Notorious Chrimes: The Blackmail Pills

Richard and Edward Chrimes

In 1890s London, the ‘Lady Montrose Pills’ blackmail scheme efficiently and heartlessly targeted more than 8,000 victims. In this comprehensive account of the case, Dick Weindling introduces the Chrimes brothers, who manufactured this audacious scam.   In April 1896 adverts began to appear in newspapers across the country. Addressed to ‘Ladies …

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The mysterious Doctor Du Brange

Du Brange mentioned in The Times, Sat 30 Oct 1869 (

While researching in the British Newspaper Archive, Kilburn historians Dick Weindling and Marianne Colloms discovered a practitioner with the unusual name of Du Brange. They were intrigued to find that he appeared in court several times. I’m intrigued too, as Du Brange has a lot of similarities with other London …

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The bogus lady doctor

The Alleged Bogus Lady Doctor

In a recent post for the British Newspaper Archive, I mentioned Maria Owen, who posed as a doctor in late Victorian Birmingham. Here’s some more information about her, adapted from my book, The Quack Doctor: ‘I can cure you,’ the representative of the Ladies’ Medical Association told 37-year-old Julia Ann …

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Detective Caminada and the quack doctors

Advertisement for the Rev E J Silverton, 1884

Angela Buckley’s book, The Real Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Story of Jerome Caminada, published in March 2014, tells the story of a real-life Victorian supersleuth. In this guest post, Angela relates Caminada’s encounter with an ecclesiastical con merchant touting a dodgy elixir. . Urban life in Victorian England was precarious enough, …

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‘A Damnable Villain’ part 2 – a free pony for your wife!

In the second part of his guest article, Robert K. Waits – author of The Medical Electricians – reveals Byron H Robb’s change of career from electro-magnetic entrepreneur to Texas rancher. Read Part 1 here.   . Even as a Farmington, Ohio, teenager in 1854, Robb was honing his skill …

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Guest Post – Dickens, Holloway and product placement

. I’m pleased to welcome guest blogger Leslie Katz, who has investigated whether Charles Dickens was approached to promote the famous Holloway’s Pills in one of his novels. . For many years during the nineteenth century, the self-styled “Professor”, Thomas Holloway (1800-1883) (shown below), was the most widely known household …

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No glister-pipe, bum-peeping apothecary

The following speech appeared in a comic 18th-century booklet called The Harangues or Speeches of Several Famous Mountebanks in Town or Country, which makes fun of high-profile medical salesmen by attributing to them wild claims about their remedies. Later editions (under the title The Harangues, or Speeches, of Several Celebrated …

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Hearty and Vigorous to the Last

I wrote recently on the new Royalty Free Fiction blog about how a handwritten note in a historical source inspired me to write my novel, Kill-Grief. The note was what started me thinking about how many interesting lives (and lives are all interesting, aren’t they?) have passed by without leaving …

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The Worm-Doctor of Shoreditch

John Gardner, Image Courtesy of Wellcome Library, London

It’s a while since we last heard from our old friend Ascaris lumbricoides, so it’s time he made another appearance on The Quack Doctor together with a few of his helminthic chums. I’m putting together a talk about the career of John Gardner, a former soldier and picture-framer who became …

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Sago Jenkinson and the Case of the Witched Child

When Nancy Harborough took her sick child to a local celebrity doctor in 1844, she probably didn’t expect to receive advice worthy of Matthew Hopkins two centuries earlier. As it was, the whole sad episode ended up in court, and as the Hull Packet put it: The facts of the …

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