Butchers Row in the 1830s

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Butchers Row in the 1830s

p>Among the notorious sources of stench and infection in the old city was Butchers Row in Smythen Street. This row of late medieval timber-fronted buildings was home to butchers who emptied waste animal waste into the street to rot.

The engraving reconstructs the events of the cholera outbreak of 1832, when the crowded shops and housing of Butchers Row were regarded as a particular health hazard. It was thought that the burning of tar barrels helped cleanse the streets; this was not the case.

Smythen Street or the Butcher Row drawn by John Gendall, engraved by R. Hart, from ‘The History of the Cholera in Exeter’ in 1832 by Thomas Shapter, p.178 © Westcountry Studies Library, Devon Libraries

Acknowledgments: RAM Museum