Life of early alternative medical pioneer goes on display at Sutton Library

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AN early pioneer of alternative medicine from Sutton is being remembered through an archive display.

This month marks 200 years since the birth of Spencer Hall, who became a famous mesmerist and pioneer of alternative medicine in the 1800s.

To celebrate his contribution to society and this emerging healthcare field, both Nottinghamshire County Council’s Sutton Library and its Nottinghamshire Archives service have set up display cases charting his life and achievements.

In his early life, Hall printed The Sherwood Magazine and wrote many articles as the ‘Sherwood Forester’.

After witnessing a mesmeric demonstration he decided to follow a new venture and began to practice mesmerism, hydrotherapy, homeopathy and phrenology and electro-magnetism.

Originally born to parents in Sutton, he was brought up in Brookside (now Brook Street) and trained in the publishing industry before he wrote the Sherwood Magazine.

Hall was also interested in popular scientific movements. He was the first honorary secretary of the Sheffield Phrenological Society and later an honorary member of the Phrenological Society of Glasgow.

Once he had changed the focus of his career to alternative medicine, Spencer later moved to Blackpool where he eventually died in poverty.

Chris Weir, Principal Archivist (Public Services), for Nottinghamshire County Council’s Archive Service, said: “Both ourselves and Sutton Library are keen that Spencer Hall is not forgotten, so our display cases plot his life from his early days before moving to mesmerism and phrenology.“

“Yet this remarkable man died in poverty in Blackpool. Perhaps he went to the resort, with its crowds of summer visitors, to try and expand his treatments but either his health failed or not enough people were willing to try-out his alternative approaches.

“However an old friend, Charles Plumbe, paid for a gravestone to be placed on his burial plot in Layton Cemetery in Blackpool.

“Today we take alternative medicine for granted but it was pioneers like Spencer Hall who paved the way for these new approaches to mental and physical illnesses.”

Gail Renshaw, Sutton-in-Ashfield Library Manager, at Nottinghamshire County Council, added: “Although Spencer Hall’s family no longer lives in the area, Sutton Library is always happy to celebrate the achievements of its local citizens.

“We have a comprehensive Local Studies collection and staff will always be on hand to help research the famous and not so famous.”

For more information about the displays dedicated to Spencer Hall, visitors can contact Nottinghamshire County Council’s Archive Service, Castle Meadow Road, Nottingham on 0115 9581634, or Sutton Library, in the Idlewells, Sutton on: 01623 556296 /