9 Annotations

Terry F  •  Link

The Barber-Surgeons Company

In 1540 the Surgeons Guild and the Company of Barbers were amalgamated by Act of Parliament which, among other privileges, allotted the new Company the bodies of four executed criminals for dissection every year. The functions of barbers and surgeons were separated and they were not permitted to undertake each other's work. The writ of the Company lay within a radius of one mile from the City and Westminster. At this time the Barber-Surgeons had the largest number of Freemen of any City Livery Company. This new organisation continued with some difficulty for a hundred years but it was seldom peaceful and there were always disputes between the factions, which had to be resolved. The Company continued this dual role into the seventeenth century. Until 1745 the Company also undertook the examination of Surgeons for the Navy.

The Hall of the Worshipful Company of Barbers, then Barber-Surgeons, later Barbers has, since the 14c been located in Monkwell Street, which may be found on the left side of this segment of the 1746 map.

in Aqua Scripto  •  Link

OED on Barber note the Dentistry connection, A cut throat on plaque removal
1. a. A man, or more rarely a woman, whose business it is to shave or trim the beards, and cut and dress the hair, of customers. (Now largely replaced by hairdresser.)
Formerly the barber was also a regular practitioner in surgery and dentistry. The Company of Barber-surgeons was incorporated by Edward IV. in 1461; under Henry VIII. the title was altered to ‘Company of Barbers and Surgeons,’ and barbers were restricted to the practice of dentistry; in 1745 they were divided into two distinct corporations.
1594 PLAT Jewell-ho. III. 74 If your teeth be verie scalie, let som expert Barber first take off the scales.
1624 CAPT. SMITH Virginia II. 30 For Barbers they vse their women.
a1625 BOYS Wks. (1629) 59 Like Barbars, who cut all other except themselves
an aside b. fig. One who clips or cuts short; a curtailer.
1609 B. JONSON Sil. Wom. III. ii. Wks. (1616) 554 An excellent barber of prayers.
1601 SHAKES. All's Well II. ii. 16 Like a Barbers chaire that fits all buttockes.
1621 BURTON Anat. Mel. III. iv. I. iii. (1651) 665 A notorious strumpet as common as a barbars chair.

Eliz  •  Link

Is there some connection between the Barber-Surgeons and the legendary animal, the Ophiuchus? (is the ophiuchus on their crest?) I seem to remember something like this from a walk on "Henry 8th and the City", but have forgotten. Any advice appreciated.

Terry Foreman  •  Link

The Worshipful Company of Barbers is one of the Livery Companies of the City of London, and ranks 17th in precedence.

The Fellowship of Surgeons merged with the Barbers' Company in 1540, forming the Company of Barbers and Surgeons, but after the rising professionalism of the trade broke away in 1745 to form what would become the Royal College of Surgeons.

The Company no longer retains an association with the hairdressing profession, and principally acts as a charitable institution for medical and surgical causes. In modern times, between one-third and one-half of the Company's liverymen are surgeons, dentists or other medical practitioners. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worshipful_Company_…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

highlights from http://www.pepysdiary.com/diary/1667/12/22/ :

17th century dentistry.

There were no dentists in London at this time that we would recognize as dentists. Barber-surgeons were 'operators for the teeth" who might ply their trade in a local market or at a fair.

The first book written about dentistry in English was published in the mid-1680s

There was reluctance to extract teeth. Oil of cloves could be used to deaden the pain of a carious tooth and it was recognized cleaning teeth, notably to remove plaque, was a desirable practice. Cavities were thought to be caused by a 'worm.'

If you had an abscess, rich folk called in a practicing surgeon to consult on the matter, They may extract the tooth or lance an abscess to relieve the painful pressure. [Modern dentists, of course, will not remove a badly abscessed tooth until the infection has been reduced by the use of antibiotics].

It must have been agony waiting for the abscess to burst.

Nothing about toothbrushes of toothpaste.

Eliza Picard, page 170/171, says:
"Diseases and Causalities this week" [3rd week of August 1664]
Abortive 5
Still borne 17
Stone 2
teeth 121
childbed 42
Christened 176

So 121 people died in one week from bad teeth in London.
Teeth and abscesses are dangerous -- we don't think about that any more.

I was wondering why people died from being Christened until I realized it was almost the total of the other causes combined ... presumably a few children died without benefit of clergy (which must include some called still born).

Ice, when available, was known to lessen pain. Otherwise, I'm guessing a bottle of brandy was the recommended.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Today I was reading an article on dentistry which had a few facts of interest. I include the link, but it isn't an historical read.

"The phrase “evidence-based medicine” was coined in 1991, but the concept began taking shape in the 1960s, if not earlier (some scholars trace its origins all the way back to the 17th century)."
[A nod to the Royal Society, or ...?]

"In medieval Europe, barbers didn’t just trim hair and shave beards; they were also surgeons, performing a range of minor operations including bloodletting, the administration of enemas, and tooth extraction. Barber-surgeons, and the more specialized “tooth drawers,” would wrench, smash, and knock teeth out of people’s mouths with an intimidating metal instrument called a dental key: Imagine a chimera of a hook, a hammer, and forceps. Sometimes the results were disastrous.

"In the 1700s, Thomas Berdmore, George III’s “Operator for the Teeth,” described one woman who lost “a piece of jawbone as big as a walnut and three neighboring molars” at the hands of a local barber.

"Barber-surgeons came to America as early as 1636.

"By the 18th century, dentistry was firmly established in the colonies as a trade akin to blacksmithing (Paul Revere was an early American craftsman of artisanal dentures). Itinerant dentists moved from town to town by carriage with carts of dreaded tools in tow, temporarily setting up shop in a tavern or town square. They yanked teeth or bored into them with hand drills, filling cavities with mercury, tin, gold, or molten lead. For anesthetic, they used arsenic, nutgalls, mustard seed, leeches. Mixed in with the honest tradesmen — who genuinely believed in the therapeutic power of bloodsucking worms — were swindlers who urged their customers to have numerous teeth removed in a single sitting or charged them extra to stuff their pitted molars with homemade gunk of dubious benefit."


nutgall -- noun
Medical Definition of nutgall: a gall that resembles a nut
especially: a gall produced on an oak (especially Quercus infectoria) and used as a source of tannic acid
First Known Use of nutgall
15th century, in the meaning defined above

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

"Paracelsus, a 16th-century Swiss physician and “father of toxicology” believed that to cure an ailment you needed to treat it with something similar, and many of the corpse medicine-using doctors followed this lead.

"To prevent tooth decay, someone could wear a tooth taken from a corpse and wear it around his or her neck, or touch the corpse tooth to one’s own."

Going to the dentist is much better than this solution for toothache.


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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.