Ralph Barnes Grindrod 1811 – 1883

Ralph Barnes Grindrod 1811 – 1883 MD 1831, was a British orthodox physician who, though proclaiming his absolute antagonism towards homeopathy, nevertheless worked alongside the homeopaths in the Malvern Hydrotherapy Establishment, where he closely observed the work of James Manby Gully and set out to expose the many allopathic practitioners who ‘secretly’ came to the spa for homeopathic treatment,

Grindrod was an activist in the Temperance Movement, and of the plight of seamstresses, and he was a colleague of Robert Owen,

Grindrod practiced at Townshend House, Malvern, and he was a member of the Geological Society, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and he was also a Mason, founding the Lodge Semper Fidelis No. 529, ‘consecrated at Townshend House, the establishment of one of the water cure doctors, Ralph Barnes Grindrod, in December 1867‘.

On 12.10.1861, Grindrod, an allopathic physician who had worked for 12 years at Malvern as a Hydrotherapist, wrote to the British Medical Journal to explain himself. Grindrod describes how he had sent out a circular to his medical colleagues in Malvern when he first set up practice in the town to offer his co-operation as a medical man to collaborate over cases and to ‘act in concert‘ with them ‘in mutual professional confidence‘.

Grindrod explained that a colleague of his had remarked that such collaboration would never happen as ‘the profession is too much divided by jealousy and influenced by prejudice‘, and that he should ‘look to his own interests‘.

Grindrod explained that his interests at the time ‘pecuniarily speaking‘ was to

embrace quackery in every form; to amuse from time to time my patients, like various of my neighbours, with large doses and infinitesimal doses, with mesmerism, clairvoyance etc, and to fill my pockets‘.

Grindrod continues that he had managed well to build a large and successful practice, but that he does

not owe any thanks to the legitimate members of the profession; nay, I am bound, in truth to say, that they have largely impeded my success by their special recommendation of the hydro homopathic practitioners‘.

Grindrod continues

I owe, however, many acts of kindness to homeopathic physicians, who, unsolicited, have sent me patients, and recommeded my establishment‘,

as opposed to his allopathic colleagues who sent all their patients requiring hydrotherapy to the homeopaths. He adds

I firmly believe that the largest support given to the hydro homeopathic practitioners of Malvern has been by our distinguished metropolitan and provincial physiciand and surgeons‘.

Grindrod expressed his surprise to see allopathic physicians turn up for treatment at James Manby Gully’s establishment, and to consult with James Manby Gully over ‘difficult cases‘, and to bring and send their own patients to see James Manby Gully, all the while protesting against homeopathy.

Grindrod mentions the following allopaths by nameBooth Eddison, the President of the British Medical Association (a patient of James Manby Gully’s), Benjamin Vallance of Brighton (President of the Medico Chirurgical Society, Surgeon at the Sussex County Hospital), Thomas Spencer Wells, John Addington Symonds of Bristol (Vice President and President of the British Medical Association), Robert Lee and Sutherland (?George Granville William Sutherland Leveson Gower 3rd Duke of Sutherland), and a distinguished physician from the Consumption Hospital – and he says there were a great many more….

which had led to the conversion of hundreds and thousands to a belief in the truth of homeopathy, clairvoyance, and other similar methods of medical treatment‘.

On 26.10.1861, Grindrod, in his subsequent letter to The British Medical Journal, (obviously there is quite a nasty spat going on between Grinrod and Thomas Spencer Wells), complains bitterly about the way Thomas Spencer Wells denounced homeopathy from his position as Editor of the Medical Times and Gazette, and then turns up in secret to place himself under the care of a homeopathJames Manby Gully.

Now sir, I, a resident practitioner in Malvern, year by year and month by month witness practitioners of the legitimate school of medicine coming down to this place, denouncing in public the homeopathic system as one of unmitigated humbug, and placing themselves under the care of professed homeopathic practitioners…’

Grinrod continues that Thomas Spencer Wells claims that James Manby Gullyis not a homeopath‘, which is totally untrue. Another homeopath, James Loftus Marsden is in partnership with James Manby Gully at Malvern, and he has prescribed homeopathy for James Manby Gully and his family.

Grindrod explains that James Manby Gully is listed in the Homeopathic Medical Directory for 1855 and 1861, and his two assistants and his other partners at Malvern are homeopaths, (James Smith Ayerst, John Chapman, Walter R Johnson (who replaced Grindrod as Editor of the Journal of Health), G Manly, James Wilson).

Grinrod continues that Thomas Spencer Wells has accused him of being a homeopath, something Grindrod denies emphatically. However Grindrod confesses that:

‘… numbers of my patients and friends urged upon me a study of homeopathic principles, and a trial of homeopathic medicines. At last I consented to read and experimentalise; and after a few weeks, or at most months, of quiet and unostentatious trial of homeopathic remedies (possibly, as some of my homeopathic friends tell me, innefficiently carried out), I arrived at a practical result, that I could not conscientiously become a disciple of Hahnemann.

‘I can therefore, boldly and unequivocally assert that I have never either been a believer or a practitioner in homeopathy. I have full reason to believe that my non adoption of homeopathic views has been a loss to me of at least a thousand pounds a year’.

Grindrod continues

‘… dealings with homeopaths as water patients I have every hour of the day. Often ten out of twelve of the patients at my table are strenouous believers in homeopathy; not unfrequently homeopathic physicians place themselves under my care – but simply for the water treatment.

‘You cannot walk through the streets of Malvern, you cannot enter a house, nor visit a social party, in this famous watering place, without meeting a host of believers in homeopathy.

‘You can have but a limited idea of the extended influence of homeopathic belief in this place, and of the almost controlling power it exercises on professional advancement and medical success. He must indeed fight, as I have done, a hard battle, who would attain a successful position, and yet not be a homeopathist.

‘Now, sir, once and for all, I assert from personal knowledge, that the almost pervading influence of homeopathy in this place is mainly attributable to such individuals as Thomas Spencer Wells and others whom I have mentioned in my previous communication, and also to those ’eminent metropolitan physicians still alive’ who advised Thomas Spencer Wells and others to place themselves under the care of a homeopathic physician.’

On 30.11.1861, Grindrod writes again to the British Medical Journal to ‘expose’ James Manby Gully as a homeopath, a spiritualist, a mesmerist and a ‘charlatan’,

On 9.2.1867, Grindrod wrote again to the British Medical Journal. An article had appeared in the Malvern News entitled A Bigraphical Sketch of Dr. Wilson by James Manby Gully (James Wilson had recently died).  In the article, James Manby Gully claims that James Wilson had been vilified in the allopathic press, but Grindrod contests this vociferously.

Instead, Grindrod repeats his earlier assertions that James Manby Gully was a homeopath, a spiritualist, a mesmerist and all round claurvoyant, and he refers to his earlier letter to the British Medical Journal of 12.10.1861 – and then repeats all his comments against Thomas Spencer Wells etc., adding to this the accusation that a Professor of University College, and an eminent London Surgeon and author were also under James Manby Gully‘s care at that time as well,

Of interest:

Opportunity on the Edge of Orthodoxy: Medically Qualified Hydropathists in the Era of Reform, 1840–60, James Bradley and Marguerite Dupree, Research Fellow and Senior Lecturer (Core Staff), respectively, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, University of Glasgow 5 University Gardens, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK. Social History of Medicine 2001 14(3):417-437; © 2001 by Society for the Social History of Medicine.

SUMMARY: Following the lead of the Lancet’s attacks in the 1840s, historians have considered hydropathy and hydropathists in Britain as part of fringe or heterodox medicine. Yet the distance between varieties of orthodox theory and practice and hydropathy was small, and many of the most prominent hydropathists held orthodox views and qualifications. Examining the educational backgrounds and careers of 40 early British hydropathists, the authors suggest that hydropathy and hydropathic establishments, like specialist hospitals, asylums, and spa practice, provided an alternative niche to general practice in the crowded British medical market and a way to ‘fame and fortune’ for medical men outside the metropolitan élite.

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