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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Rupture Society

Also known as New Rupture Society/New Rupture Society for the Relief of both Sexes, afflicted with Herniary Complaints and Prolapses/Rupture Society for the Supply of Trusses to the Indigent Poor of both Sexes

Not to be confused with the original Rupture Society (founded 1796)


It was re-founded on either 4 July 1804 or 15 May 1805 (the Society’s printed Regulations give both dates) after the patrons of the original Rupture Society (founded in 1796) left it because of some irregularities in its running (The Literary Panorama, vol. II, 1807)

This caused considerable bitterness between the societies, with an angry exchange of correspondence in various publications (see, for example, The Medical Observer, August 1808)

It was estimated in 1807 that in some parts of the country as many as a quarter of the labouring population were affected by hernias and ruptures, including men and women of all ages (The Literary Panorama, vol. II, 1807)

The Society’s purpose was to “supply trusses gratuitously to the poor of both sexes all over England” (Dickens’s Dictionary of London, 1879)

The Duke of Bedford donated 100 guineas to it in 1807 (The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Chronicle for the Year MDCCCVII, 1807)

It was still advertising meetings in 1950 (The Times, 13 March 1950) and survived long enough to be given a registered charity number ( but was removed from the listings of the Charity Commission in 2001 because it had then ceased to exist

What was reforming about it?

It was a systematic attempt to deal with a problem which had attracted a considerable number of quacks and fake treatments, according to The Universal Magazine in 1807:

“for whoever can forge an iron hoop or fabricate an elastic compress, thinks himself qualified to undertake the cure of an infirmity, the treatment of which demands as much anatomical and surgical knowledge as that of any disorder incident to human nature. If a greater mischief can happen to the ruptured poor than the malady with which they are visited, it is that of unhappily falling into the hands of unprincipled self-taught rupture-doctors and truss-makers, who have no ideas beyond those of money-getting and mechanical action”
(The Universal Magazine, vol. VIII, July–December 1807)

Where in Bloomsbury

Its Surgeon in 1807 was William Blair, of 69 Great Russell Street (The Literary Panorama, vol. II, 1807); Blair was a pro-vaccine campaigner and cipher creator who also worked for the Bloomsbury Dispensary (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

Its collector in 1808 was Mr Sawyer, of 20 Great James Street (The Times, 13 October 1808); by 1823 its collector was Mr Johns, of Little Ormond Street (Subscription Charities and Public Societies in London, 1823)

In 1844 it held its Special General Meeting in the Bedford Hotel, Southampton Row (The Times, 27 January 1844)

When the BMJ published a list of London’s associations for supplying trusses to poor people, two of the five were based in Bloomsbury: the Rupture Society at 27 Great James Street, and the Provident Surgical Applicance Society at 37 Great Ormond Street (British Medical Journal, 8 March 1879)

It was still listed at 27 Great James Street in the Royal Blue Book of 1906

Website of current institution

Books about it

None found


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This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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