A Vaccination for Smallpox

Photo of Linhay at Vaccination Court
Photo of Linhay at Vaccination Court (M Gendall)

Vaccination Court was one of the small courtyard complexes off South Fore Street, Newlyn Town. In local folklore, it was linked with the cholera outbreak of 1832, but it was more likely to have been associated with smallpox.

Smallpox was endemic in the eighteenth century. When Newlyn St Peter’s was formed in 1848, its parish surgeons used a vaccination, based on cowpox to combat smallpox. The smallpox vaccine was the first vaccine to be developed against a contagious disease. In 1796, the British doctor Edward Jenner demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. He had observed that milkmaids who previously had caught cowpox did not catch smallpox.

By 1848, vaccination was freely provided to all. The 1840 Vaccination Extension Act extended free vaccination to rich and poor alike. The Act required Boards of Guardians to contract doctors to vaccinate all persons. Annual returns had to be submitted to the Poor Law Commission to ensure that the duty was carried out in all areas of the Country. Most likely, Vaccination Court was the centre where the vaccinations at Newlyn Town were performed.