Doctor Doctor, I think I’m a pair of curtains…

I wasn’t feeling well the other day. I felt a bit under the weather and for the first time in ages I went to see the doctor. Which is very unlike me, and I assume very unlike other men.

There are always reports that men do not go to see their doctors enough. I have to hold my hand up and say that I am one of them. Perhaps I should go when I’m not well or think I’ve broken something. I am paying my taxes so should use it if I feel the need. Perhaps it’s because I don’t want to be a burden, maybe I think I’m invincible or perhaps everything just sorts itself out in the end. Anyway, I have promised myself that I am going to see the doctor should the need arise. But what if I don’t want to see the doctor? Maybe the doctor can come to me.

Just some of the bottles which adorned the shelves of a chemist

Within the collection we have a full collection of bottles from a late 19th century chemist’s shop. It’s interesting to see the kind of things that chemists sold at the time. While we may feel we put too many chemicals in our bodies, it’s interesting to see the kind of toxic poisons that were being prescribed at the time.

We also know the kind of ailments people had because we have a prescription book from the chemist which keeps a list of all the prescriptions and the people they were given too. A notable trend is the amount of medicines given to treat bowel or stomach conditions. A significant problem during this period was the type of food being eaten by people. People would consume a lot of stodgy food – Pies, Breads and Chips. These were cheap and helped to fill the stomachs of poor families and in turn would cause constipation. This trend is also backed up in the stock lists we have of local shops which show them making regular orders of Senna leaves.

A lot of the bottles though were pretty useless. They either did nothing or would come close to killing you. Which explains the rise in homeopathy during the 19th Century. As a colleague put it, ‘at least it’s not going to kill you’.


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Blackburn Museum can be found in Blackburn, Lancashire. It houses objects documenting Blackburn's industrial past as well as a world class collection of Fine Art, Japanese prints, Icons, Numismatics and Manuscripts. Come and visit us to find out more.

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