Rob Forsyth

The last  major pandemic on a scale that equates to Covid-19 was the Spanish 'Flu in 1918/19. It killed more people than in WWI; so I thought I would investigated deaths in the parish during the epidemic years using the recent Oxford Family History Society graveyard survey and our parish registers. The former is not a complete record because not everyone was buried in the churchyard; however, there is no apparent spike in deaths for those years compared with several years either side, so the chances are that the village, in its rural isolation at that time, got off lightly.

In her novel Hostages to Fortune (published June 1933, Jonathan Cape. Re-published 2003, Persephone Books) Elizabeth Cambridge refers to the pandemic in Deddington and the severe effect it had on her husband in Chapter Five (5Mb pdf) but does not mention any deaths.

In fact Elizabeth Cambridge was the pseudonym of Barbara Hodges (née Webber), a doctor's daughter who was born in 1893 in Rickmansworth. She grew up first in Plymouth and then in Westgate-on-Sea and went to Les Marroniers finishing school in Paris; She published her first short story in 1910. She carried on writing until war broke out in 1914. She was a VAD nurse for a short time before marrying George Hodges, a doctor  in Deddington and son of a doctor. She had two sons and a daughter. Hostages to Fortune was her first novel. Five more followed between 1934 and 1940, all receiving great critical acclaim. After the war she and her husband moved to a village near Battle in Sussex, where she died of tuberculosis in 1949. More about Barbara and George can be found in 'Between the Wars'.


An extract from the Banbury Advertiser on 30 October 1919 talks about the after effects of having had the 'flu. It reads very much like 'Long Covid' - the name given to the long lasting downstream effects of Covid-19 infection.

But, as the  article -  clearly an advertorial - concludes, they had 'Dr Williams' Pink Pills' in those days! Today we have vaccinations.

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For more about how Plague and Pestilence affected Deddington click HERE