Catalogue description The Druitt papers

This record is held by West Sussex Record Office

Details of DRUITT MSS
Reference: DRUITT MSS
Title: The Druitt papers

The Druitt papers, documents relating to a nineteenth century London physician and surgeon and his family


The collection contains a great deal of material relating to Doctor Robert Druitt's professional and private interests. These include medicine, sanitation, public health, wine drinking and temperance and church music. There is also much correspondence between the doctor and his family and other nineteenth century figures. Also included are the papers of the doctor's father, wife and children and some Tupper Family papers. The value of these documents may be deduced from the fact that the professions of the doctor's children, who were reasonably good correspondents, included those of a parson, a solicitor, a doctor (who emigrated to Australia), a naval officer, a teacher and a musician.


A very interesting feature of the collection is that a nephew of Dr. Robert Druitt - one Montague John Druitt, is the chief 'Jack the Ripper' suspect today. (Jack the Ripper, by Daniel Farson.) 'Jack the Ripper' was the man (or woman - 'Jill the Ripper'), who in 1888 murdered at least six prostitutes in the East End of London. There is a letter written by Montague to his uncle Robert amongst these papers. This reveals nothing sensational, but is an example of his handwriting, which up to now (his signature excepted) has not been found.


"The contrast between the be-wigged, cane adorned, and sometimes pompous medicus of former times, with the intelligent, self reliant unassuming physician of today is surely very remarkable." [From Photographs of Eminent Medical Men, ed. by Wm. Tindal Robertson. London.]


The documents listed in the medical section of Robert Druitt's part of the catalogue illustrate his career history in full. They include certificates, testimonials, letters and printed and miscellaneous material.


Many of his lectures and other notes on sanitation and public health are contained in the collection.


The papers include correspondence, notes and many printed works relating to wine and temperance.


There is a large group of letters written to Doctor Druitt, the majority from his family. Other correspondents include W. Bright, Anthony Ashley Cooper, Edwin Chadwick, Randall T. Davidson, Benjamin Ferrey (his brother-in-law), Henry Fitzalan Howard, James R. Hope-Scott, R. Knox, David Livingstone, Caroline Norton (Melbourne's confidant) and Charles Mayo.


The family correspondence is a very full group and well illustrates the life of a large middle class family in mid and late nineteenth century England. There are large numbers of condolence letters [Condolence letter writing appeared to be a popular Victorian pastime.] following the deaths of members of the family also over 200 letters written to her husband in Madras and more than 80 replies. Perhaps the most interesting group are those from her children beginning with their early education, moving on through Secondary and University education, then taking in their professions, marriages, holidays and many problems of which they tell their mother. Her eldest son Robert wrote 138 letters between 1866 and 1898, her second son Charles 353, between 1861 and 1898 and there are over 350 from the rest of her children. Her most prolific letter writing child Charles was ordained into the Church and all his struggles and successes in life, as well as much material on religious questions of the time - ritualism, the deceased wife's sister bill etc. - come through in his letters to her. Her third son Cuthbert, who was in the navy, wrote from all corners of the world describing his life in the navy and the places he saw. All the family holidayed in Europe too and corresponded with her from there.


A letter written to her in 1873 by Chas. Willcox of Warnham contains a photograph of the tombstone of Benjamin Jesty on which is written the claim he discovered vaccination. The date is earlier than that of Jenner's discovery. Other letters in 1883 from William Druitt relate to Charles Lamb's supposed love for Mary Druitt illustrated by an epitaph on her tombstone in Wimborne.


The other papers in her group include diaries, accounts and estate papers. She died in 1899 survived by three sons and three daughters.


There is a small group of papers pertaining to Robert Druitt (6.1847)


Much of Charles Druitt's career is illustrated by the few papers that survive, relating to him and also by the already mentioned vast correspondence to his mother. He wrote a number of hymns and small theological works and had published a series of letters between himself and Sir Thomas Grove, Bart., M.P. on 'the deceased wife's sister Bill'.


Of the four sons Cuthbert Druitt's papers are the most extensive and perhaps the most interesting. All his certificates gained in the navy, as well as lists of clothing required, abstracts of ships passages and other papers survive, and a small group relating to his employment in South America also.


There are few papers relating to Isabella Druitt (b 1852)


A few papers survive relating to the career of Lionel Druitt (b. 1854)


There is a large collection of general and family correspondence with Emily Druitt up to her death. Of particular importance is her correspondence with members of the armed forces serving in the First World War. There are letters from barracks in England, Egypt, Cape Town, the front line in France, a prisoner-of-war camp in Ebersdorf and an internment camp in Switzerland


There survives a small number of letters relating to Katherine Druitt (b. 1858)


The remaining papers in the collection pertain to Emily Ferrey [who married Benjamin Ferrey the architect and sister of Isabella Druitt], the Tuppers and a few nineteenth century notables. Deposited with the Druitt Papers was a small group relating to the Tupper family. The connection between the two families is two fold. First as mentioned previously Robert Druitt junior married Alice M. Tupper and secondly the Tuppers lived next door to the Druitts in Strathmore Gardens.


The first group of letters relate to Martin Tupper, who was the Duke of Wellington's physician. Apart from this his chief claim to recognition was that he twice refused a baronetcy, first from Lord Liverpool and secondly from the Duke of Wellington. The largest series relate to Daniel Tupper, who was the Inspector of Accounts in the Lord Chamberlain's office. There are 45 letters written to his wife, most of which are loveletters before and after their marriage. The letters also include two from his brother Martin Farquhar Tupper a nineteenth century poet of great repute. He was popular in England, but this feeling was lukewarm compared to his popularity in America where he was considered as great as Shakespeare. Towards the end of his life and afterwards he fell very quickly from favour to be virtually unknown outside literary circles today. In Druitt 510 there is an early, possibly unpublished, poem by him. After Daniel Tupper's death his wife Mary Ellinor wrote to the Queen asking for a pension. The reply granted the pension, but pointed out that this was an unprecedented act.

Date: 1689-1945

The collection was deposited in a large trunk in which at some stage it had been placed. The bundles of letters were retained together wherever possible, although most of the general material was lying loose and apparently in no order. The records have been grouped and listed under the name of the person, who wrote them or to whom they relate. Where they were loose an attempt has been made under the name headings an to place them in categories where they will be of most use. The index will help to locate any paper that might appear to be in an illogical place. The groups of letters have been sorted into chronological order and then the annual bundles have been put into alphabetical order. They have been bound into volumes to facilitate their use and protect them and an index to them can be found at the front of each volume. The remaining papers have been repaired cleaned, protected and stored in boxes.

Held by: West Sussex Record Office, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Druitt family of Wimborne Minister, Dorset and London

Physical description: 35 series
Immediate source of acquisition:

The papers were deposited in the West Sussex Record Office in March 1957 by Doctor Daniel C. Druitt of Gleneagles, Petworth.

  • Wimborne Minister, Dorset
  • Physicians
Administrative / biographical background:

This branch of the Druitt family lived mainly in London during the creation of the papers, although Wimborne Minster in Dorset was the home of their ancestors for more than two centuries and the birthplace of Doctor Druitt.


Robert Druitt was born in December 1814, the eldest of four sons of Robert Druitt of Wimborne Minster. His family for more than a century before his birth had practised medicine in this small Dorset town. (Druitt Ms. 1, is a doctor's common place book dating from 1689, having been started by a member of the Druitt family in that year). On his mother's side he was related to the Mayo family of Winchester, a famous name in medical circles. It was not surprising therefore, when he chose medicine as his career.


His education began at the Queen Elizabeth's Free Grammar School in Wimborne. At the age of sixteen he moved from there to Winchester hospital to begin his apprenticeship, as a pupil of Mr. Charles Mayo, surgeon. In 1834 he moved to the Middlesex Hospital and enrolled as a medical student at King's College. In 1836 he took the Licence of the Society of Apothecaries and in the following year became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons, as well as taking up a surgeon's practice in Bruton Street, Berkley Square, with a Mr. Challice. He there began the work for which his name is most remembered in medicine, The Surgeon's Vade Mecum. The first edition appeared in 1839 and between then and 1878, eleven editions were produced, over 40,000 copies sold and it was reprinted in America and translated into many European languages. It became the standard work for every trainee surgeon for more than half a century.


In 1845 he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and in 1852 a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. In the same year he went to Paris to study under the great French physician Pajot. Meanwhile in 1845 he had married Isabella Hopkinson at St. Pancras Church and shortly afterwards opened a new surgeon's practice at 39A, Curzon Street, Mayfair. He continued in practice there until 1858, when he started a physicians practice at 37 Hertford Street, Mayfair staying there until 1872, when he retired, through ill health (haematinuria). For his health's sake he was forced to winter abroad and for three winters 1873, 1874 and 1875 he went to Madras at the invitation of his friend Lord Hobart, the Governor there. In recognition of his services to medicine a large group of colleagues and friends, 370 in all gave him a cheque for £1,215 in a silver cup.


".... in evidence of their sympathy with him in a prolonged illness, induced by years of generous and unwearied labours in the cause of humanity .... Medical Times and Gazette, 26 May 1883


In 1875 he made his last move to Strathmore Gardens in Kensington, where he finally succumbed to his illness on the 15 May 1883.


Other honours conferred on Dr. Druitt during his life include a Fellowship of the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society in 1853, honorary membership of the Society of Monte-regio (Italy) in 1856, a Fellowship of the Pathological Society of Montreal in 1856, honorary membership of the Society of Physico-Medica of Erlangen (Germany) in 1858 and in 1874 he was awarded the Lambeth degree of Doctor of Medicine Powers to grant medical degrees were reserved to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Medical Act of 1857 abolished any qualification to practice with these degrees., receiving one of the last ever awarded. He was, with John Challice, the prime mover in founding the King's College Medical and Scientific Society in 1833 and was a fairly regular attendant at the Society's meetings, as well as one of the Vice Presidents.


Doctor Druitt had many other interests in which he achieved more than local fame. He was particularly concerned with the sanitary and public health conditions existing in London and elsewhere. In 1856 he was elected Medical Officer of Health to St. George's Hanover Square and in 1864 made President of the Metropolitan Association of Medical Officers of health. His dedication is illustrated by his visit to Amiens during a Cholera epidemic in 1866, thus exposing himself to the illness in order to find out more about it. His findings were published in the Medical Times and Gazette in 1866.


In the nineteenth century there was great controversy over the question of the drinking of alcohol. Dr. Druitt was inevitably involved in the great moral struggle that took place under the banner of temperance. His opinion was that wine taken in moderation was of immense value to the health of man. His Report on the Cheap Wines of various countries, published in 1865 became one of his more popular works. Gladstone, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, seemed to be of the same opinion, by lifting the duty on wine he made it much cheaper to buy.


Outside the medical side of his life Robert Druitt was involved in literary and cultural pursuits. He never allowed to rust his ease and fluency with the Classics and his many works illustrate his interest in literary matter, which included the editorship of the Medical Times and Gazette for ten years, 1862-1872, and his contribution to it of many "Letters From Madras" in 1873 and 1874. He was a deeply religious man and his great passion was for Church Music. With three London incumbents he founded the Society for Promoting Church music in 1845 and assisted in editing its monthly periodical The Parish Choir. The society's first minute book is contained in the collection. He also prepared several other pamphlets on Church music. His other interests included botany, chemistry, geology, languages and the scriptures.


Isabella Druitt (1823-1899), the wife of Robert, was the second daughter of William and Elizabeth Hopkinson. She was both a devoted mother and a loving wife, these facets of her character are born out in the large group of general and family letters that form the most important part of the records that relate to her. She had four sons and four daughters. Among her many trials in life were the death of her favourite son Cuthbert in 1876 at the age of 26 and the absence of her husband who spent nearly three years in India. Despite these she appears constantly cheerful and very capable of bringing up three of her children through the formative years of their lives, without her husband's help. When he returned in 1876 he was virtually an invalid and so she had this added burden too.


Robert Druitt, the eldest son was born in April 1847, he was educated at Westminster and Christchurch, Oxford. He afterwards became a solicitor and later entered into partnership with his uncle James Druitt in Christchurch, Hants, (his cousin James, son of his uncle James also began a solicitor's practise in Bournemouth with another cousin William Harvey Druitt, son of his uncle William.) He married Alice May Tupper, the daughter of Daniel Tupper, who will be referred to later in the introduction. He became, later in life, very much involved in disputes over Church matters in Christchurch as well as other local affairs.


Charles Druitt (nicknamed 'Pope' by the family), the second son was born in November 1848 and was educated at St. Paul's, London and Exeter College, Oxford. He was ordained Deacon by the Bishop of Ripon in 1871 and Priest by the Bishop of Salisbury in 1873. He was curate at Penistone in Yorkshire, at Weymouth and at Parkstone in Dorset. In 1886 he was admitted a missioner for the "Society of St. Andrew" in the Salisbury diocese. In 1888 he became vicar of East and West Harnham and in 1891 vicar of Whitechurch Canonicorum. He married Isabel Hill in 1888 and died in 1900


Cuthbert Druitt, the third son was born in June 1850. He entered the Royal Navy in 1864 and retired in 1875 with the rank of Lieutenant. In the same year he went to South America as Manager of the works of the Malpaso Gold Washing Company in 1875 and a year later married Elizabeth Foulds in Jamaica. He died in 1876 in Honda, Columbia


Isabella Druitt, the eldest daughter was born in May 1852 and married Major Horace Miles Hobart-Hampden [Second son of the Duke of Buckingham]


Lionel Druitt (nicknamed 'Ghost'), the youngest sone was born in May 1854 and following in his father's footsteps entered the medical profession. He became a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1875 a master in surgery at Edinburgh in 1877 and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians in the same year. He practised mainly in London in Clapham Road and Strathmore Gardens and emigrated to Cooma, New South Wales in 1886. From there he moved to Tasmania in 1891. He married Susan Cunningham in 1888 and died in 1907 in Australia


Emily Druitt (nicknamed 'Owl') was born in February 1856 and died c. 1928


She was a good musician, excelling in the playing of the violin and a number of concert programmes survive, and she also had an interest in literature.


Katherine Druitt, the third daughter was born in July 1858 and died in June 1887.


Gertrude Druitt, (nicknamed 'Tooty') the youngest child was born in December 1862 and it was she who compiled the pedigree and papers relating to the family history that are found in the collection. There are also a number of letters to her. She died in 1900

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