Practitioner of the Month

July 2017


It’s often assumed that women were unable (even forbidden) from undertaking medical practice, but this was simply not the case. In a month that has seen the first female Doctor Who, let’s celebrate Amy Hempson, a surgeon of Yaxham, Norfolk. The wife of Thomas Hempson, Amy was described in letters testimonial as being skilful in the art of surgery when she submitted an application for a licence to practise surgery, dated 1 February 1711/12. Testimonials were supplied by eleven people, including the curate, churhcwardens and overseers of the parish.

June 2017

Thomas SCULCAP (alias SCULKER)

For this month, the exotically-named, but extremely unfortunate Sculcap…whose alias was not much more flattering. He was a barber in the parish of St Giles Cripplegate in London. As is true for so many early modern practitioners, hardly anything is known about his actual practice or medical activities. In the parish registers, however, Sculcap/Sculker’s son Thomas was baptised in January 1698/9, but died soon after of the condition known simply as ‘teeth’. Thomas was buried in the local pesthouse.

May 2017


A merchant and purveyor of medicine or elixir, as noted in an anonymous advert entitled To Make the True Compound Elixir of Scurvy-Grass (London, J.Gain, 1680). The elixir was to be purchased at Norwich coffee house in Dean’s Court in St Martin le Grand near Aldersgate, London, ‘for I have solely entrusted him to dispose of it into all Countrys to be sold by such as he shall appoint, and no other’. He was an important figure in the early Philadelphian Society and an associate of the mystic John Pordage. It is tempting to speculate that the purveyor of the scurvy grass medicine was either Dr John Pordage himself (The True Spirit of Scurvy-Grass was available at Dr Pordage’s in Leather Lane, near Holborn) or Charles Blagrave, the son of another Pordage acolyte, Elizabeth Blagrave. Either way, Sabberton is a perfect example of a seventeenth-century medical entrepreneur.

April 2017


A Surgeon/physician, of Oxford, variously referred to as a physician or ‘professor of physick’. On 11 January 1615/16, Holmes was ordered to give an account to the regius professor of physic at Oxford University (Dr Clayton) of the physic that he had administered to a patient, John Bentley. He was subsequently bound over to appear at the next Quarter Sessions. On 11 April 1616, Holmes appeared in court, and Dr Clayton’s certificate was read. Holmes was ordered discharged of his recognizance once he had put in good sureties stating that he would desist from practising as a physician or surgeon within the liberties of the city or University of Oxford ‘as he is utterly unskillful’. He was ordered to leave the city by Whitsun!

March 2017

Richard CLAMPE (c.1617-1696)

The aptly-named Clampe, of King’s Lynn, Norfolk, was a medical practitioner of various descriptions, including ‘Physician’, ‘Doctor’ and ‘Medicus’, who also served the parliamentarian army in the civil wars, as an engineer.

Clampe was responsible for constructing the fortifications at Newark in 1645-6, producing a map of the same, now to be found in the British Library map collection.He also produced a plan of the 1645 post-siege defences at King’s Lynn, and was em[ployed by the town in 1645 to survey the pastures and fortifications in order to work out how much land had been taken.

As well as his engineering skills, his efforts as a physician are also documented in the historical record. In August 1666, Dr Richard Clamp received £5 ‘for his paynes taken about ye visited poore’ during the recent outbreak of plague.

February 2017

Charles CHAUNCEY (d. 1707)

Chauncey was a multi-tasking medical practitioner of Ashbourne, Derbyshire. He was licensed to practise the art of medicine and surgery in his home town and throughout the diocese of Coventry and Lichfield, on 26 May 1687.

There is a long description of the man and his death in the parish registers of St Oswald’s, Ashbourne. He was buried there, on 16 August 1707. The entry describes Chauncey as a ‘physician and apothecary and one of experience in Physic, Pharmacy & Chyrurgery, of a tepid and satyricall kind of conversation, but of great integrity and good nature, and so helpful to all sorts, that his loss was universally deplored; (his copes was met with some miles from town) for he died in Derby (in his sojourn from visiting a patient in Leicester) of the gout (with which he was much troubled) striking up to his stomach and that Occasioned (as was supposed) by eating Cucumber and Shrimps. He was sorrowfully (yet voluntarily and without invitation) attended to his grave by a multitude of the whole neighbourhood’.

January 2017

William GILBERT (fl. 1570)

One from the Welsh archives for the start of 2017, and this time a crafty Welsh surgeon who perhaps covered his tracks when a patient was accused of wrongdoing. In the 1570 trial of Margaret verch David Lloyd of Meifod, accused of sorcery and of using a magical healing powder to cure toothache in her parish, she protested that the ‘magical’ powder was nothing more than burnt alum, given to her by a surgeon, William Gilbert. Perhaps surprisingly, Gilbert was not called as a witness, and therefore remained silent on the matter…at least in public.

December 2016

Charles MILES (fl. 1690)

No festive names for this month’s practitioner, but a very relevant occupation. On the practitioners project we come across all kinds of different medical occupations, from the usual categories of physician, apothecary and barber-surgeon, to the more unusual ‘professor in Physick’, ‘practiser’ and ‘magus’.

Charles Miles, however, was referred to in the Holborn parish records as a ‘magician’! His son William was born to Charles and his wife Margaret, at Northampton Court and baptized at St Andrew Holborn, 12 August 1690

November 2016

Edward MINNS (fl. 1708)

Edward Minns was a tooth drawer and phlebotomist (blood letter), of Norwich, Norfolk. He was described as being well skilled in the art of phlebotomy and drawing teeth in various testimonial letters, provided in support of an application for a licence from the diocese of Norwich, 8 May 1708, by grateful members of his parish. The testimonial was also signed by Peter Burrell and Samuel Read, surgeons, with certificates appended from four patients

October 2016

John KEENE (fl. 1699)

Keen was a surgeon, of Roche, in Cornwall. In ‘A Letter from Dr William Musgrave … to Dr Sloane, being an Argument for the More Frequent Use of Laryngotomy, Urg’d from a Remarkable Cure in Chirurgery; Perform’d by Mr John Keen of Roch in Cornwal’, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 21 (1699), pp.398-405, Musgrave laments the common opposition to, and prejudice against, new and effective medicines and treatments, instancing Jesuit’s bark and opiates as well as operations such as laryngotomies. Here, he cites a letter from a Cornish surgeon, John Keene, recounting a successful operation on a man whose throat had been slit by robbers.

September 2016

William RAMSEY

Ramsey was an ‘Astrological Physician’, of Westminster, London, and one who was not always popular with his peers. The royal physician/apothecary and astrologer Dr Francis Bernard (qv) had a very low opinion of Ramesay. In providing his nativity with chart (born 13 March 1626), he states that this is the nativity of Ramesay ‘the Wandring Gypsy. The Pretended Restorer of Astrology, the disgrace of that noble Science, the very scabies & scorne of Art … he is a dull one … an Asse & a conceited Coxcombe … a blockhead’.

August 2016

Philip QUACKERNECK, (d.1698)

Sometimes the name is enough. All we know about the wonderfully-named Quackerneck is that he was a London barber, working in the parish of St Saviour’s, Southwark. How his family came by such an unusual surname is unknown, but we’d love to hear from any modern-day Quackernecks who can solve the mystery.

July 2016

Martin HARTOPP, (d 1722)

To celebrate the month of tennis we could do the obvious here and opt for either a physician named Murray, or a practitioner from Wimbledon but, instead, let’s opt for a more subtle tennis-related connection.

Martin Hartopp was a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, 1684, achieving a BA on 26 February 1683/4; an MA in 1688, and a B Med in 1689. He practised at Leicester; and was previously admitted as a pensioner at Clare College, Cambridge, 30 March 1680

Hartopp was the nephew of the naturalist and physician Martin Lister, and wrote to him in 1690, requesting help with a friend and patient. In the letter, dated 30 January 1689/90 from Merton College, Oxford, he relates how he has opted by natural inclination to medicine as a career despite the fact that ‘my fortune and condition might reasonably have suggested more advantageous employments at the Bar or in the Pulpit’. He then refers to the case of a patient and friend suffering from a nocturnal ‘gonorrhoea’ which, he is assured, was caused by a ‘sudden slip in a tennis-court’. Hartopp has advised him to tie a string about his penis ‘which upon its erection might wake him’, but is reluctant to prescribe further courses of physic for ‘I never could admire those long gallmorphories of Physick our modern Oxford Practice dictates’.

June 2016

William EASTON, 

Easton was a surgeon, of Rye, in Sussex.

He is probably the same ‘Mr Easton’, who acted as one of the regular surgeons consulted by the Sussex gentleman, farmer, Walter Everenden. Frequent mention of payments to him for blood-letting members of his family, supplying pills, ‘scarifications, ointments, plasters’ an unusual reference to ‘sickatrick’, as well as spices and tobacco, can be found in the accounts of John Everenden over a period from 1662 to 1677.

May 2016

Samuel RUDD,

During the early years of the Restoration, frequent payments were made to Samuel Rudd for attending upon and curing prisoners in the county gaol at Warwick.

The above are alluded to in the testimonial to his skills signed by nine men, including William Cooke, bailiff of Warwick, and Thomas Holyoke, ‘medicus’, in 1661. Here, it states that Rudde, after serving his apprenticeship in London, ‘part of which time he spent in Germany as a Surgion in the Campe of the Kinge of Sweden’. He is said to have come to Warwick 26 years ago, i.e. in about 1635, where he has practised ever since. Further, ‘hee hath always been faithfull to his late Majestie … and soe continued to the interest of his Majestie that now is, and hath beene so carefull, and ready to helpe the wounded, and maimed souldiers of ye late Kinge; that the Justices of the Peace for this countye thought fitt to allow and alsoe did the last session give him a reward for his cures therein’. In addition, he was loyal, had led an honest life ‘and firmly adhered to the government both in church and state, as it is now againe established’. He was accordingly recorded as licensed by the chancellor, Timothy Baldwyn

April 2016


For this month we stay on the theme of unorthodox practice, and look at one of the many who combined religion and healing.

Finally was a Roman Catholic priest and miracle healer. According to the long account by the Franciscan Peter Walsh, O’Finallty first came to prominence as a miraculous healer and exorcist in the archbishopric of Tuam in 1657. After a lull, he again hit the headlines in 1662 when the duke of Ormonde, Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, asked Walsh to investigate O’Finallty’s claims.   Walsh’s investigations revealed that O’Finallty had been given a pass to travel throughout Ireland where he performed his cures before large crowds.   In 1663, he appeared in England, performing cures before the Portuguese ambassador and Queen, and returned to Ireland via Chester where he drew great crowds. Increasingly drawing the suspicions of the government in Dublin, O’Finallty was also at this time under investigation by Dr William Petty and his friend, Robert Southwell (a late replacement for Dr Abraham Yarner, qv), following which O’Finallty repudiated his claims and returned to his native Connaught. However, a little later, according to Walsh, he returned to his old trade in Connaught and Westmeath until he was forbidden by the archbishop of Tuam.   Interestingly, Walsh speculates that the famous Irish Protestant miracle healer, Valentine Greatrakes (qv) was prompted to profess his cures in response to O’Finallty’s evangelising on behalf of the Catholic cause ; Peter Walsh, The History & Vindication of the Loyal Formulary, or Irish Remonstrance (?, 1674), 710-736.

March 2016


To celebrate the onset of spring we have a London ‘irregular’ healer, or ‘cunning woman’.

She was described as ‘skilful in curing Scald Heads’, and a member of the local village, Susanna Arch was advised to visit her in the hope that she might be able to cure her leprosy. Along with numerous other medical practitioners, Griffin declared her incurable, though Arch later claimed to have been cured by miraculous intervention; Anon., A Relation of the Miraculous Cure of Susannah Arch, of a Leprosy and Ptysick (London, J D for R Baldwin, 1695), p.10.

February 2016

Charles BENNET(T)

Bennett was described in June 1667 as a “doctor in Holborn”, who was apparently present when there was much discussion, some of it subsequently considered treasonous, about more fires in the city. He may in fact have been the doctor in the story told by one of those arrested who purportedly made the prophecy

January 2016

Robert SHOOT

A physician of Yeovil, Somerset. In 1671, Shoot was prosecuted in the consistory court of the bishop of Bath and Wells. It was reported that ‘hee being told that he could not practize Surgery without the Byshopps Licence hee answeared that hee cared not a fart and a turd for the bishopp nor his licence neither did hee did hee [sic] intend to make use of the bawdy courts about that business’. He was cited to appear on 23 June 1671; (SARS, D\D\ca/350).

December 2015


And for December, another apposite named. Christmas was a Quaker, of Sudbury, Suffolk. He was licensed to practise surgery in the province of Canterbury, 8 October 1696. Letters testimonial were signed by Richard Beard, John Rallett, John Bramson and Henry Martin, all surgeons;

And, with that, a Merry Christmas from the ‘Practitioners Project’!

November 2015

Richard FAWKES

A brief biography entry for November, but one with an appropriate name. Richard Fawkes was a surgeon of Long Clawson in Leicestershire. In February 1709/10 he was licensed to practise the art of surgery in the archdeaconry of Leicester; LRRO, 1D 41/34/3, f.44r. Was the good surgeon a distant relative of the unlucky Guy??

October 2015


As we move towards Halloween, what better than a bit of bloodletting? Wray, of Brant, Lincolnshire, was licensed to practise medicine and surgery throughout the provinces of Canterbury and York, and particularly the diocese of Chester, 8 September 1697. Letters testimonial certified that Wray had ‘for severall years very successfully practis’d Physick & Phlebotomy very much to the common conveniency & advantage of his Country, & has under God, been very instrumental in restoreing & preserveing the health of many sick & otherwise indisposed Persons, particularly of such the indifferency of whose circumstances render’d them incapable of aplying themselves to Physitians of Degree, & regular profession, & that if at any time hee has encroached upon the Physitians faculty it has been observe’d to bee generally in favour of those whose conditions placed them below the cognizance, & cure of the proper Professors’; signed by John Stillingfleet, rector of Brant Broughton, George Lascells, vicar of Norton Disney, John Moore, rector of Stubton, John South, rector of Fullbeck, Roger Knight, rector of Welborn, Francis Megmott, rector of Leadenham, churchwardens and others, August 1697. September 2015


A ‘Student in Physick and Astrology’ and author of The Hidden Treasures of the Art of Physick; Fully Discovered (London, G Sawbridge, 1659) which Tanner dedicated to Mr William Beal of Little Missenden in Buckinghamshire, a man well known for his charity and public-spiritedness. The preface was signed by Tanner from ‘my Lodging, at Mr Cambridge’s house, next door to the Sign of the Kings-Arms in Kings-street, Westmin[ster]’. Given the Buckinghamshire dedication, he is probably the same as the John Tanner who subscribed in 1689 to Christopher Packe’s translation of the Works of Glauber, where he is described as ‘medicus’ of Amersham. John Tanner of Amersham, dr in physic, was named as one of the new trustees for almshouses and a workhouse in Amersham, 10 February 1699/1700; CBS, D-DR/12/5

Bartholomew STILEMAN

Stileman was a surgeon of London. In December 1674, various people signed a testimonial on his behalf for a licence to practise from the bishop of Salisbury, in which he was described as ‘an able chirurgeon’. He was also said to have performed many remarkabale cures, including the recovery of a hand that many London surgeons would have amputated; WSA, D1/14/1/1e.

July 2015

Condy (?)

For this month, we have a mystery wise man or healer, from Stoke Climsland, Cornwall. In 1663, the family of a boy who suffered strange fits was taken to one Condy for diagnosis and cure. Condy said the boy was ‘overlookt’ and gave him a plaster, powder and a little bag to hang about his neck, but after three visits there was no improvement and the child was finally cured by the exorcism of four nonconformist ministers; Anon., Faithful Relation of Some Remarkable Passages of Providence concerning Thomas Sawdie (London, 1664), p 3

June 2015


For this month a very early example of a oculist – a specialist in eye complaints. In September 1610, the mayor and jurats of Rye in Sussex provided a certificate for Henry Blackborne, “chirurgion and occulist”, in support of his claim that he had successfully cured a number of blind people in the vicinity of Rye about a year past. Perhaps due to the good testimonies of his neighbours, Blackborne was indeed licensed to practise surgery and the curing of diseases of the eye in the province of Canterbury, on 17 August 1605. He may also be the same Blackborne (first name unrecorded), of Canterbury, who gained a licence to practise surgery in the diocese of Canterbury on 4 June 1594.

May 2015

Geoge ROWE,

Surgeon. In an undated petition from the reign of Charles II, Alice Floyde wrote to Sir Leoline Jenkins, Judge of the Admiralty, complaining about the behaviour of Rowe, a surgeon, who had enticed her young son, a new apprentice, to travel to Guinea ‘in which Rowe used him so barbarously that he threw himself into the sea’. She also claimed that Rowe had stolen her son’s belongings, and that within six months of the apprenticeship having begun Rowe ‘was forced to hide himself for debt and go to sea’!

April 2015

Cornelius CEPPHER,

Sometimes we have only a name to go on. The parish register of Bletchingly, Surrey, contains a record on the 9 November 1552 of the burial of Cornelius Ceppher, ‘doctor of physick to my ladyes grace’ [Anne of Cleves]. What’s the story behind Ceppher’s connection with the queen? If you can shed any light on this we’d love to know!  (For the original reference see Granville Leveson-Gower, ‘Bletchingly Church’, Surrey Archeological Collections v (1871), p.243.)

March 2015


Carleton was a surgeon aboard the frigate ‘Welcombe’, and made his will on 6 July 1660 (possibly in Athens). It was proved 14 November 1661. He nominated his mother Mary Carleton as beneficiary and executrix, and if dead, his uncle Thomas Huntington, beookseller at the sigh of the Feathers in Duck Lane. He desired Charles James and John Hutchinson, masters’ mates, to toake care of his belongings aboard ship, and Mr Henry Gary to deliver an account to his executrix.


A surgeon of London. On 2 May 1570, the wife of William Maier, tinsmith, of the Barbicxan, complained that Alcocke gave her a potion that made her feel ‘far worse’. He was also accused by Thomas Jones, servant of one Mr Carpenter of St Mary Hill, of ‘eveil practise’ and that he had received from him 30s as a present!

January 2015

Given the ubiquity of facial hair at the moment, a suitably named candidate to begin the new year…

Richard BEARD

Surgeon. In 1696, he supplied letters testimonial in support of the application of the Quaker surgeon, Jonathan Christmas, of Sudbury, Suffolk, who was seeking a Canterbury medical licence. In February 1718, Richard Beard, ‘professor chimie, medicine et chirurgery about 50 years’, signed letters testimonial on behalf of one Plumpstead White, a Quaker, of Mendlesham, Suffolk, a candidate for a Canterbury medical licence.

December 2014


A Christmas mystery for the month of December, but one that shows the problems in finding individuals in the historical record, when we don’t even have a first name! On 5 May 1656, Samuel Hartlib had “large discourse” with one Rushworth, concerning his cure of the stone and asthma. He was seemingly multi-talented: “a barber and an excellent surgeon and feares nothing but that hee will cure People too suddenly”; a linguist (High Dutch, French and Latin); lutanist; apothecary; turner; expert in fortifications; “a good distiller”; and a mechanic who has “laboured also in the Invention of Motion selfe-mooving and for Mils”. He had previously lived at Hamburg (he married a woman from Cologne), as well as in France, and was currently living in Southwark.  Hartlib concluded: “Hee is very honest and godly professing only to have a substance free from distractions the over-plus to goe for doing of good”. He added that “Hee hath a Receipt for curing of all sorts of Agues”.

November 2014


Bromfield was a surgeon, of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. He subscribed to Christopher Packe’s translation of the Works of Glauber in 1689. In the previous year, 1688, one Solomon Sanders, the son of William Sanders, of Hitchin, made a recognisance to appear at the next QS to answer a charge of breaking the windows and ‘several glasses of waters’ of William Broomfield, surgeon. In the same year, Bromfield complained to the QS that one Thomas Trisham, of Ippolits, was sent to him by order of the overseers of the parish with a ‘fistula in ano’ [anal fistula], but because they refused to pay he refused the cure. On being compelled to pay, Bromfield effected the cure, but the wardens and overseers once again refused payment. On hearing Bromfield’s complaint, the QS ordered the parish officers to pay him £3 for the cure and 7s 6d for the cost of the order;

October 2014

John RIDGE the Younger

Early modern physicians often get a bad press, so it’s heartening to find evidence of medics who were clearly popular. John Ridge, of Winkleigh, Devon, was licensed to practise physic throughout Devon on the 19 March 1705/6, and his application dated 12 March 1705/6. Testimonials were signed by 34 men, including the vicar and churchwardens, many local gentry and parish officers, etc. It refers to his wide knowledge of herbs and roots and the fact that he has ‘been att a considerable Charge in Buying Severall Books of Botani & Anatomy written by severall Learned Authors’. In addition, he served the poor, was of ‘unquestionable good life and conversation’, and ‘derived from good Parents of an Auntient family, his Parents still living having a good Estate and helpful to such as are in Necessity’.


A sad little tale to bring us into Autumn. Morrice was described in an undated petition from the reign of Charles II as a French physician who has dwelt many years in London. He was seeking remission of a fine of 1,000 marks ‘which he is wholly unable to pay, imposed on him for some offensive words of which he was accused by two men ill affected to him, and for which he was committed to prison and kept in irons for several months and condemned to stand in the pillory every market day for three weeks, which he has undergone’. He claimed that his wife has since died of grief at his disaster, ‘leaving three or four small children’.

August 2014


An Italian quack. In April 1665, he was granted a licence “in consideration of his skill in medicine and surgery, to practise in any part of the king’s dominions, and to expose his medicines for sale publicly, by erecting a stage in the market place, or any other mode which he deems convenient, without molestation to himself or servant”.  In the same month and year, George Moreto, of London, surgeon, was the victim of a theft at the hands of his own ‘apprentice’, Samuel Leigh, who stole his surgical instruments among other things.  In October 1665, he would appear to have been in Exeter. In that month, along with the local surgeon, Peter Classen, he provided a testimonial on behalf of Abraham Harward for an episcopal licence to practise surgery

July 2014


Surgeon and innholder, of Burton on Trent, Staffordshire. He was one of the godly of the town who supported the claims of Thomas Darling to have been possessed by the devil at the behest of a local witch in 1597. Apparently, ‘his son Thomas’s godparents were William Caldwall and Katherine Dethick [two other members of the godly]’ and ‘he had some renown as a surgeon, drawing patients from as far away as Worcestershire and Yorkshire’.

June 2014

Colonel Thomas BLOOD

For this month, an infamous medic who nearly brought down the Kingdom! Under the alias of Dr Ayliffe or Dr Allen, the restoration plotter Colonel Thomas Blood is said to have practised medicine briefly in London around 1667. He apprenticed his son, Thomas, to a Southwark apothecary, Samuel Holmes who, like Blood Snr, was also suspected of involvement in plotting against the government in Ireland in the 1660s. In fact he may have had more than one alias. According to Richard Baxter, after the discovery of the Dublin Plot he fled to England and practised physic at Romford, Essex, under the name of ‘Dr Clarke’.

In 1670, he was at it again. One Allin or Ayliffe was suspected of participation in the attempt on the life of the duke of Ormond. An anonymous report claims that he was at sea (aboard the ‘Portland frigate’) with one Jennings or Jennins, formerly surgeon of that ship, “a great crony of his, and a likely man to give an account of him”;

In another account in the London Gazette of December 1670, he is refered to as Thomas Allen, alias Allyt, alias Ayliffe, ‘who pretended himself a Chyrurgion or Doctor of Physick, sometimes living at Romford in Essex, but lately lodging at or near Aldgate … about 36 years of age’.

May 2014


Abercromby was a Scots-born Roman Catholic physician. As a young man, he was educated by the Jesuits in France, during which time he graduated MD and became a practising physician. He published numerous works: Tuta, ac Efficax Luis Venereae (London, 1684), a treatise on syphilis that was subsequently translated into French, Dutch and German; De Variatione, ac Varietate Pulsus Observationes (1685; with French translation); Nova Medicinae tum Practicae, tum Speculativae Clavis, sive, Ars Explorandi Medicas Plantarum, ac Corporum Quorumcunque Facultates ex Solo Sapore. After some 20 years abroad, he returned to his native Scotland, and engaged in a religious controversy with John Menzies (1624-84). However, he was undergoing severe religious and philosophical doubt and in the 1680s, renouncing Catholicism and converting to Protestantism, he came to London, where he published Protestancy to be Embrac’d, or, A New and Infallible Method to Reduce Romanists from Popery to Protestancy (1682; republished in 1686 as Protestantcy Proved Safer than Popery). A similar work, Reasons why a Protestant Should Not Turn Papist, a work previously attributed to Abercromby’s patron, Robert Boyle, was published at London in 1687. He also published a number of philosophical works, one of which, A Moral Discourse of the Power of Interest (1690) is dedicated to Boyle. Abercrombie was in fact a member of Boyle’s circle, and translated four of his patron’s works into Latin. According to the New DNB, Abercromby is thought to have continued to practise medicine in London and subsequently in the Netherlands. The exact date of his death is unknown, but it may have been 1701

April 2014

Daniel Woodward

Woodward was an ’empiric’ who advertised his cordial pills in 1690. In 1687, Daniel Woodward, medical licentiate, signed letters testimonial on behalf of John Pecke, of Chrict Church, London, who was seeking a Canterbury medical licence (some College physicians refused to do so).

In a short pamphlet dated to c 1690 entitled Amicus Naturae, Woodward described himself as a ‘Student in Physick and Astrology’ resident at the sign of the Globe in Arundel Street by St Clement’s Church on the Strand. He was still living there in 1698. In his advertisement, Woodward highlighted the omnipresent issue and problem of scurvy,a protean disease, to the which the English and those of northern parts were particularly prone. It was also difficult to cure because of the predominant nature of the melancholy humour in such cases, caused by obstructions and weakness in the spleen (pp.1-2). Woodward went on to promote his pills which cured gently and not by vomits, purges, salivating mercuries, blisters, issues, cuppings or excessive blood-letting. On the contrary, Woodward claimed that his medicines were able by their ‘purity to pacify the enraged Parts of Man’, language redolent of the Helmontians.

Woodward was also the author of an annual almanac from 1691 to 1698, which was anti-Jacobite in tone.

MARCH 2014

Richard Jordan/Jurdin

Surgeon and bonesetter, of Possley or Pofley, Berkshire. In August 1662, numerous men signed a testimonial on Jordan’s behalf, stating that they had known him for many years (some up to twenty) and that he had previously possessed an ecclesiastical licence to practise surgery.  Gabriel Cox, the mayor of Newbury, claimed that Jordan had practised as a surgeon for twenty years and was ‘by repute very expert in that facultie’ having ‘done many good cures’. The Newbury physician, Hugh Barker, also signed. Jordan was granted a licence to practise in the archdeaconry of Berkshire on 10 August 1663;


Nicholas Slater

Of Royden, Essex, yeoman. In an extract from the register of the Court of High Commission, dated 25 October 1638, Royden was accused of committing adultery with Blanche Cowper, the wife of Thomas Cowper, of Limehouse, Middlesex. Slater was further charged with wandering the country practising physick without a licence “like a vagabond and a mountebank”. He is said to have professed the practice of physick and surgery while escorting Blanche with him as his wife. He was committed to Newgate, where he was forbidden visitors on the pretext of practising medicine. He was also fined and ordered to do public penance at Ware and Stepney.


A seasonally-named practitioner for this month!

Snr Salvator Winter

Winter was a mountebank, from Naples, he was plying his wares in London in the late 1640s.  According to an advertisement he published in 1647, he was widely travelled in Europe, Asia and Africa where he claimed to have discovered many medical secrets.  At this time he was lodging at the Princes Arms, Clare Street, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at the back of Drury Lane.    In 1649, he published A New Dispensatory of Fourty Physicall Receipts (London, 1649) in which he now describes himself as resident at Bedford Street, next door to the sign of the Fox, over against the New Exchange.   This work was reprinted later in the year with a similar work by Francisco Dickinson under the title of A Pretious Treasury: Or A New Dispensatory (London, T Harper, 1649). He was still in London in 1676 when it was reported that in King’s Street, by Long Acre, “a great many priests and friers” gathered at his house, “and help him to write a book about monarchy”;

On 20 June 1679, he petitioned the Lords of the Treasury “for a grant of a fine of £50 imposed on his son at Hick’s Hall”. An earlier clue to Winter’s politics is his claim in a work dated to 1664 that ‘when I was at Colchester under Sir Charles Lucas I cured abundance of desperate Wounds’; Salvator Winter, Directions for the Use of My Elixir, my Philosophical Petza or Plaister, and my Balsam (London, s.n, 1664?). This would suggest that he fought with the royalist forces at the siege of Colchester in 1648.

In October 1679 he was described as ‘a very ancient Itallian Gentelman, who had long professed Physick in this Kingdom’ in a trial at the Old Bailey, where his servant was accused of stealing ‘several Bottels of a medicine called Elixir Vite’ from his master. The servant successfully claimed that he was framed by one of the old man’s relatives and was acquitted; Proceedings of the Old Bailey, 15 October 1679.


ASKEW, Edward

“A poor man, professor of physic,” resident in the parish of St Botolph without Aldgate in the late 16th century; Pelling and Webster, p 186.

In 1609, one Edward Askew, medicus, of Bardfield, Essex, was indicted at the Exeter Quarter Sessions for publishing ‘a false, opprobrious and scandalous libel’ at Braintree directed at Richard Jenowi of Braintree, webster, his wife Elizabeth, and her sister Mercy Morgan. The indictment contains a a full record of the libel, composed of 60 lines of verse, though some is virtually illegible!


ASTELL, William

Astell was a surgeon, of All Hallows, Barking, aged 60 in October 1653. In 1655 he was constantly pursuing his claim to compensation in his dispute with a Dutchman, Abraham Johnson, over the seizure of silver from some captured Dutch ships. In July 1655, he wrote to William Jessop, stating: ‘I have long lived in a sad condition for my fidelity to the State, having left my calling and joined the people of God to help the Lord against the mighty. I have been an officer throughout, am much in arrears, and never had a penny; yet I undertook the labour of prosecuting those silver ships [taken from the Dutch] … I dare not speak to Maj-Gen. Skippon for he has been the best friend in England to me and my wife’.


NENDICK, Humphrey (d.1707)

Nendick was an empiric who advertised his pill in various short pamphlets in the mid 1670s. The first appeared in 1674 as A Compendium of the Virtues, Operations, and Use of … Nendicks-Popular-Pill (London, n.p., 1674). The works themselves were largely devoted to expounding the miraculous virtues of Nendick’s cure-all pills, with an appendix listing various outlets from which thye might be purchased. They also contain numerous references to patients from all over southern England and Wales who had been cured by the pills. Nendick himself was living at the White Ball in Petty Canon Court between St Paul’s churchyard and Paternoster Row. Later publications consisted of a reworking of the same material, with some new cures and additional outlets named at the rear.

In 1684, he signed letters testimonial in favour of Nathaniel Browne of Stepney, Middlesex, who was seeking a Canterbury medical licence. There, he described himself as an ‘examined surgeon’ of London.

His will was proved on 2 October 1707, and is most remarkable for the fact that it is largely devoted to a miniature theological treatise, incorporating original ideas, some probably drawn from his chemical interests, on the last judgement and resurrection. He thus made his will, ‘not knowing how soon the union of my whole composition or the three different specificall beings, viz. my immortall rational Angellical Spirit and my Animall or Sensuall Soul and body may be dissolved by death …’ He then went on to reisgn ‘my immortal spirit into the hands of him who breathed it to the first man whereby he was enabled to govern and to be accountable for his actions according to the Law given him therefore had not an absolute free will but a necessary free will nor could he be under an absolute decree of election and under a Law which were a Repugnancy this spirit made him a living Soul aftre the humane kind and this Spirit is not subject to Death Cessation Dormition nor Resurrection but immediately receives the Judgement of Place with the Spirits of just men in glory or with Spirits in Prison. My Animall Soul and body are capable of a Resurrection this Soul derives its originall noe higher than from that Analagous Spirit which moved upon the Surface of the deep or Orb of Water which trice involved the small Glob or Earth for Moses doth not affirme a Chaos nor a Creation ex nihilo but that the things now seen were made out of those which now doe not appear to us what they were this lower soul takes cognizance only of sensuall objects as it doth in Brutes and from this Soul or Spirit which alwayes adheres or sleeps with the matter hence Worms and living Animalls are generated in living and dead bodyes and hair and nailes Vegetate in the Grave. These spicifically different Spirits are circumscribed by the body for a Spirit in a Composition nothing being unmixed and uncircumscriptible but the first or divine Ens and by his benediction hath power to multiply by naturall tradition. Lastly I believe it no heterodox Opinion to affirm the illustrious day of Resurrection will be a greater miracle for all to rise in twinkling of an Eye than the six dayes Creation and that the Originall species of Creatures shall rise to let the wicked see they are not soe happy as the beasts, but must goe to prison forever as the conclution of that notable day when as the Beasts shall live in the new heaven and new Earth …’.

Humphrey Nendick of London, gent, appeared as a plaintiff in an equity pleading (defendant was Luke Bird, watch case-maker) in 1688. In his submission, Nendick described himself as ‘a great lover of pocket clocks espcially of such as were well and artificially made’. He also claimed to have sufficient money ‘to please and gratifie himselfe in suche his delight’. However, in this case, he claimed he had been hoodwinked and defrauded by the defendant, Bird, who sold him an imperfect timepiece which was not, as claimed, the ‘Masterpiece of workmanship not easily to be paralleled in the Kingdome’. Bird rejected the charge, 30 June 1688. The outcome is, sadly, not recorded.


For this month I give you William Norton of Claines, Worcestershire. In February 1684/5 he subscribed for a licence to practise the art of medicine in the diocese of Worcester. In 1661 he had been described as one learned in the art of surgery as well as in the theory and practice of medicine, especially in curing ulcers, fistulas, wounds, fractures, etc so was a medical all-rounder… he is even said to be expert in embalming the dead! A Latin transcript states that at the battle of Worcester he served under his master Richard Addis, surgeon, of Worcester and gave much aid in various operations. Among those he helped to cure were Sir Alexander Forbes, and Lindsey and Lawrence, ‘prefects’ [Forbes was reputed to have saved Charles II’s life at Worcester]. These testimonials were signed by John Tomkins, B Med, Oxford, and Thomas Rastell, ‘licensed med’ and Thomas Wogan, surgeon, and dated 9 October 1661.


Charles Allen was the author of Curious Observations in that Difficult Part of Chirurgery Relating to Teeth … To which is added, A Physical Discourse, wherein the Reasons of the Beating of the Pulse, or Pulsation of the Arteries, together with those of the Circulation of the Blood are Explained, and the Opinions of Several Ancient and Modern Physicians and Phylosophers, in Gallen, Gassendus, Cartesius, Lower, Willis &c upon this Subject are Examined (Dublin, 1687). The work was dedicated to the physicians, surgeons and apothecaries of Dublin.

He was also responsible, while living in Stonegate, York, for publishing the first book devoted exclusively to the treatment of teeth, The Operator for the Teeth, Shewing How to Preserve the Teth and Gums from all the Accidents they are Subject to (1685). Two copies survive, one in the library of York minster, the other in the College of Dentistry of New York University. A second edition appeared at Dublin in 1686, when Allen was lodging at Essex Street. It contains some modifications on the first edition, including a section on children’s teeth. The book was bound together with an anonymous treatise (but continuously paginated) entitled A Physical Discourse, wherein the Reasons of the Beating of the Pulse, or Pulsation of the Arteries, Together with those of the Circulation of the Blood, are Mechanically Explained.Christine Hillam describes the definitive 1687 edition above as printed in London. Little is known about Allen apart from the few scraps of evidence found in his books

JULY 2013

 For July, a slightly controversial figure, Joseph Clitheroe, a physician, gent, and apothecary, of Whitby, Yorkshire.

In 1685, Clitheroe brought a suit for defamation of character against Richard Hill, a sailor. Hill was charged with saying that Clitheroe was a ‘rogue and a rascall’, and that ‘he was a pitifull lying Rascally fellow, and bid him kiss your arse’, and other scurrilous language. Only Hill’s response is recorded. He claimed on being examined that Clitheroe ‘hath beene and is de facto licensed to practise Physick, and hath practised as a physitian or an Apothecary. But doth not believe that he is a very honest man, of good fame, life & conversacon nor that he is or hath beene held or reputed as such within the parish of Whitby … and other places adjacent. But on the contrary that he hath been & is comonly reputed a vitious and lewd person, and that he hath beene accused of severall notorious Crimes’! 

JUNE 2013

This month’s practitioner is a colourful figure in the history of medicine – Paul Hobson, a religious radical and lay preacher. A contemporary, Thomas Edwards, described him in 1645 as a “chirurgion”. In the same year, he was accused with others by William Prynne of “boasting of working miracles and casting devils out of men possessed by their exorcismes, as the Jesuits and Papists doe” in and around Newport Pagnell.  At Newcastle, in 1649, however, he is said to have downplayed the claims of some that the city was afflicted by witchcraft. Hobson was seemingly involved in various non-conformist schemes after the Restoration.  In 1661, the Quaker William Caton reported that he was present at a meeting of religious radicals in Rotterdam. In August 1661, he was reported as acting as an agent for a German prince in the export business.  At the time he was on bail till further orders from the bishop of Durham. He was implicated in Venner’s Rising and briefly imprisoned in the Tower, but does not appear to have been in London at this time. He was there a few months later, however, when in June 1662 Hobson, of St Botolph Bishopsgate Within, ‘gent’, was bailed to appear to answer charges ‘of speakeing words ag{ains}t the King’.

In November 1662 a warrant was issued for his arrest in London, following information from the bishop of Durham that he was resident at Thomas Loomes’ house in Lothbury.  He gave bond as doctor of medicine, of Bishopsgate, London. A year later, in August 1663, he was imprisoned in the Tower for “seditious and treasonable practices”, his wife being granted access to him. In September 1664, he petitioned requesting that he be allowed to leave England rather than continue in prison at Chepstow.   He was subsequently sent from Chepstow to the Tower; ibid, p 168.  In a petition of April 1665 from the Tower, he claimed that he would die if unreleased.  He was ordered by the Privy Council to be sent to the Carolinas on a bond of £1,000, not to return unless with the permission of the board.

In May 1668, he was said to be in the north of England and “often in company, but afraid of trapanners, who bring people to the gallows” and to be speaking “much of the Parliament being in confusion, and not knowing which way to turn”.

May 2013

Who better for this month’s candidate than the aptly-named Theophilus May of Cornwall?

Theophilus was the son of a Cornish clerk, Joseph May, who had been sequestrated from his living as vicar of St Austell and St Neot some time before October 1646, and subsequently appeared on the major-general’s lists of suspected persons in 1655. He had studied at Padua, and was awarded his MD on 13 August 1645 (inscribed there 10 March 1641). Of his medical practice details are scant, but much can be gleaned from his will dated 22nd April 1694 and proved 2nd September 1650.

May was presumably working at the time as a physician for the Levant Company as his will was dated from ’Gembroone’ in Persia. In his will, he describes himself as the son of Joseph May of Fustin, Cornwall, clerk. he left his burial to two friends and factors in Persia, Mr John Lewis and Mr Thomas Best, and named his brother Joseph (also clerk) as executor. His will contains numerous references to the various riches he had accumulated while in India and Persia, including various cloths, silks, stones and gems. Many of these he wished to be shipped on to his ‘worshipfull …. And very worthy friend’ Mr Thomas Merry, a merchant in Surat. He also asked Merry to take on his youngest brother Nathaniel as a servant. He also mentions debts to local merchants (Taladas Parracker,a bamian in Surat) and a sea chest, with writings, left with Mr Henry Garry, merchant, at Surat.

While travelling to India, he seems to have spent time in Messina, Sicily, where he left a chest of books and other belongings with Mr Abraham Marninge, an English merchant. He also mentions an account with one Thomas Price, secretary to Sir Sackville Crowe, ambassador to the sultan at Constantinople. Finally, he requested that an escitoire or writing desk that he purchased for 60 ruppees be sent, as a ‘token of love’, to Mr richard Hill, merchant in Lime Street, London. Others mentioned include brothers Robert, Samuel and Nathaniel. He also asked for special rings to be made for his brother Joseph (amethyst), Thomas Merry (sapphire), John Lewis (small diamond) and Henry Merry (agate), as well as money for Mr Abraham Baynes, clerk, to make a ring ‘out of that respect that I have to his callinge’ (and same for Thomas Best). Finally, he asked that, if possible, a gravestone be made for him inscribed ‘ffrac. Stratum super stratum T:Maye’, and that a special bequest of ‘diverse ingraven stones and Meddals of auncient Quornes’ be given to Dr Thomas Browne (qv) ‘out of that respect which I owe unto his Learning and Worth’. Witnesses: John Swanley and Robert Whitaley.

Theophilus matriculated sizar at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1636

April 2013

For April, the brief entry into the historical record of ‘Mrs Griffiin’, one of early-modern Britain’s legion of ‘irregular’ practitioners.

Some time around 1695, Susanna Arch was suffering from ‘Leprosy and Ptysick’ – what she described as an ‘extraordinary itching and scurf upon [her] head’. Life had sadly treated Susannah badly, with the death of her husband and money troubles, which all combined to darken her days. She was, as she reported, given to lamenting herself out loud, saying “What a poor distressed widow! a poor afflicted widow!”.

In desperation she turned to an apothecary, Mr Forty, who informed her that her condition was a leprosy, and probably incurable. It was the mysterious Forty who advised Susannah to seek out ‘Mrs Griffin’, whom he  described as ‘skilful in curing Scald Heads’. Unable to help Susannah, however, Mrs Griffin advised her to go to hospital.

After several other consultations with various medical practitioners, Susannah despaired of her life. There was, however, a happy ending; Arch later claimed to have been cured by miraculous intervention! Mrs Griffin disappeared back into obscurity. See Anon., A Relation of the Miraculous Cure of Susannah Arch, of a Leprosy and Ptysick (London, J D for R Baldwin, 1695)

March 2013

This month’s practitioner, John Staple of Ottery St Mary, combined spiritual and physical healing, being a vicar as well as (later on in life) a licensed physician.

In the episcopal returns of 1665-6, Staple was reported as an unlicensed medical practitioner, no graduate, and ‘as I am informed his iudgm{en}t is not very excellent concerning the present Governm{en}t’ (The original return of the rural dean of Aylesbeare can be found in Devon Record Office,PR 362-364/33/1).

Staple’s will [dated 28 February 1682/3; proved 5 May 1685 was notably pious with Calvinist sympathies evident in regard to his interest in William Perkins. After bequeathing 20s to the parish of Chardstock, the place of his birth, and 26s 8d to the poor of Ottery St Mary, he gave 20s to Mr James Catt, vicar of Chardstock on condition that he preach two funerla sermons on Hebrews 10: 35-37, the first at Ottery Saint Mary on the day of his burial, the other at Chardstock the following day. In the usual manner he bequeathed sums of money to his children and relatives, but some entries are perhaps more interesting.

To his brother William Staple, for example, he left ‘one little parchment [foreld?] book in which is shewed how to live well’ and also The Right Way of Dying Well by William Perkins. He also gave him all his ointments, salves, plasters, pots and most of his clothes, plus 20s each to his two sons and daughters (to be laid out to buy sheep!). The money was to be used to buy books or other goods for the children when they came of age, to be instructed in this by their father William and testator’s brother, George.

To his brother George, he gave ‘all the rest of my phisicall Druggs, Syrups and Distilled Waters and the Potts and Bottles they are in except Cyrups of Clovegille-flowers and Rose water’ and one piece of old gold now worth 25 or 26s. Other bequests: to his sister Mary Michell, ‘one Booke of the good old way or Perkins improved’, and £1 each to her and her son and daughter, John and Phillip(a). To his own son, Gideon, not yet 21 (above), he gave all his leasehold lands in Chardstock and the rest of his books, excepting three volumes of divinity which he gave to his wife at her choosing. His son also received his ‘best desk’ and half of his household goods.  Staple died on 28 August 1683.

John Stapell of Ottery St Mary, Devon, gent, was licensed to practise medicine and surgery in the county of Devon, 23 January 1662/3; DRO, Chanter 44, p.203.