DD004 Male Ward in the Smallpox Hospital, 1903
There was a smallpox epidemic in Dublin in 1903. It began with an infected man in a Townsend Street lodging-house who had been infected in Glasgow. He was removed to Hardwicke Street Hospital and his fellow occupants were taken to the Corporation Refuge. Further cases developed throughout the second half of 1902. In January 1903 there was a significant outbreak of smallpox at No 56 Church Street that was at the heart of the very poorest area of the city. The afflicted were described as follows: ‘All were poor, some in absolute want’. Cases increased throughout March including a Trinity College student who contracted the disease while visiting some friends who were medical students at the Hardwicke Street hospital. The disease reached ‘alarming proportions’ in March with 52 people afflicted. This number increased throughout April (68) and May (69).
One of the problems Sanitary Officers in fighting the spread of the disease was that Hardwicke Street hospital (which housed the smallpox ward) was in a congested district and was close to several large public institutions. Charles Cameron and the Public Health Committee petitioned the Corporation and eventually acquired some buildings near the Pigeon House Fort that had been used by the Royal Engineers for submarine mining purposes. The Public Health Committee took possession of the Submarine Station, Pigeon House and received £3,000 for the adaptation of the building for hospital purposes. The Pigeon House Isolation Hospital received its first visitor on March 4th 1903. The Visiting Physician was Dr. Day (a resident physician at the Cork Street Hospital) who had great experience in the diagnosis and treatment of smallpox. 243 people were treated at the Smallpox hospital in 1903. Of the 33 that died, 21 had not received the smallpox vaccine. One was a baby two hours old.