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Dear Reader #126

Dear Reader,

Some chart news. Operation Zigzag, book one in my Eve’s War Heroines of SOE series, is #1 on the Amazon charts while Operation Cameo, which I’m currently writing, is a #34 hot new release. Many thanks to all my readers for making this possible.

Through Ellen, born c1320, daughter and heiress of Sir Gilbert Strongbow, I’ve added a Strongbow branch to my family tree. I wonder if this entitles me to free cider 🤔

As mentioned above, Operation Cameo is now available for pre-order. You can find full details here https://www.amazon.com/Operation-Cameo-Eves-Heroines-Book-ebook/dp/B09K82MQNY/

A view familiar to my London ancestors, the Strand looking west towards Trafalgar Square, 1890.

Just asked my youngest son, “What do you want for Christmas?”

“A skeleton.” (He’s thinking of becoming a doctor).

“Where are we going to keep it?”

“The front room.”

Welcome to the Addams family.

In this month’s issue of Mom’s Favorite Reads…

New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Joanna Penn interviewed by Wendy H Jones

Plus…Art, Author Resources, Flash Fiction, New Releases, Photography, Poetry, Puzzles, Recipes, Travel and so much more!

The son of Zephaniah Thorpe and Margaret Entwistle, my direct ancestor Ralph Thorpe was baptised on 14 March 1753 in Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire.

A warper, a common trade in Lancashire with its proliferation of cotton mills, Ralph moved south in the early 1780s and plied his trade in Essex and Norfolk.

A cotton warper oversaw the industrial process of winding threads from various bobbins on to a warp beam, which had one large bobbin at the back of the loom containing all the warp threads. These threads would gradually unwind during the weaving process, producing the cloth. Warping was the second stage of cotton cloth production, following winding.

A warping machine. Image: Wikipedia.

On 9 December 1783, Ralph married Mary Wakefield in Wanstead, Essex. The couple produced six children including my direct ancestor Thomas Thorpe who, on 9 October 1814, married Mary Ann Freeman and settled in Essex.

Mary Wakefield died on 25 February 1796. A few months later Ralph spent some time in St Thomas’ Hospital, London. That the couple were ill at roughly the same time suggests that they were affected by a transmittable disease. One possibility was smallpox.

Ironically, that same year, 1796, Edward Jenner demonstrated that an infection with the relatively mild cowpox virus conferred immunity against the deadly smallpox virus. His research was crucial in the development of the smallpox vaccine, the first effective vaccine against a contagious disease.

Painting by Ernest Board. Dr Edward Jenner performing his first vaccination on eight year old James Phipps, 14 May 1796.

St Thomas’ Hospital originated as an Augustinian infirmary in the twelfth century and was dissolved in 1540. In 1551 the hospital was refounded by royal charter and functioned as a general hospital for the sick-poor, including sufferers of venereal disease. 

Endowments gave St Thomas’ a degree of financial security. Nevertheless, they still charged patients admission fees, a policy that was condemned by the hospital’s critics for limiting the ability of the very poor to access its services.

A central court of governors governed the hospital and they could number over two hundred. These governors were wealthy individuals who gifted £50 each to the hospital.

Old St Thomas’ Hospital, Southwark, 1739. Image: The Wellcome Library.

The original St Thomas’s Hospital survived the Great Fire of London in 1666. However, upgrades were needed and between 1693 and 1720 more than £37,000 was raised in order to create an elegant classical structure around three spacious courtyards. The rebuilt hospital had nineteen wards, including two foule wards for venereal patients and a cutting ward with room for more than 400 patients. Male and female patients were strictly segregated, as were the venereal patients.

The medical staff included physicians, surgeons and an apothecary, who was not allowed to marry or run a private practice. The nursing staff included a matron, sisters and nurses. The sisters and their nurses lived in the hospital and had to be single or widowed. 

St Thomas’ catered for patients with a wide range of medical and surgical conditions although they did exclude people classed as ‘incurable’ or ‘insane’. Patients were not allowed to stay longer than three months, after which time they were deemed incurable. Ralph left St Thomas’ Hospital on 9 June 1796. Therefore, he must have entered a month or so after Mary died.

St Thomas’ Hospital treated large numbers of patients. In 1800 the total number of inpatients was more than 3,200 with a further 4,700 outpatients. In wartime the patients were often supplemented by large numbers of wounded soldiers and sailors.

‘Taking Physic’. Image: The Trustees of the British Museum.

The death rates at St Thomas’ were relatively low, although it must be remembered that the hospital did not admit ‘incurable’ patients. In 1726, 4,873 patients were cured while 392 died, a mortality rate of 7.4 percent. In 1735, 4,688 patients were cured while 307 died, a mortality rate of 6.1 per cent. This pattern of mortality rates continued throughout the century.

The patients could be disruptive with harassment, petty theft and ‘ward wandering’ reported. Some patients ran away before the completion of their treatment, especially venereal patients who were subjected to the deeply unpleasant and extremely painful mercury-based ‘salivation’ therapies.

Having recovered, but without his wife, Ralph returned to Bolton-le-Moors where, on 23 January 1803, he married Mary Holden. Ralph died on 28 August 1826 in Bolton-le-Moors.

As ever, thank you for your interest and support.

Hannah xxx

For Authors

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