Life at Penrhys smallpox hospital – new audio

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.

Listen to their story.

£500 compensation for loss of property at isolation hospital

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.

See the original documents from the files in the National Archive.

TV accused of sensationalising smallpox story – 8 March 1962

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

50 years ago today: 2 cases of smallpox in the valleys – the crisis begins

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.

Read the full story under Rhondda, Death of a Doctor and Documents.

Woman who nursed first smallpox victim

Glenys Taylor of Tredegar contacted the Smallpox1962 site to say that she nursed Shuka Mia, the man who brought smallpox to Wales, on the night he was transferred to Lansdowne Hospital in Cardiff.

Rachel Hughes from Rhondda contacted the site to say that it was her husband – PC Rhydian Hughes – who directed the ambulance which later carried Shuka Mia to Penrhys smallpox hospital.

Their stories have been added to the Cardiff section of the site.