Features Folk & Facts Bibliography Year is 1965

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Illness Among Schoolchildren

With regard to the frequent mention in the Log Books of children being absent from school due to illness it may be pertinent to mention a report made some ten year later: 'Dr.Monckton Copeman's Report to the Local Government Board on the Sanitary Condition of Lakenheath' of 1893. (Copy in Lakenheath Library.) He states that "the village of Lakenheath has suffered repeatedly from diphtheria and scarlet fever, especially from the former disease". He put this down to a number of causes, one being the overcrowded graveyard - which had had so many burials that its level was some three feet above surrounding land. 

On one occasion when a new grave was being dug the remains of nine other bodies were disturbed during the operation! (There was an average of 34 burials a year in the graveyard). "All the interments are made in the upper and pervious (sandy) stratum of the marl, from which the drinking water of Lakenheath is obtained by means of surface wells" - which were nowhere more than 40 feet deep. He goes on to say how badly polluted was the water in these wells. 'Dead wells' - used for the "disposal of slops and other liquid household refuse" were often sited close to the wells supplying drinking water. These latter were often not covered and surface drainage water could freely enter. Excrement from 'earth closet' privies and household refuse was disposed of in 'privy middens' - also sited close to wells in cottage gardens. The population of Lakenheath was said to be an intensely poor one. Wages were low, cottages overcrowded and in a poor state of repair, families badly fed and poorly clad and "easy prey to whooping cough, diarrhoea, convulsions and diseases of the chest"

The considerable number of illegitimate children were considered to exacerbate the problems. "Probably the Board School has had, from first to last, chief concern in fostering and disseminating the diphtheria, (failing) to prevent the attendance at school of children unless they themselves were obviously ill"One of the main objectives of the school was to keep up attendance as much as possible because it was upon this that grant was based. "The village medical attendant, (Dr.Pickworth,) although himself a member of the School Board, has not, until lately, been in the custom of notifying to the schoolmaster the fact that illness of an infectious nature had broken out in a house from which children were attending school"

R.A.Silverlock. Feb. 2000.
see also School in 1878, 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1883, Poverty and Postscript



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