Coloured etching by G[eorge] Cruikshank: Source of the Southwark Water Works, or [headed] Salus Populi Suprema Lex. Published by S. Knight, . 51x32.5cm. Printed on broadsheet with text poem beneath: Royal Address of Cadwallader... water-king of Southwark [John Edwards]. Concern at pollution and threat to public health. In frame 69x44x2cm
The satirical poem ‘Royal Address of Cadwallader ap-Tudor ap-Edwards ap-Vaughan, Water-King of Southwark’, published in 1832, is a comment on the pollution of the River Thames, the main water supply for London. The crowd chants “Give us clean water” and “We shall get the cholera” – 1832 being the year that a major cholera epidemic hit London. The writer of the poem and the people in the illustration appear to believe that cholera is spread by vapours from rotting waste – the miasma theory of disease. But John Snow (1813-1858) discovered that cholera is a water-borne disease. Despite this many physicians still accepted the miasma theory. The illustration was drawn by the artist and caricaturist George Cruikshank (1792-1878).