Friday, 19 November 2010


A Sheffield History site refers to a "curious theory expressed by experts when in February 1912 Sheffield, Derby and Leicester were afflicted by a scourge of typhoid." These experts concluded that the typhoid fever was caused by the mussels that were being eaten by the hundred in the happy homes of these towns. The mussels in question came from the estuaries of the Teign and the Exe.

It is an alarming thought that mussel fanciers, men women and children, were retching and suffering and no doubt dying because they had eaten mussels gathered on the Exe.

By 17th February the matter had come to the attention of the General Purposes Committee of Devon County Council and Lympstone had been pinpointed as the main offender. Under the heading: EXE SHELLFISH CONDEMNED, the Exeter Flying Post reported that:

"As a result of complaints from Derby of typhoid supposed to be due to mussels collected at Lympstone, Dr Adkins has reported... that the mussels and the river water contain large quantities of the micro organisms found in sewage."

It seems odd though that there was no typhoid in Lympstone at a time where every second family had mussels for tea and often for breakfast as well. I wonder if the supposed connection between mussels and typhoid was ever proved. The typhoid in distant Derby was to have dire consequences for the fisherfolk of this village.

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