Friday, 12 June 2015

Cloud over Liskeard

In 1832 during an outbreak of cholera, when thirty seven inhabitants contracted the disease and nineteen died from it in a single month, a dark cloud hung over the centre of Liskeard town and many thought that the cloud was causing the cholera. It was decided to fire the cannon from the Castle grounds into the cloud in the hope that it would disperse it. The firing caused stunned amazement and fear among the neighbourhood. After this event the cannon was said to have been in poor condition and it was decided by the town corporation authority to have the cannon 'spiked' and so put beyond further use. The cannon was soon after transported to the military Garrison in Plymouth.
Due to the growing population in the 1800s, sanitary arrangements were becoming more and more inadequate. There was an increasing demand for water from Pipe Well and, more importantly, an increasing volume of waste products which some how had to be shifted out of the built up area. Overcrowding was given an extra twist in the 1840s when miners and others poured into the town, adding to the difficulties of avoiding disease. It was cholera, above all else, that had shattered complacency, even before the population boom of the 1840s. A report in the West Briton noted the victims: "those attacked are mostly persons in low circumstances, and the deaths were chiefly amongst old persons who had been in ill-health, and children.... the deaths have chiefly taken place in one part of the town."
However, once the immediate danger of cholera had receded, the sanitary question also ceased to be a matter of urgent concern. As late as 1836, the town dung was still being dumped at the prison, near Pipe Well, although the Town Council then decided to remove it to the garden near the school in Castle Street where it was to be sold monthly. There was presumably little regard at the time for the well being of the children attending the school.

I feel that the drawing is saying what I hoped it would about the events that took place in 1832 in Liskeard, Cornwall when the town was in fear of the worsening cholera, and whether it be superstition or desperation, it was decided that a cannon be fired into the cloud that had overshadowed the town for many days as it was believed at the time to have been the cause of the outbreak. The symbolism in the drawing is centred around the death of the young girl and the burning of her clothes which give rise to the spirit in the form of an angel releasing her sole to the mystery of death who is in the form of a young disfigured man. The cannon fire is shown to the right of picture simply as a ball of light.