Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Ruptured Poor of Bromley

I have in the last year transcribed and prepared for future online publication two series of transcripts which relate to medical history in Bromley Kent.

  • Thomas Ilott surgeon of High Street Bromley medical ledger from 1809-1915 contains several references to hernia repair and trusses.
  • The Bromley Poor Law Union Lunatic registers contain examinations on admission to and discharge from the Workhouse.

In both records I was impressed by the frequency of encountering hernia cases medical practitioners described ruptures and repair (or in the Workhouse recording lack of surgery or provision of a truss).
Whilst I researched many recurring conditions found in Ilott in the first decade of the nineteenth century I came upon the National Truss Society founded in 1786 in London.
The object of the Society was to relieve the ruptured poor of both sexes and the illustration from a Commercial directory in the 1900's records the history of offering surgical relief "every necessary operation" as well as trusses "for every kind of rupture" for both sexes " throughout the kingdom". Strenuous labour was of course a cause of many hernias in both male and female and hernia repair would be commonplace for local surgeons like Ilott. Further research found the London society in 1817 estimated one in eight male workers  throughout the United Kingdom had need of surgery.
I found further information in one district of London via the UCL project for Bloomsbury Bloomsbury Rupture Society history. What is of interest from a Bromley perspective is that Thomas Ilott was like William Blair a surgeon and pro vaccination doctor whose large vaccination programme for the parishes in which he was parish doctor saved countless lives of children.
Doctor Alexander Shannon the Bromley Poor Law Union Medical Officer records in the surviving Lunatic registers his examinations (and those of his deputy Doctor Yolland) examinations on admission and discharge as pauper lunatics within the terms of the Lunacy Acts in late Victorian and Edwardian Workhouse records. One recurring theme of these examinations is the incidence of hernia both surgically treated and present but untreated. Whether wearing a truss or not the medical examinations identify those paupers in need of treatment either at the Workhouse Infirmary (expanded in the 1890's). Hernia needs as well as the Union's lack of suitable provision for children I have no doubt were a concern for both doctors. In 1908/9 the Union built separate provision for boys and girls; what is less clear is the provision for surgery. Certainly the Union Workhouse became increasingly oriented to development of medical services from the 1900's.
These glimpses of the  problem from these two archive records hint at medical attempts to assist work related health problems at both ends of the nineteenth century.
 © Henry Mantell Downe Online Parish Clerk 2015