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Displayed in a prominent place in town, this public notice was used to inform the people of Havering in Romford, Essex (just outside London), on ways to prevent the spread of cholera. The advice reflects ideas of cleanliness and good personal hygiene. Cleanliness in the home included emptying and deodorising dustbins and maintaining a clean water supply. Note that this sign pre-dates the work of John Snow, who eventually established that cholera is a waterborne disease. Suggestions on diet include avoiding ‘indigestible’ foods such as salads and raw fruits or foods which cause indigestion and the build up of acids in the body – not a diet that would be recommended today! The notice also advises people to maintain a cheerful and positive attitude. The appeals for divine assistance illustrate the belief that God or a higher power had control over the disease.

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Glossary: public notice

A form of information directed to citizens of a governmental body regarding government-related activities. Public notices have traditionally been published in specified governmental publications and in local newspapers, a common source for community information.

Glossary: disinfection

A process of cleaning that kills most micro-organisms.

Glossary: cholera

A severe infection of the small intestine commonly contracted through eating or drinking contaminated food or water. Causes severe vomiting and diarrhoea, leading to dehydration, which can be fatal.