Back in the days when medicine was messy, painful and still in its infancy, ‘Quack Doctors’ were big business.
Exploiting the public’s medical naivety, these roguish characters promised a staggering array of seemingly miracle cures- all for a tidy sum of course.
In 18th century London, one of the more brazen quacks appears to have been a certain Doctor Sangrado who, in the summer of 1788, established a practice on Hatton Garden (home today to the capital’s jewellery quarter).
Arriving from a spell in Jamaica where he claimed to have forged a lucrative career as a veterinary surgeon, Doctor Sangrado took out a lengthy advertisement in The Times, claiming that he had now “turned philosopher” and intended to “cure all kinds of disorders.”
In the marketing stunt, Doctor Sangrado listed his catalogue of apparent skills, including the supposed ability to “restore reason to a mad-man in three minutes”, “to make a new leg grow out of the stump from which the former had been amputated”, “to recover a person drowned after he had lain six weeks in the water” and, in a boast which was surprisingly ahead of its time, to “change the male into the female sex” and vice versa- a procedure which he stated would take a mere “one hour thirty three minutes and a half”!
Ludicrous as all this may sound, some gullible Londoners with more money than sense appear to have been willing to entrust their bodies to Doctor Sangrado.
On the 5th June 1789, another edition of The Times printed the contents of a mysterious medical bill which had been discovered abandoned on Hatton Garden.
Although the patient and practitioner were never identified, it is highly likely that, due to the location in which it was found, the bill was drawn up and accidently dropped by the Hatton Garden quack.
The baffling receipt detailed work conducted between 1788 and 1789 and read thus….
Aug 2nd. Taking your right arm off, repairing and fitting the bone below the shoulder.
Aug 6th. Three new fingers to your left hand.
Aug 10th. A new knee-pan to your left knee, replacing your thigh bone…and one new toe nail.
Aug 19th. A new foot to your left leg.
Oct 20th. Taking out three of your old ribs, and putting in three new ditto, and stitching your sides.
Oct 30th. Taking out your guts, untwisting them; turning, cleaning and putting in ditto.
Nov 1st. Filling your old bones with hog’s marrow.
Nov 12th. Filling your veins with goat’s blood.
Nov 20th. Mending your skull and putting in some…brains, altering your face and reparing the bridge of your nose.
Jan 20th. A new eye and brigtening the other.
Jan 31st. A new toungue, new lining for your mouth and widening ditto, the old parts being put repair.
March 10th. Cleaning and reparing the foul parts of your heart.
March 11th. Rubbing up your bad memory and sundry other repairs done to your person.
March 12th. A new cheek and mending your wind pipe.
March 13th A complete set of new lungs… and some repairs done to the stomach….