We are grateful to Tim Stokes who found this medicine bottle of Dr Edward Long, surgeon of Thornbury, on a bottle tip near Wotton under Edge in Gloucestershire. The bottle is one of the last reminders of one of the more interesting characters in the history of Thornbury.
Edward was born in Ham near Berkeley on 3rd September 1832. He was the son of George Long, a gentleman and his wife, Margaret Phillips (nee Kingscote). The 1841 Census shows that George was a steward in Ham, presumably for the Berkeley Estate. Curiously, Edward in this Census was not living at home. He was aged eight years, and living in nearby Clapton near Bevington in the home of Mary Adams, a farmer. His older brother, Frederick, was also there.
Edward must have been a bright boy. By the 1851 census, he had become an apprentice surgeon to Joseph Hand, a surgeon, living at 22 Duke Street, Hanover Square, London.
We did not know anything about the training of a surgeon in the Victorian era. We were suspicious that Dr Long claimed to have been a student at King’s College but was apparently learning the job of surgeon by following another surgeon about! The King’s College London website provided some clarification;
“until the mid nineteenth century there were three types of student attending the medical school, the surgeons’ apprentices and dressers, dressers who had served an apprenticeship elsewhere and completing their training with a particular surgeon, and pupils, who were not attached to any particular surgeon”.
We have looked at the 1861 census for Joseph Hands (his name seems to have the plural in most records) and found that Mr Hands had an impressive set of letters after his name FRCS LAC – L. We feel from this that Edward must have been properly apprenticed to a qualified surgeon who lectured at the college.
This was the most usual route for the surgeons or apothecaries destined to work in the provinces, and who wished to practise medicine. They had to take the examination for the Membership of the Royal College of Surgeons of London (MRCS). A statutory precondition for qualification was attendance at a London (or other) teaching hospital (in Edward’s case of course it was King’s College) for five years, under the tutelage of a physician. It sounds very respectable but a website about Victorian medicine notes that
“unfortunately, many of these physicians were more interested in collecting tuition fees than teaching; students were too often left to their own devices, many reduced to idleness, messing about in mortuaries and the pursuit of extra-curricular activities“.
Another website is more frank “Such pupils were infamous for their rowdiness.”
Further search of the internet has provided a little background to Edward Long’s social position. It seems that as a surgeon he was distinctly a step down from being a doctor. A physician or doctor was a gentleman and could expect to be received at his patient’s dinner table. A surgeon’s job was more of a manual trade, albeit a craftsman. A doctor read for a recognised degree at a traditional University, preferably Oxford or Cambridge. His parents could afford to pay for his education and training. It was easier to become a surgeon than a physician because one only had to have enough money to be apprenticed but the pay was much less and in order to make a living a surgeon often had to dispense drugs in a dual role as licensed apothecary.
We are indebted to the researches of Tony Cherry and Alan Thoburn who have extensively explored the minutes of the Board of Guardians of the Thornbury Workhouse that employed Dr Long as Medical Officer and who have supplied much of the following information from that source.
On 30th September 1853 Dr Jones (Long’s predecessor as medical officer for Thornbury) was declared incapable of continuing his post due to “mental derangement.” The local medical men, Laver, Salmon and Powell took over for a time but by December 1853 two men had applied for the post. However, according to the minutes
“Neither are qualified according to article 16d of the Poor Law Commissioners General Order of 1847. Henry Willis Laver is a Licentiate of the Apothecaries Company and Edward Long has only a Diploma from the Royal College of Surgeons London.”
It would seem that being a surgeon rather than a doctor would continue to be an issue. In this instance at least it was better than being an apothecary. Laver got seven votes and Long fourteen and so Edward Long was appointed.
On 6 April 1858 Edward married Elizabeth Hickes at Berkeley. Elizabeth was from Berkeley. Her parents were John Cox Hickes, a surgeon and his wife, Mary, who were living at Stock House, Stock Lane, Berkeley. This was a large Georgian townhouse.
The Medical Register shows that Edward Long of Thornbury registered as a medical practitioner on January 1st 1859. The notes says that his qualification was that he was a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in England from 1853.
On 10th November 1859 Edward purchased Wigmore House in Castle Street. Things were looking good for Edward. In 1859/60 he became Mayor of the Thornbury. The 1861 census shows Edward and Elizabeth were living in Wigmore House. It shows Edward was employing an assistant surgeon, Charles F Gill, a widower aged 34 from St Pancras, London. It was interesting to find that Charles Gill was sacked for being intoxicated in June shortly after this census and he was soon to commit suicide by sticking a lancet in his neck while under the influence of drink and drugs. Click on the thumbnail photograph to see the full report.
The Western Daily Press of June 20th 1861 reported on the funeral of Charles Gill saying that with “his gentlemanly behaviour and high professional attainments” he had won universal esteem.
A letter written by Edmund Cullimore and printed in the Gazette on 27th December 1924 includes a reference to Edward Long.
“My first recollection of Thornbury was about 1853 to visit Dr Long’s in Castle Street to be vaccinated. The doctor was very tall and with his head held on one side and jocularly told people he was born with two heads but one dropped off, hence the position of the one left. He was very affable and clever and fond of a jibe, also good horses and dogs and a keen politician on the Liberal side. He offered me two half pennies to keep quiet while he operated on my arm.”
He went on to say the doctor was true to his word and gave him the promised money. Mr Cullimore also mentioned that although he never suffered from small pox in his life, he was unconvinced that this good fortune was caused by the vaccination.
In November 1859 a newspaper report of an inquest on Daniel Iles shows the stormy nature of relationships within the medical profession in Thornbury. The inquest had been held at the Swan Inn in September of that year and during the course of questioning Mr Salmon said he would not meet Mr Long “if it had been a case of life or death” because Mr Long had behaved in an unprofessional manner to him in the past. This was said in the court and in front of Edward Long and the coroner of the court condemned the sentiment and the feud. The feud seems to have arisen from Mr Salmon feeling that Edward Long had on two occasions visited people who were being treated by him. Edward Long objected to this on the grounds that one patient, Mr Scarlett, had been a old friend of Edward’s and had asked him to visit and the other, Daniel Iles, was dead at the time so it could not be said to matter.
The minutes of the Board of Guardians as transcribed by Tony Cherry and Alan Thoburn for the next couple of years show that two issues continued throughout Dr Long’s career – the problems of what constituted a qualified doctor and (as suggested by Dr Salmon above) what the behaviour of a professional doctor should be. It is also noticeable that Dr Long had a long series of assistants.
On 23rd August 1861 the Clerk of the Board of Guardians was instructed to write to Mr Long and ask him about the qualifications of the assistant he employed in the performance of his duties as Medical Officer. Dr Long replied that his assistant (Mr Lakeland) was fully qualified and that he (Dr Long) would be obliged by his assistant being appointed his Deputy under Article 200 of the Consolidation Orders. He forwarded a copy of Lakeland’s testimonials. The qualifications were not stated on these testimonials and the Clerk had to ask for more details. On 6th September Dr Long forwarded the certificate – a Licentiate of the Apothecaries Company. The fact that an apothecary had not been considered qualified before could be the reason why Dr Long had not wanted to make the situation more clear at the beginning.
On 11th January 1862 a letter from Edward Long assured the Board that another assistant, Mr Langdon was fully and legally qualified. This time the Clerk immediately asked for proof. On 17th January the Board accepted the qualifications of Langdon. However, the Clerk was instructed to write to Dr Long to express their disapprobation of the letter which accompanied it and to state that they consider it such as it ought not to be addressed to them by one of their officers. It seems they felt that Dr Long had an “attitude problem”!
There are suspicions about the reason for some of the problems with Dr Long but none of the charges against him seemed to stick. There was for example on 31st January 1862 a letter from the Reverend Appleston of Cromhall concerning Charlotte Beard lately deceased. He had been at considerable pains to search out the facts regarding the conduct of the Medical Officer (Dr Long) “and he could find no grounds for the charge of intoxication or neglect.”
1863 was a bad year for Edward. He went bankrupt and he had to sell his property at public auction on 1st August 1863. The sale of this property shows the full extent of his land-holdings: (see above left for a thumbnail image of this advertisement)
“Lot 1 – An Excellent and convenient Dwelling House, desirably situated in Castle Street, in the town of Thornbury, for some years past in the occupation of Mr Edward Long, Surgeon, containing on the ground floor Drawing, Breakfast and Dining Rooms, Surgery, Kitchens, and all usual and necessary offices; on the first floor four Bedrooms and Dressing Room with four Attics over. There is a capital underground Cellar, and a good supply of hard and soft water. Also the Lawn and Pleasure Garden, Greenhouse, Stables, Coach-House, Cowhouse and other Outbuildings and large Yard as now marked out from Lot 3, all adjoining the same and containing 1R. 27P. And the Orchard immediately behind the same, well stocked with Fruit Trees, and containing 1A. 0R and 8P. And the very productive Kitchen Garden adjoining and containing 1R. 34P. (the whole Lot containing nearly two acres).”
The above lot was the house now known as Wigmore House that Edward Long had been living in. However the property that he had bought in 1858 was considerably more than this. The full list of Edward Long’s property for sale in 1863 included what is now Epworth House and a barn and some outbuildings which is down the side road next to Bank Cottage which was later converted into a house. All this was accompanied by nine “parcels of land” which amounted to a large area behind Wigmore house, bounded by what is now Gloucester Road and Church Road and which now includes several blocks of flats, a terrace of bungalows and a row of large Edwardian houses and the Chantry playing fields. It appears that Edward Long had tried to buy property which could have yielded a large income from garden ground or been used for gravel beds and then sold as housing land. Had this attempt paid off, he would have been a very rich man indeed.
In the event, Edward and Elizabeth were obliged to move out of a large house to 22 Gloucester Road. This is still a very nice property but it must have been quite a descent down the social scale from owning Wigmore House and adjoining land down to renting a house and taking in lodgers.
On 27th March 1863 the Board of Guardians resolved to send a letter to the Poor Law Board (which acted as the Head Office in all matters) saying the Guardians were very dissatisfied with the conduct of Edward Long the Medical Officer of Thornbury District and the workhouse. The Guardians had lost all confidence in him. He was bankrupt and his drugs and surgical instruments were advertised to be sold by auction under the bankruptcy. The Guardians could not see how it was possible for him to properly discharge his duties of his office or secure the confidence of the sick and the poor. The Clerk also sent to the Poor Law Board one of the placards advertising the sale of Edward Long’s effects. We do not have this placard but a newspaper of 28th March 1863 does indeed refer to “a quantity of surgical instruments, drugs, bottles etc.” The Poor Law Board’s response was that “bankruptcy of itself does not constitute sufficient reason to dismiss Long and they must have specific evidence that he has failed to carryout his duties.”
A newspaper article of 16th June 1866 had the report of a sad discovery. The remains of a new born child were found in the water closet in the garden of Edward’s house in Gloucester Road. There was easy access to the water closet from the fields behind and there seems to be no suspicion that he was involved. A chilling final sentence reports that the child had been decapitated before it was thrown into the closet. The newspaper report of June 23rd reported on the inquest at The Swan on this. Mr Salmon had performed the post mortem. The witnesses included Mr and Mrs Long, Jane Davis and Isabella Allen who had been servants to Mrs Long since last September and the mother of Jane Davis. The body of the child was in a state of advanced decomposition. The jury returned an open verdict.
Another newspaper article in 1867 shows Edward’s bankruptcy didn’t mean he gave up all his pastimes. It was noted that Edward was involved with a small group of other sporting gentlemen who took part in a pigeon shoot. Edward shot four of his five birds before assembling at Beaufort Arms for their dinner.
Edward finally resigned from his post as medical officer. The reason why he resigned involved George and Maria Wilkes. On 29th March 1867 Maria Wilkes the wife of George Wilkes a labourer of Duckhole Morton attended a meeting of the Board of Guardians to make a complaint against Mr Long. Principally she was complaining about neglect of her son in his recent whooping cough and the abusive language used towards her by Dr Long. She made a statement that was written down and sent to Poor Law Board with a copy to Dr Long. Dr Long defended himself stoutly and produced witnesses who confirmed that he was abrupt but not abusive.
The report of the Poor Law Inspector Mr Graves to the Board of Guardians of May 30th concerned this and other complaints against him. It contained a revealing summing up of his character and was a very fair judgement on what seems to have been a very controversial career.
“He is genial, off-hand and clever and I believe that he is free from intrinsic unkindness but at the same time I consider him an unfit person for the office which he holds. His impetuous and unguarded manner and expressions proceeding from an ill regulated temperament are misconstrued by many of the poor as overbearing insolence.
Intemperate in his habits, rash in his assertions imprudent in his pecuniary transactions and irregular in the performance of his duties, he has given great offence and dissatisfaction to the more steady and prosaic of Guardians ………I feel bound to recommend that this case be dealt with in the same manner as the recent case of Mr Hickes a Medical Officer in this Union who was called upon to resign for similar neglect not aggravated by such language.”
At this point we do not know whether the Mr Hickes referred to was also Edward Long’s father in law.
On 28th June 1867 the Poor Law Board sent to the Guardians a copy of the letter to Edward Long requiring him to resign. At first Edward Long said he was suing Mrs Wilkes for perjury and the Poor Law Board agreed to await the outcome of the case this before requiring his resignation. The Board of Guardians was firmly on the side of Maria Wilkes as the members believed her and Inspector Graves. More revealingly they mentioned “other cases affecting the conduct of the Medical Officer now implicated and which at various times have been investigated by Mr Graves.”
Edward Long failed to prosecute Maria Wilkes for perjury and on 31st August 1867 he tendered his resignation, “but not wanting to inconvenience the parishes he would continue until the end of the present quarter.”
A newspaper report of 15th June 1868 gives us another insight into Edward Long’s life in Gloucester Road. The Western Daily Press article says that a Mr Emery had been residing in Edward Long’s house under his care as he had some kind of mental disorder “and it was found necessary to put him under restraint.” His difficulty appeared to have improved for a time but more recently had again deteriorated. Edward had employed a man called Mr Birt to watch over the patient. One night under Mr Birt’s care, Emery suddenly smashed his bedroom window and jumped through it to the ground fifteen feet below. Despite sustaining minor injuries during this alarming event, Emery ran up the road to the home of the chemist Richard Ellis, pursued by Edward Long. Richard Ellis and his lodger the Reverend Ellwood attempted to calm Mr Emery but eventually he was taken to the police station further up the High Street where he was detained until his family could come and make other arrangements for him.
At the time of the 1871 census Edward was still living at 22 Gloucester Road with his wife, Elizabeth. The household no longer contained Mr Emery and Mr Birt but the census says that they have three lodgers. As these were a housemaid, an errand boy and a groom, perhaps they were actually servants to the Long household. It is interesting that we already had some oral evidence that Edward Long lived in this house. Years before we looked into the history of the house its present owner said that Elwyn Pitcher had told them about its history. He said that a doctor used to live in it and that he had kept his horse in the stables across the road in a building which later became part of Dick Shipp’s garage, and now had flats built on it. The stables seem to have existed even earlier than this time but it is not clear how Elwyn knew about them as he was not born until 1911 and even Elwyn’s father was only a year old when Edward Long died. The Pitcher family obviously had long memories!
Tragically, Edward died on 7 February 1874 aged just 40 years. He was buried in All Saints Churchyard in Stone.
An advertisement in a newspaper of 28th November 1874 show that Edward Long used in the buildings in Gloucester Road for more than just his horse. The property there was described as
“surgery and consulting room, four-stall stable, fitted on the newest principle; wash-house, pump and large cistern under, coach-house and saddle room and two rooms over, yards, sheds and pigstye and large productive garden (containing in the whole 3R 27P or thereabouts). The buildings are new and most substantial and may be converted into a Dwelling-house at a small outlay.”
Elizabeth re-married in 4th quarter of 1877 when the marriage was registered in the Stroud registration district. Her husband was Cornelius Tongue, who 29 years older than Elizabeth. The 1881 census shows Elizabeth and Cornelius lived at Trysull, near Wolverhampton. He was an author, a reporter and landowner. He seemed to have the nickname of ‘Cecil’ and specialised in writing about horses. His published titles included ‘Records of the chase and celebrated sportsmen’, ‘The Fox-hunters Guide’, ‘The Stud Farm’, ‘Stable Practice’, and ‘Hunting Tours’. All are shown on Amazon as being out of print. Cornelius died in Trysull in 1884 aged 83 years.
Elizabeth was also shown in the 1881 census as being an authoress, although we failed to find any information about her published works. She returned to Berkeley after Cornelius’s death, and lived with her sister, Mary H Hicks, in Stock House. The 1901 census shows that she was 61 years old then and her sister Mary Hicks, who never married was 71. Both ladies were living “on their own means” and employed a cook and a parlour maid. They also had a boarder Mary McClellan. Elizabeth died on 9 February 1915 aged 81 years and that she buried with her first husband, Edward Long in his grave in Stone where the gravestone can still be seen.