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Sunday 26 March 2017

Bath Hospital 1839

Bath Hospital Patients 1839

I fear that in writing about old newspaper content I am encroaching upon Estelle’s Skittish Library subject matter (e.g. Infectious Patients), but I just had to post this 1839 article from the Bath Chronicle, found in helping an acquaintance with family history research. It lists patients admitted to Bath Hospital, with details of where they live, their diseases and the outcomes of their treatment. One of those listed is the ancestor of interest.

I am sorry to hear that Fanny Tovey, of Midsomer Norton, Somerset, has paraplegia, but pleased that she is now much better. I am glad that James Mullins, of Wardour, Wiltshire, is completely cured of his lumbago.

It appears that dropt hands, sciatica, rheumatism, impetigo (contagious pustular discharge of the skin), porrigo (a scaly eruption of the scalp), lepra (skin lesions including leprosy) and psoriasis (red scaly skin) could be much improved or entirely cured just by using the healing waters of the Roman Baths – subliminally called to mind perhaps by the little wavy lines across the page. In essence, it sounds like what we would now call high-mineral hydrotherapy in warm spa water, for skin, joint, nerve and muscle ailments.

Weren’t they bothered about patient confidentiality in those days? Did these patients give consent to their names being used? Were they even aware that their personal details had appeared in the paper? No doubt the same treatments took place at our own spa towns in Yorkshire, such as Harrogate, and at other places around the country, but only Bath seems to have been so improvident with patients’ names. When I think of all the ethical and confidentiality hoops I used to have to jump through just to observe human participants interacting with computers, this newspaper cutting is astonishing.

“Well fancy that,” commented my fellow genealogist. “At least it wasn’t syphilis.”

“Would they tell you if it was?” I wondered. “It might not be good for business. All that immersing yourself in the same water and so on.”

As we know that is not how you catch syphilis it wouldn’t bother me now. I would be more concerned about taking the Bath waters with people suffering from contagious pustular discharges, leprosy and flaky skin.


  1. Fascinating, love these kind of articles! Also amazed at the openness of sharing patient details - the ones I have seen have all been a bit more secure with patient numbers and no details of the actual illnesses.


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