Could this wallpaper kill you? Victorian Britain’s lethal obsession with the perfect shade of green

Vividly coloured wallpaper was the height of fashion for aspirational Victorians – and the cause of countless deaths.

Heron wallpaper
Image credit: 2016 Crown Copyright, The National Archives, Kew/ Corbière, Son & Brindle, London, UK, 1879

On Thursday, April 3 1862, Dr Thomas Orton was summoned to Limehouse, east London. The patient was a gravely ill three-year-old named Ann Amelia Turner and her parents were desperate: over the previous six weeks, Richard Turner, a bricklayer, and his wife had lost all three of their other children to a mysterious illness, and they feared Ann Amelia would be next.

When the first of their children had fallen ill in the February, the local surgeon had diagnosed diphtheria, a contagious disease all too common in 19th-century London. Within a few days, a second child was dead, closely followed by a third: again, in both cases, diphtheria was blamed. When Ann Amelia started to display the same symptoms as her siblings, someone summoned Dr Orton, one of Victorian London’s most senior physicians. […]

First published on 7th October 2016. Read full article on The Telegraph online.