Pure   and   Healthy   Leeches.—Potter
and HAILEY beg to assure the Profession, Druggists, &c., that the
Leeches they offer are such as can be recommended for Purity, Health, and
Readiness of Biting.
POTTER AND HAILEY, Importers of Leeches and Turkey Sponge,
Herbalists, &c., 66, Farringdon-market, London.

Source: The Medical Times and Gazette, 3 July 1852

Thank goodness they are keen to bite – there’s no one worse to work with than an unmotivated leech.

Henry Potter’s leech, herbs and seeds business started up in 1812 in Farringdon Street, where the proprietor kept leeches in ponds in his garden. By the time of this advert it had been taken over by his nephew, also called Henry Potter, who went into partnership with his uncle’s former apprentice, George Hailey, and imported leeches from Hungary. The company is still going today as the apostrophe-shunning Potters Herbal Medicines.

The “Turkey sponge”  referred to in the ad sounds like some kind of frozen food product spawned from the mating of Bernard Matthews and your worst nightmares, but it was actually just a sponge. Harvested from the Smyrna region of the Mediterranean, it was the highest quality sponge available and was in demand by surgeons for mopping up the various substances emanating from the human body.

For more fun with leeches, view this amusing clip from Bernard L Kowalski’s 1959 low-budget horror flick, Attack of the Giant Leeches:

Attack of the Giant Leeches


  1. A friend’s favourite story is when he was in the forces doing jungle training and a leech found it’s way into his underwear! It was keen on biting.. much to my friends dismay!

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