1895

An outbreak of smallpox in the building led to the closure of the Institute for two months whilst it was thoroughly disinfected, cleaned and re-painted, at a cost of £80, over £6,300 in today’s money! Smallpox is a highly infectious disease, which spreads rapidly, especially in densely populated areas. Its symptoms are a rash, delirium, fever and sickness. It can cause blindness and death, and is one of history’s biggest killers. Smallpox was endemic to most Western countries, and outbreaks had devasting results throughout the Victorian period, partly due to the fact it can survive for a week outside the body, so the Institute was right to take thorough precautions. This impacted greatly on its activities though, with only ten Saturday night entertainments given, and the suspension of the education programme: ‘Prior to the Institute itself being attacked, it was known that there was infection in the neighbourhood, and the Committee decided not to reopen the Wood Carving and Drawing Classes.’ In addition, there was no summer camp this year.

The Committee were anxious that they were unable to report further progress in these areas, and although they hoped the coming winter would bring a renaissance, but added ‘the great majority of boys come to the Institute for athletics and amusements rather than for serious study. (sic) and we are badly in need of additional help in the way of instructors.’

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