It was 1900 and the Victorian age was drawing to a close.
Britain at the dawn of the 20th century was a proud, confident nation, and its empire encompassed a quarter of the globe.
Here in the North East, we built some of the world’s finest ships on our noisy, bustling rivers, the Tyne and the Wear, and we mined high-quality coal in the dozens of pits which defined both Northumberland and County Durham.
However, despite the fact that unemployment was low, this was a time of appallingly low wages for many in our region, and life was often hard, disease-ridden and relatively short.
In an age before contraception, some poor families might have as many as ten children and live in damp, unhygienic, cramped accommodation.
In 1900, some women made their underwear from bags that grocers kept rice or flour in.
Impoverished children often did not wear underwear or shoes, and families might make prams from orange boxes.
Some families might sit down to a dinner of a plate of potatoes, and malnutrition was common among poor children.
Disabled youngsters begging on the streets of Britain’s cities was not an unfamiliar sight.
Children usually left school when they were just 12, and went straight into a world of hard, physical work at the factory.
And after all that? Life expectancy was low in 1900. The average man would live until 47, and a women until she was 50.
At the same time, our ancestors were usually patriotic, God-fearing, and fond of a drink or two – when they could afford it!
That was then, and this is now, but it seems diseases more commonly associated with Victorian times are still blighting the lives of people in the North East.
Figures compiled by Trinity Mirror’s data unit show people living in Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and Durham are more likely than others in England to be admitted to hospital with gout, scarlet fever and whooping cough, and numbers may be on the rise.
Take gout, in terms of hospital admissions with a primary and secondary diagnosis of the condition in our region, 272 per 100,000 people, compared to 215 per 100,000 across England as a whole were seen in 2015-2016.
Meanwhile, for scarlet fever, across Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, there were 80 admissions in the same period.
And, as for whooping cough, there were 23 admissions in 2015/16 in Durham.
Shockingly, England also saw 7,855 admissions with a primary or secondary diagnoses of malnutrition in 2015/16.
People were also admitted to hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of typhoid fever 186 times in 2015/16, with mumps 213 times and with measles 87 times.
There were 147 cases with a diagnosis of scurvy, 92 with diphtheria, and 27 with cholera, all diseases most of us would have thought consigned to the past.
And all figures which provide food for thought.
Source : Chroniclelive