I accidently came across this beautiful medicinal chest on the Wellcome collection website and decided to find out more about Reece.
Dr Richard Reece was born in 1775 and at the age of twenty was resident surgeon at Hereford Infirmary. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1796.
In 1799 Richard, by now a well-established doctor, married Kitty Blackborow, the daughter of Justice William Blackborow. The couple had 9 children, of which according to Richard’s will, 3 of the five girls survived into adulthood, along with 4 boys.
Not only was Richard a well-respected doctor, but he also wrote many papers and books about medicine and in 1813 wrote a Dictionary of Medicine.He also sold medicines and medical equipment from his premises, including medical chests, as we can see here, on his trade card.
His business operated from 170 Piccadilly and his medical chests were said to have been designed by a man with the flamboyant name of Francis Columbine Daniel who had an equally flamboyant life, but that’s another story.
Richard, it appears was also one of the doctors involved in the case of Joanna Southcott, who, aged 64 claimed to be pregnant, you can find out more about the story using the highlighted link. It always amazes me how I disappear down one proverbial rabbit hole and end up finding something I really wasn’t expecting.
Early September 1814 it was recorded in the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, that Dr Richard Reece, of Piccadilly had ‘ascertained by personal examination and confirmed that Joanna Southcott was undoubtedly pregnant‘. This of course, it transpired was untrue. Richard was mocked for this as can be seen in this caricature.
However, perhaps in order to set the record straight, Richard was also the doctor who led the post mortem on Joanna. Perhaps this redeemed him from his initial mistake.
In 1827 the Morning Chronicle Richard suffered a break in at his premises. Lyon Lyons, a known receiver of stolen goods was charged with having stolen thirty smelling bottles, with gold and silver tops, valued at £15, two medicine chests, £8 in money and other articles. Instead of the focus being on the thief, Reece was challenged by counsel for the defence about swearing the oath on the bible. It was stated that perhaps as a follower of Joanna Southcote, this was inappropriate. So, there he stood some 14 years after Joanna’s death still being challenged about his view that she was pregnant and that he was one of her believers. Eventually Lyons was found guilty of the crime.
Richard died from a liver complaint in early October 1831, and, in his will, he stipulated that he should be buried at St George’s burial ground to join his two daughters, Emma and Kitty. He left one shilling to his son William, a chemist at Worcester, he said that he couldn’t leave him more due to funding his son’s move to Worcester. He left his business in trust for his three remaining sons, George, Richard and Henry for at least two years until they were deemed worthy of it. His wife Kitty lived until 1863.
Although not one of Richard’s cabinets, how wonderous is this example from the Rijksmuseum.
Finally, there is an interesting article on the website of New York City Museum about the restoration of one of Richard Reece’s cabinets – link.
Parish registers of baptisms, marriages and burials
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1791a
It is likely that Martin born in 1736 and was the son of John Butchell of Flanders origin, who was believed to have been tapestry maker to King George II. Quite how accurate any of that is remains unknown as to date, as I have found nothing to confirm it.
Martin it appears had no wish to join his father’s trade and inadvertently, due to a broken tooth, decided to become a dentist and studied under the celebrated Dr Hunter after whom The Hunterian Museum is named. It would seem that Martin had a natural talent for this kind of work and acquired many clients due to his skill.
Real or Artificial Teeth from one to an entire set, with superlative gold pivots or springs, also gums, sockets and palate formed, fitted, finished and fixed without drawing stumps, or causing pain.
He then began to expand his skills and proved that he was proficient in making trusses for people suffering from hernia’s, so much so that his skills were actively sought ought and his fame stretched as far as Holland, with an eminent Dutch physician travelling to London to be treated by him. In return, the physician taught Martin how to cure fistulas.
Martin married in 1767, at the age of 31 Martin, his bride being Mary Billion, a widow, at St George’s, Hanover Square and we can only assume that they had a happy marriage until her death in 1775.
When Martin’s wife died, he found fame again, but this time for something more macabre than dentistry. Martin loved his wife so much that he couldn’t bear to have her buried, but it is also said that there was a clause in their marriage certificate which provided income for Martin as long as Mary was ‘above ground’. Whichever story you believe, Martin did not have her buried, instead, he had her embalmed and dressed her in her wedding dress:
Mr Van Butchell a celebrated dentist, had the misfortune about five months ago to lose his wife, for whom he had the greatest regard. He sent for Dr Hunter, and his assistant Mr Crookshanks, and desired they would embalm Mrs Van Butchell, the lady deceased, which they did after an entire new method, invented by Dr Hunter, and made use of for embalming the late Lady Holland. The bowels were first taken out. The vessels were afterwards emptied as perfectly as possible, of the blood which they contained, and injected with the oil of turpentine. After the body was well impregnated with that powerful preservative, a large quantity of red waxy injection was thrown into the vessels, which entering their minute cavities and distending them, gave to the face and other parts of the body a most striking appearance of life.
The cavity of the body was filled with various aromatic ingredients, and she was decently laid in a handsome box, and under her there is some powder of the plaster of Paris to absorb any moisture which might drain from the embalmed boy. In the lids of the box are glasses over her face and legs. A physician, with whom I am intimately acquainted, saw her the other day, and informed me that the face of Mrs Butchell is not in the least shrunk; that it is not quite so fair as it was, but that the redness from the injection is very striking, and that the legs appear as perfectly natural as the first. Mr Van Butchell keeps her constant in the parlour where he sits, shows her to all his friends when they visit him, and says that it is the only consolation he had since her death.
On 29 Jun 1780 Martin married for a second time, his new wife being Elizabeth Sanders. He gave his first wife a choice in the colour of her clothing, either black or white, she chose black, so Elizabeth chose the opposite, deciding on white.
As his first wife was still in the house, understandably, having three people in this relationship, albeit only two alive, wasn’t going to work for Elizabeth, and at some stage it was decided that his first wife, Mary, could no longer remain in their home and her body was removed to a museum, ultimately it ended up in the Royal College of Surgeon’s Museum where it remained until the museum was bombed in 1941.
The couple then settled down to have a very large family, four boys and five girls. Their eldest child being Edwin Martin was born in 1781, followed by Jacob John who died in infancy, Isaac, who tragically died in a boating accident in 1806, leaving Martin distraught, Sidney Job born 1789 and finally Daniel David, born 1795. Of the girls it appears only one survived into adulthood, Augusta Elizabeth, born 1784. The other girls who may or may not have survived infancy were not mentioned in his will, these being, Emma Lydy, born 1791, Celia Ann, 1793, Maria Susan, 1797 and Clara Flora 1799, making Martin 63 when the last child was born. Another of his idiosyncrasies was to summon his children by whistling rather than calling them.
Martin continued to work until elderly, but trained up his two son, Edwin and Sidney to follow in his footsteps, with both coming surgeons.
Martin also owned a pony which he would often ride around Hyde Park, usually on Sundays. Sometimes he would paint the pony all purple, sometimes with purple spots, other times with black spots and with streaks and circles upon his face and hind parts and of the various colours, Martin told people that each spot cost him a guinea – so more money than sense.
The Morning Post 4 November 1814 carried the following notification:
Died, on Sunday evening, at his house in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, in the 80th year of his age, Martin Van Butchell, well known for his numerous eccentricities, particularly for wearing a beard of twenty year’s growth.
On 11 March 1814, Martin sat down to write his will at his home 56, Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, London, which, as you would perhaps expect, the majority of it was to be left to his eldest son, Edwin Martin who was living at 24 Broad Street, Golden Square on the proviso that he provided for and supported his mother, Elizabeth. To his surviving two children Augusta Elizabeth, by then Mrs Jacobs and Sidney Job, who received £50 each. What is slightly curious is that his will was witnessed by a Daniel David Van Butchell, was this his youngest son who was born in 1795, in which case he wasn’t provided for within the will?
Life and character of the celebrated Mr. Martin Van Butchell, surgeon dentist and fistula curer, of Mount-street, Berkeley-square. 1803
Derby Mercury – Friday 12 May 1775
Records of the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, Series PROB 11; Class: PROB 11; Piece: 1567
Number 11 (centre left) – Martin Van Butchell. British Museum
Giving birth by caesarean section was carried out during the Georgian era, however, it was rarely successful and certainly far less glamorous than the header image would imply.
Having a read through the newspapers, many confirm just how life threatening this procedure was, especially given the lack of skill of the surgeon and the distinct lack of any form of effective anaesthetic. As this was such a dangerous procedure it was often one which was carried immediately following the death of the woman, in a last-ditch attempt to save the unborn child.
I was searching for something completely different when I stumbled across a reference to one such successful caesarean in the Lancashire Gazette which tells us that this baby was born on 24 July 1817:
On the 24th ult. The caesarean operation was performed on the wife of Edmund Hacking, of Blackburn, in this county, by Mr Barlow, surgeon of this town. The woman is at present apparently doing well. The child is a fine healthy boy, and was baptised the following day, by the Rev J Price, and named Julius Caesar. This gentleman performed a similar operation at Blackrod, in this county, more than twenty years since, and the woman is now living.
We learn from an account written by Mr James Barlow, in 1822, that Ann was aged 42 and this was to be her third child. Her two older children were born with little difficulty; however, she did suffer from a prolapse as a result of the birth of the first child which limited Ann’s ability to walk and she spent much time bedbound. Over the years she became lame and walked with a crutch to assist her. A natural birth was not possible for baby Julius, given Ann’s physical health, so Mr Barlow opted for a method he had used before, a caesarean section. The procedure went well, but sadly however, on checking the burial register Julius Caesar survived for just 13 months.
The Lancaster Gazette 21 April 1821 reported another instance of this man’s work:
The caesarean operation was performed on the wife of George Ridgedale, of Blackburn, by J Barlow, Esq. in the presence of J Chew M.D and Mr Dugdale, surgeon. The child is a fine boy, and likely for life, but the mother had long laboured under great disease, and only survived the operation 52 hours.
Like Ann Hacking, this lady was also 42 years old and had had several child previously, but again like Ann, she was struggling with walk difficulties and constant pain. Due to her physical difficulties Barlow decided that the only way to safely deliver this child was by the caesarean procedure, saving the child, but not the mother, on this occasion.
I began to wonder who this Mr Barlow was and whether anything else was known about him and sure enough there was, so let me introduce you to Dr James Barlow (1767-1839) and here we have his portrait. I had assumed he was a local surgeon in Lancashire, but there was more to him than that.
James Barlow first began practising as a surgeon in Chorley, Lancashire where he ran a large and highly successful practise in Blackburn, which eventually grew so large that he built his own premises, known as Spring Mount.
He was the first surgeon know to successfully perform a caesarean operation in the United Kingdom. Back in 1793 he first performed the procedure on a Jane Foster, aged 40, of Blackrod, Lancashire. Jane had had a fall from her cart, which had caused damage to her pelvis and on this occasion when she became pregnant it meant that she was unable to give birth naturally and this is where James stepped in to deliver the child by caesarean with the assistance of a local doctor, who unfortunately fainted, so James had to rely on a female assistant to help him. Jane survived, but sadly the child didn’t.
In 1829, James had worked his magic again and Mr Edmund Forrest’s wife was delivered of a child, both mother and child were said to be doing well. This was apparently the fourth successful surgery performed by Mr Barlow.
The Liverpool Standard and General Commercial Advertiser, 27 August 1839 reported
Died on 20 August, at his residence, Spring Mount, near Blackburn, aged 73, James Barlow, a celebrated and talented surgeon.
The Blackburn Standard, 28 August 1839, reported
The funeral of James Barlow Esq. The remains of this lamented gentleman were interred yesterday, in a vault recently made in the parish churchyard. His funeral was attended by a numerous concourse of those who had respected him during his life. Twelve carriages accompanied the hearse in is mournful course to its final resting place, which was thronged by thousands, many of whom no doubt benefitted by the gratuitous exercise of the skill of the deceased.
Essays on Surgery & Midwifery: With Practical Observations, and Select Cases By James Barlow (1822)
I recently came across an advert in the Newcastle Courant, 24 November 1744 for a product I recalled from childhood, ‘Friar’s Balsam’. I have a vague recollection of adding it to hot water to inhale to ease the symptoms of a cold.
No individual claimed ownership of the product in the advert, but simply stated that the original recipe had come from a Father Gervase Cartwright and was approved and recommended by several eminent physicians as the best family medicine in the world.
Fryar’s Balsam, as it was written at that time, was capable for curing a whole host of ailments – bruises – if applied immediately it would remove the blackness of the bruise. It helped to heal cuts and green wounds, but only if applied with a feather or bit of lint. ‘tis good medicine for coughs, colds or consumption, asthma, gout and rheumatics. For the intestines it could aid colic, flux, piles, pains in the bowels or stomach. It instantly healed chapped hands, soreness of the breasts or nipples and on the face, it would remove scabs caused by small pox. It was conveniently packaged so could be carried in the pocket when travelling.
Twenty or thirty drops taken in the morning on a lump of sugar, will fortify the stomach against the inclemency of the weather, and is far better than a dram. ‘Tis likewise used with equal success on horses, dogs and other creatures: a few drops will cure a horse’s back when gall’d, a broken knee, or any wound in the foot, whether occasioned by a nail or otherwise. Price One shilling each bottle, with proper direction for its use in each distemper.
The advert gave no indication where the product could be purchased from, leaving a potential buyer deprived of any clue as to where to obtain this amazing product!
It is said that Isaac Newton used it as early as 1660 when working in the apothecary shop in Grantham.
The first reference however, I have come across appeared in an essay, ‘The Physician’s Pulse Watch’ Volume 2 by the physician, John Floyer, dated 1710.
Whoever ‘invented’ it, Dr Joshua Ward appears to have been given credit for it, but my initial searches reveal that it wasn’t attributed to him until around 1760, which was some 50 years after it was referenced by Floyer. So, did he invent it, or did he simply sell it? We may never truly know the answer to that, but one thing we do know is that it still exists today, which perhaps shows how effective it has been to survive for over 300 years, still bearing its original name.
Who was Joshua Ward, or Dr Joshua Ward, as he was better known?
Joshua was the son of William and his wife, Mary, of Guisborough, Yorkshire, with William being the owner of an alum works. The couple had at least four other children, Margaret, Ann, William and the MP John Ward, who had a something of a reputation for being an unscrupulous businessman, but that’s another story. Joshua was presented for baptism at the parish church on 22 July 1686.
Little is known of Joshua’s early life, but The London Gazette, 25 January 1715, confirms that he was elected as the MP for Marlborough, Wiltshire, but following a petition, he was declared not to have been elected in 1717 at which time, he was said to have fled to France, where he remained under the radar until about 1730.
According to the ODNB, it was whilst in France, Joshua was said to have invented the medicines, known as Ward’s Pill and Ward’s Drop.
The next reference to Joshua was about 1730 as can be seen in this portrait above in the Royal Collection.
In 1734, his name appeared in the Grub Street Journal as ‘dispenser of the famous pill and powder’, but still it made no mention of the balsam. The following year Joshua purchased a piece of land near to Buckingham House to erect a hospital for the poor. Joshua raised funds from the nobility to fund this, including the likes of the Duke of Devonshire.
He then spent the money on the building and according to the General Evening Post, 10 July 1735, plus upwards of £200 on beds alone as part of fitting it out.
It was the following year that his name became known at the court of King George II, when he was sent for to cure a woman said to be suffering from a bladder stone. He gave her one of his pills and she was immediately cured. He seems to have been able to cure most ailments known to man at that time, with newspapers providing witness testimonies to his skill. His success in this instance enhanced his reputation no end.
Of course, Joshua would have his critics, describing his cures as ‘quackery’, with accusations that he hired patients for half a crown a week and taught them how to simulate symptoms of a disease which he would immediately cure. Others, however, were fervent supporters of his work including the likes of Horace Walpole who was impressed by Joshua’s ability to cure a headache by using his ointment.
Joshua continued to work as a physician until his death on 21 November 1761, bequeathing the secret of his pills, to his friend and admirer, John Page, MP for Chichester. His body was removed from his house in Whitehall and taken to Westminster Abbey to be interred in the choir, as per his request in his will.
An announcement of Joshua’s death appeared in The Annual Register, 1761 including a brief obituary:
Joshua Ward, Esq, so well-known by the name Doctor Ward, died, at Whitehall, aged 76. This gentleman was formerly a member of the House of Commons; but on account of a particular affair, was obliged to go abroad, where he remained some years; but at last received his late majesty’s pardon. He then came to England, where, soon after his arrival, he purchase three houses at Pimlico, near St James’s park, which he converted into an hospital for his poor patients and very soon became so eminent in his profession by all ranks and degrees of people. Meeting with great success in his practice, and the poor from all parts flocking to him for relief, he took part of a house in Threadneedle Street, for the better distribution of his medicines to the poor, which he gave generously to all who asked his advice, that, as well as his house in Whitehall, was every day crowded with objects of charity, to who he always gave, with the greatest humanity, his medicines, and advice gratis, and often relieve them with money. Of late years he was particularly applied to by the nobility and gentry, even after they had been given over by regular physicians, upon which account he used facetiously to call himself the scanger of the faculty. And it was well known that many who have been pronounced dead have been restored to life by his medicines. So that all allow he richly merited the great fortune he died possessed of.
In Joshua’s will, he specified that he wished to be buried in Westminster Abbey, a wish that was carried out. He made provision for his sisters, Margaret and Ann £500 each; his servants each received between £50 and £100 each. His nephews Ralph and Thomas Ward who were also the executors received £1,000 each, but the lions share went to his great niece Rebecca Ward –£ 2,000, her father, Knox Ward having already died, as had Knox’s father, the MP John Ward.
The London Chronicle 25 February 1762 reported that a monument would be erected in Westminster Abbey, next to John Dryden, on which would be a fine bust of Joshua which was already in his possession.
According to the Caledonian Mercury, 17 November 1762:
It is said his majesty has offered £10,000 to the executors of the late Dr Joshua Ward, as a gratuity for their publishing the several receipts for making his medicines.
Horace Walpole’s Correspondence
Westminster Abbey website
Joshua Ward Receiving Money from Britannia (and Bestowing it as Charity on the Needy) Thomas Bardwell (1704–1767) Hunterian Museum
As you may be aware we have previously written about 18th century dentistry and I was interested when I came across ‘City Women in the 18th Century’ which showed a trade card for a female dentist, Catherine Madden.
Catherine Madden of 53, St John’s Street, West Smithfield was working as a dentist between 1790 and 1799, whose cures were so efficacious that she guaranteed ‘no recurrence of the trouble’.
This started me wondering whether she was unique, as we hadn’t spotted any when writing the previous article. No, it seems, she was not unique. Women were working as some form of dentist dating back for centuries, as can be seen here.
The earliest advert I have come across to date, was from December 1738, for an Ann De La Mare. Ann was the widow of James De La Mare, operator for teeth to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
Ann was giving the public notification that she had gone into partnership with a Mr John Baptist Landies, the son of Mr Landies, operator for teeth, in Paris, who ‘draws, cleans and sets artificial teeth etc in the best manner’.
There was a Mrs Clokowski apparently working in Bristol around 1775, but so far I haven’t managed to find any more details about her, so I’m not sure where she was advertising her services.
1777 saw a Mrs Levis or Lewis and her husband, both ‘surgeon dentists in all its particular branches’, who were running their business from Queen Street, Bath, but who were telling potential clients that for a period of time, they would be working at a Miss Hardwick’s muffin and lace warehouse, Marylebone Street, Golden Square. Mrs Levis would attend the ladies and Mr Levis, the gentlemen. Free advice on procedures would be given for all difficult cases.
The same year we also have a Mrs De St Raymond, dentist, who was working from her home, No. 9, Kings-square Court, Soho. She was recommending her services to the nobility and gentry:
Her well known skill in the performance of chirurgical operations, for the various disorders of the mouth; especially the lightness of her hand, in removing all tartarous concretions, destructive to the teeth, and her dexterity in extracting stumps, splints and fangs of teeth. She also draws, fastens, fills up and preserves teeth, corrects their deformity, transplants the fore-teeth from one mouth to another. Likewise grafts on and sets in human teeth; makes and fixes in artificial teeth, from one to an entire set, and executes her newly invented masks for the teeth, and obturators for the loss of the palate.
In 1792 we have a Mrs Hunter, who worked from her home, No 78 Great Titchfield Street. Not only was she a dentist, but she also treated people’s complexion, so effectively a beautician too. She claimed to be able to relieve tooth ache and prevent it from returning without the need for extractions. She especially commended her services to women, who may prefer to be treated by another woman. She also treated children as she had a gentle touch, which would make the process less apprehensive for children.
She charged one guinea at the start of treatment and then four guineas per annum, which would include tooth powder and tincture; or half a guinea for each consultation after the first, and half price for children.
These are the ones I have found a little information about, so far, but I’m sure there must be more, so if anyone comes across details of any other female dentists do let me know and I’ll update this post. It would be useful to get a reasonably complete record of women working in a profession where I thought there were none.
London Daily Post and General Advertiser, December 18, 1738
Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, Saturday, January 11, 1777
During the eighteenth and into the nineteenth-century it became fashionable and beneficial to enjoy the pleasures of swimming in the sea so, in order to preserve modesty, bathing machines were invented. These allowed the swimmer to enter the contraption fully clothed, undress and get into the water virtually unseen; to swim then return to the machine to get dressed again and leave through the entrance they had arrived through – all very discreet.
Scarborough, Yorkshire was reputed to have been an excellent place to swim in the 1730s, but as to whether they had bathing machines we’re really not sure. Certainly, by the 1770s as you can see above, the bathing machine was very much in evidence.
The first reference we came across of a bathing machine was in the Caledonian Mercury, dated 14th August 1750, although such a machine was believed to exist prior to this.
That the BATHING MACHINE will, from Monday next, be attended close from half flood to half ebb, every lawful day by Thomas Weir Carter in Leith; his station with the same is to be upon the sands to the west of the glasshouse, in order to carry such ladies and gentlemen who want to bathe. And no weather needs to stop the use of it, as by the contrivance persons may bathe securely, without being any ways exposed to the weather. It will hold four persons easily, furnished with pins to hang up their clothes, and clean napkins will be there ready for rubbing.
In 1754, the Whitehall Evening Post carried an advertisement for the
New invented machine for bathing in the sea. The machines move on four wheels, on which is erected a commodious dressing room, furnished in a genteel manner. The machine is contrived, that the persons who bathe descend from out of the above room into the bath, which forms itself in the natural sea, seven feet in length and five in breadth, all enclosed and railed, which renders it both secure and private. The machine during the last season met with genteel approbation; and in order to make still more useful, the proprietors have this season provided an additional machine with proper conveniences for bathing at all times. A woman is appointed to attend the ladies if desired.
As the fashion for swimming in the sea along with its reputed benefits grew, more and more coastal towns had their own machines, set up on the beach from Tynemouth, in the north, to Brighton in the south and everywhere in between.
One of the most famous people to develop a bathing machine was a Quaker, Benjamin Beale. However, in 1767 there was an immense storm in Margate and his bathing machines were damaged, as they had been twice before, in 1763 and 1764. His loss on this occasion was estimated to be worth over £1,000 and it totally wiped out his business. So much so that Sir John Shaw and a Dr Hawley, of Great Russell Street, sought assistance for him, to enable him to rebuild his business. This was successful and the business was rebuilt, and Benjamin continued his trade until his death in 1775.
As the fashion for sea swimming caught on others developed their own business too, such as these trade cards shows for the ‘The Dunn’s machine’ and ‘The Phillpot’s machine’.
In 1770, Margate became so popular that it even produced its own holiday guide containing
a particular account of Margate, with respect to its new building, assemblies, accommodations, manners of bathing, remarkable places in its neighbourhood and whatever else may be thought necessary for the information of strangers.
Swimming in the sea was a risky affair and there were quite a few incidents recorded of accidental death due to drowning. Other incidents were less dramatic, but somewhat embarrassing, such as the one noted in the St James Chronicle of 1778 when a bathing machine containing ten people capsized. Most escaped to shore… but minus their clothes. There were also reports of people having a few too many drinks, climbing into the bathing machines to sleep off their excesses and the tide changing and them waking up the next morning to find themselves in the sea.
Apparently, in 1794, two dignified ladies decided as a wager to swim from one bathing machine to another, one was seized with a cramp, but not being out of her depth was rescued. Hopefully, the wager wasn’t too high!
Men and women were segregated for the sake of women’s modesty, but occasional incidents happened where women had to be saved by a gentleman when they swam out of their depth – a few red faces there then!
Here’s a bit of newspaper gossip for you from The Public Advertiser, October 1791.
Man caught in bathing machine with woman, both naked at the time.
Sorry to spoil your fun, it transpired that they were actually husband and wife, but still, it made the newspaper.
Of course, when in Weymouth, the royal family enjoyed a swim, especially George III but apparently his daughter, the Princess Royal, less so as she appeared to feel the cold more and looked half-frozen after her swim.*
To finish we couldn’t resist sharing this image of Prinny, The Prince Regent – no words!
London Chronicle 8 September 1791
Bathing Machine on Southsea Common. c1788. Yale Centre for British Art
Admit it – many of you are scratching already, aren’t you? I was whilst writing this, if I’m honest. One of my readers asked about turpentine being used to kill head lice and this set me off to find out more about the subject and somehow ending up looking at how they dealt with bed bugs (buggs as they were known, somewhere we lost that second ‘g’) in the eighteenth century.
They were clearly a major problem, with many cures being offered to eliminate these little critters such as this from ‘The family jewel, and compleat housewife’s companion or, the whole art of cookery made plain and easy’ by Penelope Bradshaw in 1754.
If your room is very bad, take a pound of rolled brimstone, if there’s only a few, then lay it on the charcoal and get out of the room as fast as you can, or it will take away your breath. Shut the door close, with the blanket over it; and be sure to set it so as nothing can catch fire; if you have any India Pepper throw it in with the Brimstone. Do not open the door under six hours, and then let the door stand open an hour before you go in to open the windows, then brush and sweep your room very clean, wash it well with boiling water. Get a pint of spirits of wine, a pint of spirit of turpentine and an ounce of camphire, shake all well together, and with a bunch of feathers wash your bedstead very well, sprinkle the rest o over your feather-bed and about the wainscot and room.
If you find great swarms about the room, and some not dead, do this over again, and you will be quite clear. Every Spring and Autumn wash your bedstead with half a pint, and you will never have a bug; but if you find any come in with new goods, boxes etc only wash your bedstead and sprinkle it all over your bedding and bed, and you will be clear, but be sure to do it as soon as you find one. If your room is really bad it will be well to paint it.
Here we have an advert from the Daily Post of Thursday, May 18, 1738 from a gentleman offering to eliminate the critters:
Whereas I have for several years, with success, made it my business to destroy those numerous vermin call’d BUGGS, at a reasonable price, being done without the least damage to either bed, bedding or furniture, be the same ever so good; and what is used is without any offensive smell. I likewise undertake hospitals, or other large buildings, and after I have destroyed them, if any should happen the following year to be brought in by people’s cloaths, from other houses, which may happen to new furniture rather than to those I have cured and cleaned, owing to the Power of Nature of what is used, then and in such case I promise to cure them gratis. Those noble persons waited upon my directing to me, JOHN WILLIAMS, at the following coffee-houses, viz. Janeway’s in Cornhill, Richard’s near Temple-Bar.
And this one from Peter Braniff in the Public Advertiser, Saturday, May 17, 1760.
BUGGS, be the ever so intolerable, are effectively destroyed, no cure, no money by Peter Braniff at Number 4, the upper end of Union-court, Holborn, opposite St Andrew’s church; and as his name is so well-known to thousands of people of the best rank, who have employed him to their satisfaction, he refers them for a character before he is employed, which can be had in any division or neighbourhood all over London. Further satisfaction, to enquire at the British Lying-in Hospital, or the City of London Hospital.
So, how much did it cost to get rid of beds buggs – well, that of course varied upon the size of the room and quite frankly, Peter Braniffs’ charges were confusing to say the least, but given that he had a wife and six children support he would have wanted to make as much money as possible. (Peter died in 1769, of consumption, possibly an occupational hazard).
From 5 shillings to seven shillings and six pence, to ten shillings and six pence, to five shillings and some a guinea. Those who please to favour him with their commands, shall be waived on, and shall have twelve months’ time for trial, provided the sum be large. N.B. What he makes use of has no smell neither does it hurt the furniture, and if no alteration is made after he has done, the Buggs will never return, nor breed any more in them during life.
Of course, institutions such as hospitals and the workhouse were expected to maintain high standards of cleanliness, as we see here in this extract from ‘An Account of several work-houses for employing and maintaining the poor’ 1732:
Nurses take care to search all the beds for fleas, buggs and other vermin, once a week, of oftener if occasion; and to have all their beds made, and to sweep and clear their respective wards, every Monday between the hours of eight and ten; that every ward be washed once a week or oftener, as need shall require, and the windows be kept open in all, except the sick-wards, every day during dinner, to air the rooms, except in very rainy weather.
Sleep well tonight everyone and don’t let the bed buggs bite!
Bug breeders in the dog days by Thomas Rowlandson. Beinecke Digital Collections
The Royal Humane Society was founded in London in 1774 by two eminent medical men, Dr William Hawes (shown in the header picture at the bedside) and Dr Thomas Cogan, who were keen to promote techniques of resuscitation.
We think of resuscitation as something relatively modern, however, in 1775, The Royal Humane Society produced a booklet entitled ‘Address for extending the benefits of a practice for recovery from accidental death’.
It would appear that after several fatal drownings they felt it beneficial to write a booklet to advise people how to assist someone who appeared to be dead and a variety of techniques that could be used to revive them. We thought we would share some with you.
Firstly, the body should, if found outdoors, be taken by hand cart or other means available indoors where it would be warmer. It should be stripped with all speed, warmed in blankets in front of a fire, gently moved and shaken. Rubbing the body, especially the backbone, the belly, the breast, neck and head is one of the most efficacious operations. Some recoveries it is said were owed to that alone. It should be performed with cloths, often of flannel, warmed and sprinkled over with brandy, rum or gin and a volatile spirit.
A bed warmed naturally or artificially is of great use or stone bottles filled with hot water, also heated bricks, wrapped in a flannel should be efficaciously laid at the feet, sides and hands.
The next stage was to blow smoke of common tobacco into the intestines via the bowels. It was said to be easier to administer with the use of a fumigator. Bellows could be used to force up either vapour or common air. The use of tobacco should only be used on strong bodies i.e. men. For weak and delicate persons i.e. women and children, the use of dried rosemary, marjoram and mint should be used instead. At the same time, the belly must be gently moved and pressed upward with the hand. This must be continued until signs of life are obtained.
The idea was to get the blood circulating again. This should be continued for an hour or two.
Do not become discouraged if it takes longer
Towards the latter end, volatile spirits and salts may have a beneficial effect. Wine and cordials had the greatest effect once the body had recovered a little from its insensible state but must be given at not more than a spoonful at a time and must be allowed to go down slowly.
Bleeding should not be omitted once the blood has warmed up enough to get a drop out of the veins. However, before the blood was liquified this would have no effect and once circulation had started. The use of ligatures necessary to stop blood loss would counteract the attempt to revive circulation.
Next, we have the eighteenth-century version of what today we refer to as Cardio Pulmonary Massage, better known as (CPR) or mouth-to-mouth. It was a Dr John Fothergill, of Yorkshire, who gave a lecture to the Royal Society in London in 1745 about mouth-to-mouth.
To put blood in motion force air in at the mouth, holding the nose and stroking the breast, to distend the lungs and raise the chest with the hand to them act on each other and produce motion, are happily attempted: also, such irritation which causes retching and sneezing, are properly excited in the throat and nose with a crow feather, or some stimulating drug.
The booklet reports that many recoveries despaired of were obtained by an uninterrupted treatment of five or six hours duration.
The air of the room in which the treatment is performed being better than that immediately breathed by the operator, a small clean bellows may be used by a second person, while the first holds it in the mouth and keeps the nostrils closes. Some dextrous persons attempt to convey the air through a metal pipe, called a ‘cannula’, having a crooked end, which with the finger, they cautiously guide into the wind-pipe, to produce a more immediate effect.
The public was advised that if anyone appeared to have died suddenly either by choking, drowning, strangulation or suffocation they should immediately be taken to the nearest hospital or parish workhouse where treatment could be administered. Watermen were advised that if they found a body which appeared not to have been in the water for long that they should carefully roll it or hold it upside down to remove the water from inside the body.
One of the main concerns that people naturally had, was about people being buried alive. This guide attempted to prevent such events from happening.
A man recuperating in bed at a receiving-house of the Royal Humane Society, after resuscitation by Dr William Hawes and JC Lettsom from near drowning. Watercolour by R. Smirke. Wellcome Library
I came across an engraving posted on social media by Dr Hannah Greig recently and for those of you who know of my propensity for disliking unsolved mysteries I was immediately intrigued and wanted to see if there was any more information about the woman depicted.
The engraving was produced by Robert Thew, historical engraver to His Majesty Prince of Wales and the British Museum had dated the engraving as being sometime between 1778 and 1802. I double-checked the parish records to make sure when Robert Thew died and found his burial on 10th July 1802 so we knew that this engraving must have been produced out prior to this date.
The Manchester Mercury, June 10th, 1794.
Exhibited before the King and queen
To all who are admirers of the extraordinary productions of nature.
Just arrived and may be seen, by many number of persons, in a commodious caravan, in a field, adjoining the race ground on Kersal Moor, from eleven o’clock in the morning till nine in the evening.
Born without arms, and will work with her toes, in a complete manner as with hands and arms, she cuts watch papers, opens watches and put the papers in.
This curious artist threads her needle well and does wonder of the age excel!
She, with her TOES, exhibits more to view
Than thousands, with their fingers, ev’r can do;
The numbers flock to see her ev’ry day
And each, amaz’d go satify’d away.
Checking through the newspapers, sure enough, I found her burial in the Lancaster Gazette, April 21st, 1804, so assuming her age was roughly correct then she was born around 1760. From her burial, we know her name was Mary and that she was the wife of John Morrall. The trail goes cold at this point as there as quite a few possible marriages which could be for them.
Suddenly, at Bury, Mrs Morrall, aged 44; a woman well-known throughout the kingdom, as an extraordinary production of nature, having been born without arms. She could cut the small watch papers and devices, in the most ingenious manner, with a pair of scissors, by means of her toes. She appeared in a public exhibition, in good health, so recently as at last Salford fair.
I did however come across some other people who were in a similar situation to Mary Morrell who used their feet in a like manner including the wealthy Mary Evans and a Miss Hawtin of Warwickshire.
True Briton, Tuesday, June 25, 1799.
A marriage took place on Tuesday celebrated at Wells, which excited a considerable degree of curiosity and entertainment. The bride, Mary Evans, was born without arms but enjoyed the use of her feet in such a manner as to be able by her toes to cut out watch-papers and work at her needle with singular facility. For many years past she has attended the principal provincial fairs as a show, and thereby acquired a fortune of nearly £800. She is now between 30 and 40 years of age, of very diminutive stature, and with a countenance certainly not overcharged with feminine loveliness; added to these, her eyes are weak. But love, imperious love, who knows no discrimination of rank or person, impressed this spinster with passions ardent and animated. The driver of her caravan, a young man named Simpson, was the object of her choice; time had made him familiar to her deformity, and to her riches. On Tuesday last they were married amidst an immense concourse of spectators. During the ceremony some difficulty arose as to the disposing of the ring, the bride not having a finger on which to place it, but as the earnest solicitations of the parties, this form was dispensed with.
Norfolk Chronicle 30th October 1784.
Miss Hawtin, the celebrated Warwickshire young lady, born without arms, and will mark with her toes as a compleat manner s with arms and hands, she also cuts curious watch papers etc.
As shown in the header image, we have the artist, Miss Sarah Biffin (1784-1850) and a snippet of her biography courtesy of Bell’s Weekly Messenger, 24th May 1830:
Sarah Biffin was born at East Quontoxhead, in Somersetshire, on the 25th October 1786. Her father was a draper and she was reared with much care and tenderness under the immediate eye of an affectionate mother, and in the society of four brothers and sisters, until her nineteenth year, when from the improvement she made in drawing, unaided by instruction, and the circumstance of her being enabled to work at her needle, write and, and in fact, execute with more than ordinary facility (notwithstanding the want of arms), the duties that devolve on females of the middling class it was determined to accede to her wishes, by placing her with an artist named Dukes. This individual soon adopted a very profitable course, and Miss Biffin exhibited in every part of the United Kingdom.
Of the perfection to which Miss B. has arrived as an artist, the best proof that can be adduced is, that the Duke of Sussex presented her with the largest medal at the Society of Arts in 1821. Early in life, she was honoured by the particular attention of Lord Morton, and to that nobleman, who was himself an excellent artist, Miss B, is much indebted for the wonderful progress she made in the art. His Royal Highness the Prince of Orange was amongst the number of her patrons, and, during a visit to Brussels, he sat for his miniature, with which he was much satisfied, that his Royal Highness presented Miss B, with a sum of money far exceeding her demand.
On the 6th September 1824, Miss B was married, by the Rev. Mr Hole, at Killton, Somerset, to a Mr William Stephen Wright, a gentleman who had been long attached to her. At the ceremony of marrying a lady without arms may be looked upon by some as a matter of difficulty, the following mode was adopted. Mr. Wright was desired to the ring against the should of the lady, and afterwards, having put it on a gold chain which she wore around her neck, it was placed in the bosom.
Curiously, their entry in the marriage register has been crossed through with no explanation provided. All the details match those of the newspaper report except for the date itself which wasn’t quite correct. It was reported some years later though, that although married they never actually lived together and went their separate ways. There were rumours, which Sarah strenuously denied, that her husband had made off with her money.
Whilst the people we have looked at were regarded as ‘human oddities or freaks’ at the time, with the public at large often paying money to see them at the likes of Bartholomew’s Fair, it’s interesting to note that their absence of limb(s) is not the main focus of the reports it’s almost an aside. The focus is on what they could do and about the skills they developed to live a full life.
Sarah Biffin (October 1784 – 2 October 1850), painted by herself. Wellcome Library
We have looked at trade cards on a couple of previous occasions and it appears that many of our readers like them as much as we do. So, today we’re going to look at a specific trade – that of a druggist or chymist.
Our first offering is a lovely card for a Joseph Leaper, who was running his business in Bishopsgate, London. We love that not only did he make up lotions and potions, but also diversified into coffee, tea, chocolate and snuffs, a real 18th-century entrepreneur.
As the card is giving away few clues we can’t be sure whether it relates to him Joseph senior or junior who took over the business on his father’s death in 1750. His will made no clear mention as to who was to take over the business after his death, but family were clearly important to him and he made provision for both his children grandchildren and so if this trade card postdates Joseph senior’s death, then it’s safe to assume his son Joseph took over the reins In Joseph senior’s will he specifically wished to be buried with his wife in Whitechapel, or, if he died in Derbyshire, to be buried at Osmaston, near Derby. Joseph senior got his wish to be buried with his wife and didn’t make it to the pretty village of Osmaston. He was buried 21st May 1750 at St Mary’s, Whitechapel.
The next one conjures up quite a dramatic image, someone clearly spent a great deal of time designing this. Something this detailed and imaginative would probably have been expensive to produce. You could spend hours just reading the symbolism contained within it.
Richard Siddall who was operating his business from the Golden Head, Panton Street, near the Haymarket. He was a maker and seller of all manner of chymical and Galenical medicines. He also sold ‘The Elixir for the Asthma and for gout and rheumatism’.
We know that he was already trading from that address when he married on 9th November 1751, as the London Magazine, or, Gentleman’s Monthly Intelligencer, Volume 20 as it confirms his marriage to Miss Sukey le Febre (sic), fourth daughter to John le Febre (sic). In May 1753 Richard was declared bankrupt, so we have no idea what became of him after that. We do, however, know that his business was taken over by Daniel Swann, as he used an identical trade card showing the same address, just with a name change.
Our third one is for GJ Beavan who was trading at 114 High Street, Cheltenham, so, a fashionable spa town, an ideal place to visit for the upper classes and potentially lucrative for the businessman.
This one tells us little about who Beavan was, but we do know that his company took over the business from Paytherus, Savory and company who also owned a warehouse on Bond Street, London and who were involved from 1793, in the production of Cheltenham Salts. Beavan’s was certainly trading under its new name from 1818 onwards according to the newspapers and we see this advert below for one of their products in 1832.
The final one belonged to John Kempson Esq., a druggist of Snow Hill, London and according to Yale Centre for British Art was dated c1770. This helps us to narrow it down and we have found that John died in 1788 whilst getting into his carriage at his home in Cheam, Surrey. His will confirms that the main beneficiary of his estate was his wife, to whom he left £1,000, so not an inconsiderable sum of money. John was buried at St Dunstan church, Cheam on 6th November 1788, aged 77.
It would appear that John didn’t work alone but had a chemist Richardson Ferrand working with him according to a newspaper report in the Hull Advertiser and Exchange Gazette of May 19th, 1804.
Derby Mercury 11th May 1753
Worcester Journal 29 September 1808
Chelmsford Chronicle 07 November 1788
Showing the effect of taking Cheltenham Salts c,1820
Ok, we’ve got you interested now, we had to look up the word! The word Aesculapius being the Latin name for a god of medicine. Whilst researching asses’ milk we came across a newspaper with that title as its heading.
The story was about a gentleman who took regular exercise on horseback and whose chief drink was asses’ milk. He was asked by an invalid friend, to whom a doctor was daily administering pills and potions, how he managed to keep in such excellent health. The gentleman’s reply was ‘my physician is a horse and my apothecary an ass’.
Whilst the poor ass was mocked by the public during the Georgian era for its stupidity and with comparison made to the Prince Regent, its milk was proving to be very beneficial.
At a time when more and more of us are becoming interested in nutrition and looking for more ‘superfoods’, it’s good to know that the Georgians were no different in their pursuit of a long and healthy life. Asses’ milk was believed to have a beneficial effect on the body, either to bathe in (Cleopatra style) or to drink. Napoleon’s sister is also reported to have used asses’ milk for her skin’s health care.
It was highly recommended for gout, scurvy, coughs, colds and asthma, however, even then people were aware of the possibility of intolerance, with people raising the issue of ‘lactose intolerance’ even then, although the term itself wasn’t used and that it might cause stomach problems.
One of the main cures for venereal disease at that time was mercury, but who knew – asses’ milk could relieve the side effects of mercury! It was even recommended for women who were in pain after childbirth. For babies, asses’ milk was recommended if they suffered from wind or diarrhoea. It was even used to bathe in to relieve the pain of haemorrhoids too.
According to Oracle Bell’s New World of 1789, asses’ milk mixed with spa water was exceptionally beneficial.
Asses’ milk largely went out of fashion in the late 1790s when Sir John Hill’s Pectoral Balsam of Honey replaced it as a ‘cure for all ills’, as, whilst it looked like asses milk it was more palatable, and people were better able to tolerate it.
For those familiar with Teresa Cornleys, ‘the hostess with the mostest’, ultimately she fell out of favour with the great and the good and ended up in prison On her release, she became known as Mrs Smith seller of asses’ milk, in Knightsbridge. Even during this period of her life, she tried to restore her life to its former glory by hosting breakfasts for the people of fashion.
In 1799, according to Courier and Evening Gazette:
A Parisian Journal says –
We are assured that a remedy had been discovered for disorders of the breast. His remedy is found at St. Domingo, where it is called the gum of the Bois de Cochon. It is produced from a tree, well known in the ci-devant Spanish part of the island. This gum, reduced to oil, and a coffee cup full taken in a basin of asses’ milk, morning and evening, produces a radical cure, provided the disorder is only at its second stage or even at the third. It procures considerable relief. It is for the faculty to judge of this receipt.
The St James’s Chronicle of June 1790 reported that the Queen of Hungary’s health was deteriorating since she arrived in Vienna, so much so that the doctors thought it necessary for her to drink asses’ milk.
The Royal Ass, 1780. Yale Centre for British Art
Observations on the theory and cure of venereal disease by John Andree. 1779
An essay concerning the nature of ailments and the choice of them, according to the different constitutions of human bodies by John Arbuthnot. 1731
An essay on the diseases most fatal to infants by George Armstrong. 1767
In the Georgian era, if you weren’t afflicted by gout you were as good as a nobody, it was very much a statement of wealth and class, almost something to aspire to suffer from. Most sufferers of this complaint ate too much rich food and drank even more – port being regarded as one of the most common causes.
Gout was described in ‘A Treatise on the Nature and Cure of Gout’ by Charles Scudamore, written in 1816, as
a constitutional disease, producing an external inflammation of a specific kind; the susceptibility to it often depending on hereditary conformation and constitution, but more frequently wholly acquired; not occurring before the age of puberty, seldom under the age of five and twenty; and most frequently between the ages of twenty-five an thirty-five; affecting chiefly the male sex; and particularly persons of capacious chest and plethoric habit; in the first attack invading usually one foot only and most frequently at the first joint of the great toe; but in its return affecting both feet, the hands, knees and elbows, often accompanied by a fever.
Today, of course, medical knowledge has moved on and we now know that gout is caused by a build-up of uric acid which the body cannot break down and presents as a swelling in a joint, usually the big toe with red skin around the affected joint, as can be seen in this caricature by James Gillray. This being only one of countless caricatures of the day, mocking sufferers.
Where there was illness, there were plenty of so-called doctors ready to offer you a quick fix. So much so that they proudly advertised the efficacy of their product in the newspapers, with claims that they could not just ease the condition, but totally cure it. So confident were they in their products that they provided testimonies apparently from people they had treated such as this one for ‘Mr Gardner’s Pills and Plaisters’.
Wright Esq. No. 40 Duke Street, Manchester Square, was many years afflicted with the gout, is cured by Gardener’s Pills and will with pleasure satisfy the afflicted.
Mr. Watson, Merchant and Underwriter, No. 25 Mincing Lane, seven years afflicted.
Mr. Purser, Talbot Innkeeper, Whitechapel, twenty years afflicted.
If that didn’t take you fancy, then no problem, why not try a more palatable cure?
Spilsbury’s Antiscorbutic Drops. This medicine had undergone a series of trials and held a variety of certificated of efficacy and could cure scurvy, gout, leprosy, rheumatism etc. The drops themselves were reputed to be pleasant to take, required no confinement. They were supplied in moulded bottles, with fluted corners and the words Francis Spilsbury, chemist, his Antiscorbutic Drops, by the King’s Patent, indented on each 5-shilling bottle and were supplied with directions to usage.
Interesting to note that almost half the advertisement seemed to focus on the appearance of the container rather than its contents. Whilst it seems feasible that these drops could help to prevent or cure scurvy, as they were predominantly a form of vitamin C tablets, there seems little evidence that they could have any effect on gout.
So, who amongst the great and the good of the day suffered from gout? well naturally, the Prince Regent, with his excessive lifestyle was a prime candidate and the newspapers reported instances of him having suffered ‘a slight attack of gout in his knee’.
Sir Joseph Banks whose gout became so debilitating that he had to resort to using a wheelchair. Both William Pitt, the elder and the younger were both troubled by the complaint. Pitt, the younger being advised to avoid port and to drink wine instead. If you read the letters of Horace Walpole, you will find countless references on the subject of gout!
Lord Byron, noted in 1814 that King Louis XVIII of France was another sufferer of gout and nicknamed him ‘Louis the Gouty’.
We will finish with an extract from the work of Rev. Jonathan Swift
As, if the gout should seize the head,
Doctors pronounce the patient dead;
But, if they can, by all their arts,
Eject it to th’extremest parts,
They give the sick man joy, and praise
The gout that will prolong his days.
Having already written about The Magdalen Hospital we thought it would make an interesting article to provide a little more information about one of its founders – Robert Dingley. Robert was later referred to by Mary Ann Radcliffe in ‘The Female Advocate‘ as ‘the first humane proposer of the charity‘.
Robert Dingley was born around 1710 , the eldest surviving son of Susanna and Robert Dingley, a prosperous jeweller and goldsmith of Bishopsgate Street, London and a descendant of Sir John Dingley of Wolverton Manor, Isle of Wight.
Robert was an extremely busy man, with fingers in many pies it appears. He took a keen interest in the arts and was an active member of The Society of Antiquaries from 1734 and ‘dabbled in architecture’ ; became a Fellow of the Royal Society in November 1748; was also founder member of the Society of Dilettanti, along with Sir Francis Dashwood about whom we have previously written in connection with The Dunston Pillar; held a lifelong career with the Russia Company and was also Director with the Bank of England and according to The Whitehall Evening Post of March 30th, 1749 he was appointed Governor of the Foundling Hospital.
On December 30th, 1744 Robert married into another affluent family, his first wife being Elizabeth Thomson, daughter of Henry Thomson Esq, of Kirby Hall, Yorkshire.
The couple had three children Susanna (born November 22nd, 1745) and Robert Henry Dingley in 1746. A later child Elizabeth who was born 19th June 1748 did not survive infancy.
In 1759 his first wife Elizabeth died leaving Robert to raise two teenage children.
With this in mind, Robert wasted no time and married his second wife, Esther Spencer, sister and heir of Thomas Spencer, the following year, on 21st March 1760.
For someone who led such a public life the newspaper report of his death was succinct to say the least –
St. James’s Chronicle or the British Evening Post, August 9, 1781 – August 11, 1781
Died yesterday at Lamb-Abbey. Near Eltham, aged 72, Robert Dingley Esq.
However, there is a memorial for both Robert and Esther in the same church. Esther died 1784.
An interesting piece appeared some years after his death in Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, Saturday, September 9, 1786, just after the death of Jonas Hanway.
So what became of Robert’s children, well his daughter, Susanna Cecilia (1743–1795) of Lamb Abbey, near Eltham, Kent, married Richard Hoare (d.1778) of Boreham House, Essex, a partner in Hoare’s bank, in 1762.
Susanna and Richard had five children, and the present picture probably depicts their eldest child, called Susanna Cecilia after her mother, who died young in 1768. In 1765 Mrs. Hoare paid 70 guineas for the picture, which was probably painted 1763–1764.
His son, Robert Henry took holy orders and became the rector of Beaumont cum Mose and south Shobury, Essex until his death in March 1793.
Robert Henry followed in his father’s footsteps and became a governor of Magdalen Hospital, as did Robert’s second wife, Esther.
Courtesy of the British Museum
Portrait, three-quarter length seated wearing velvet suit and long white wig, directed to right holding a book open on right knee to show the title-page of ‘An Account of the Rise, Progress and Present State of the Magdalen Charity’ faced by a picture of a woman, his left arm on arm of his chair beside a table on which are papers bound with ribbons; after Hoare.
The Ipswich Journal19 November 1748
The History and Topographical Survey of the County of Kent, Volume 2 By Edward Hasted
An Account of the Rise, Progress and Present State of the Magdalen Hospital By William Dodd
The majority of us will have come across Buxton Water which today is sold commercially bottled, but what was known about Buxton and its health-giving water in 1800?
The Georgians had an obsession with their health, and there were several popular spa towns frequented in the late Georgian/Regency periods, Buxton being one of them. We thought we would find out what the writer William Bott had to say about the lovely Derbyshire town of Buxton in 1800 in his book ‘A description of Buxton, and the adjacent country; or the new guide, for Ladies and Gentlemen, Resorting to that place of health and amusement’. Please note this is in no way us endorsing Buxton water although, if you had been reading this in 1800 you would have thought it was, although even today it’s possibly to drink it directly from the source.
The salubrity of the air and the excellent quality of the water, are entitled to very particular and distinguished notice, on account of both their very ancient reputation and great usefulness.
A range of buildings constructed in the form of a crescent, has however, been lately erected which for beauty and magnificence exceeds any other in this part of the kingdom, the space being two hundred and fifty-seven feet wide, an elegant stone balustrade extends the whole length of the front, with the arms of the Cavendish family neatly carved in wood, fixed in the centre. This Crescent consists of four private lodging house, two hotels and the assembly room; the latter of which forms a part of the larger hotel, and is seventy-five feet six inches long, thirty-two feet two inches wide and thirty feet high.
It is not possible to ascertain with exactness the number of company who resort to Buxton every season, but it is computed that the public buildings and private lodgings will accommodate above seven hundred persons, besides the inhabitant of the place and it is well known, that for some years past several persons have occasionally been obliged to procure lodgings in the neighbouring villages.
There are circumstance attending the use of Buxton water, of which it may not improper to take notice. When drank in considerable quantity, it is found to possess a binding and heating quality, and is productive of many feverish symptoms; with a view, however, of preventing such disagreeable effects, it is usual to recommend a gentle purgative to keep the body open. These waters in common with a great many others, are observed upon first drinking to affect the head with a sort of giddiness, attended with a sense of universal fullness and drowsiness, but after using them a few days, the sensations go off and are seldom or never perceived afterwards. The spirit is different in different waters and in most appears so extremely fugitive, that it immediately flies off when exposes to the air; all waters therefore are best whether drank at the fountain head. Pure water, as it betrays neither taste nor smell, must be admirably calculated to correct the acrimonious state of the fluids, from whatever cause it may arise, and if anything upon earth can be considered as a universal remedy, it must be water.
A uniform course of this pure element, assisted by exercise, and a proper regime of diet, will do more in some diseases than anything we know of.
As you read on, the list of restorative properties of Buxton water reads like a ‘cure for whatever may ail you‘ everything from bilious colic to rheumatism. The recommendation for drinking the water being somewhere in the region of 3 pints per day – ‘if your stomach can bear and the nature of the case requires it’. The period for drinking the waters is from the beginning of April until the beginning of November.
The chief properties of Buxton water for bathing, which it very widely differs, from both Bath and Bristol, for in the one, the waters are too hot, and in the other too cold – Buxton being just right.
The poor at their bath are not only exempted from all charge, but also met with great assistance and support from the charitable contributions of the company who resort to Buxton, it being customary for every newcomer, if he stay more than one day, to give one shilling for their use, which is collected and taken care of by the ‘steward of the house’ in which he happens to lodge; and the sum raised in this way in the course of the season, has some years past been very considerable; the common weekly allowance to the poor is six shillings and should any of them be more weak and necessitous it is usual to add something more.
Travel to Buxton
People not only attended Buxton for its waters, but also for leisure activities and Bott goes on to describe places worthy of a visit, including Pool’s hole (now known as Poole’s Cavern); Castleton, Speedwell mine, Mam Torr, Matlock, Tideswell and Litton Mills, Dovedale and of course Chatsworth, home of the Duke of Devonshire. The list of places he recommended worthy of a visit is endless.
Buxton Market Place, Derbyshire, unknown artist, Buxton Museum and Art Gallery
When you read through 18th century newspapers it’s quite astonishing the number of adverts there were for health and well-being with many so-called doctors offering cures for every conceivable medical complaint. Today, Advertising Standards, not to mention the police would have a field day with some of the claims made in these! Some of these are truly shocking, so we warn you in advance.
We begin with an advert in E. Johnson’s British Gazette and Sunday Monitor of Sunday, December 18, 1803. Ladies – do you suffer from monthly period pains? Are you pregnant? Or are you going through the menopause? – worry no more – Dr. Fothergill’s has the cure! There is absolutely no indication as to what this medicine actually contained, but it worked – really it did – a lady of quality confirmed this!
Dr. Fothergill offers a remedy with his Female Specific Pills, at the low price of 3 shillings and 6 pence! Of the efficacy of these pills too much cannot be aid as the use of them has been the means to restoring thousands to the state of perfect health, when innumerable other medicines have failed. They are particularly beneficial to single young ladies in the prime of their life when any irregularity prevails. They are also of great service to married ladies during the course of pregnancy. They are likewise of high importance to women in the latter period of life, specially about the age of 45 and upwards; as by their use the complaints which frequently prevail at that period will be obviate.
The history of these pills is rather singular and may serve as a recommendation to its more general use: – A lady of Quality was for many years afflicted with dreadful pain in her head and stomach, with various hysterical complaints: Her case was given for consideration to various eminent persons of the faculty, without obtaining any relief. One of these gentlemen, however, advised her to consult the late learned Dr. Fothergill, who was particularly celebrated for his skill in relieving these complaints. Dr. Fothergill gave her a prescription which was prepared by her family apothecary, who charged her five shillings for it. By the use of this medicine for a few days she experienced great relief and before she had finished the box was entirely well. During her life she distributed this medicine to many of her friends and poor neighbours. At length when very old age prevailed (attained perhaps only by the use of this medicine) she gave the recipe to her physician.
It was commonplace to see anecdotes for people ‘cured’ by taking certain medications such as this one in Oracle and Daily Advertiser, Monday, December 8, 1800. Did they work? We have no idea, but naturally people would put their trust in products that seemingly had some medical backing.
With this next one from Oracle and Daily Advertiser, Monday, December 8, 1800, the mind boggles – Dr. Harvey’s Anti-Venereal Pills and Grand Restorative Drops.
We move on to a couple of truly worrying adverts, when you read the first of these it can surely only be interpreted in one way, this was a service being offered for abortion. Women finding themselves in such dire straits as needing to use this service could do so for around one guinea (around £40 in today’s money).
Morning Post and Gazetteer, Tuesday, November 18, 1800:
Whose situation requires temporary Retirement
Mr. Watson, Surgeon and Man-Midwife, offer to accommodate Ladies in an airy and retired situation, with apartments to live in, on terms suited to their circumstances and situation in life; their infants put out to nurse, and humanely taken care of; and as humanity induces him to offer his assistance to alleviate the horrors of concealed pregnancy, he flatters himself Ladies will find, on application to him, the great attention and most profound secrecy. Letters (postpaid) to Mr. Watson, Surgeon and Man-Midwife, No. 19 Charlotte Street, Surrey side of Blackfriars Bridge, will meet the most pointed attention.
Where may be had The PILL-BENEDICTA, at £1, 1 shilling per box, a certain and effectual remedy to remove all obstructions and irregularities, and an excellent medicine after had Lyings-in.
Our last one comes to us courtesy of Courier and Evening Gazette, Wednesday, April 24, 1799. How many people would have bought into this one, we wonder, not many, we hope!
A medical gentleman, of regular education and established credit in London, who, on account of his rank in the profession, has found out an effectual remedy for the above-mentioned destructive disease. Such persons as wish to consult him, are requested to send a particular history of their complaint, mentioning age, sex etc. of the patient and an immediate answer will be returned stating every circumstance relative to the treatment and cure of the disease. Letters of consultation, inclosing a pound note, directed to Mr. T, No. 11 Cranbourn Street, Leicester Square, will be duly attended to.
An Episode from ‘The Mock Doctor’ or ‘Dumb Lady Cured’ (from Henry Fielding’s adaptation of ‘Le médécin malgré lui’ by Molière, 1732) by Francis Hayman (1708–1776), National Trust, Sizergh Castle.
Today’s post has been written with our genealogy followers very much in mind and those who love nothing more than a good challenge.
So, according to the government, health experts and others we’re going to live longer than ever before. Well, if you believe these accounts of longevity below we’ve got quite a way to go to exceed some of these instances.
All of these accounts appeared in the newspapers and also in a collated account of longevity written by James Easton ‘Human Longevity: Recording the Name, Age, Place of Residence, and Year’ in 1799.
Certainly Easton had done his homework by trawling through the newspapers, etc. We have tried in vain, so far, to validate any of them with a corresponding date of birth, yet if true, then they are accounts of longevity that far exceed anything you would expect for that period and many would still make headline news today even by our standards of life expectancy. Easton also noted that:
the more a man follows nature and is obedient to her laws, the longer he will live; and that the further he deviates from these, the shorter will be his existence. It is not the rich and great, nor those who depend on medicines who become old, but such as use much exercise, are exposed to the fresh air, and whose food is plain and moderate, as farmers, gardeners, fishermen, labourers, soldiers and such men, as perhaps never employed their thoughts on the means which have been used to promote longevity.
John Burnet aged 109, of Broadwater, Sussex. He married six wives, three of them after he was one hundred years old; and died in the same house in which he was born.
Margaret Patten died aged 137 (no, it’s not a typo!). She was of St Margaret’s workhouse, London, a Scotch woman. She always enjoyed good health till within a few days of her dissolution; and for many years subsisted mostly on milk. (Born near Paisley, according to the newspapers.)
John Hussey aged 116. Of Sydenham, Kent and formerly a farmer at Crawford. His breakfast was balm-tea sweetened with honey; and pudding for dinner, above fifty years; by which he acquired long and regular health.
Mary How aged 112. Of Mapleton, Derbyshire, widow. Her death was occasioned by pulling a codling off a tree, the limb of which breaking, fell on her arm and broke it. About two years before, she cut several new teeth and her hair changed its colour from grey to a beautiful white.
Rev. Mr Braithwaite – aged 110, of Carlisle. He had been one hundred years in the cathedral, having commenced singing-boy in the year 1652. N.B. There was a Rev. George Braithwaite listed in the Archaeology Data service who became a minor canon in 1679, ‘but that this fact does not necessarily imply that he was by that time in holy orders. A chapter order made November 23rd, 1703, distinguished between “lay petty canons who are skilled in music” and “petty canons who are in holy orders and are not skilled in music”‘.
Whether it was the same Reverend Braithwaite we have no idea.
Of Ripon, Yorkshire Robert Oglebie (Ogleby) aged 115, a travelling tinker; born Nov 6, 1647, as appears by the register of Ripon, married seventy-three years, and had twelve sons and thirteen daughters; had all his senses perfect and could see to work a short time before his death. His wife lived to be one hundred and six years old. He also claimed his father lived to the ripe old age of 140 and there was apparently a monument erected for him at Tanfield church, although we can find no evidence of this!
William Cotterell, aged 107, of Nottingham, farmer. His wife died three days after, aged ninety-eight, having been married eighty years.
Mary Wilkinson who died aged 109 in 1788. She was a native of Lundale, and changed her residence to Romald Kirk, in the north of Yorkshire. When she was young, she walked several times to London in four days, a distance of 290 miles. At the age of 99 years, she was desirous of seeing London again, and buckling a keg of gin, and a quantity of provisions on her back, she left Romald Kirk, and reached London in five days and three hours. –[S]he lived to see four Kings reign, and is interred in a stately tomb, erected at the expense of the inhabitants of Romald Kirk.
Anne Froste of West Rasen, Lincolnshire. She was the wife of a labourer, had been married three times and left a daughter ninety years of age. She was married to her last husband in her ninety-third year. For many years past she had lived on milk and tea diet. She died aged 111.
John Roberts died aged 103, of Digbeth near Birmingham. He married three wives, by whom he had twenty-eight children; was nearly eighty when he married his last and by whom he had six of the children.
William Troy, died aged 120 near Waterford, farmer. A short time before his death he read very small print without spectacles and daily walked about his farm without support.
John Sayer, aged 100 of Caistor near Norwich, butcher. He retained the perfect use of his faculties to the last hour of his life, with a memory very unusual at his age.
John Sayer’s burial record, at St Edmunds in Caistor, gave his age as 105.
And one we found in the London Evening Post, 13th October 1737.
We hear the following remarkable instance of longevity from Lewes in Sussex. Last Saturday died there Mr. Henry Morgan, aged 105 years and a half. He never made use of spectacles, but work’d at his trade as a sieve-maker the day before his death. He never had a day’s, nor scarce an hour’s illness in his whole life. The morning he died he walk’d into his garden and when he return’d sat down in his chair and died immediately, not so much as any of the family perceiving any difference in him.
And finally a little gem from 1771, which implies that not washing your face for over thirty years could be the key to a very long life, although we don’t recommend it!
Yesterday se’ennight were interred in the church-yard of Logie, the remains of Jean Stevenson, who died on Sunday preceeding, at Montrose, in the 107th year of her age. Her neighbours say, that she had not washed her face for thirty or forty years before her death.
Caledonian Mercury, 13 February 1771
Human Longevity: Recording the Name, Age, Place of Residence, and Year, of the Decease of 1712 Persons, who Attained a Century, & Upwards, from A.D. 66 to 1799, by James Easton
So you’ve sinned and need rehabilitation in eighteenth-century London; where would you go? Well, that was easy, you applied to The Magdalen hospital in London. The hospital was established by laymen rather than the clergy, in particular a Robert Dingley (*see end of article for more information) who, with a committee including Rev William Dodd, referred to it as a hospital but who insisted that it be more akin to a home.
It was to be a safe place for girls and women in eighteenth-century London (similar hospitals were sent up around the world too) where they could be rehabilitated and resume a good and honest life.
The first general meeting to discuss setting up such a place took place on the 1st of June 1758 and it was agreed that:
There was to be a ‘superiority of ward, the lower wards to take ‘inferior person’ or those ‘degraded for misbehaviour’. The women might be promoted to higher wards.
The matron was to inspect the inmates’ correspondence.
Inmates were to be known by their Christian names alone. If further differentiation were needed, the name of the ward, or a number, should be added.
Various kinds of employment were suggested
We then have the most poignant sentence at the end:
… always observing in this and every other circumstance the utmost care and delicacy, humanity and tenderness; so that this establishment, instead of being apprehended to be a house of correction, may be gladly embraced as a safe, desirable and happy retreat from their wretched and distressful circumstances.
It took very little time to raise the funds required and secure appropriate premises. Staff were duly appointed.
The first admission was Ann Blore, a native of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. Two other women were promised admission as soon as they were cured of disease. One was admitted as servant to the matron and Mary Truman was rejected as she wasn’t a prostitute. Admissions day was the first Thursday of the month at 5pm and women were not permitted to be either pregnant or suffering from any disease.
The house was divided into parts in order to make total and distinct divisions of the objects, and the rooms were distinguished by being numbered. The women were classed in each ward. A proper number of women were appointed to perform all the domestic business of their respective wards and the household and to keep the chapel clean. Each woman lay in a separate bed and had a box for her clothes and linen, under lock and key which was kept by herself. Strict regard was had by the matron and her assistants to ensure that the wards were kept completely ventilated and the air pure – they visited the chambers and working rooms frequently each day to ensure this. Friends or relations of the women could apply to visit and visits were held under the supervision of the matron.
Upon admission their clothes are taken from them and returned to them when they leave. They are issued with grey shalloon gowns, all women worn the same ‘uniform’. Their diet/meals were agreed by the overseeing committee with a copy of the meals being hung on a board in each ward.
All women are actively employed in tasks suiting their ability predominantly sewing, any occupation that will aid employment when they leave.
From Lady-day to Michaelmas they rise at six and go to bed at ten; and from Michaelmas to Lady-day rise at seven and in bed at nine; and after that time no fire of candle are allowed, except in the sick ward.
Breakfast was taken at 9 o’clock and they were allowed half an hour, they dined at one o’clock and were allowed one hour, and left off work at six in the winter and seven in the summer.
The hospital had opened on 10th August 1758 and by its 10th anniversary, some 1,036 women had been admitted.
509 had been reconciled to and received by their friends or placed in services in reputable families and to trades
38 proved lunatics, and afflicted with incurable fits
150 were uneasy under restraint and dismissed at their own desire
37 never returned from hospitals, to which they were sent to be cured
201 were discharged for faults and irregularities
73 were still present
Did this method of reform work? Well seemingly so, if you believe the statistics, it did. To correct and to train rather than to punish seemed to be the order of the day. The hospital adapted to change over the years and finally closed its doors in 1966.
For anyone wishing to find out more about the Magdalene laundries in Ireland which were set up a few years after the one in London, you may find wish to follow the link here.
* More about Robert Dingley
Robert Dingley was born around 1710, the eldest surviving son of Susanna and Robert Dingley, a prosperous jeweller and goldsmith of Bishopsgate Street, London. Robert took a keen interest in the arts and became a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also founder member of the Society of Dilettanti, held a lifelong career with the Russia Company and was also Director of the Bank of England and trustee at the Foundling home.
On December 30th, 1744 Robert married Elizabeth Thomson, daughter of Henry Thomson Esq, of Kirby Hall, Yorkshire.
Elizabeth was to die in 1759 and within a couple of years, Robert had married again, to Esther Spencer (Esther died 1784).
Robert died 1781 and there is a memorial for both Robert and Esther in the same church.
They had a daughter, Susanna Cecilia (1743–1795) of Lamb Abbey, near Eltham, Kent, who married Richard Hoare (d.1778) of Boreham House, Essex, a partner in Hoare’s bank, in 1762.
The couple had five children, and the present picture probably depicts their eldest child, called Susanna Cecilia after her mother, who died young in 1768. In 1765 Mrs Hoare paid 70 guineas for the picture, which was probably painted 1763–1764.
Robert and his first wife also had a son Robert Henry Dingley, born in 1746.
There is no trace of Robert having left a will, but his second wife Esther left a will in which she made provision both of Robert’s children.
So, you’ve found yourself a suitable young lady to spend some ‘quality’ time with, courtesy of Harris’s List (the annual directory of sex workers in London).
You’ve forgotten to call at Mrs Philips, at the Green Canister on Half-moon Street in the Strand for some cumdums (condoms, as we know them to be today) and you didn’t use the ‘totally effective Paris wash ball’ or Powell and Co’s medicated soap before calling on the young lady.
Oh, well never mind you’ll take a chance, everything should be just fine.
But of course, more often than not it simply wasn’t ‘just fine’ and needless to say the result was that you become ‘frenchified’, in other words, you acquired a venereal disease – the pox, Covent Garden/Drury Lane Ague, Clap or, Token (the latter originates from the phrase ‘she tipped him the token’ i.e. she was infected and passed it on to him).
So what was the treatment?
Well, you could pay a visit to the ‘Nimgimmer’, a physician or surgeon who claimed to be able to provide you with a cure for the condition, such as Dr John Leake, of Parliament Street, London, who advertised prolifically in the newspapers throughout the mid to late 1700s that he had developed a ‘cure all’ pill and also the ‘Lisbon Diet Drink’.
This ‘cure’ which was more than likely some form of medication containing mercury became extremely popular, to the extent that it was carried onboard ships for the sailors to take after a night out! Syphilis was incurable and the best treatment was calomel aka mercury chloride, which had its own problems when used over the long term.
So, those Georgians believed you simply took a pill and the condition was cured – really? Alternately you could try the Cornelian Tub, which was a sweating tub designed to remove the impurities – surely, that would do the trick or Sir Peter Lalonette’s Fumigation machine (to find out more about option click on the highlighted link).
It wasn’t until the mid-1830s that the medical profession finally agreed that syphilis and gonorrhoea were actually two different conditions, so consequently, until that time there was just one general term for the condition i.e. venereal disease. No matter which condition you had acquired there was no cure for your night for passion!
So, you are a grandly dressed Georgian lady with a fully powdered head of hair, fashionably coiffed but with a few little inhabitants. Scratch, scratch! How would you rid yourself of fleas?
Back in the eighteenth-century fleas were a common problem for all classes and would happily live in beds, inside wigs, on pets and everyone was prey to them. Bathing of course helped and there was the tried and tested method of painstakingly searching for and picking off the little critters. The Parisian artist Nicolas Lancret (1690-1743), in a couple of his genre paintings, depicted some ladies searching themselves for fleas (and offering the viewer a titillating glimpse of flesh while doing so).
One other way that was popular for a short period in the eighteenth-century, was to use a flea-trap which became something of a popular fashion accessory. It consisted of a hollow perforated cylindrical tube, sometimes ornately carved and made of silver or ivory. Inside was a small rod tuft of fur or a piece of cloth. This would be smeared with a few drops of blood to attract the fleas, along with fat and/or honey resin, designed to make the fleas stick fast to it as they crawled inside and which was removed as necessary to get rid of them.
The flea trap was worn on a ribbon as a necklace, hanging down inside a dress – it could also be placed in a bed to attempt to rid that of fleas. A German doctor named Franz Ernst Brückmann (1697-1753) designed the first flea trap in the early 1700s.
Louth museum in Lincolnshire holds one, although they are unsure of the date of their flea trap. It is made of ivory, with a carved pattern and measures 7cm in length and 1½cm in width.
The French name for the flea was ‘la puce’, which is supposedly how we have the name for the colour today – it is taken from the colour of a squashed flea or one full of blood or from the bloodstains left behind by a flea on the bedsheets.
Reputedly, this brownish purple was one of Marie Antoinette’s favourite colours, and it was Louis XVI who jokingly compared it to the colour of a flea and so named it.
From Domestic anecdotes of the French nation, during the last thirty years, indicative of the French revolution, written in 1800 by Isaac D’Israeli (author and father of the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli):
In the summer of 1775, the queen being dressed in a brown lutestring, the king good humouredly observed, it was “couleur de puce”, the colour of fleas; and instantly every lady would be drest in a lutestring of a flea colour. The mania was caught by the men; and the dyers in vain exhausted themselves to supply the hourly demand. They distinguished between, an old and a young flea, and they subdivided even the shades of the body of this insect; the belly, the back, the thigh, and the head, were all marked by varying shades of this colour. This prevailing tint promised to be the fashion of the winter. The venders of silk, found that it would he pernicious to their trade; they therefore presented new sattins to her majesty, who having chosen one of a grey ash-colour, Monsieur, exclaimed that it was the colour of her majesty’s hair! Immediately the fleas ceased to be favourites, and all were eager to be drest in the colour of her majesty’s hair. Servants were sent off at the moment from Fontainebleau to Paris, to purchase velvets, rateens and cloths of this colour. The current price in the morning had been forty livres per ell, and it rose towards the evening to the price of eighty to ninety livres.
We’ll end with a couple of satirical prints. We think the people in these could do with a flea trap!
Irritating Intimates: The Archaeoentomology of Lice, Fleas, and Bedbugs by Allison Bain
Louth museum and blog
Domestic anecdotes of the French nation, during the last thirty years, indicative of the French revolution, by Isaac D’Israeli
We often take our feet for granted until we suddenly find that we have corns, bunions or hard skin and it was no different in Georgian times. Did you know that ‘four fifths of people are afflicted with complaints in the feet’? No, neither did we; so we thought we would take a quick look at 18th century views and treatments for the age old problem of corns, what a delightful topic, hope you’re not eating whilst reading this!
We all know what corns are and how painful they can be and clearly they are an age old problem and those clever Georgians found their own way of treating them.
What causes corns?
Today we believe that they are as a result of wearing shoes that fit poorly or certain designs that place excessive pressure on an area of the foot.
During our research we came across a fascinating little book written by a chiropodist in 1818 who agreed with this theory to a certain extent, but also added that the wearing of high heels and the use of hard leather also contributed to the problem. The writer though says that ‘even when buckles were in fashion, though they certain produced callouses on the upper part of the foot, corns were never seen to arise from their pressure’.
He was also convinced that corns were mainly due to thin skin and that people who lived in the countryside and walked more, developed harder skin as they exercised more and as such suffered far less from corns than those living in the city, true or false we’d love to know! Maybe this is a good reason to take plenty of exercise.
Apparently he also understood that people could predict the weather by how painful or otherwise their corns were.
How to treat them
Easy, take a penknife or razor and remove them … NO that never was a good idea, even in Georgian times, and the writer of this book strongly advised against such self-treatment of the condition. He also noted the variety of ‘quack treatments’ such as plasters that could be applied either to relieve or remove the corn of which he was sceptical about their effectiveness.
He also talked about and advised against was to use ‘infallible cures from grandmama’s recipe book’. After writing at length about the perils of such treatment the author strongly advises that the only solution is to seek medical help from a qualified professional person.
We did manage to find one of the ‘quack’ adverts he referred to.
Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, Wednesday, March 14, 1791
Under no circumstances would we advocate this method!
Hearing aids have made some quite dramatic progress since the Georgian era . Towards the end of the 18th century the use of an ear trumpet was commonplace, with collapsible ones being made on a one off basis for customers. Well known models of the period included the Townsend Trumpet (made by the John Townshend) and the Reynolds Trumpet (specially made for painter Joshua Reynolds) which funneled sound into the inner ear.
One of the quirkiest objects we have come across to assist with hearing is this image. It is a flower vase receptacle made by F. C Rein about 1810. The object would sit in the middle of a dining table once filled with flowers. Each of the six openings, or “receptors,” would act as sound collectors.*
This one below, manufactured in ivory was made for and used by Admiral John Borlase Warren (1753-1822).
Here we have an example of a small hearing aid consisting of a pair of metal ear tubes acquired by the surgeon Luke James (1799 – 1881)
In Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 14, we across this ‘letter to the editor‘ from a gentleman suffering from hearing difficulties along with a drawing of a device to help improve his hearing.
Having taken in your very superior Miscellany, from its earliest day to the present, I know you as the friend of man. Upon this ground, I am confident that you will grant the request I make, of inserting the short notice I now send in your very first Number, that those labouring under deafness may reap, from the improvement which I have made upon the Ear Trumpet, the advantages which I so unexpectedly enjoy.
Many years ago, in’consequence of a cough of most uncommon severity, an injury was done to some part of the internal structure of my left ear,which completely robbed me of hearing through that organ. Immediately after this accident, I was seized with a tinnitus aurium, which held out the dismal prospect of entire deafness. For this malady, I had recourse to snuff, and its effects upon the tinnitus were soon perceptible. Still, however, the hearing upon the right ear remained obtuse, and extremely contracted my social enjoyments. I applied in every quarter, including his Majesty’s Aurist, for the most improved ear trumpet. From none of these instruments was the most trivial benefit derived.
My thoughts being much employed upon the subject, it occurred to me that every ear-trumpet which had been sent to me conveyed the collected sound through a very small tube, the orifice of which was inserted in the ear ; and now a prospect opened which afforded hope. I immediately ordered an instrument to be constructed, of the fittest block-tin, one end of which included the whole external ear, and the other, (circular also) of larger diameter, collected the sound, which was conveyed by a straight tube, of some capacity, into the ear.
The result was most gratifying, indeed, beyond my most sanguine expectation, enabling me to carry on a conversation with a friend, with the utmost ease to myself, and without exertion to the person addressing me.
It is the establishment of the principle of this improvement upon the Ear-Trumpet to which I am solicitous to give publicity, leaving to younger men to make experiments upon the length and diameter of the tube, and of other parts of the instrument.
The only attempt towards improvement which 1 made, was the making a transverse section of the smaller circle, so as to approach nearly to the shape of the ear; and, by a little management, it answers my expectation.
With this I transmit a sketch of the instrument I use.
I remain, Mr Editor, with much esteem, your very obedient servant,
Today’s blog is going to be a sad little tale of a family destroyed by opium in late Georgian England. It perhaps struck us so much because the family lived not in an inner city slum but instead in the flat and open agricultural landscape of the Lincolnshire Fens, a marshland close to the Wash, an estuary on the eastern coastline of England.
We’ll turn first to a newspaper report on the inquest of a child belonging to this family, poor little Rebecca Eason who was actually younger than mentioned; she had not yet reached her fifth birthday.
An inquest was held at Whaplode on the 21st inst., by Samuel Edwards, Gent. coroner, on view of the body of Rebecca Eason, a child aged 5 years, who had been diseased from its birth and was unable to walk or to articulate, and from its size did not appear to be more than a few weeks old:- The mother had been for many years in the habit of taking opium in very large quantities, (nearly a quarter of an ounce in the day), and it is supposed from that circumstance had entailed a disease on her child which caused its death:- it was reduced to a mere skeleton, and had been in that emaciated state nearly from its birth. – Verdict, “Died by the visitation of God, but that from the great quantity of opium taken by the mother during her pregnancy of the said child and of her suckling it, she had greatly injured its health.” – It appeared in evidence that the mother of the deceased had had five children – that she began to take opium after the birth and weaning of her first child, which was and is remarkably healthy – and that her four younger children have all lingered and died in the same emaciated state as the child which was the subject of this investigation. – The mother is under 30 years of age: she was severely censured by the coroner for indulging in so pernicious a practice.
Stamford Mercury, 30th September 1825
For reasons that will perhaps become clear, we’re not going to judge poor addicted Mary Eason. She was quite clearly continuing to take opium despite knowing the effect it was having on her children but we cannot, at this remove, know what induced her first to use the drug, and once addicted very little help would be available to her.
We were surprised to find that the consumption of opium in the Fenland was extremely high in comparison to other areas. Even now large areas of the Fenland appear quite isolated and in the early nineteenth-century there was limited medical assistance for the inhabitants who suffered badly from the ague (malarial fever, often leading to rheumatism), brought on by living in a marshy and largely unhealthy district. In 1867 Dr Hawkins of King’s Lynn informed the readers of the British Medical Journal that Lincolnshire and Norfolk consumed more than half of the opium which was imported into the country.[i]
The fact that these conditions had led to a noticeably high consumption of opium was commented on at the time. `There was not a labourer’s house… without its penny stick or pill of opium, and not a child that did not have it in some form.’ According to an analysis made in 1862, more opium was sold in Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire and Manchester than in other parts of the country.’ As elsewhere, poppy-head tea had been used as a remedy long before other narcotics were commercially available. Charles Lucas, a Fenland physician, recalled the widespread use of the remedy. `A patch of white poppies was usually found in most of the Fen gardens. Poppy-head tea was in frequent use, and was taken as a remedy for ague… To the children during the teething period the poppy-head tea was often given. Poppies had been grown in the area for the London drug market, where they were used to produce syrup of white poppies; and there had even been attempts made in Norfolk to produce opium on a commercial scale.[ii]
Mary married young, very young given that she was stated (erroneously) to be under the age of thirty years in the September of 1825. Mary was, in fact, probably just on the other side of thirty as she married on the 9th September 1810 at the church of St Mary’s in Whaplode. Her maiden name was Egan and her husband, a labourer (given the location he’d be an agricultural labour), was named Thomas Eason. Mary made her mark on the register of her marriage and the two men who witnessed the ceremony were possibly two of the Church Wardens as they witnessed many marriages in the parish. Their names were Robert Collins and Robert Cook Collins.
So Mary was likely to have been little more than sixteen years of age and the marriage was a hasty one, possibly conducted with encouragement from the parish officials for Mary was heavily pregnant at the time of her wedding. Her child, a daughter named Ann, was born less than two months after she had walked up the aisle and was baptised in the same church on the 4th November 1810.
On the face of it, purely from the records available, things do not look too bad for the couple despite the unpromising start. They lived on Cobgate in Whaplode and, from the account given at the inquest, little Ann was a healthy baby and Mary initially a good mother. But the records belie the true facts. It was after Ann had been weaned that Mary Eason began to take opium.
We can’t know if her hastily made marriage was a happy one (for as the old saying goes, marry in haste and repent at leisure) nor if she was suffering from what would now be diagnosed as postnatal depression after the birth of her child. But begin to take opium she did which was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in the area in which she lived and where the drug was widely available. It was not unknown for working-class women to dose their infant with poppy-head tea to keep them quiet or to soothe them. Sometimes their own addiction began because they ‘tasted’ the opiates which they gave to their children. Perhaps this is how Mary’s sad story of addiction began? However it came about, now the tragic procession of the baptisms and burials of her children begins to stalk the pages of the parish register.
First was William, baptized on the 15th April 1813 and buried just a few months later on the 30th September. He was followed by another girl, Susanna, baptized on the 2nd January 1815 and who lived to see only her first birthday. She was buried on the 13th May 1816. Then comes Sarah, baptized on the 1st November 1816 and possibly, contrary to the inquest, a further child who did survive Mary’s addiction for we have as yet found no corresponding burial for her.
Sarah’s birth was followed by another sister, Elisabeth who was baptized on the 6th December 1818 and buried just over a month later on the 10th January 1819. Then a son named Thomas, baptized on the 4th December 1819 and buried five days later. And next came poor Rebecca, baptized on the 29th December 1820, who somehow miraculously clung to life but failed to grow or develop. Finally the last child we have managed to trace, another son named John who was baptized on the 6th July 1823 and buried on Christmas Eve later that same year.
We’ll be honest here, when we first went hunting through the records for Mary Eason and her children we half expected to see a trail of illegitimate children. But no, Thomas Eason is named on all the baptisms and burials as the father, the address is always Cobgate and his profession does not change. For anyone reading through the Whaplode registers the household looks to be a completely stable one, albeit tinged with tragedy. As we have not judged Mary, neither will we judge Thomas Eason. Again, we have no way of knowing whether he was a kind or a cruel husband or even if he was an opium eater himself, but the mere fact that he had stuck by Mary and that their eldest child was reported, in 1825, to still be healthy, points to him trying his best to hold his troubled home together. Possibly he just got by and did what he could, not knowing what else to do or where to turn to for help?
At least five infant children belonging to Thomas and Mary Eason now lay in the churchyard at St Mary’s and it seems that they had passed as mere statistics of high infant mortality without the cause of death raising any suspicions, or at least no suspicions which reached the authorities. In the Fenland the rates of infant mortality were even higher than elsewhere, with the use of opium being one of the main causes. But Rebecca’s death in 1825 was different, because of her deformities, leading to the inquest.
After Rebecca’s burial on the 22nd September 1825 when she joined her five siblings in the churchyard Thomas and Mary Eason vanish from the pages of the parish register. We’ve looked for them in later records, hoping to put a happy ending to their lives, but we can find no trace of them or their daughter Ann (and Sarah if she did live). A sad ending for a sad tale of a Fenland family in the early nineteenth century.
[i] Beccles and Bungay Weekly News, 1st October 1867
We would like welcome our latest guest writer the lovely Geri Walton author of the blog 18th and 19th Centuries who has very kindly written a fascinating article for us about an eighteenth century cure for venereal disease.
Ancient people believed in the idea that cures could be achieved by providing nourishment through the skin and often used perfume in the form of vapors, known as fumigation. When the bubonic plague ravished Europe, fumigation seemed to be effective in curing it. The idea of fumigation interested Georgian physicians who believed fumigation could be an effective medicinal remedy.
Among those who believed fumigation was a viable medicinal cure was Sir Peter Lalonette (sometimes referred to as Lalouette). Lalonette was, by the late 1700’s, a distinguished doctor and regent of the faculty of Physics at the University of Paris. He also believed the best way to cure venereal disease was by using mercury vapors along with fumigation.
To prove his theories and accomplish his cures, he created a fumigation machine, as shown above. He described the machine as “an oblong square box, in which the patient is shut up.” The patient also sat on a seat that could be raised or lowered to accommodate his or her height. At the bottom of the box a square hole admitted the furnace and a sliding door allowed the mercury powder to be thrown onto the fire to create the vapors. At the top of the box another sliding door accommodated the patient’s head and neck, and, to ensure the vapors were retained in the box, the sliding door was closed around the patient’s neck and a piece of fabric tucked securely around any open spots.
The mercury vapors used were created from one of three unique powders that Lalonette prepared using the purest quality mercury. Lalonette also used a variety of techniques and certain corrosive sublimates to create three powders he called a simple mercurial powder, a martial mercurial powder, and an argillaceous mercurial powder. These three powders supposedly offered different degrees of activity when used in his fumigation machine.
The amount of mercury powder used was proportional “to the violence of the systems, the strength and temperament of the patient, &c.” As a general rule, somewhere between four and six ounces of mercury were considered adequate. Depending on the results, it sometimes required as many as thirty or forty treatments, and treatments needed to be continued until all the disease symptoms disappeared. However, Lalonette also said it was prudent to continue treatments for a short time afterwards “for the sake of greater security.”
Fumigation was normally applied every other day, although it could also be applied up to four days in a row. Fumigation with mercury vapors were given in twelve to fifteen minute doses to nude patients who had fasted. The object of the fumigation was to have the mercury vapors surround the whole body. In addition, patients were also to adhere to a simple regimen that consisted of “mild food, little wine, [and] no spirituous liquors,” along with exercise.
Lalonette’s patients ranged in age from 19 to 42, and suffered a wide variety of venereal disease symptoms. Common symptoms included such things as urethral discharges, buboes (swollen, inflamed lymph nodes), blotchy skin, pustules, or chancres (cankerous sores or ulcerations). Sometimes sufferers experienced violent aches and pains in the stomach, such as twenty-five year old Luke B., who also experienced nausea and violent vomiting. In fact, Luke B. had so many problems, Lalonette refused to allow him to continue with his fumigation cure.
Some of Lalonette’s other cases were more successful. Louis D. age 23 years, began fumigation on September 4, 1772, having been ill five months. He showed a bubo in the groin area, but was cured by October 21, 1772. A second Louis, Louis B., age twenty-one, suffered from gonorrhea for nine months before he began having a discharge. He then developed blotches on different parts of his body and began Lalonette’s treatments in August 11, 1772. While Louis B was undergoing treatment, a third Louis, Louis M., began treatment in October of the same year. He had suffered for five months with “phymosis, and indurations within the prepuce.” His groin was also swollen and he had an infinite number of blotches on his face and body. In December of 1772, however, Lalonette pronounced both Louis B. and Louis M. cured.
Two other cases also involved gonorrhea. The first case involved a forty-year-old man named Joseph. Four years earlier Joseph had suffered from gonorrhea but thought himself cured. Then he began experiencing pain in his leg, limbs, and finally swelling in his ear and gums. When Lalonette saw him he showed signs of “chancres and a bubo.” After about three months of treatment, Lalonette pronounced him cured. John G, age 26, admitted in August 11, 1772, had two obvious “buboes,” which degenerated into ulcers. He also had a discharge from his urethra and pain in his limbs that increased during the night and prevented him from sleeping. However, by October 21, 1772, he also cured due to fumigation.
There was, however, one case that Lalonette cautiously reported on involving a twenty-year-old man. His name was Peter D. He had developed gonorrhea two years earlier and not only suffered a urethral discharge but also various “chancres” that appeared all over his body, along with severe pain in his limbs, and “nocturnal pains of the head.” His disposition was noted by Lalonette to be somewhat relieved, but he also added “there are some doubts of his being perfectly cured.”
For the most part, however, Lalonette claimed that after applying his fumigation technique some 400 times, he had achieve miraculous results and wrote a book detailing his successes. It was titled, A New Method of Curing the Venereal Disease by Fumigation. In it he claimed, “I have as yet seen no disagreeable accident from this mode of treatment, and I have constantly observed, that so far from being rendered weaker by it they [the sufferers]…apparently gathered strength during the use of the remedy, and the symptoms have insensibly diminished, till at length they have entirely disappeared.”
Clarke, Sir Arthur, An Essay on Warm, Cold, and Vapour Bathing, 1820, on Google Books
Lalouette, Sir Peter, A New Method of Curing the Venereal Disease by Fumigation, 1777, on Internet Archive
The Monthly Review; Or, Literary Journal, Vol. LVIII, 1778, on Google Books
Whilst brushing my teeth the other day I found myself wondering what dental care would have been like in the 18th century, so with that in mind I thought it might form an interesting blog. It’s quite surprising how far we have actually progressed and in other ways how little we have learnt.
‘Sugar is bad for you!’ A fact that did not escape the attention of one Thomas Berdmore, dentist to King George III, who was regarded as the leading dentist in England and as early as 1768, in what appears to have been the first English dental textbook ‘A treatise on the disorders and deformities of the teeth and gums: explaining the most rational methods of treating their diseases: illustrated with cases and experiments’, he had proclaimed the use of sugar as being bad for teeth! He was also ahead of his time with his observation: ‘I am inclined to think that smoking is hurtful to the teeth.‘
Thomas died 7th November 1785, aged a mere 45 years, in Nottingham and in his will he instructed that his epitaph show his fortune had been acquired “by tooth drawing“, but the family had found that too indelicate so here is the substitute at St Mary’s church, Nottingham.
Today we take sugar very much for granted, but we are now very much aware of its harmful effects on the body, less was known of its effects back then and so as it’s usage in the diet increased and with it the risk of tooth decay. Sugar was, however, an expensive commodity, there was of course far more chance of decay if you weren’t working class as sugar was mainly an indulgence of the middle/upper classes. The quantity of sugar consumed in Britain increased fourfold from 1700 to 1800, little wonder people needed dentists!
With today’s technology teeth can be repaired or removed even dentures are not essential with implants now being available to replace those dreaded dentures, all procedures being carried out hygienically and with the aid of anaesthetic – ‘you won’t feel a thing’.
Go back in time to the 1700s and the main solution for a painful tooth was extraction … minus the anaesthetic … ouch! Having your teeth removed really would have been painful as this somewhat earlier painting entitled The Tooth Extractor by Theodor Rombouts demonstrates.
If you were wealthy you could opt for the eighteenth-century equivalent of today’s implants and use a ‘donor’ tooth to replace your removed one in which case the choice was a ‘live’ or a ‘dead’ tooth. The old tooth was removed and the ‘donor’ tooth substituted. Hmm, now the question you would have to ask yourself was ‘do I really want someone else’s tooth in my mouth?’ Let’s be honest you really don’t know what medical conditions that person could have had, so you really could end up getting far more than you had bargained for! But, if that didn’t put you off then you could have your ‘new’ tooth inserted into the empty socket and held in place by silver wire and be returned to your usual glamorous looks quite quickly. Advertisements were placed in newspapers for donors with money being good money being paid for your teeth, so if you were short of money it was always an option!
If that option wasn’t up your street or you couldn’t afford it, then the only solutions were to endure the pain, pull the tooth out yourself or have it removed by a dentist/barber. The favoured method of extraction was to use a ‘key’, we’ll save you the excruciating description of how this worked, but, if it failed to work properly the tooth would break and have to be removed piece by piece. Very much as today, dentists had a vast array of implements from pliers to cleaning aids.
If on the other hand, your teeth were in good condition you might simply wish to maintain them, again the dentist could help with this. They could provide ‘mouth water’ which ‘cured all manner of toothache and pain in the gums proceeding from rotten, hollow or stumps of teeth or scurvy and likewise take away all ill smells of the breath. Price 2d and 6d a bottle’; according to the Evening Post, 30th November 1710.
Following on from Thomas Berdmore we had Jacob Hemet (baptized 26th January 1729 at St Paul’s, Covent Garden) was also responsible for the teeth of Queen Charlotte, the Prince of Wales and Princess Amelia having been appointed to this post in 1766. As well as being a dentist Hemet was also a salesman and patented his dentifrices and travelled around Europe and America to sell his products – quite the entrepreneur.
His uncle, Peter Hemet junior, had also been a dentist with royal connections; he was the dentist to the Prince of Wales and to King George II, until his death in 1754, so very much a case of keeping it in the family. See our blog about Mrs Lessingham to learn more about the Hemet family.
Whitehall Evening Post or London Intelligencer, January 10, 1769
Jacob Hemet, dentist to Her Majesty and Princess Amelia begs leave to recommend to the public his newly discovered Essence of Pearl and Pearl Dentifrice which he has found to be greatly superior, not only in elegance, but also in efficacy to anything hither to made use of for the complaints of teeth and gums; particularly they will preserve the teeth in a perfect sound state even in old age. They render them white and beautiful without in the least impairing. Fasten such as are loose; keep such as are decayed from becoming worse; perfectly cure the scurvy in the gums and make them grow firm and close to the teeth; they will likewise render the breath delicately sweet and remedy almost all those disorders that are the consequence of scorbutic gums.
We could not ignore children’s teeth and the London Evening Post of October 28th, 1760 carried an advertisement for an ‘anodyne necklace’ it was a remedy to ‘let out children’s teeth without pain’ i.e. a teething necklace. The reality being that it was a necklace containing henbane roots.
We will leave you with one final snippet of information about dentistry courtesy of Pierre Fauchard, who was regarded as the ‘father of dentistry’ – did you know that Fauchard recommended that human urine be used at the first sign of tooth decay … did it work … we have absolutely no idea, nor do we intend to put it to the test!
Of course, as always a blog would not be complete with our usual Lewis Walpole caricatures, so we’ll finish with one. Wonder how many readers will, having read this go and brush their teeth!
To find out more about female dentists just follow the highlighted link here.
To can also hear me chatting to London Guided Walks on the subject by clicking the highlighted link.
 Ponting, Clive (2000). World History: A New Perspective. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-6834-X
Following the previous post What a Spectacle! which looked at the development of spectacles during the Georgian Era, I had a question/observation from a reader regarding portraits of women wearing spectacles – or rather the lack of them.
With that in mind, I have tried, almost in vain to put together a short post to show just women wearing spectacles. To be honest it has proved to be something of a challenge and of course, I thrive on challenges!
There are only a few possible explanations for the lack of images, the first being that of vanity; you wanted to look at your best when having your portrait painted and ‘masking‘ the eyes with spectacles or even showing publicly that your eyesight wasn’t quite what it should have been may have been one.
The second explanation is probably that young to middle-aged women simply preferred to use an eyeglass of some sort if they felt their eyesight was lacking or finally, that quite simply eye tests as we understand them today, simply did not exist in the same way, therefore people didn’t realize how good or bad their eyesight really was.
Around the 1800s the use of any type of spectacles was a sign of old age and infirmity, so it seems that vanity would most likely have prevented many women from admitting to this!
For ‘ladies of fashion’ the lorgnette was immensely popular. The picture below shows one invented by George Adams Jr. (1750 – 1795) in the form of a penknife and intended to be carried loose in the pocket. Lorgnettes were developed towards the end of the 1700’s and often took the form of a pair of eyeglasses on a long handle.
If you preferred something slightly more discrete and more akin to a piece of jewellery then the other option were quizzling glasses which became popular from the early 1800’s.
Moving on to the portraits that I have found, and to be honest they seem to confirm the suggestion, and only feature the more mature woman.
The first offering is an oil painting entitled ‘The Sense of Hearing, The Sense of Sound’ by the French artist Philippe Mercier.
The next is a self-portrait by the Polish artist Anna Dorothea Therbusch, painted circa 1777, when she was around 65 years of age.
The third offering is Friederike Charlotte of Stolberg-Gedern in her later life.
The next, a caricature entitled ‘ The Mutual Embrace’ courtesy of the British Museum.
Finally, there is ‘High Life Below Stairs’ by John Collet, London, England, 1763.
Unfortunately, despite best attempts, I failed to find any paintings of young women wearing spectacles, so as many of you know my blog posts couldn’t possibly be complete without any caricatures so I offer this one from the Lewis Walpole Library entitled ‘Heyday! Is this my daughter Anne!‘, yet again depicting an elderly woman accompanied by her daughter who is sporting one of our favourite enormous hairstyles.
Well, we thought we had heard it all, but seemingly not! We have come across a book from 1745 ‘The Accomplish’d Housewife, or the Gentlewoman’s Companion’ containing the most astounding cures for all illnesses. Please, please, please do not try these at home; we really will not accept any responsibility for the consequences!
For a Sore Throat
Make a plaister four inches broad, and so long as to reach from ear to ear, apply it warm to the throat, then bruise houseleek and press out the juice; add an equal quantity of honey, and a little burnt Allum; mix all together, and let the party soften take some on a liquorice stick.
For the Piles
Take Pompilion, flour of Brimstone and Oil of Elder, of each a sufficient quantity, and Mutton suet something more than any of the former, melt them together and anoint the part. If they are inward, cut a piece and put it up.
An Excellent Vomit
Take a quarter of a pound of clear Allum, beat it and sift it a fine as flour; divide it into three parts. Put a quarter of a pint of water into a saucepan and put the biggest paper of Allum in, and let it simmer over the fire, but not boil. Take it off and let it stand till it is blood-warm, drink it off, but take nothing after it, till it has worked once. You may walk about after it has work’d once. Take it three mornings together, or more if occasion requires, till the stomach is clear. This is a very good vomit in all cases.
To know if a child has worms
Take a piece of white lather, and prick it full of holes with a knife, rub it with wormwood and spread honest on it, shrew the Powder of Aloes on it, lay it on the child’s navel when he goes to bed; if he has worms, the plaister will stick, if he has not, it will fall.
To Cure the Cholick
Take the Powder of Yarrow, in a glass of warm wine, and it will give you ease immediately.
An Opening Drink
Take Red-Sage, Liverwort, Horehound, Penny Royal, Hyssop, Maiden- hair, two handfuls of each, one pound of figs, one pound of raisins stoned, half a pound of blue currants, coriander seeds, aniseeds, liquorice, of each two ounces. Put all these in two gallons of Spring water, let it boil away two or three quarts, then strain it and when ‘tis cold put it in bottles. Drink half a pint in a morning and as much in the afternoon, keep warm and eat little.
To Stop Looseness
Take the conserve of marigold flowers about the bigness of a nutmeg for three nights; if it does not stop take it in the morning. Take a pound of marigold flowers to a pound and a half of sugar to make the conserve.
For a Looseness
Boil a handful of bramble-leaves in milk, sweeten it with Loaf sugar and drink it night and morning.
For the thrush in children’s mouths
Take a hot sea-coal, and quench it in as much spring water as will cover the coal; wash it with this five or six times a day.
For fits of the mother
Take green walnuts and of rue one pound, one pound and a half of figs; bruise the rue and the walnuts, slice the figs into thin slices and lay them between the rue and the walnuts. Distill it off, bottle and keep it for your use. Take a spoonful or two when there is any appearance of a fit.
For the stone in the kidneys
Take oil of olives, two spoonfuls; Daffy’s Elixir four spoonfuls; liquid Laudanum three drops; oil of turpentine twenty drops. Mix them with sugar and take this dose at the beginning of the fit.
To break a boil
Take some honey and wheat flour, and the yolk of a new laid egg; mix it well together and spread it on a rag and lay it on cold.
Roast a turnip very soft; beat it to mash and apply it as hot as you can bear it to the part affected. Let it lie on two or three days and repeat it two or three times.
To procure an easy labour
Take half a pound of raisins of the sun ston’d, half a pound of figs, four ounces of liquorice scrap’d and sliced; aniseeds bruised one spoonful; boil all these in two quarts of spring water till one pint is consum’d then strain it out and drink a quarter of a pint of it morning and evening, six weeks before the time.
To procure a speedy delivery
Take of borax powder’d half a dram; mix it in a glass of white wine, some sugar and a little cinnamon water; if it does no good the first time, try it again two hours after, so likewise a third time.
To increase milk in nurses
Make a gruel with lentils, let the person drink freely of it, or boil them in posset drink, which they like best.
If our final offering cure works then we’re definitely going to practice our fainting skills!!
May proceed from different causes as excess of joy or sorrow; sudden surprises, worms, stubborn heartburn etc and are always dangerous if they come often, without some apparent cause. Sometimes they are occasioned by a fullness of blood. Those who are subject to them, and women especially must carefully avoid all sorts of drams; for they afford but temporary relief and cause the distemper to return. Chocolate is much better for them as it will stay within them recruit their spirits and not burn their stomachs.
With the ‘flu season’ rapidly approaching we thought it might be interesting to look back at how it was dealt with in Georgian England before the advent of vaccines. Most of us have at some stage suffered from influenza although statistics show that in most years relatively few people died as a result of the virus alone however in certain years for some reason there were epidemics causing far more deaths than was the norm – the winter of 1775-1776 being one such occasion.
Weather reports in the newspapers confirm that the winter of 1775-76 was especially severe. The Thames was frozen for some considerable time, this was followed by severe frosts during January and an intensely stormy February. This cold weather could potentially have made it easier for the pandemic to spread* combined with poor housing, sanitation and lack of appropriate medicines. During this particular winter, it was reported that somewhere in the region of 40,000 people died from the epidemic.
This report in the London Chronicle dated 19th December 1775, on the other hand, is quite amusing – could it have been a typo?? Whilst we shouldn’t mock, this would be quite an interesting to have witnessed the following day!
…a correspondent says, some Gentlemen in a coffee-house a few days ago speaking of the present fashionable influenza and how generally people throughout the Kingdom were complaining of being affected by it – a gentleman lately arriving from Tipperary assured them that it raged more violently in Ireland and was attended with much more fatal consequences, for to his knowledge, for many people who went to bed well at night, got up dead in the morning.
How to treat influenza – well, The Public Advertiser in November was recommending the use of Edinburgh Powder as being the most effective cure for influenza but whether or not it was effective in this we couldn’t possibly confirm or deny. The Middlesex Journal and Evening Advertiser of the 25th November 1775 reported that two-thirds of the city of Dublin had influenza or ‘epidemical cold’ so presumably it wasn’t working for the people of Dublin.
We also came across another remedy in the newspapers – ‘Daffy’s Elixir’ that was highly recommended as a cure for influenza and was especially beneficial for the nobility and gentry.
This product was regarded as being a ‘cure for all ills‘, the reality was, that it given its ingredients of aniseed, brandy, fennel seed, jalap, parsley seed, raisin and senna amongst other things – it was more likely to cure constipation rather than influenza!
Weeks later a newspaper that the epidemic was raging across the country, but most curiously that the Isle of Thanet, one of the healthiest places to live in the country was severely suffering, so much so that ‘the parson was sick, the clerk was sick and a large part of the parishioners were also sick, that it was judged expedient to shut up the church for the day and to leave the good people at home to pray for each other.’ Reports also mentioned physician John Fothergill was reported to have seen around 60 patients per day during the epidemic. By the end of February 1776 reports in the newspapers ceased, so presumably, the epidemic was over and Spring on its way.
If you are fortunate enough to have good vision then spectacles are not something you may give a second thought about.
Looking at some many Georgian images and reading so many old newspapers it suddenly occurred to me that I hadn’t written about spectacles, so time to correct that.
Spectacles had been around for some considerable time before the Georgian era, but they were predominantly the pince-nez type such as these
It is thought that around 1730 Edward Scarlett, optician to their Royal Highnesses, of Dean Street, Soho changed the design of spectacles forever with his unique idea of producing spectacles of differing strengths and with ‘arms‘. Although many reports indicate that it this happened around 1730.
The Daily Journal of the 20th May 1724 reported that he started to use this technique much earlier:
fitting spectacles to weak eyes by the focal length of the glass’
Edward had an illustrious career being appointed as the optician to the King in 1727, he died at his home on Macclesfield Street, St Ann’s aged 84 in December 1778 and was buried on Christmas Eve.
Spectacles could be purchased over the counter, very much as today you can buy reading glasses in the local pharmacy etc., or Edward could grind them to your personal specification, the way an optician would today.
Until this time, spectacles were simply designed for either the young or the old – not very scientific! The frames were made mainly of whalebone, tortoiseshell and horn as these materials were immensely strong and flexible.
It took about another 30 years before the advent of what we would today know as bifocals, these were mainly designed for artists so that they could see their subject in the distance and their canvas close-up with relative ease.
The Venetians were always at the forefront in design and it was they who produced the first sunglasses using coloured glass. These proved to be very popular with celebrities of the day and so naturally everyone with an interest in the latest fashion followed suit.
Had you noticed that there are relatively few portraits from the Georgian era depicting people wearing glasses, could this be the reason?
According to the Lady’s Magazine of 1802:
In the last century, to wear spectacles was regarded as an unequivocal mark of wisdom. The nose which bore them was always that of an informed person. the eyes to which they transmitted the softened rays of light were supposed to have been dimmed by much reading and the head which they decorated and to which they imparted a certain venerable air must of course have been occupied by profound meditation and study.
With that last thought in mind, it seems highly unlikely that this is what spectacles in any shape or form, were ever intended to be used for!