New memorial to 136 Alnwick residents who died in cholera outbreak
A short service has been held in the graveyard of St Michael’s church to bless the new memorial to 136 Alnwick citizens who died of cholera in 1849.
The stone has been jointly sponsored by the Australian relatives of one of the dead and the Alnwick Town Council.
Mayor Lynda Wearn stated how pleased the council was to be associated with this rather compassionate initiative.
She drew a parallel between the three terrible weeks of the outbreak over 170 years ago and our recent Covid experience.
In both instances, she said, it had been those most disadvantaged in society who had suffered the greatest. After all, it was the disadvantaged who drank the contaminated water and ate whatever they could get, no matter how hygienic it was.
Dudley George, chairman of the Alnwick branch of the Northumberland and Durham Family History Society provided some background to the initiative.
When researching the life stories of all 136, he explained, both the branch and the descendants they had contacted were upset to learn that there had never been a proper memorial that truly laid the deceased to rest.
They had mainly been buried hurriedly in unmarked mass graves to the rear of the church without much care at all, which many would argue is no way to be put to rest.
Relatives in Australia of victim Henry Ferguson had offered a sizeable donation to help erect a stone, to which the town council had then added further funds in assistance.
Biographies of all 136 victims can now also be found on the very informative and humanising Family History section of the Bailiffgate Collections website, bailiffgatecollections.co.uk
Rev Canon Paul Scott, vicar of St Michaels conducted the memorial service, using elements of that which his predecessor of the time, the Rev. Court Granville would have used for burials of the dead in 1849.
Rev Scott urged all present, and those who learn about the memorial, to think about the victims, and also their families that were left in considerably terrible circumstances in the aftermath of the death of their loved ones. Both emotionally and financially.