Medicine | The Victoria Art Gallery


Medicine and the Spa

Georgian Bath was one of the best places in the country for medical treatment. The hot spring water was seen as a cure for many medical conditions. Some of the best doctors of the period worked here.

Jane Austen’s aunt and uncle, the Leigh-Perrots, spent several months here every year, so that he could be treated for gout. Before moving here in 1801 Jane Austen made several visits to stay at their house, 1 The Paragon. She went along to the Pump Room with her uncle on his visits to drink the water.

In 1799 Jane Austen and her mother spent two months lodging at 13 Queen Square. They’d come to Bath with Jane’s wealthy elder brother Edward. He was here for the spa cure, probably for gout and over indulgence. Edward drank spring water at the fashionable Hetling Pump Room. He tried high-tech static electricity treatment and bathed in the curative hot water.

Image: King’s Bath, By John Claude Nattes, 1804

King’s Bath

By John Claude Nattes, 1804

‘Edward has been pretty well this last week & as the Waters have never disagreed with him, we are inclined to hope that he will derive advantage from them in the end; everybody encourages us in this expectation, for they all say that the effect of the Waters cannot be negative’  Jane Austen’s Letters, June 1799

Jane Austen’s brother Edward came to Bath for spa treatment in 1799. It is likely that he was suffering from over-indulgence.

Image: Inside of Queen’s Bath, By John Claude Nattes, 1804

Inside of Queen’s Bath

By John Claude Nattes, 1804

Mrs Elton: “Your father's state of health must be a great drawback. Why does not he try Bath?... Let me recommend Bath to you…where the waters do agree, it is quite wonderful the relief they give. In my Bath life, I have seen such instances of it! And it is so cheerful a place, that it could not fail of being of use to Mr. Woodhouse's spirits”  Emma

Image: The Cross Bath, By John Chessell Buckler, around 1825

The Cross Bath

By John Chessell Buckler, around 1825

‘Edward has seen the Apothecary to whom Dr Millman recommended him, a sensible, intelligent man – and he attributes his present little feverish indisposition to his having ate something unsuited to his stomach – I do not understand that Mr Anderton suspects the Gout at all – the glow in the hands and feet… he only calls the effect of the Water in promoting a better circulation’  Jane Austen’s Letters, June 1799

Image: Man in a Wheelchair, By John Nixon, 1801

Man in a Wheelchair

By John Nixon, 1801

Artist John Nixon was in Bath at the same time as Jane Austen. Like her, he was a keen observer of human life. He loved sketching the people he saw out and about on the streets of Bath.

Image: Nichol, Surgeon, Bath, By John Nixon, 1801

Nichol, Surgeon, Bath

By John Nixon, 1801

Mr Nichol was a well known Bath doctor, based in Queen Square. In 1799 the Austen’s lodged in a house very close to where he lived. It is likely that Jane Austen often saw him and his patients coming and going. Nichol’s most famous patient was Nelson, who was looked after by him after having his arm amputated in 1797.