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The John Snow, Soho


The John Snow public house at 39 Broadwick Street was named after Dr John Snow (Born 15 March 1813 – Died 16 June 1858), who traced the source of the Soho cholera outbreak of 31 August 1854 to contaminated water from a pump on Broadwick Street (known as Broad Street prior to 1936).

Survey of London: volumes 31 and 32: St James Westminster, Part 2 (1963) by F. H. W. Sheppard (General Editor) explains that 'In 1854 there was a severe outbreak of cholera in Broad Street and in the neighbouring streets. A total of seven hundred people died and in the forty-nine houses in Broad Street the inhabitants of only twelve escaped without a death.The Builder blamed the many cesspools in the street and called for a parish enquiry. This was carried out in the following year by a vestry committee, which after deploring the presence of the numerous cesspools, the bad smells from the grease-boiling houses, the local cow-sheds and slaughter-houses, asserted that the outbreak had been caused by contaminated water from the pump before No. 40 Broad Street (now No. 41 Broadwick Street). The committee, largely influenced by Dr. John Snow, whose name has ever since been linked with the whole affair, then chained up the pump handle in a belated attempt to stem the epidemic.

Snow, who then lived at No. 18 Sackville Street, had been investigating the causes of the spread of cholera for several years. He believed that the disease was water-borne and carried out a detailed investigation of the Broad Street outbreak. He found that in most cases the cholera stricken sick had drunk water from the street pump and that in premises with other water supplies the death rate was much lower. Although his theory was confirmed by the cessation of the 1854 cholera epidemic, and generally accepted, the pump handle was later unchained and the well-water continued to be used for at least another decade.

Dr. Snow's association with the street is now commemorated by the John Snow public house at No. 39 Broadwick Street, which stands near the site of the notorious pump.

The John Snow is thought to be haunted. Richard Jones in his 'Walking Haunted London' refers to a shadowy figure that sits in the far corner of the bar and stares it space with ghastly red eyes and a face contorted with. Richard says that the manager James Rookes has often felt the presence of somebody walking behind him whilst sitting alone in his office counting the days takings.


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