Cork Street Fever Hospital, Dublin

Cork Street Fever Hospital, Dublin

The Fever Hospital (also known as the House of Recovery) was a hospital that opened in Cork St. in Dublin, Ireland on 14 May 1804. The hospital was located in a poor densely-populated part of the Dublin Liberties, though it had large grounds. The objectives of the hospital were to care for the diseased in the neighbourhood and prevent the spread of infection in the homes of the poor.[1]



The original hospital consisted of two parallel brick buildings, 80 feet (24.4 m) by 30 feet (9.1 m), three stories high, connected by a colonnade of 116 feet (35.4 m). The eastern range was used for fever, the western for convalescent patients, in order to keep the patients separated. An additional building, much larger than any of the former, was added in 1814, by which the hospital was rendered capable of containing 240 beds.[2]

The hospital initially accepted fever patients from five parishes in the Dublin Liberties. A year after its foundation the cachement area was extended to the district south of the river Liffey as far as the South Circular Road. By 1810 this was extended to the whole of the city of Dublin, and to all classes of applicants, which increased the financial pressure on the hospital. In the year 1812 over 2,200 patients were admitted.[3] The hospital did succeed in checking the spread of disease, but the worsening unemployment in the Liberties following the Act of Union and occasional epidemics, such as Scarlet fever, pushed up the mortality rate for the first few years of its existence. However, by 1815 the mortality rate in the hospital had declined to 1 in 20 (from 1 in 11 in 1804).[4]

Dublin had six typhus epidemics in the 18th century – it was not at the time known that typhus was caused by a louse-born organism, which flourished in unhygienic conditions. The hospital was extended in 1817–1819 to help cope with a national epidemic. Three thousand cases were admitted to the hospital in one month in 1818.[5]

Another typhus epidemic hit Dublin in 1826. In the hospital, 10,000 people were treated for the infection. It was so overcrowded that tents were erected in the grounds (fortunately, over 4 acres (1.6 ha) acres in extent), and these provided 400 extra beds.[5] Typhus came again at the time of the Irish Famine. During 1847 nearly 12,000 cases applied during a period of about ten months, although "amongst the poor at their own houses, .. vast numbers remained there, who either could not be accommodated in hospital, or who never thought of applying".[6] Typhus returned in the 1880s, when Gerard Manley Hopkins died of the disease in Dublin.

In 1832 Dublin was ravaged by a cholera epidemic. Despite the best efforts of all concerned, thousands of victims died and were hastily buried in nearby Bully's Acre.[7]

In 1953 the Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot replaced the old Cork St. hospital, which was renamed Brú Chaoimhín and used as a nursing home.[1]

Notable physicians

  • Patrick Harkan, of Raheen, County Roscommon, came from the Meath Hospital around 1820 and remained in Cork St. for forty years.[8]
  • Ephraim MacDowel Cosgrave, from County Longford
  • G. O'Keefe Wilson (in the hospital at the turn of the 20th century).

Notable patients

James Whitelaw, the historian and statistician, who was also rector of St. Catherine's, contracted a fever while ministering to the poor in the hospital and died there in February, 1813.


  1. ^ a b Bennett, p. 74
  2. ^ Lewis, 1835, Dublin: The Lying-in Hospital and other benevolent institutions
  3. ^ Annual Report of the Managing Committee, January, 1813.
  4. ^ Report by Dr Stoker in the London Medical and Surgical Journal, 1835, p. 555
  5. ^ a b Typhus in Ireland
  6. ^ Quoted in O'Rourke, 1874
  7. ^ Dalton, p. 631
  8. ^ Dublin Cemeteries, Chapter VIII
  • Fleetwood, John F (1983). The History of Medicine in Ireland. Dublin: Skellig Press. ISBN 0-946241-02-3. 
  • Bennett, Douglas (1994). Encyclopedia of Dublin. Dublin: Gill and MacMillan. ISBN 0-7171-2292-1. 
  • Dalton: History of the County Dublin. Dublin, 1838
  • Dublin Cemeteries
  • John O'Rourke: The History of the Great Irish Famine Of 1847. Dublin, 1874. 3rd Edition, ISBN 978-1-4264-7991-5
  • Samuel Lewis: Topography of Ireland, Dublin, 1835.

Coordinates: 53°20′20″N 6°16′37″W / 53.33889°N 6.27694°W / 53.33889; -6.27694

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