February 9th 2006: In Sickness and in Health


a talk by James Turtle, Outreach and Education Officer from the Gloucester Record Office.

James entertained and horrified about 60 members of the Society with information about the plague, remedies and recipes, smallpox and the development of the medical profession. In 1638 all the members of two families in North Nibley died within 1 week and 1 month of each other, their bodies were buried in their back gardens.

In 1714 a universal remedy was ‘snail water’ which was made of snails, earthworms, a ‘few herbs’ mixed with white wine and water. Scrofula was reputed to be cured by the touch of a reigning monarch (this came to an end an end with the death of Queen Anne.

James also explained the development of the medical profession using Dr John Hitchman of Fairford as an example. He was apprenticed to Dr Charles Cornwall for 5 years to learn his profession. He then went to London and gained some qualifications (MRCS, LSA) but in 1858 legislation was passed that doctors had to follow a proper course for a degree and be licensed by the General Medical Council. Dr Hitchman and many other doctors of the time had to apply to the University of St Andrews, provided testimonials and certificates and were then were awarded a degree.

In the 1850s small pox vaccination became compulsory and District Vaccinators were appointed. The Anti-Vaccination League was very strong in Gloucester and in the 1887 the board passed a resolution than no prosecutions of people not having their children vaccinated should take place. However in 1895 there was a smallpox outbreak and 434 people died in Gloucester and the resolution was quickly reversed.

The vote of thanks was given by Colin Watkins.