Hinckley Historian Magazine

Hinckley Historian Magazine No.5 - Hinckley - Medical Mecca of the Midlands

This title might well have been given to the town over a century ago if a publication, recently discovered in the attics of Forest View House, is to be believed by the reader. Little remains today as a reminder of the aspirations to the status of a major spa which certain residents of Hinckley had in the middle of the last century. The name Spa Lane is the only reminder of Hinckley’s hydropathic pretentions, a period long before the N.H.S. when Hinckley Spa offered, in a most advantageous degree the properties of the chalybeate class of springs of Harrowgate, Cheltenham or Aix-la-Chapelle’

Dr. Mervyn Patterson, M.D., L.S.A., Physician to the Danish Legation, Late Surgeon Accoucheur to the Middlesex Dispensary and General Lying-in Charity London, began his Medical Guide of 1849 to Hinckley Spa with a description almost as splendid as his own medical qualifications. He also explained that the spa had been 'discovered’ in 1847 by Mr. Hollier but at that point he could not foresee that the spa would fail to be a great success being situated a little too close to a cemetery which was to receive some of its visitors. Later, according to Francis, in his History of Hinckley, the spa became licenced, lost its respectability and was finally closed in the I890’s.

The Medical Guide to the Hinckley Mineral Spring and Baths began on an international note: In the present day (1849), when the various nations of the continent are suffering by the sword, and thousands are dying from that Indian plague the cholera it is consoling for invalids to know that there is no necessity for them to leave their native country. The healing streams of England are so numerous and varied, that most of the diseases "humanity is heir to" may be relieved or cured’. Dr. Patterson admitted that a small problem in journeying to Hinckley might be the lack of a railway station no nearer than Nuneaton but this would be more than offset by the fact that Hinckley had a national renown as a haven of health. He continued; ‘Hinckley has for centuries been celebrated for the beauty of the country around and its healthfulness... perhaps in no place can there be found more healthy, strong children, with their round, ruddy cheeks (in proportion to the number of inhabitants) than in and about Hinckley’. These comments make a striking contrast to those of the report on conditions in the hosiery industry three years earlier

The spring or fountain of health was only the latest of a series of springs in Hinckley which Dr. Patterson listed including Cogg’s Well, Christopher Spa, Priests Hill and Holywell. Dr. Patterson also added that the ruins of a Roman Bath had been discovered near the church but certainly no evidence of this exists today.

Mr. Isaiah Deck, an analytical chemist of Leamington, had given a complete analysis of the Hinckley Spa water which he described in a letter dated December 13th 1847. He wrote: ‘ln the annexed analysis conducted with the utmost care, and with the aid of the most approved re-agents which the advanced state of chemical science could suggest... it may be classed a Sulphuretted Chalybeate with unusual presence of Nitrate of Soda and Phosphate of Lime. The Spa Water temperature was 52 degrees and had a specific gravity of 1.0011.’

Dr. Patterson in his guide referred to various diseases which might be treated by the Hinckley waters. Indigestion would be aided by ‘half-a-pint of the Hinckley Mineral Spring drunk with advantage at 10 o'clock in the morning and repeated at 3 o’ clock in the afternoon. 11 o'clock was the best time to bathe. Bilious complaints, rheumatics, eruptive diseases, pustules diagreeable to the face, particularly of the fair sex, scrofula, nervous complaints, worms, spinal diseases, rickets and white swelling’ were all likely to respond to treatment. Dr Patterson referred to the famous Mr. Robert Chessher in his guide in these terms; 'Hinckley has long been celebrated for the treatment of spinal cases and those in which the practice of Mr. Chessher proved successful, no doubt were owing in a great measure to the salubrity of the place, and the tonics held in solution in the water, so suited to the complaint.’

The booklet concludes with various testimonials regarding the cures experienced at Hinckley.

'Townshend of Nuneaton, had a large swelling in the nose; (which was pronounced cancerous by the surgeons of the Infirmary, Birmingham). He was cured by drinking the water. Mrs - - - - near Hinckley, had her face much disfigured by an eruption which was quite removed by drinking the water and the use of the tepid bath. H.T. of Hinckley had suffered a long time with a pain in the bowels, and had medicine from many medical men without relief; he had recourse to drinking the water and after taking it three days he voided a large worm, ten inches long. W. W. near Hinckley has had leprosy many years - he bathed and drank the water for one week and is much better, John Elliots of Sapcote was cured of gall stones and Robert Toone of New Buildings was cured of lameness.’

These were only a few of the cures quoted in the guide in 184-9 in. the hope of enticing people from all over England to the Hinckley Spa. Only one comment can surely be made, if in jest, and that is to ask if the new Medical Centre is in the correct location?

The Editor

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley Historian Magazine