Sunday, 29 June 2014

The Bromley Kent medical practice of Doctors William Roberts and Thomas Ilott circa 1808

William Child was the town's medical practioner until his retirement in 1807 after William Roberts had joined him in practice. Thomas Ilott who came from Oxfordshire joined Roberts in 1808 ( it is believed).
The practice at this time covered a wide part of what is now referred to as South London and provided medical care to various parishes in the district.
Bromley Archive holds a fascinating glimpse of medical practice at that time as well as a valuable record of households and named individuals close to the rare survival 1801 Census of Bromley transcribed at Kent Online Parish Clerks.
The Archive holds a very large ledger book with 1141 entries and several other items arising from it under reference 617. The ledger is one of four and originally was catalogued as volume C but the label on the spine to denote this has been lost. The pages contain continued references to an earlier account referred to as "B" and carry over to a further volume "D". We therefore have one quarter of the known ledgers of the practice from this period of history.
Illott is named;Roberts is not and the ledger is catalogued as his accounts ledger. Medical practice is recorded in abbreviated medical Latin so a home visit is recorded as "iter" was not charged for and a limited number of recurring treatements are referred to.
The doctors charged one guinea for delivering a child "delivery" and 10 shillings and sixpence for smallpox inoculations. They syringed ears and extracted teeth "dent" and treated fractured bones or dislocations often referred to as reduc. or  medical latin reduco. Their limited range of medicinal prescriptions include pain relief tonics (robor. or roboro) plaster (emp. or emplastrum),drops,linctus,pills,powders,ointments,draughts,mixtures,purgatives and iron tonics or wines.
The doctors were contracted to provide care for the poor of several parishes including Cudham,Hayes,Keston,Knockholt and Orpington and the established tradesmen of the town and various parishes are named. Large households from Chislehurst, Downe,Keston,Leaves Green and Wickham are featured and patients in London,Newington and Dulwich are included.
Notable and titled householders including the Attorney General (Sir Vicary Gibbs) and the wife of the poet Lady Byron were attended by Doctor Ilott. In the collection of practice material under reference 617/25 a letter from Lady Byron from Hastings mentions her health and that of a daughter. She had at the time separated from her husband George 6th Baron Byron and stayed for a time in Beckenham with her daughter Ada. The practice has a loose account under reference 617/8 for Lord Byron who was the poets cousin George Anson Byron and the successor to the title on the poets death in 1824.
The neglected record provides a link to Bromley's census householders and named servants enable a picture to form of households of notable townspeople and families in surrounding parishes.
Under terms of an agreement between Bromley Archives and Kent Online Parish Clerks I will be transcribing this valuable record for online publication during 2015; the resulting index will also be available electronically for searchers at the Archive. The ledger has not been microfilmed.