Thomas Hunt Doctor
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Dr.Thomas Hunt was the brother of the author’s 4 x gt. Grandmother. He was born c1798 at Watford, Hertfordshire, the eldest son of Rev. Thomas Hunt, a Baptist Minister, and his wife, Maria Edwards. Unusually for somebody born in the late eighteenth century, we know precisely when he was born. His parents were Baptists, so their children would not have been baptised as infants. However the Baptist church had its own system of birth registration, and we are fortunate to have been able to find a certificate(1) recording Thomas’s birth on 18 February 1798. At that time Thomas’s father was the Minister at Watford, Herts, so we believe he was probably born there.
We know nothing of Thomas’s childhood. As his father was a Baptist minister, we may conclude that when he transferred from one church to another his young son probably went with him. Thus, he is likely to have lived for spells during his childhood at Ridgemount and Dunstable (both Bedfordshire), and Tring (Hertfordshire).
The Haberdashers’ Company archives show that in 1812 Thomas received an Apprenticeship grant from the John Bankes Trust that amounted to £80 (2). We may assume that he was commencing his medical training at that date.
The records of the Royal College of Surgeons show that in 1826 Thomas was resident at Upper Clapton. This address continues until the 1829 list of members, which gives his address as Herne Bay(3).
On Wednesday 8 August 1827 at the church of St Sepulchre, Holborn(4), Thomas married Martha Mary Colam, the daughter of James Colam (c1770-1851), and his wife – Esther Greenway (c1781-bef 1848), by Licence. Thomas Colam was a prosperous businessman, trading as a ‘Dealer in Ham & Tongue'(5) The Colam family had evidently been resident in the same area of London for many years. James and Esther had married in St Sepulchre’s in 1806(6), and according to her birth certification(7) at Dr Williams’s registry, Martha was born at Charterhouse Street, Parish of St.Sepulchre, Middx., London. The fact that Martha’s birth was recorded at Dr Williams’s Registry tells us that, like the Hunts, the Colams were non-conformist in religious terms.
The baptism records relating to Thomas & Martha’s children show that the family lived at this address until at least 1828, and other sources show that this property remained in the family until at least 1851(8).
On 13 Oct 1844 Thomas’s father – Rev Thomas Hunt – died at Upper Clapton, Hackney, Middlesex. Thomas was a beneficiary of his father’s will (9).
On 13 Mar 1848 Thomas’s mother – Maria (Edwards) Hunt died at Upper Clapton (10).
In 1851 Thomas acted as an executor of the Will of his father in law, James Colam.(11).
Thomas and Martha Hunt both signed as witnesses at the marriage of their daughter, Louisa Hunt, on 11th September 1860 (12). As you will read below, Louisa married a certain Thomas Geary, Barrister at Law, at St.Giles in the Fields, Middlesex.
On 11 Jan 1861 Martha Mary (Colam) Hunt died (13). The information on her death certificate shows that she had suffered from Asthma for fourteen years, and Bronchitis for three weeks. The death was notified to the Registrar by her son – Thomas Hunt Jnr – one week after the event.
Thomas Hunt married his second wife at Kensington, Middlesex, on Tuesday 10 May 1864 by Licence (14). She was Caroline Hall (c1815-aft 1873), the daughter of Benjamin Hall, Gentleman. As our research has been concentrated on Thomas and his children, we have not yet found any further information about Caroline.
Thomas died on Wednesday 26 Nov 1879 at his Herne Bay address – 17 High Street(15). He was the subject of an obituary in The Times newspaper(16) and his will was proved on 8 December 1879(17), the executors being his son – Arthur Ackland Hunt, and his son in law – Thomas Geary.
The records that we have found indicate that the union of Thomas Hunt and Martha Mary Colam produced thirteen children, and they are listed hereunder, with photographs where images are available to us, and with some brief notes about their lives.
Thomas Hunt (aft 1826 – aft 1860)
Evidence about Thomas Hunt Junior is sparse, but we believe that this person was the first son of Thomas & Martha Mary Colam. We assume that he was born after the date of his parents’ marriage in 1827and as you have seen above, he was the person who notified the registrar of the death of his mother. He was recorded in the Medical Directory of 1861(18) as “Thomas Hunt Jnr”, in the entry immediately beneath the entry for “our” Thomas Hunt. What was more, this entry showed that he shared the address of Thomas – “23 Albert Place, Bedford Square, W.C.”. He did not feature in the Medical Directory of 1871, but Thomas Hunt MRCS appeared in the Medical Register listings up to 1875(19), always being listed with the 23 Albert Place address that was long associated with his father. We have never yet managed to sight him in any census records. This is in spite of the fact that we have records of his father’s family on the censuses of 1851, 1861 and 1871(see below).
Emily Hunt (22 Apr 1828 – Dec 1828)
As far as we know only two records survive to mark Emily’s very short life. She was baptised at the Union Independent Chapel in Mortimer Street, Herne Bay in Kent on Friday 24 October 1828(20), and buried at the same chapel less than two months later, on 20 December 1828(21). We have no means of knowing how she died.
Louisa Hunt m Thomas Geary (10 Jun 1829 – abt 1903)
The record of the Union Independent Chapel, Herne Bay, shows that Louisa was baptised on Monday 24 September 1829(22). Subsequent census entries confirm that she was born at Herne Bay(23).
Louisa probably lived in the family home until 11 September 1860, when she married Thomas Geary (born about 1828) at her local church – St Giles in the Fields, Middlesex(24). Her groom was a barrister, a son of Thomas Geary, recorded on the 1851 census as a “Fundholder”, and Elizabeth his wife. In 1851 the Geary family were living in Mitcham, Surrey, and were evidently prosperous people, having three female servants to cater for the needs of four adults(25).
Thomas and Louisa Geary seemingly started their married life in the household of the bridegroom’s parents at Fulham in South West London. At least, that was where they were in April 1861(26). The 1871 census records the Gearys living at 38 Wrotham Road, Camden Town, which is located just to the east of the southern end of Camden Road. Also in the household were Thomas Geary’s widowed elderly mother, a sister of Thomas and a child, who appears to have been the sister’s daughter. The household’s prosperity was signalled by the presence of a female servant(27).
By 1881 the Gearys and Louisa’s sister – Esther Maria – were living at Paddington, in West London, at 32 Formosa Street(28). However, they evidently moved on sometime in the ensuing ten years, as on both the 1891 and 1901 censuses they were living at 140 Kilburn Park Road, Willesden, Middlesex(29).
Thomas and Louisa Geary did not have any children. Thomas carried out his legal practice from chambers in the Inner Temple, London(30). He also acted as Secretary to the Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin, an organisation in which his father in law was heavily involved (see below). Indeed, his term as Secretary to this organisation pre-dates his marriage(31), so it is possible that he met his later wife through his work with her father. Utter speculation, of course, but quite possible.
Louisa Geary’s death weas registered at St Albans, Hertfordshire, in the December quarter of 1903. She was 74(32). Thomas was enumerated on the 1911 census, an 83 year old widower living in Bath in the household of his spinster niece – Frances Hill(33). Thomas’s death was registered on the first quarter of 1914 in the City of Bath(34). Stangely, considering Thomas’s legal career, no will seems to have been proved.
Eight years after Thomas Geary’s death a letter appeared in The Times newspaper, sent by a certain Bernard Geary(35):
“The Times, Saturday, May 27, 1922; pg. 8
A Link with 1770
Lieutenant-Colonel Drage’s account of his link with 1787 is an interesting one, which I can compare with that of my own great-uncle, Mr Thomas Geary, Barrister-at-law, who was born in 1828 and died at Bath in 1916[sic]. His father was born in 1770, and the two lives therefore covered a span of 146 years. Should my youngest brother, Rev. B.H.Geary, V.C., or any of the younger members of my father’s family, reach an advanced old age, a period of over two hundred years will have been covered by the three lives, as the above brother is only thirty-one now.
Mr. A. Bernard Geary, Sports Club, St. James’s-sq, S.W.”
Matilda Hunt (7 May 1831 – 19 Feb 1908)
Matilda was baptised at the Union Independent Chapel, Herne Bay on Saturday 2 July 1831(36), when she was almost two months old. She was recorded in the household of her parents on the censuses dated between 1851 and 1871(37), but on the 1881 census she was recorded as an unmarried Governess in the Beck household in the place of her birth – Herne Bay(38). The head of the household was Jane Ellen Beck, a widow, aged 74. She was accompanied by a grandson, aged 4, and a grandaughter, aged 3. Both these children had been born in Punjab, India, so we may surmise that their father was either serving in the British army or working in India in some other capacity.
By 1891 Matilda was aged 60, and her circumstances had changed. The census of 5 April in that year(39) shows her living at Lewisham. Formerly a Kentish village, the railway had arrived in Lewisham in the 1840s, and that signalled the start of building development. By 1891 Lewisham had been absorbed into the County of London. Matilda was enumerated as a lodger in the household of a certain William Royce, Tailor, and ten years later she was again living in rented accommodation, in a single room in Maida Vale, Paddington, to the West of London(40).
Matilda was still living in Paddington when she died in on 19 February 1908(41). Her will was proved five weeks later, her executors being her siblings – Arthur Ackland Hunt and Emily Teresa Hunt. She had never married, and had no issue. The value of her estate totalled £72 2s 6d.
Esther Maria Hunt (8 Sep 1833 – 20 Jan 1911)
Esther Maria Hunt was baptised at the Union Independent Chapel, Herne Bay on 8 July 1834, when she was ten months of age(42).
Whereas we have not been able to trace the household of her parents on 6 June 1841 census, we do know where Esther Maria was on that date. She was at Clapton, Middlesex, in the household of her paternal grandparents – Thomas Hunt, the Baptist Minister, and his wife Maria Edwards(43).
By 1871 Esther Maria had left the home of Dr Thomas Hunt and was earning her living as a Governess in the household of Rev Arthur George S Shirley at the Vicarage in Stinsford, Dorset (44).
Ten years later we find Esther Maria in the household of her sister and brother in law – Louisa and Thomas Geary – in their home at Paddington, West London. Presumably she was living with them.(45)
The census returns of 1891 and 1901 show Esther Maria at the same address – 44 Edbroke Road, Paddington, apparently indicating a period of residential stability in her life(46). Her life hardly seems to have been luxurious, however, as she was occupying a single room. Her death in 1911 was marked by a notice in The Times newspaper(47):
HUNT – On the 20th Jan 1911, at 43, Albany-street, N.W., Esther Maria Hunt, fourth daughter of the late Thomas Hunt F.R.C.S., of Herne Bay and London, in her 78th year.”
Probate was granted on 16 February 1911 to her sister, Emily Teresa Hunt. Her estate was valued at £213 12s 6d(48)
John Hunt (abt 1835 – aft 1873)
We do not know the precise date of John Hunt’s birth, but census records indicate that he was born about 1835 at Herne Bay. He featured in the family home on the censuses of 1851, 1861 and 1871(49), but we have not found any records relating to him after that date.
The available evidence about his siblings suggests that they were well educated, so there seems no reason to doubt that the same was true of John. In 1861 his occupation was recorded as “Clerk in Barclay’s Brewery”, and ten years later as a “Merchant Clerk”. Barclay’s Brewery was located in Park Street, Southwark, close to the site of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and a mere stone’s throw from the burial ground in which was the last resting place of John Bankes(50). It is said that “by 1815 Barclay, Perkins & Co. was the leading brewery in London, producing more than 330,000 barrels a year.”(51). The fame of this brewery and its beer was widespread, and it featured in a number of the writings of Charles Dickens.
We have no idea what John did later in his life. He was mentioned in his father’s Will, which was dated 1873(52), so he must be assumed to have died after that date. However, he was not mentioned in the Will of his aunt – Maria Hunt, which was dated 18th March 1884(53), so we believe that he had probably died by then.
William Hunt (abt 1839 – 1862)
We do not know the precise date of John Hunt’s birth, but census records indicate that he was born about 1839 at Herne Bay. He featured in the family home on the censuses of 1851and 1861, the last of these census informing us that he was then a medical student at Middlesex Hospital(54). No doubt a bright future lay before him, but tragically, his life was cut short the following year. The event was recorded in a notice inThe Times newspaper on 15 May 1862(55):
“On board the Nourmahal, off Cape of Good Hope, on his passage to Sydney, in the 23rd year of his age, William, the third son of Thomas Hunt Esq, F.R.C.S., of 23 Albert Place, Bedford-square.”
When we first read this we tended to think that the ship probably sank. However, on researching the matter I found that this was not the case. The Nourmahal was a passenger vessel of 856 tons, built in 1856 at Bridport, and was plying the seas between Britain and Australia & New Zealand for quite a few years after 1862. For instance, the State of Queensland, Australia migrant records show the vessel arriving at Brisbane in 1874(56). We surmise that William may have been bound for the Antipodes and died after being taken ill en route. Presumably he was buried at sea.
Arthur Ackland Hunt (12 May 1841 – 19 Apr 1914)
Arthur Ackland Hunt was born at Herne Bay, Kent, on 12 May 1841(57) and married Emma Sarah Blagg at Cheadle, Staffordshire, in 1879(58). The couple settled at Kidbrooke, then in Kent but now a suburb of London, and had two children.
Arthur is the subject of a separate page on this website, and you can read about him and his family by clicking on his photograph.
Mary Elizabeth Hunt Abt 1843 – aft July 1884)
We do not know the precise date of Mary Elizabeth Hunt’s birth, but census records indicate that she was born about 1843 at Herne Bay.
Mary featured in her parents’ family home as enumerated on the censuses of 1851and 1861(59), but by 2 April 1871 she was employed as a Governess in the household of Charles Roberts, General Practitioner, and his family at Hillingdon, Middlesex(60). In 1881 she was still a Governess, but she had moved to Shelvin, Hoath, Kent, where she was employed in the household of William L Collard, a farmer(61).
In July 1884 Mary was a beneficiary in the will of her aunt – Maria Hunt(62), so we believe that she was probably alive at that date. However, we have not managed to trace her in any further records, so do not know what she did after April 1881, or when she died.
George Greenway Hunt (29 Apr 1846 – 12 Mar 1913)
George Greenway Hunt was born at Herne Bay on 29 April 1845(63). He featured in the family home of his parents on the censuses of 1851and 1861(64), but in 1870 he married Elizabeth Jude Fremlin, of Wateringbury, Kent(65). Elizabeth was older than George by a few weeks.
By April 1871 the couple had settled down to life in Brockley Road, Deptford(66), in what is now South London, and they continued to live in that area until at least March 1884(67), when he was named as a beneficiary and executor in the will of his aunt – Maria Hunt.
By April 1891 George and Elizabeth were living at St Albans in Hertfordshire, and they stayed there until George’s death on 12 March 1913. His passing was the subject of the following announcement in The Times newspaper of 15 March 1913(68):
HUNT – On the 12th inst, at “Hughenden”, Beaconsfield-road, St Albans, George Greenway Hunt, fifth son of the late Thomas Hunt F.R.C.S. Funeral on Saturday, at St Paul’s Church, at 2.30.
His estate was valued at £909 0s 9d, and probate was granted to his widow.
In his youth George worked as a clerk for Ind Coope Brewery in London(69), but by the time he was 26 years old he had changed careers, becoming a civil engineer(70) and by 1901 he was recorded as “Managing Director of Mechanical Engineering company”(71), a post he still held in 1911(72). The fact that he left a considerable estate suggests that he enjoyed a prosperous career.
Elizabeth Jude (Fremlin) Hunt died on 13 August 1925, her will being proved on 15 October 1925(73). Her estate was valued at £19018 15s 11d, a not inconsiderable sum.
George and Elizabeth had one son – Stafford Greenway Hunt – born on 26 June 1879 at the family home at 106 Brockley Road, Deptford(74). His occupation was recorded in March 1901 as “Bookbinder”, apparently with his own business(75), and he died at St Albans, Hertfordshire, on 22 June 1933(76). He was enumerated in his parents’ household in 1911(77) and so far as we know he never married, and had no offspring. When he died his estate was valued at £8178 0s 11d.(78)
Emily Teresa Hunt (1847 – Aft Aug 1917)
Census records suggest that Emily Teresa Hunt was born about 1847 at Herne Bay, and the Civil Registration indexes bear this out(79). She was enumerated in the London household of her father until 1861(80), when she was 23 years of age. By 1881 she was living as a companion to a certain Eliza J Watson in Paddington, West London(81), but by April 1891 she had moved to live in the household of her brother – Arthur Ackland Hunt – and she was similarly enumerated in 1901 and 1911(82)). In 1891 her occupation was shown as Governess, so presumably she was caring for the education of Arthur’s children.
Emily acted as an executor of the wills of several of her siblings(83) – Matilda (1908), Esther Maria (1911) and Arthur Ackland (1914) – so was evidently regarded by members of the Hunt family as a responsible person. . Additionally, she signed as a witness to the marriage of Arthur’s daughter – Amy Winifred – in 1911(84) and his son – Cecil Ackland Hunt – in 1917(85). We have not found any evidence that she married, or had children, and we have not yet traced the record of her death.
Caroline Hunt (abt Oct 1850 – Jan-Mar 1872)
Caroline Hunt was born in 1850 in London, and enumerated in the household of her father until 1871(86). Sadly, she died early in 1871(87), aged 21 years.
Edward Jacobson Hunt (bet Jul-Sep 1852 – Bet Jan – Mar 1909)
Edward Jacobson was born in 1852 in London, and appears to have lived in the household of his father at least until he reached the age of 18 years(88), when his occupation was enumerated as “Analytic Chemist”. On each of the next three censuses Edward can be found living as a lodger, or boarder, in various places in South London and Surrey(89), and his occupation was shown consistently as an analytical chemist. We have found no evidence that he ever married, and he died in 1909 at Woolwich(90).
Some notes re the above children of Thomas & Martha Mary Hunt
It seems appropriate to make a few observations about the lives of the children of Thomas Hunt and Martha Mary Colam.
Apart from Thomas, whose birth we have not traced, all the above children except the last two were born at Herne Bay, Kent, indicating that the Hunts possibly moved to Bedford Square from that town some time between 1848 and 1850. Reference to The London Encyclopaedia tells us that Bedford Square was a fashionable area in the mid nineteenth century. Lord Eldon, the Lord Chancellor, had lived there from 1804 to 1819, and several other well-known people are recorded as having lived there. “Until 1893 the square was closed off by gates, and tradesmen were required to deliver goods in person” (91).
It is interesting to consider the fact very few of the thirteen children of Thomas Hunt and Martha Mary Colam, married.
We know that Emily, William and Caroline all died young, and we do not know whether John and Thomas married. If you omit these five children from the equation we are left with eight children whose lives we have mapped quite fully. Of these eight people only three married – two males and one female.
It seems clear that four of the girls who lived lengthy lives – Matilda, Esther Maria, Mary Elizabeth and Emily Teresa – did not marry. Anderson(92) quoted research that showed that in England in 1851 only about 25% of women aged 35 years had not married, and the data for 1911 showed a similar result. Unfortunately the data for the intervening years is not quoted, but Drake quotes statistics to show that the median age at marriage for spinsters England & Wales 1851-1891 was 23(93). That is borne out by Picard, who writes “Most middle class girls married between 20 and 25. By 30 their chances of matrimony had diminished to vanishing point.”(94).
It seems that the Hunt girls’ tendency not to marry was not typical of the time. Maybe they lacked an economic imperative to marry. After all, as a prominent member of the medical profession their father was a very successful man. Presumably he was amply rewarded for his work, and able to keep his children in some style.
All of these Hunt spinsters spent at least a part of their lives working as a Governess. These ladies were living in the late nineteenth century, at a time when there were few career opportunities for women. For educated women of the social status of the Misses Hunt – work as a Governess was possibly the only occupation available to them.
In contrast to their sisters, the sons of Thomas Hunt and Martha Mary Colam had what appear to have been more fulfilling careers – evidence of the differences in the social opportunities that were available to men and women in the second half of the nineteenth century:
- Thomas – Surgeon
- John – Merchant Clerk
- William – Medical Student
- Arthur – Artist
- George – Civil Engineer
- Edward – Analytical Chemist
I know that Arthur and George married. William died young – presumably he was a bachelor – and the evidence is that Edward never married. However, I have not yet discovered whether or not the other sons of Thomas & Martha Hunt married.
Of the three Hunt children who married, two found prosperous spouses – Louisa married a London Barrister, and Arthur married a daughter of a provincial solicitor. I am not familiar with the financial standing of the Fremlin family of Wateringbury, so cannot comment on their social or economic standing.
It is, perhaps, surprising to note that the thirteen children of Thomas Hunt & Martha Mary Colam only produced three offspring between them. Arthur and Emma Sarah Blagg had one boy and one girl, and George and Elizabeth Jude Fremlin had one son.
On 2 March 1830, Thomas and Martha Hunt registered the birth of their third child, Louisa, at Dr Williams’ Registry. Thomas was said to have been present at the birth, but no witnesses to the birth were recorded(95). As far as we are aware, Louisa was the only child of this couple whose birth was recorded on this non-conformist register.
Thomas Hunt was a professional man. As mentioned above, we believe that he moved from Herne Bay in Kent in the late 1840s, in to live and work in a fashionable area of London.
We have traced entries for the household of Dr Thomas Hunt in the Censuses for 1851, 1861 & 1871. Our failure to trace the family on the 1841 census may be due to the fact that the returns for Herne Bay, Kent, for that census are missing. We think it likely that Thomas and Martha were resident at Herne Bay at that time, as a directory dated 1840 lists Thomas Hunt, Surgeon at 11 Marine Terrace, Herne Bay(96). Also, as mentioned above, the children born to Thomas and Martha Hunt during the 1840s were baptised at Herne Bay.
In all the census entries in which we have found Thomas Hunt and his family they were living in an affluent area of London, and enjoying the services of servants.
The household included a Cook, a Housemaid, and a Page. It seems possible that the housemaid may have moved from Herne Bay to London with the family, as she was stated to have been born in Herne Bay.The presence of these people makes plain the prosperity of this family, and the class to which they belonged.
Most of the children of Thomas Hunt were present in his household. Although aged 21, 19 and 17, none of his three eldest daughters had occupations recorded against their names, whilst all the children between ages six and fifteen were recorded as being scholars. Although we cannot deduce the fact from this entry, the evidence of other census confirms that the Hunt youngsters all received a good education. For example, the relevant entries form the 1881 census show that Arthur A Hunt later became an Artist (RG11/741, f 101, p 41), while George G Hunt was a Manager in a civil engineering business (RG11/714, f 80, p 12).
1861. 23 Albert Place, St Giles in the Fields(98)
Albert Place was situated off Bedford Square.
By the time of this census Martha Hunt had died, and Thomas was shown as a Widower. The household no longer included a Page, but still employed a Cook and a Housemaid, although these were different people to those employed in 1851. Both of them had been born outside the metropolis, and neither of them were married.
Louisa Hunt had married and left the household by this date, but the next three eldest daughters of Thomas were recorded as aged 29, 27 and 18, unmarried. As in 1851, none of them had yet needed to work for their living.
As was also the case in 1851, Thomas Hunt, who we believe was the eldest son of Thomas and Martha, was not enumerated in this entry. However, the 1861 Medical Directory records him at this address. He had qualified to become a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons two years previously. The youngest son – Edward – was aged 8 in 1861, but all his elder brothers had embarked on careers:
|John (aged 26)||Clerk in Barclays Brewery|
|William (aged 22)||Student of Medicine at Middlesex Hospital|
|Arthur (aged 19)||Artist|
|George (aged 15)||Clerk in Ind Coopes Brewery|
We do not know whether there was any significance in the fact that two of the sons were working for breweries!
1871. 21 Dorset Square, Marylebone(99)
The household included two housemaids and one cook – different people from those listed on previous censuses. The Cook was named Ann Cole De Barros, and she had been born at Gillingham, Kent. She seems likely to have been related to certain Ignacia De Barros, who lived in the next household on the census – possibly a grandaughter. Thomas had been married for a second time for almost seven years, and Caroline Hunt was enumerated as his wife, eighteen years his junior.
To show the type of people with whom the Hunts were mixing, we noted that Ignacia De Barros was said to be of Independent means. The neighbour of Thomas Hunt who was listed immediately before the Hunt household was a certain George Osborne, Professor of Music.
Of the Hunt children, five were still listed on the census of 1871, seemingly resident in their father’s household. These children were aged 29 years or more, and one cannot avoid the conclusion that they were reluctant reluctant to leave ‘the nest’ of their parents. The boys were every bit as reluctant to leave as the girls. John was aged 36 and a Merchant Clerk, and Arthur, the Artist, was still at home. Edward, aged 18, had set out on a career as a Chemist.
We have been able to trace four of Thomas Hunt’s daughters on the 1881 census, and Louisa was the only one of them to have married (90).
We have been fortunate in receiving information from the Royal College of Surgeons, who trawled their membership records and Plarr’s Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England on our behalf(100). This material has enabled us to learn much about the career of Thomas Hunt, and has ben supplemented by information gleaned from The Times newspaper, the Medical Directory and the Medical Register.
Thomas became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons by examination on 4 August 1820, having been trained at St Thomas and Guy’s Hospital, both in London. He paid entry fees of £22.
By 1826 Thomas was recorded by the Royal College of Surgeons as living at Upper Clapton, Middlesex, and as his father was then living in that district it seems reasonable to assume that he may well have lived in that area from the time of his entry to the College.
From 1829 Thomas practised at Herne Bay, on the Kent coast – in fact he appears to have had a house there for the rest of his life. However, some time before 1850 he returned to London, taking up residence at 26 Bedford Square.
Thomas practised as a Dermatologist, and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons on 6 July 1852. He was evidently an eminent doctor, as he lectured on diseases of the skin at the Hunterian School of Medicine and as you will read below, occupied the post of Surgeon to the Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin.
The Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin was founded in 1851 and in an age when medical treatment was too expensive for the vast majority of people, the organisation provided medical care at a price that was affordable for less well off people. That is not to say that it catered for those at the lowest levels of society, but it certainly helped many people who were not very well off.
The pages of The Times newspaper contain many advertisements that were placed by the Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin, and we have studied a number of these. The organisation originally operated at 21A Charlotte Street in Fitzroy Square, just off Tottenham Court Road and quite near to Thomas Hunt’s Bloomsbury home. However, in 1866 it moved to 17 Duke Street, Manchester Square, which is not far from Marble Arch. The organisation was evidently quite short of funds, because just after this move, in June 1866, advertisements were placed in the press stating that because of the costs incurred in moving they needed to appeal to the public “for immediate help”(101).
By 1879 the Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin had moved again, to I79, Great Portland Street, London(102). Thomas Hunt was listed as Consultant Surgeon, with a certain Charles Owen Aspray MD, FRCSE listed as working under him. As Thomas Hunt died in November 1879 we can see that he was involved in this establishment for over twenty years, right up to the time of his death.
It is interesting to note that Thomas’s son in law, Thomas Geary (see above) was also involved in the Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin. His name appears in the newspaper advertisements that are cited on this page, as Hon Secretary of the organisation.
To judge from the advertisements we have seen, the Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin seems to have been a very successful enterprise. An advertisement dated 11 May1858(103) stated that the Dispensary dealt with “Scorbutic and other Eruptions, Ringworm, Scald Head, Baldness & c. …not one patient in a thousand has been discharged incurable.” Thomas Hunt was listed as surgeon and it was said that the number of cases dealt with in 1857 totalled an impressive 9,317. This figure is particularly impressive when we realise that the Dispensary was only open for five and a half hours per week.
Obviously, this service had to be financed somehow. I don’t know whether it received any funding from medical bodies, but the advertisements tell us that patients had to buy a ticket or pay a subscription of at least one shilling (5p in today’s money) per week. This may not seem a lot of money to us, but when we consider that the nominal average earnings for a general labourer in England & Wales in 1861 were £44.18(104), one can see that it would have been a substantial proportion of a working man’s income. Thus, the Western Dispensary for Diseases of the Skin seems unlikely to have catered for the ordinary working man.
Thomas served for a time as a Vice-President of the Medical Society, and was an active member of the Epidemiological Society. As if all that was not enough, he was also Medical Officer of Health of the St.Giles’ District. His opinion of certain medical products was cited in adverts. For example, in the Times newspaper of 9 May 1859 he lends his endorsement to Dr De Jongh’s Light-Brown Cod Liver Oil, being cited as follows:
” Mr. Thomas Hunt, Surgeon to the Western Dispensary, remarks, ‘Children like the taste of the oil, and when it is given them often cry for more.'”(105)
Thomas Hunt’s reputation as a surgeon was evidently one that commanded respect. He wrote a number of papers on medical subjects. Click here to see a Bibliography listing some his writings, some of which are held at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London, while others are available for study on the Google Books website. His writings appeared in the leading medical journals of his day, and were also sold through newspaper advertisements.(106)
It is apparent, from a brief scan of the books listed in our bibliography, that Thomas Hunt was a great advocate of the use of arsenic in the treatment of skin diseases. This subject featured in many of his writings, and he was apparently an expert on it. The fact that he invested so much of his effort into promulgating his views on this subject indicates not only the strength of his belief in this method of treatment, but also that he felt the need to campaign in this way. It seems fair to assume that his faith in the efficacy of arsenic was not universally shared by the medics of his day.
We hope that the content of this page has given you the sense that Thomas Hunt was a very talented and person who was committed to his chosen calling. He has proved a fascinating subject for our research. Undoubtedly, there is much still to be learned about him, and hopefully we may be able to expand these pages further in the future as more information comes to light. If you would like to participate in this research, or have relevant information that you are willing to share with us, we would be thrilled to hear from you. You can contact Geoff by clicking here.
Arthur Ackland Hunt was one of the sons of Thomas Hunt – an artist who exhibited for many years at the Royal Academy in London. If you would like to look at the fruits of our research into this man you can do so by following this link .
Acknowledgement: All photographs on this page are reproduced by kind permission of Richard Bradley.
G M Culshaw December 2005.
Last updated January 2011.
You can see references for the material displayed on this page by clicking here.
Click here. to see our Bibliography, listing some of the texts written by Thomas Hunt
- This page was last updated on Saturday July 2nd, 2011.