18th Century Barbers with a Gruesome Sideline

Barbers PoleCatching up once more with my York family from Oldswinford, Worcestershire, the parents of my 5 x great-grandfather, George York, were yet another George York and his wife, Hannah nee Littleford.

6 x Great-Grandpa George had an unusual occupation. In 1711, he took on an apprentice called Francis Tole so he could learn from George how to become a barber-surgeon and periwig maker. You may be familiar with the red and white poles which would regularly appear outside barber shops. This used to represent the blood and bandages used to clean up bloodletting which was one of the main tasks of the barber-surgeon together with early dentistry (teeth extraction), performing enemas and surgery, selling medicines and not to forget, shaving and cutting hair.

The profession developed in medieval times but eventually surgery became a separate profession and barbers were increasingly forbidden to carry out surgical procedures except for teeth extraction and bloodletting, as if that wasn't bad enough! The two professions were finally separated by George II in 1745 when the London College of Surgeons was established.

George York's father, Edward York, was a tailor by trade, as was another of Edward's sons, Henry York. Henry was the grandfather of Thomas Crane who you might recall from an earlier post was the cousin named as an executor in 5 x Great-Grandpa George York's will.

Another son, John, was described as a victualler living in Amblecote, Staffordshire and later he was an innholder in Stourton, Kinver, in the same county. John was mentioned in his mother, Susanna's will, together with a number of other siblings but he died shortly after his mother's death and before probate was granted.

Besides Edward and Susanna's seven children which I have listed on my tree, there are a number of baptisms for other children who may also have been their offspring. However, there remains some ambiguity about these and so I have chosen not to include them.

Susanna's maiden name was Whorwood and my next post will shed further light on her ancestry.

Did any of your ancestors have an unusual occupation? Please share your stories in the comments section of my blog or on Facebook.

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Category: Ancestors Corner

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