Quinces or quincy/quinsy is an archaic term for an infection of the throat. It is known today as ‘peritonsillar abscess’. This abscess, a collection of pus, forms between one tonsil and the wall of the throat. This is usually caused by an infection, and quinsy most often occurs as a complication of tonsillitis.
Symptoms of quinsy include pain in the throat, pain when swallowing and difficulty speaking. If the infection spreads, it can lead to earache, headache and fever. If untreated, the infection can lead to difficulty breathing and death.
Tonsillitus is spread by viral or bacterial infection. As with other infectious diseases, these were more likely to spread amongst poorer households in the 19th century. Crowded, damp, poorly ventilated homes meant that illnesses could be spread easily through the air when a sufferer coughed or sneezed. Quinsy often developed following tonsillitis. Poorer households were more likely both the contract tonsillitis and to be unable to treat it. Quinsy was most likely to affect children, and all of the people who died of quinsy within the Leeds General Cemetery burial registers were under the age of 12. Most of these children are the children of industrial workers: dyers, engine fitters and cloth dressers.
Visit the Leeds General Cemetery Burial Registers Index to view all entries in the registers relating to Quinsy. Select ‘View key statistics’ to generate charts displaying the breakdown of who this disease affected.
Written by Imogen Gerard and Kelsie Root, as part of their internship with the AHRC project, 'Living with Dying: Everyday Cultures of Dying within Family Life in Britain, 1900-50s', summer 2017.