George Alsop (1776–1847), Surgeon and Apothecary, Uttoxeter

George Alsop was born in 1776. By 1799 he had qualified as a surgeon and took on John Roe as an apprentice. He took on a second apprentice, George Roe, in 1802. He married Susanna Christiana Mountford (b.1786) at St Peter and St Paul, Aston, Birmingham, on 8 May 1803. In the 1841 Census George and Christiana were recorded as living in Balance Street along with their children Mary Ann Alsop (25); Susanna Alsop (20) and Edward Alsop, also 20. They had two servants, Elizabeth Thawley (20) and John Brassing[?] aged 15.

He formed a business partnership with James Chapman and between them they provided medical services, pills and powders to the parish poor on behalf of the parish overseers (see entry ‘The Price of a Broken Leg). Alsop also became embroiled in a minor cause-celebre of the early nineteenth century. It was a case that had attracted considerable public attention and was authenticated by numerous highly respected people of ‘rank, talent, and scientific attainments’. Alongside Elias Sanders, curate of Church Broughton; John Webster, surgeon of Burton; Frederick Anson, rector of Sudbury; and George Watson Hutchinson, vicar of Tutbury, Alsop was one of the people who, watching ‘most diligently and attentively’, witnessed the supposed abstinence of Ann Moore of Tutbury, Staffordshire. Moore had constantly asserted that excepting a few blackcurrants, she had not eaten any solid food since the spring of 1807, nor had she taken any liquid since the autumn of 1808. By 1813 the case had attracted such widespread publicity that an investigation led by Legh Richmond sought to determine the truth of Moore’s claims. Richmond published his findings in A Statement of Facts, Relative to the Supposed Abstinence of Ann Moore of Tutbury, Staffordshire and a Narrative of the Circumstances which led to the recent Detection of the Imposture (Burton-upon-Trent: 1813). The title says it all.

In 1821 Alsop was listed amongst a number of other residents of Uttoxeter as a jury member at the Staffordshire Quarter Sessions. Other jury members included William Porter, Thomas Earp, William Garle and Michael Clewly.

Despite having a long-standing contract with the parish overseers, Alsop was declared bankrupt in 1831. As part of the bankruptcy proceedings land held by Alsop at Hockley was passed to his assignees and to a Mr Wilkinson, and Lanes End Croft to Mr Lassetter. A settlement was reached with creditors and a final dividend was paid in 1842[?].

At the end of December 1840 the long- standing partnership between Alsop and James Chapman was dissolved. Both men declared their intentions to carry on as Surgeons. Apothecaries and midwives independently.

His death was announced in Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal on 3 December 1847. George was 72 and declared to be ‘Universally esteemed and respected by all who knew him, and his death will be a cause of regret to an extensive circle of friends and acquaintance’.

In his short will Alsop left his plate, linen, old furniture, book debts and securities for money, and all personal effects to his ‘beloved wife’ for her sole use, and mad her the executrix. The will makes no mention of any real estate.

Sources

1841 Census HO 107/1007/15.

Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal, 3 December 1847.

Parish Register, St Peter and St Paul, Aston, Birmingham.

Legh Richmond, A Statement of Facts, relative to the supposed abstinence of Ann Moore of Tutbury, Staffordshire and a Narrative of the Circumstances which led to the recent Detection of the Imposture (Burton-upon-Trent: J. Croft, 1813).

London Gazette, part 3, (T. Neuman: 1842).

Staffordshire Adevrtiser, 27 February 1841.

Staffordshire Record Office, D3891/6/70, Uttoxeter Poor Rate assessment, 1832.

SRO, Q/RJr/ 1821.

TNA IR/38 & IR/70 Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices’ Indentures 1710–1811.

TNA, PROB 11/2086/6 Will of George Alsop, Surgeon of Uttoxeter, Staffordshire, 4 January 1849.

N.B. This biography is a work in progress and will probably be amended as further information from vouchers and other sources becomes available.

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The Price of a Broken Leg

Medical suppliers to the Old Poor Law are one of the few groups of parish contractors who have been surveyed in any detail.  Historians like Steve King, Sam Williams and others have scrutinised the records of relief, particularly overseers’ accounts and pauper letters, for their insight into the development of the medical profession and the experiences of the sick poor.  Parishes across the eighteenth century and into the nineteenth brokered contracts with local surgeons to treat the poor, typically specifying an annual sum for which all medicines and services would be covered.  Even so, there were some treatments which were notoriously expensive or time-consuming, and contracts allowed these to be billed separately.  Setting broken bones was one of these ‘extras’ and the process proved just as costly in Uttoxeter as elsewhere.

Alsop & Chapman bill

The surgical partnership of Alsop & Chapman, based in the town, billed the overseers for setting and tending Thomas Shaw’s leg between 24 March and 17 August 1831.  The initial ‘reduction’ of the fracture was followed by medicines in the form of mixtures, pills, powders, and boluses. Redressing the leg also required lotions, lint, and ointments which were detailed over the page of the bill illustrated above.  Most grisly of all, when abscesses formed on the leg, they required ‘opening’ and presumably draining.  The whole process cost the parish £14 8s 6d.

Historians have tended to regard parish contracts as ‘bread and butter’ income for medical practitioners, that supplied a steady and reasonably reliable addition to fees from private practice.  In this instance, however, parish work could not prop up the partners in the firm (or not both of them at any rate).  George Alsop was declared bankrupt on 11 November 1831.

 

Removal Orders: George Haslehurst

Searching through poor law vouchers, a story is beginning to emerge from the fragments. At the end of April 1831 George Haslehurst was served with a removal order by the Parish of Uttoxeter. Bills were sent to the overseer by the justices’ clerks for carrying out the paperwork. In May, along with his child, Haslehurst was taken by William Williams in his horse and gig to Eckington in Derbyshire. Williams billed the overseers  £2. 8s.  The next time we come across a reference to Haslehurst, also in May 1831, is in the form of an invoice for the burial of the child and another invoice for the provision of a ‘parish coffin’ sent by Goodall and Heath. In the meantime, a bill for ‘medical powders’ and ‘mixtures’, dated 29 April 1831, was sent by the Eckington overseer to the Uttoxeter surgeons Alsop and Chapman. The bill was paid by the Uttoxeter overseer on 30 May. There is no mention of Haslehurst in this bill, but could it relate to the deceased child?