Surgeons, Apothecaries and Man-midwives - Settle medics from the 17th to the 20th century

Mary and Michael Slater
 North Craven 
 Heritage Trust 

Recent projects on collecting and transcribing our area’s wills and inventories made in the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and also the examination of property deeds held at Wakefield by the West Yorkshire Archive Service from 1704 onwards, have revealed many references to apothecaries and surgeons and their apprentices and assistants in Settle, as well as to shops selling a variety of medicinal ingredients and cures. This early information has been supplemented by material from medical registers, apprenticeship records, censuses, newspapers and other sources to try and record some of the names of men and women over the years whose knowledge and expertise in this field has contributed to the well-being of the town.


Since the 13th century apothecaries (’apotheca’ meant a place where wine, herbs and spices were stored) might have shops selling a range of herbs, spices, ointments and powders for medical treatment and this would probably be a sideline in a grocer’s shop. The College of Physicians had authority over actual medical practice, and it was not until 1704 that it was ruled that apothecaries could both prescribe and dispense medicines, leading in effect to the specialty of general practice.

The College of Physicians had been founded in 1518 when many leading physicians, concerned about the numbers of unqualified practitioners, wanted regulation. As a result only the best candidates, classically educated and having passed examinations, were admitted to the College. Fellowship required an Oxford or Cambridge degree, and it was not until 1835 and after much dispute that other university candidates were accepted. In 1800 the Royal College of Surgeons in London gained its charter. This was made England-wide in 1843. In earlier days established physicians looked down on both apothecaries and surgeons. It was only at the beginning of the 1700s that medical schools offering a more scientifically-based education were established, notably in Leyden, Vienna and Edinburgh. It was usual to become physician/doctor or surgeon after only one year or so of study. Quakers were not at that time allowed to take degrees at English universities. An interest in botany and herbs in particular was common to many apothecaries in early days.

Apothecary shops in Settle

Leonard Bolland (1669-1712), on his death, left the Golden Lion in Settle, his houses, shops (one adjoining the Toll Booth), barns, gardens and land divided amongst his sons, with provision made for Lettis his wife. He was described as an apothecary in both his very detailed will and inventory. His goods included sugars and spices as well as: ‘Juice of Buckthorne, Syr of Buckthorne, Aq:Composita, Cons: Rosar: rub:, Elect. Mithrid:, Diascord:, Hynd’s Cord:, Sacchar: Cond: alb., argentum vivum, Succ. Hispanic, Emp: Cephall: Stom: & ab, Pills & Species, Syr Cariophillor, ol: origan, Croc. opt., other Druggs, & preparations Chymicall & Galenicall, Shop Potts large & small belonging the Apoth: Shop, Shop Bottles, Mortars & Pestills, Alembick & large brass pott, 2 Copper Stills, Quart Bottles, pints, Phyolls & Stone Bottles, Gally Potts & other small potts, Six nests of Boxes, Physick Books’, all given a monetary value in the inventory.

The shop continued, since his son Christopher Bolland, grocer and apothecary, is party to a deed of 1730.

Thomas Paley (1676-1711) is described as a grocer in his will, and shown, in the long inventory of his shop goods made after his death, to have been also a bookseller, stationer and haberdasher as well as a supplier of a wide range of apothecary items. The ingredients for home remedies include spices and many medicinal items such as Annyseed water, Gallingall, Collickuare, Spanish Juce, Sena, Arsnick, Wormseed, Collquintida, Quicksilver, Diescordium, Swallows Oyle, and Spike (lavender).

The inventory of the goods of Elizabeth Skirrow, widow ( ? -1713), shows that she was a shopkeeper in a small way with a range of grocery items, dyewoods, stationery and haberdashery, but also many ingredients for medicinal use such as spices and sugars, Mercury, Brimstone and Rosa Solis (made from sundew) as well as made-up cordials and medicinal drinks.


In the early 1700s the term ‘surgeon’ becomes apparent in documents.

William Carr (1715-1772) had probably been apprenticed to John Lister, apothecary, in 1731, who in 1726 had another apprentice, William Salisbury, son of a butcher. In turn Carr, designated ‘surgeon etc.’, had an apprentice Norcliffe Darby in 1747. The will of William Carr, apothecary, mentions the ‘messuage where James Rawsthorn now inhabits’. James Rawsthorn (c.1744-1786) was described in medical registers as a surgeon and apothecary contemporary with Abraham Sutcliff (see below), and he himself had two apprentices, Jonathan Preston and Francis Atkinson. Perhaps he took over the practice after William’s death.

Another William Carr of Settle was a mercer, but nevertheless his account book for 1721 contains a recipe for an ‘Antipestilential Preservative’ containing just the sorts of ingredients for which one would go to an apothecary’s shop (courtesy of Sheila Gordon). ‘Take of Rue Sage Mint Rosemary Wormwood & Lavendar. A handfull of each infuse them together in a gallon of white wine vinegar. Put them - whole into a stone pott closely covered & pasted over it : Cover set the pot, thus closed up upon warm wood ashes for eight days: after which Draw of or Strain through fine flanell the Liquid & put it into bottles well corked and into every Quart bottle put a Quarter of an ounce of Camphire: with this preparation wash your mouth & rub your Loynes & Temples every Day: snuf a Little up your nostrills when you go into the air & Cary about, a bitt of spung dipped in the Same in order to smell upon all Occasions, especially when you are near any place or person that is Infected.’

Robert Barnard ( ? - ? ) was a surgeon and apothecary and in 1743 had an apprentice Joshua Appleby (1728-1754). The London Gazette of January 1754 reported that Joshua Appleby, by now ‘... of Durham, Chemist, having discover’d an easy and expeditious Method of rendring Sea Water fresh and wholesome at Sea ’ for the Admiralty, had had the process approved by the College of Physicians, Commissioners of Victualling, and other bodies. This ‘noxious process’ involved desalinating sea water using a formula of six ounces of lapis infernalis (silver nitrate) and six ounces of calcined bones (calcium oxide) to twenty gallons of sea water, using only a peck of coals. This would produce a poisonous undrinkable solution. Perhaps this led to his early death in March of the same year, before a grateful parliament could financially reward him.

Thomas Hewson ( ? -1789), surgeon and apothecary, appears in deeds referring to a messuage at the east end of the Toll Booth. The Toll Booth was where the Town Hall is now. William Hartley was said in a deed to be Hewson’s apprentice in 1789, and he may be the William Hartley, surgeon of Long Preston, who is listed in an 1834 directory.

William Birkbeck and Co. were apothecaries, with an apprentice John Hoyle in 1741. Anthony Taylor ( ? -1765) and Anthony Foster (fl. 1764) were both apothecaries and surgeons mentioned in deeds and wills. Joseph Hall was a surgeon and apothecary contemporary with William Sutcliffe (see below), mentioned in deeds in 1787. He had apprentices Isaac Greenwood (1786), Robert Abbotson (1791) and Thomas Parker (1798). Christopher Johnson, surgeon of Settle, had apprentice Thomas Lodge in 1804.

The Sutcliff Practice

Abraham Sutcliff(e) (1721-1798) was born in York. By the age of 16 he was a weaver by trade, but finding this hard, went to be an errand-boy to a Mr Ecroyd, a surgeon in Kendal. He gradually taught himself Latin from the prescriptions written by his master and by borrowing books he must have learnt about medical matters in general. He saved enough money to be able to walk to Edinburgh over two or three winters to attend some classes there, Edinburgh then being the prime place to study medicine for English-speakers, but being a Quaker he was not allowed to be awarded a university degree. In time, Abraham became an accomplished classical scholar and proficient in medical science.

Maybe because Settle was a well-known centre for Quakers he moved to Settle and started a practice as an apothecary (presumably about 1740). He built the premises now occupied by the Premier Express food store on the Cheapside/Duke St. corner of the Market Place, possibly around 1753. In 1786 he retired to Sheffield where he died in 1798. During a long career in Settle he took on many apprentices some of whom later made their own mark in the profession. Medical men often took on their sons or relatives as apprentices rather than all-comers, and the Quaker connection was clearly important.

John Coakley Lettsom (1744-1815) was sent to be an apprentice with Abraham Sutcliff, serving five years 1761 to 1766 - a somewhat haphazard decision made by John Lettsom’s guardian Samuel Fothergill, the most eloquent preacher the Society of Friends ever produced. (Abraham Sutcliff was related to the Fothergill family.) John was born to a slave-owning Quaker family in the West Indies. He learnt Latin from Abraham which was important since University medical lectures were given in Latin, and he defended his doctoral thesis in Latin in the prestigious university of Leyden in the Netherlands in 1769 to become Doctor of Medicine. His story is fully documented in the book of his life, Lettsom, by Johnston Abraham [1933]. He went to London to establish his career, becoming first a surgeon’s dresser at St Thomas’s Hospital. He became very well respected, founding the Medical Society of London, helping to develop the Royal Humane Society, and establishing the idea of open-air sanatoria. The bond between Abraham Sutcliff and John was strong and John is thought to have bought a doctor’s degree of MD for him in about 1786, maybe from Aberdeen University which at that time was rather lax in its regulations. Abraham was pleased, as he had expressed a desire to be a physician at the time of his retirement in 1786. William Coakley Lettsom (? - ?) was a cousin of John Lettsom and also an apprentice to Abraham. He went on to become Assistant Surgeon to the East India Company. Other apprentices of Abraham were John Foster (1748), Robert Tunstall (1759), Thomas Fothergill (1769), James Downing (1770), Edward Chorley (1773) and Edward Goodman (1783).

Jonathan Binns (1747-1812) was a nephew of Abraham Sutcliff and apprenticed to him, succeeding John Lettsom. He studied medicine at Edinburgh and Leyden, later becoming a physician at Liverpool Infirmary. Being a Quaker he had strong slavery abolitionist sympathies.

William Sutcliffe (1759 - 1840) was apprenticed to his father Abraham by 1778 and occupied the family premises after his father retired to Sheffield. He qualified as a doctor, was an active Quaker, and was surgeon to the First Craven Legion of Yeomanry for a short time. William Sutcliffe had apprentice surgeons Lawrence Fearenside (1794), John Holdsworth (1792) and Thomas Williams Simmonds (1796). Simmonds went on to study in London and Edinburgh and became very knowledgeable in natural history. Settle-born Quaker, John Windsor (1787-1868) is also said to have trained with Sutcliffe and later became a surgeon to the Manchester Eye Hospital, a post he held for some forty years. A keen botanist, he had a fine herbarium and wrote Flora Cravoniensis, posthumously published in 1873, dedicated to Thomas Simmonds among others, and with mention of fellow botanist John Tatham (qv). At Windsor’s request, Thomas Nuttall, the eminent Long Preston botanist, commemorated Simmonds by naming a new species Simmondsia Californiensis. Windsor himself is immortalised by references in Mrs G. Linnaeus Banks’ novel The Manchester Man, published in 1876.

Following William Sutcliffe came Thomas Dixon Burrow (c.1797-1850) in Settle at least by 1828 and onwards. Robert Burrow (the relationship, if any, with Thomas is not known) was in partnership for some time with Thomas Burrow as surgeons, apothecaries and man-midwives in Settle, but this partnership was legally dissolved in 1833. Robert, noted as a surgeon and chemist, was in Lancaster prison as a debtor in 1835. Thomas died in 1850, and his tombstone is to be found in Settle Churchyard.

William Thomas Holme Burrow (1826-1860), Thomas Dixon’s elder son, had passed the Society of Apothecaries’ examinations in 1848 and also became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons, and succeeded his father in Duke St. By 1851 he also had a medical assistant surgeon, William Henry Wilson. William Burrow is mentioned in Slater’s directory of 1855 as surgeon to the Poor Law Union workhouse. He died of consumption in the Isle of Wight aged only 34 in 1860, and was buried there. (For more on the Burrow family, see separate article in this Journal).

Robert Simpson (c.1832- ? ) followed the Burrows in the old Abraham Sutcliff premises in the 1860s. In 1863 ‘Robert Simpson, Esq., LRCP’ gave testimony in an advertisement in The Lancaster Gazette to the skill of one Professor Siemms for a scientific mode of corn removal.

Other 19th century practitioners

James Rogers (c.1792-1826) is noted as a surgeon in Settle from 1822 to1826.

There is evidence for Thomas Robinson (c.1793-1852) as a surgeon in Settle from 1815 up to the 1851 census when he gave his occupation as surgeon, apothecary and accoucheur (attender at childbirth) from his address, Market Place. He was the medical officer for Settle Union during an outbreak of typhus in 1851 for which he was awarded an inscribed watch ‘for his assiduous attention, and successful treatment of the typhus fever’.

Edward Harrison (c.1801-1869) was in Settle by 1828 and resident in the Market Place by 1851, then being noted as a licensed apothecary and MRCS. In 1861 he was a witness in a case of alleged cruelty to a Giggleswick schoolboy aged 13 who was ‘severely whipped’ by the Head Master on the probably misplaced suspicion of cheating in his Greek Delectus examination - the case was dismissed. Harrison retired in 1863 and his grave is in Settle churchyard.

William Altham (c.1805-1880) was noted in the 1841 census as a druggist in Bentham, and in 1851 also as an accoucheur. By the mid-1850s he was in Settle testifying as a surgeon and expert witness in a case before the Settle Petty Sessions. By 1861, he was a licenced apothecary in the Market Place.

James Hartley (c.1830- ?) was a surgeon and sometime medical officer to the Settle Union, in the Market Place in the 1860s and 1870s, also involved as a witness in the Giggleswick schoolboy cruelty case mentioned above.

As a physician/surgeon Dr Richard Ernest Williamson (1856-1938 ) was lodging in Chapel St. in 1881. He bought Dr Altham’s practice, then joined Dr Buck. He was in attendance as Acting Surgeon to the 9th West Yorks Rifles at Morecambe, for their annual week under canvas. After moving to Otley he continued his interest in the volunteer army movement and raised and personally trained a battalion on the outbreak of the First World War and went to France with the RAMC at the age of 62. He ended life as an honorary colonel of the 6th Battalion, Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.

Dr Charles William Buck (1851-1932) was born in Kirkgate, Settle, attended Giggleswick School, then studied in Manchester and London, to obtain membership of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1875. At first offered a partnership in Clapham, he thought Settle a better prospect, and as his practice there quickly grew, took into partnership Dr Williamsom (qv). Shortly after, Dr Williamson left, and Dr Buck ran the practice with qualified assistants until Dr Lovegrove (qv) took over in 1916. The 1891 census shows Henry Bowman Shepherd to have been his live-in assistant at that time. The surgery overlooked Settle’s Market Place on the north side, in the building now occupied by the National Westminster Bank. He briefly moved away from the area with his second wife to live near York, but after her death in 1907 he moved back in retirement to Cravendale - the old Hart’s Head - at Giggleswick where he had lived at the start of his married life (before moving to the Market Place) until his own death. He was well-known and respected, with wide-ranging interests including music, and was a friend of Elgar. He is buried in Giggleswick churchyard.

Dr Arthur Charles Adams Lovegrove (1863-1943) became MD in 1904 and later practised in the Market Place as physician and surgeon initially assistant to, and then succeeding, Dr Buck. There is a photograph of him on horseback outside Dr Buck’s surgery (see W.R.Mitchell, How they lived in Old Settle, 2001). He is recorded at Settle in the Medical Register until the mid-1930s, dying at Hexham in 1943.

Son of a surgeon in Houghton-le-Spring in Co. Durham, Dr Edwin Septimus Green (1843-1871 was a Settle surgeon in general practice by 1867 but in 1871 suffered fatal injuries when, entangled in a rope, was dragged a mile and a half by a runaway horse near Stainforth. His elder brother Dr Francis Green (1837-1890) was then in Settle from the early 1870s and in 1881 was recorded as Medical Officer to the Settle Union. He died at the White Horse Hotel. Both are buried in Settle churchyard.

Dr Oliver Scattergood (1857-1920) qualified in 1884 and was in Settle by 1888 as a Settle physician and surgeon. Born in Leeds, he had returned there by 1901.

Dr James Walker Edgar (c.1847-1909), born a Scot and Edinburgh trained, was in Settle living at various addresses, Duke St., Constitution Hill then Townhead, from the late 1870s until his death. He was medical officer to the Settle Board of Guardians for nearly 31 years. Dr Balfour Stuart Hyslop (qv), another Scot, became his assistant physician in 1901. Dr Edgar died on Christmas Day 1909 and lies in Settle churchyard.

Dr Francis Edward Atkinson (1852-1928) was born in London and was in Settle by 1881. He became Surgeon and the Medical Officer of Health to Settle Rural District Council. He did not practise as a GP. He was at Whitefriars until the turn of the 20th century, and then lived at Bowerley in Langcliffe. He died in 1928 in Ilkley.

Dr Frederick William Barry (c.1851-1897) was at Linton Court in Settle during the 1880s. He was medical inspector of the Local Government Board, and he was also for some time Medical Officer of Health for a large area of Sanitary Districts in the West Riding. He had spent two years organising public health arrangements on Cyprus. He moved on to become Chief Medical Inspector of the Local Government Board, and died aged only 46 years.

Dr Charles D. Shepherd (c.1839- ?) lived at Marshfield, Settle at the time of the 1891 census, as general medical practitioner (see picture in Mitchell, How they lived in Old Settle, 2001).

Dr Thomas Stuart (c.1872- ? ) was boarding in Duke St. at the 1901 census (medical practitioner and surgeon), and lived in Settle for much of the decade. He was in New Zealand by 1911.

19th - 20th century chemists and druggists

Several generations of Tathams, who were Quakers, were long trading in Settle as drapers, grocers, druggists and chemists. John Tatham (younger, 1793-1875) was a well-known amateur botanist assisting John Windsor, L.C. Miall and Henry Baines in compiling their works on local flora. Some of his botanical specimens are still in a herbarium in Bromfield. Further details are given by Chris and Graham Ball [2015]. An article about John is to be found in this Journal.

In 1841 Thomas Joseph Sudell (c.1810-1885) was a farrier and druggist, but during the 1850s became known also as a veterinary surgeon, continuing to be known as a druggist and veterinary surgeon in later years.

John Hayhurst (c.1818-1843) was a chemist and druggist in Settle in 1841 according to census and directory data, and also a grocer, trading in a shop on the north side of the Town Hall. He had two apprentices, William Armistead (c.1826 - ?) and William Shepherd (1825-1871). In 1865 William Walker (1851- ?) started as an apprentice to William Shepherd, and he managed the firm until John William Shepherd qualified in 1880. Further members of the Walker family joined the business: in time the grocery side was ended and eventually Shepherd and Walker ceased trading in 1978.

Doctors at The Croft, 1, The Terrace, Duke Street

Dr George Whitson Middlemiss (1877-1934), after qualification followed by experience at Newcastle and Leicester Infirmaries, set up practice in Settle. He was in Kirkgate by 1909 and in Duke St. by 1913. In the First World War he was a captain in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the Gallipoli campaign, attending to the allies’ sick and wounded and taking them off the beaches to the hospital ships, and was later in France. He returned to Settle afterwards, being at The Croft, Duke St. until shortly before he died in 1934.

Dr Leo Patrick O’Connor and Dr Jane Dick O’Connor started a practice in 1933 at No.1, The Terrace, (The Croft), Duke St., with the surgery within, but separate from the house. A lady doctor was a novelty which took a bit of getting used to for some patients. Dr Leo served in the war so Dr Jane had to learn to drive and cope on her own for some years. The practice is described in an article by her in The British Medical Journal, March 1983, reproduced later in The Dalesman. They retired in 1978, but the practice continued with Dr Pamela Hogg (later Douglas) who was the second lady doctor in Settle and who had joined the O’Connors in about 1961. Dr Eric Ward trained with Dr Hogg then took over from Dr David B Hyslop (qv) at the latter’s retirement.

The Hyslop practices and after

Dr Balfour Stuart Hyslop (c.1875-1959), ‘The old doctor’ as he later became known, was from Scotland where in 1891 he had been a chemist’s apprentice. Medically qualified by 1898 he was in Settle by 1901 working with Dr Edgar. From 1907 or so he had a surgery on Castle Hill, and later lived in and worked from Marshfield House. Early on he had a coachman for visits away from town, and W R Mitchell tells of a gate allowance being added to the bill when the doctor was called to distant farms. Harold Foxcroft remembers that Dr Hyslop’s wife dispensed medicine - there appeared to be only about three variations, supplied in bottles carefully wrapped in stiff paper and sealed with wax! Other public work was covered - as Workhouse Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator. Dr Brewster remembers him looking after the Giggleswick School boys during his time there. He died in 1959 and his memorial is in Settle churchyard. He had three sons, two of whom also became Settle doctors.

Dr David Balfour Hyslop (1907-1991) worked at Marshfield House from about 1935, then after the war at The Little House opposite Whitefriars, and Linton Court next door to his home. His memorial is in Settle churchyard. His brother Dr William Anthony Hyslop (1908-1984) (Tony) lived and worked at the Little House but then emigrated to Canada in 1962, where he died in 1984. He was followed at the Little House by Dr Barry Brewster, working with Dr David Hyslop (at a surgery next to his Linton Court home) as senior partner.

Dr Barry Brewster bought The Little House in 1962 and initially used the two front rooms as waiting room and surgery. In 1968 the partners Dr David Hyslop and Dr Brewster moved their surgeries into premises previously occupied by Barclays Bank (during refurbishment of their own premises) in the Folly. They stayed there until Dr Brewster decided to design and build new surgery and community care premises to provide much better accommodation, and in 1975 he moved into the new Townhead Surgeries with Dr Eric Ward (with whom he had been in partnership at the Folly) and Dr Lewis from Long Preston joined them. The new building won a commendation in the 1978 RIBA Architectural Awards event.


Family and other close connections such as within the Society of Friends (Quakers) have clearly been important in the continuity of businesses as Settle medics. It also seems remarkable how many apothecaries were in business in Settle in the early days and also how large was the number of apprentices, several of whom achieved fame from small provincial market town beginnings. It is interesting, too, to see the gradual development from the apothecary or herbalist to today’s highly trained professional doctor or chemist.


There are still some other names tantalisingly found in a variety of sources; some will not have been practising in Settle but passing through, or parties in deeds, or mentioned in Giggleswick Parish Register (see web version of this article).


Abraham, J.J., 1933. Lettsom, Heinemann, London Ball, C. and G., 2015. NCHT Journal, pp.14,15


Sheila Gordon for will, inventory and deed transcriptions, Dr Barry Brewster, Harold Foxcroft and Dr Jean Imrie for personal communications. The local wills and inventories (up to 1750) and data from WYAS property deeds can be seen at under Archives.

Dr Stuart (left of cup)
Picture courtesy if Craham Cross, Conservative Club, Settle

Dr Stuart (left of cup)
Picture courtesy if Craham Cross, Conservative Club, Settle