Papers of the Cardiganshire County Medical Officer of Health

I am pleased to introduce a one year cataloguing project at Ceredigion Archives which has been generously funded by the Wellcome Trust and aims to unlock the fascinating details of the work of the County Medical Officer of Health. The collection contains approximately 100 boxes of archive material relating to public health administration in the county of Cardiganshire covering the years from 1910 to the mid 1970s. The collection is believed to be a rare survival of its kind, providing a detailed record of healthcare in a rural county.

Medical Officers of Health (MOH) were appointed to oversee public health in their county or borough, and also held the post of School Medical Officer. In Cardiganshire the work of the MOH was supported by the Inspector of Midwives and Superintendent Health Visitor and there were a number of district medical officers and sanitary inspectors working across the county. The MOH recorded statistical information about births, deaths and diseases and worked to improve public health provision and living conditions, addressing issues concerning sanitation, clean water supplies, diet and housing.

A major part of the collection relates to the work of Ernest Jones who worked tirelessly as Medical Officer of Health for Cardiganshire from the mid 1920s to his retirement in 1956. The papers include correspondence, reports, statistics, lectures, circulars and annual reports. From an initial look through the letters of Ernest Jones he comes across as a dynamic and proactive individual with a forthright manner, often using humour to get his point across. He gave a number of lectures to the local community to raise awareness of health and sanitation concerns. The following extract is from a lecture he gave to the Aberaeron Women’s Institute on 25 April 1934:

Water supplies lecture 1934

Extract from lecture: ‘Water Supplies of Cardiganshire’, April 1934

New challenges were to be met during the Second World War with the arrival of evacuees in the county and through the care of wounded soldiers requiring additional resources for healthcare and an increased need for doctors, nurses and medical personnel. The papers contain detailed information about the work of the Air Raid Precaution Wardens (ARP), the Emergency Medical Service and the Civil Nursing Reserve. This letter from Ernest Jones relates to the use of Aberystwyth Town Hall as a reserve first-aid post:

ARP letter 31 Mar 1939

Letter from Ernest Jones concerning reserve first-aid post, 31 Mar 1939

The collection contains valuable information about developments in healthcare in a rural county both before and after the establishment of the National Health Service in 1948. The papers cover wide ranging topics including the treatment of tuberculosis, maternity homes, children’s homes, milk accreditation, dental and ophthalmic provision, inspection of school premises, the health of school children and the introduction of school meals.

Look out for further posts relating to the cataloguing project and insights into the work of the County Medical Officer of Health.

Clare Connolly (Project Archivist)

Image from advertisement for a mobile expanding hospital and ambulance manufactured by Mobile Expanding Structures, Ltd., London, 1940s

Image from advertisement for a mobile expanding hospital and ambulance manufactured by Mobile Expanding Structures, Ltd., London, 1940s

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