Street View: 31
Address: 90 Blackman Street

elevation 90 Blackman Street

Thomas Hosegood (±1778-1844) had his medical practice at 90 Blackman Street, Borough. The street is now simply part of Borough High Street, but the section south of St. George the Martyr used to be called Blackman Street. Number 90 was situated on the corner of Lant Street (of Dickens fame); the opposite corner, number 91 was occupied by Yate and Son, chemists and druggists, which would have been quite handy for ‘surgeon’ – as he styled himself – Hosegood.

The doctor’s practice undoubtedly had its fair share of patients with ordinary household complaints and diseases, but from time to time, everyday life was shaken by an unusual event. In January 1833, William Dunningham, an ostler at the Star-Yard livery stables (79 Blackman Street), came to the surgery for a cut on his nose which he said had been caused by the throwing of a brush by a comrade when they were ‘larking’. No major injury had been inflicted, or so it seemed, and the cut was dressed by the doctor’s apprentice. But a few days later, the man came back with a high fever and he died that same night. At the subsequent inquest, Hosegood and his apprentice Richardson alleged that the man died from the effect of heavy drinking, but one of the parish surgeons, Mr. Evans, was of the opinion that the man had died from injuries inflicted by violence. The postmortem had revealed a deep cut across the nose to the opposite cheek bone. The nasal bone had been broken, causing inflammation of the brain which, according to Evans, resulted in the death. Another surgeon, one Mr. Hooper, was of the opinion that the blow that broke his nose could not have been done after death, but as Hosegood persisted in his denial of witnessing the fatal injuries when the man first came to him, the jury could at first not come to a decision and Evans was recalled. When cross-examined by the coroner, he could not positively say that the injury had caused the man’s death. The final verdict was that Dunningham “died by the visitation of God”.(1)

A year and a half later, Blackman Street was the scene of road rage. One evening at about half past eight, a ‘gentleman’ returning from Epsom races, rode his horse at such a furious pace that an elderly woman was knocked down at the corner of Horsemonger Lane. She escaped with ‘just’ a broken arm, but Mr. Tibbs was knocked down in Blackman Street and his “skull was so severely fractured that but very little hopes are entertained of his recovery”. These two accidents did not stop the rider, however, and at the corner of Union Street, another elderly woman was run over. She was not badly hurt, but the rider was thrown of his horse. He quickly appeased the woman with a few shillings and gave a false address to a witness who tried to interfere. The man remounted his horse and rode on to knock a young lad down near London Bridge; he then continued onwards and out of this story. The unfortunate Mr. Tibbs was taken to Hosegood’s surgery, but whether Hosegood managed to save his life is unclear.(2)

bust Jenner

Normally Hosegood’s life was far less eventful, at least he did not feature in any more newspaper reports, and presumably went about his normal medical business. He was heavily involved in the vaccination programs set up after the discovery in 1796 of the smallpox vaccine by Edward Jenner. The Royal Jennerian Society (in full, The Royal Jennerian Society for the extermination of the small-pox by the extension of vaccination) was established in 1803 to roll out a wide-scale vaccination program. However, one of the staff members, Dr John Walker, allegedly flaunted the inoculation regulations and much public in-fighting resulted in his resignation. Walker set up the London Vaccine Institution in 1806 which did rather well, leaving the Jennerian Society struggling for survival until 1809 when they expired, although the name was later revived.(3)

James Gillray, Cow-pock ©BM AN00146958_001_l

James Gillray, The Cow-Pock-or-the Wonderful Effects of the New Inoculation! (1802) ©British Museum

The row between the societies was fought very publicly with pamphlets for and against each other, no doubt supplying the public with plenty of entertainment. The Circular Letter to Supporters of John Walker’s London Vaccine Institution, Emphasising the Society’s Disapproval of Walker and His Activities of 1808 was mild-worded compared to another one that did not mince words to describe the opposition. In 1816, John Ring wrote A Caution against Vaccine Swindlers, and Imposters in which he strenuously denied having anything to do with the “falsely calling itself the Royal Jennerian Society”, which, in his eyes, had been “organizing a complete system of quackery”. He continues for pages and pages with – probably largely unfounded and reeking strongly of anti-Quakerism – accusations against John Walker who he puts down as “ignorant, illiterate, and unskilful”. Unfortunately for Mr. Ring, Walker’s efforts did bring about a large decrease in smallpox cases and smallpox deaths. A report of the ‘Parliamentary committee on the expediency of continuing the vaccine board’ states that the average yearly mortality by smallpox had decreased from 2,204 in the period 1770-1780 to 654 in the years 1830-1832.(4)

London Vaccine Institution title-page

Whether Hosegood was a member of the first Jennerian Society is unclear, but in 1831 and 1833 he figured in the list of ‘managers’ of the London Vaccine Institution. His name was graced with an asterisk to signify that he was “of the medical profession” and hence on “the Committee of Medical Assistants, or Medical Council”.(5)

Of his private life we know next to nothing. His will mentions a brother George, already deceased when the will was drawn up in 1837, and a sister Ann who had married one Henry Pollard.(6) Thomas seems to have remained a bachelor and left his money to his sister and his nephews Thomas Hosegood (the son of George) and Henry John Revoult Pollard (the son of Ann) and his niece Mary Revoult Hosegood Pollard (the daughter of Ann). Surgeon Thomas died on 27 October 1844 and was buried at St. Mary’s Newington on 2 November. His burial record gives his age as 66, so he was born ca. 1778. His much younger sister Ann (b. ±1800), died in Paris on 31 March 1846 and was buried on 7 April, also at St. Mary’s. According to a listing of the memorials at St. Mary’s, her son Henry John Revoult died a few years later on 24 April 1849, aged just 28, and was also buried there.(7) Thomas’s will mentions “two freehold messuages […] in the parish of South Molton in the county of Devon”, so he may have come from there. The Hosegood name certainly appears in the Devonshire genealogical records, but whether and how Thomas is related to them I have not been able to find out without going to Devon to look at the parish records myself. In 1751, 1762, 1771 and 1783, a (or maybe more than one) Thomas Hosegood appears in the records as holding a freehold in South Molton, but here again, no evidence of a family link.(8) And last, but perhaps not least, there is a baptism record in South Molton for one Thomas Hosegood, the son of William and Hannah, on 17 June 1779, which would more or less be the correct year for Thomas the surgeon.(9) Perhaps someone in Devon can shed some light on the matter?

(1) The Morning Chronicle, 18 January 1833.
(2) The Examiner, 1 June 1834.
(3) In 1813, the name Royal Jennerian Society was reused by a newly set up branch of the London Vaccine Institution. The two institutions had different names, but one common management.
(4) The London Medical Gazette, vol. 13 (1834), p. 126.
(5) The title-pages of the 1831 and 1833 transactions give the institute its full name: London Vaccine Institution, for Inoculating and Supplying Matter.
(6) PROB 11/2010/320.
(7) The Monumental Inscriptions in the Old Churchyard of St. Mary, Newington, part 1 (1880), p. 147.
(8) S. Dixon, Devon Freeholders, 1711-1799, Friends of Devon Archives
(9) IGI


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