Mr Bowden at Penrhys Smallpox Hospital (Photo: ITV Wales)
The isolation hospital at Penrhys above the Rhondda valleys was at the centre of the 1962 smallpox outbreak in Wales. The caretaker was Donald Tudor Bowen, who lived on the site with his wife Sheila and daughter Dawn.
Fifty years after the outbreak, Sheila and Dawn spoke to David Williams about life before, during and after the smallpox outbreak.
Documents in the official files reveal the battle which the caretakers of the Penrhys Isolation Hospital had to fight to obtain compensation for all their property which was destroyed after the smallpox outbreak in 1962.
Donald Tudor Bowden, caretaker at Penrhys Isolation Hospital in 1962 (Photo: ITV Wales)
Mr and Mrs Bowden left everything behind – clothes, cutlery and children’s clothes. Their claim was eventually accepted and they were paid £500 in compensation.
Fifty years ago, journalists came under fire for their coverage of the smallpox outbreak in south Wales. Health officials complained to the broadcast regulator, accusing the ITV station in Cardiff of going for ‘sensationalism at all costs’. Documents in the files at the National Archives tell the story of the complaint and how the broadcasters responded. Continue reading →
Fifty years ago today, the medical community in Wales was shocked by the news that a consultant at East Glamorgan Hospital had died of smallpox. Robert Hodkinson was the third victim of the 1962 outbreak, which killed 19 in total. Continue reading →
On 25 February 1962, fears of an outbreak of smallpox in Wales became a reality. A doctor at East Glamorgan Hospital, Llantrisant – who had been ill for several days – was diagnosed with the virus. On the same day a woman from Maerdy in the Rhondda was found to have smallpox. The disease was out in the valleys and a frantic hunt for contacts and the source of the virus began. Despite the panic in Cardiff the previous month, until this point there had been no outbreak.
The mystery was how Robert Hodkinson and Marion Jones had caught the disease. Both were sent to the isolation hospital at Penrhys. Smallpox killed the doctor. Marion Jones survived.