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Spanish Flu in Holmes Chapel

Just over 100 years ago, Holmes Chapel villagers were fighting a pandemic very similar to the one we are suffering today. Dr Picton was the only doctor in the village and he was assisted by a local nurse paid for by charitable contributions. All patients had to pay for doctor’s visits and medicines.

Here is a timeline of how the crisis unfolded in the village:

  • Spanish flu arrived in the village on Thursday 10th October 1918. Cranage School’s Headteacher reported “Influenza epidemic began suddenly. 10 cases reported today.” On Tuesday 15th, the Crewe Chronicle reported that “Influenza has broken out in Holmes Chapel. At the Paper Mills on Macclesfield Road, 13 persons who became affected were compelled to cease work.”

  • On Wednesday 16th, the Head of the Mixed School on Macclesfield Road reported “Attendance this morning is very bad, as Spanish Influenza has broken out. Ten children who are absent have the complaint, while others at school show symptoms.”

  • On Thursday 17th, Cranage School Head reported “33 cases of influenza. School closed until 4th November.” The Mixed School reported “Attendance only 58% of roll [125]. The Medical Officer has closed the school until 18th November due to influenza.”

  • On Friday 25th, the papers reported “The epidemic has spread alarmingly this week, and there is hardly a family which has escaped. Over 30 cases among the boys at [Saltersford] College are reported.” A local dance was cancelled that weekend.

  • On Monday 18th November, the Mixed School reopened, although the Headmaster was reported as “suffering from pleural pneumonia” and only returned on 16th December.

  • The epidemic was still on-going because a Jumble Sale on 23rd November was postponed for a fortnight “in consequence of the severe epidemic of influenza which has been raging in the Parish for the past few weeks”. The epidemic then went away over Christmas, but in the New Year returned to the Mixed School.

  • On Friday 17th January 1919, “Attendance worsened steadily this week. Today 40 children are absent suffering from colds and croup.” On Monday 20th the Head reported, ”Today 60 children present out of 125. There is every symptom of a whooping cough epidemic or some chronic throat and bronchial trouble.” On Friday 24th, because of a steady decline in numbers, the school was closed for a fortnight.

After the epidemic had subsided, the Medical Officer reported that there had been seven deaths in Holmes Chapel due to influenza. From the papers we know the names of four: Walter Denby (53), William Postles (32), George Pierpoint (41) and George Cartwright (52). From the middle of February 1919 (Week 18), Holmes Chapel appears to have been finally clear of the epidemic.


Holmes Chapel U3A - Local History Group

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