On Saturday 13 March a large group of SLHA members and others met in the Old School Rooms in Nettleham for an entertaining and informative day of talks on historical aspects of physical and mental health. The programme was:
Grantham PlagueJohn Manterfield
Working from local records, such as parish registers, wills and Corporation minute books, the pattern of plagues can be traced in Grantham during the early seventeenth century, for example in the summer and autumn of the years 1617, 1625 and 1637.
Grantham Corporation set up a pest house in Manthorpe Road for isolating victims and they also increased rate assessments to provide relief funding for those afflicted by the plague.At the time of the major London plague of 1665 the Corporation also set up a system of watches and took steps to keep out travellers – a successful operation because the town was kept free from the plague on that occasion.
Plants that Kill and Heal
A surprisingly large range of common garden and hedgerow plants have beneficial properties, most of which have been well known since time immemorial.
Other plants are thoroughly poisonous, even when small quantities are ingested or come into contact with the human body, though there are those like laburnum whose poisonous nature is overstated.Another group of plants have both benign and malign properties as far as humans are concerned, depending perhaps on the concentration of the essential component or on the degree of ripening of the plant in its annual cycle of growth.
The frequently repeated assertion that King George III suffered from porphyria originates from a report by eminent psychiatrists in the British Medical Journal in 1966.
This report was accepted and widely promulgated by leading historians at the time and later formed the background to Alan Bennett’s hugely successful play and film The Madness of King George.However, the scientific community in the 70s and more recently has always found the original BMJ article deeply flawed. It is clear that all aspects of George’s illness are only correctly explained by bipolar disorder followed by terminal dementia.
Lincoln Corporation’s lunatic asylum, later known as The Lawn, opened in 1820. Designed by Richard Ingleman and costing £15,000, it was built on a 3-acre site to the south-west of the Castle overlooking the lower city.
It was a relatively small asylum with 50 bedrooms and 80 beds. Nevertheless it gained a national reputation through the pioneering work of Edward Charlesworth and Robert Hill who developed ways of managing the mentally ill without the use of constant and oppressive physical constraint.
The Hospital of the Holy Innocents
This leper hospital, of unusual dedication, was situated close to St Catherine’s Priory just to the south of Lincoln. Possibly founded in the late eleventh century, it was one of the earliest of what became a large number of similar ‘hospices’ across England.
It was funded by endowments but over the years its viability and occupation declined; attitudes to leprosy also changed, generally becoming less sympathetic and supportive.
In 1535, at the time of the Reformation, the hospital finally closed with only one resident remaining. Most of the site has been destroyed by nineteenth century railway and housing construction.
Doctors in Georgian GranthamAs with other professions in provincial towns, members of the medical profession had specialist knowledge, wore distinctive clothing, used Latin, and generated a mystique.
The public believed in their special authority and powers. Nevertheless, cartoons of the time lampooned doctors unmercifully.
In the mid-eighteenth century there were four doctors and two surgeons practising in Grantham. Monuments in the parish church of St Wulfram indicate the wealth and
high family connections of some of these members of the medical profession..