Damien Street, E1

Place Name

Father Joseph Damien (January 3, 1840 – April 15, 1889) was a Belgian missionary renowned for his work among the lepers of the Hawaiian island of Molokai. He was later canonised as Saint Damien of Molokai. It was probably in this capacity, as the patron saint of lepers, that he was remembered here, in an area to which he had no obvious connection. Leprosy was one of the most feared diseases among the merchant marine. In 1795 Samuel Taylor Coleridge had written that British seaman were to be found begging on the streets of Jamaica “dying daily in an ulcerated state” having contracted leprosy from their cargo of slaves. Whitechapel Infirmary was also where Edward Yoxall was taken when he was diagnosed with the disease in the 1890s. Yoxall had been a meat trader who had travelled all over the world as a young man and is thought to have contracted the disease in India. What made his condition particularly unusual and concerning was that it had not manifested itself for 40 years. This was originally Baker Street.

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