IN THIS final week of looking into interesting facts in the book The Making of Basingstoke by Eric Stokes, we look at the typhoid epidemic of 1905.

An outbreak that caused widespread illness to all parts and classes of the people of Basingstoke.

At its peak in September 1,022 cases were reported with an overall count of 1,084. Sixteen people died.

Investigations to the cause took place in the obvious areas such as housing conditions, soil contamination due to work being carried out on the sewerage system, and the possible contamination of food, but none seemed to show any reason for the outbreak.

It was mooted that it could have been caused by a fractured water pipe which caused leakage of effluence into the water supply but no fracture was found.

The official report by Dr Farrar referred to the works taking place in Basing Road, Reading Road (also known as Totterdown), Goddard’s Lane, and Gashouse Lane.

Investigation discovered that a plug had been inserted into a manhole at the junction of Goddard’s Lane and Reading Road during testing on July 29 and, inadvertently, had not been removed until September 1.

This caused a slow seepage of sewage in Reading Road and the storm-water sump at the rear of Steam Mill Terrace. This caused a percolation into the surrounding chalk and in turn into the town well which was situated nearby.

People were instructed to boil their water; the mains supply still being polluted round to December when the reservoir in Darlington Road and water supply were disinfected.

Two widows sued the Council for £600 each, with the help of the Reverend Barnes the Methodist Minister and received £150.

At a Council meeting held on December 15, they were informed that the Health Council considered charging the typhoid patients for their hospital treatment, but this did not happen.

The knock-on effect to local businesses, due to absent employees, were noted and production targets were affected and the Thornycroft management complained that the Council had not taken proper precautions over the outbreak. The Rev. J C. Tarbolton Minister of the Congregational Church suggested it was God’s judgement on the town. Following the epidemic, a new water supply was installed at West Ham along with an open-air swimming pool; approximately situated where the Morrisons store is now.

The Making Of Basingstoke can be found at the Willis museum or ordered from The Basingstoke Archaeological & Historical Society. Contact”