The doctor will see you now

Learn about the treatments prescribed to the Apprentice House children © Quarry Bank Mill Images

Learn about the treatments prescribed to the Apprentice House children

In the 1790s Samuel Greg employed Dr Peter Holland as his family physician, and to care for the ailments of the pauper children who lived in the Apprentice House at Quarry Bank Mill. This was an appointment ahead of its time for it was not until 1845 that a factory legally had to employ a surgeon.

Dr Holland's medical treatments for the children have survived in two large daybooks, the majority of which were concocted in the Apprentice House from the herbs, vegetables and fruits grown in the Apprentice House garden. Rhubarb and senna were particularly popular choices for medicine. Treatments largely consisted of poultices, powders, teas and ointments.

Getting rid of 'morbid matter'

Whilst medicine had advanced immeasurably by the 19th century, it was still largely believed that the best cures were ones which expelled evil substances and 'humours' from the body. Therefore most of the treatments given to the children consisted of medicines which purged the body, and practices such as creating blisters on the affected area, like Cath Hussey in 1838, who was 'to have a blister on the painful part of the side'.

There was of course also the age old method of blood letting through the application of leeches, as was the case for Mary Newton in 1831 whose prescribed treatment was to 'let her have six leeches to the painful part of the knee'.

Next patient please

Today, on a tour of the Apprentice House, you can visit the medical room and see some of the medicines for yourself, including some very wriggly leeches, as well as being inspected to see if you were healthy enough to work in the Mill.