doctor sooner… And the not knowing that, in any case, the wourali ‘cure’ from South America wouldn’t have worked. Arundel was buried in St John’s churchyard, Wakefield by Rev Thomas Kilby on 1 September.

Dublin Evening Packet and Correspondent
Tuesday 11 September 1849


One of most shocking deaths that has come to our knowledge for some time past, occurred at Carr Gate, near Wakefield, on Thursday week. It appears that on the 17th June last (ten weeks ago), a dog belonging to a person named Pickles, bit three persons – namely, the deceased, William Bedford, and Solomon Hartley; and it was shortly afterwards discovered that the dog was mad, and it was accordingly destroyed. Bedford died raring mad about a fortnight ago; and the cases having come to the knowledge of Charles Waterton Esq, of Walton Hall, the celebrated naturalist, that gentleman expressed a desire, that if symptoms of hydrophobia were observed in either of the unfortunate survivors, their friends would inform him, he would, with the consent of those friends bring down Dr Sibson, of London, who had frequently administered the “wourali”, brought Mr Waterton from South America, and which proved eminently successful in cases of several animals which it had been administered. The doctor has invented instrument which will render practicable the operations upon human beings; but the effect not having yet been tried upon them. Mr Waterton knowing there was yet no known means of saving life in attacks of hydrophobia, was desirous of ascertaining whether the proposed remedy would successful, and if so, thus greatly benefit his fellow men. In order that all objections on the ground of expense might be removed, he offered to bring down Sibson, pay his expenses, and every other expense attending his coming; and had his kind offer been accepted in time, it is not at all improbable but the life of the second unfortunate man, Frederick Arundel, might have been saved, or, at all events, the awful character of his death considerably alleviated.

It appeared on the inquest held upon the body of Arundel yesterday week, before Mr G D Barker, deputy coroner, that on Monday week deceased (who was a labourer, and only eighteen years of age) felt a “prickling” sensation in the arm, the finger of which was bitten at the period referred to. At tea time on that day he said must have something for his arm, he could scarcely bear it. On the day after the deceased’s mother went to a person name Dixon, residing in Wakefield, by trade farrier, who she had heard could cure the bites of mad dogs, who gave her a red powder to be taken in water and beer. Deceased took the powder, and on Tuesday Dixon came see him. On Wednesday morning deceased was later than usual in coming downstairs, and when he came down he complained of weakness and said he was worse. His mother made him some coffee for hit breakfast. He sat down to take it, but could not drink it, he was convulsed at the sight of it. On the mother presenting it to him be started back as if someone had suddenly struck him. He rested a little until afternoon, when he wished to be washed. His mother washed him on his arms and back of his neck. He shuddered and trembled as she did this and on her putting water on his breast and the front of his neck he became dreadfully convulsed. She wiped him dry and he then said she had not washed his face. On applying the water there he sprang up from the chair, and leapt a considerable height from the floor. At this time he could scarcely speak. His mother dressed him, and, appearing calmer, he went out for short time. He came back sobbing very much. His mother then fetched Mr Statter from Wakefield, who went and saw him the same night. Mr Statter said it was the most frightful sight he had ever witnessed in his professional experience. He suggested the propriety of trying Mr Waterton’s proposed remedy, to which the poor fellow consented. Mr Statter immediately communicated with Mr Waterton, who telegraphed for Dr Sibson, and he came down on the following day but too late, the unfortunate man having died at two o’clock the afternoon, in the most dreadful agony. Towards the last it took five men to hold him down in bed, who performed the sad task with great difficulty. And what perhaps added the grief of his surrounding friend was the fact that at intervals he was perfectly rational in his conversation, and in one of these lucid intervals he said his mother – “Mother, I am dying, come and kiss me”; and then added suddenly – “No, no, don’t, I may bite you.” He requested that if, in his ravings, he should bite his mother, he hoped they would knock his head off the next moment. For some time before his death he barked and gnashed his teeth just like dog.

Dr Sibson examined the survivor, Solomon Hartley, in whom no symptoms have as yet manifested themselves, but found that he was not so good a subject for the proposed experiment as Arundel, as he was at present labouring under a disease of the lungs. Hartley however, expressed himself desirous that Dr Sibson should try the experiment upon him in case it should be requisite to do so. — Sheffield Times

We’re left wondering what happened to Solomon Hartley – and with a name that unusual, it’s not hard to find out. He’s on the 1851 census as coal miner, living at Carr Gate. But turning just 50 pages of the St John’s Church parish records on from Arundel’s burial, and we find 26-year-old Hartley’s buried by Rev Kilby on 10 June 1852. Frustratingly, no cause of death’s been written in the page margins but his ‘abode’ is given as ‘House of Mercy’ which suggests an illness.