A fascinating second installment to Alan’s notes on A.B. Middleton…
Regarding Middleton’s role in the eradication of cholera from the city in 1849, this has been well-documented elsewhere in easily-accessible places, for example, John Chandler’s book, Endless Street, and so there is no need to repeat it here. Suffice it to say that in 1859 Salisbury was the worst affected town for its size in the country, with nearly 200 people dying from the disease in just two months, and the infirmary receiving 1300 new cases during this time. This was a consequence of the manner in which the city evolved.
In 1219, the inhabitants of Old Sarum moved down into the valley near to the confluence of three rivers, now known as the Avon, Wylye and Nadder, where Bishop Poore began building a new Cathedral in a field known as Merrifield.
The new city itself, known as New Sarum began to be laid out to the north of the Cathedral.
The land was sectioned out into rectangular plots measuring seven perches by 3 perches, thus forming the grid pattern, known as ‘chequers’, with which we’re familiar today.
The city covered an area of about one-fifth of a square mile, and consisted of about 20 streets, crossing each other at regular intervals at right angles to each other. This anticipated the street pattern of modern American cities by several centuries and contrasted with other medieval cities in Britain, such as London or York.
The city itself is situated on the east bank of the River Avon about 140 feet above the mouth of the Avon at Christchurch, some 30 miles away.
Many open streamlets ran through the city and the street now called New Canal commemorates just one of these channels, which were used as receptacles for household waste and sewerage. Speed’s map of 1611 shows them in almost all the streets west of the line comprising St Edmund’s Church Street and Gigant Street.
An illustration of Silver Street within the Drainage Collection carries a caption quoting Celia Fiennes (1685) as describing the streets of Salisbury as, “not so clean or so easy to pass in”. Daniel Defoe in his ‘A Tour through the whole island of Great Britain, by a gentleman [D.Defoe]’ (1748) went further, commenting that, “the streets were always dirty and full of wet, filth, and weeds, even in summer”.
It was perhaps because of the extreme difficulties of keeping the streets clean that Salisbury became the first provincial town in England to have powers of improvement granted to a special authority, called ‘directors of highways’, by an Act of 1737. This caused the streets to be improved by moving the channels to one side and making brick beds for them, so that the traffic could pass unimpeded, and bridges could be made for pedestrians1. Indeed, the Market Square itself had three bridges.
Andrew Bogle Middleton believed strongly that the 1849 cholera epidemic was due to moisture and the canals, and therefore undertook to introduce a new system of water-supply and drainage. His proposals were met with such great opposition that the Mayor and councillors would not allow the Board of Health inspector, Thomas Rammell, to hold his inquiry in the Guildhall, and so it was eventually held in the Assembly Rooms, at the corner of New Canal with the High Street. The results of Rammell’s enquiry were published in 1851.
Middleton’s ideas held sway and the open streams and sewers were replaced with tubular sewers in around 1852. The last channel to be filled, in 1875, was the deep one in New Canal. This is commemorated by the Blue Plaque which now adorns the New Canal wall of the building currently occupied by Waterstones, but which was once the Salisbury Assembly Rooms (see Figure 1).
Memorials in the Cathedral
Less prominent among the artifacts concerning A.B.Middleton in Salisbury are those in the Cathedral. These are a stained glass window and a stone memorial.
The stained glass memorial window to A.B. Middleton is in the north east corner of the north west transept of Salisbury Cathedral (Figure 4). The theme, as one would expect, is water.
Figure 4. Stained glass memorial window
The upper panel shows the biblical King Hezekiah who cut the Siloam tunnel to provide Jerusalem with a water supply, and proclaims
King Hezekiah brought water into the city
as recorded in II Kings 20:20 and II Chronicals 32:30.
The lower panel shows Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well at Sychar, in Samaria, as recorded in John 4:5-6 and states
A well of water springing up into everlasting life
The foot of the window bears Middleton’s name, stating
To the Glory of God and loving memory of Andrew Bogle Middleton born Oct 8th 1819: died Dec 13th, 1879
There is also a memorial plaque about half way along the north cloister walk
(Figure 5), reading
“In memory of Sarah Ann Louisa, wife of A.B.Middleton and daughter of the late Henry Coates of this city, died April 29 1872, aged 59 years and of the above Andrew Bogle Middleton who died Dec 13 1879 aged 60 years
Figure 5. Memorial plaque
It is worth noting that bacteria were not discovered until 1864 (Pasteur) and the causative organism of cholera, the bacterium Vibrio cholerae was not discovered until 1884 (Koch).
Middleton’s work preceded that of the famed John Snow who, in 1853, realised that cases of cholera in London were clustered around a water pump in Broad Street, and recommended to the local Board of Guardians that the handle be removed. This ended the local epidemic and provided proof that cholera was water-borne.
To date, this author has been unable to find documented evidence that Middleton Road in Salisbury is named after A.B.Middleton. However, an acquaintance of mine, Mr. David Brown tells me that his uncles, Arthur, Tom, Alf and Ernest once owned a large part of Middleton Road – the section west of York Road towards the gas works; and assures me that this is how he became aware that Middleton Road is, in fact, named after A.B. Middleton.
The author is much indebted to Alan Clark of this museum who has directed me to his website concerning Salisbury Blue Plaques, from which I derived much helpful information.
- Cholera, The Canals of Salisbury and Andrew Bogle Middleton. Lack, A. (2015)