It’s astonishing what a little undirected Googling will turn up! I was actually trying to pin down some further information about Macord’s Rents, which you may remember we talked about in It’s time to talk about the Huguenots Part Two, but instead I stumbled upon a reference to Macord’s Waterproof Isinglass Plaster. This was something I had actually encountered briefly ten years ago, when searching Trove, the invaluable online archive of the National Library of Australia. However this time it took me in an entirely unexpected direction – to probably the most infamous series of murders of all time, and to a young woman who very briefly wandered through the furthest reaches of my family history.
Let’s start with Robert John Macord, born in 1815, who was the third child and second son of John II and Elizabeth Macord of Limehouse Hole. In the 1841 Census he is a ‘chymist and druggist’, operating out of premises at 58 Minories, London. Those familiar with the Jack the Ripper saga will already recognise that this address is pretty much ‘Ripper Central’.
Robert seems to have been the inventor of a very successful new type of medical plaster made out of isinglass* – a natural product which clearly had a bewildering variety of uses at the time. There are a number of instances in online records of this product being advertised: the text below appeared in The Medical Times in 1848-49, for example, and some of the same testimonials also appeared in the Sydney Empire on Saturday 3 January, 1852.
Macord’s Transparent Waterproof Isinglass Plaster, and Isinglass Plasters on all fabrics, are manufactured at 58, Minories, London, and can be obtained of any druggist or surgical instrument-maker.
January 31, 1844
After having used in the London Hospital Mr Macord’s Isinglass Pluster, I am enabled to say that it has afforded me much satisfaction. I have found it to adhere well and to be free from any irritating property.
February 26th, 1844
I have now repeatedly made use of the various forms of Isinglass Adhesive Plaster manufactured by Mr Macord, and am of opinion that they are likely to prove very useful in the treatment of wounds.
Professor of Surgery in King’s College, Surgeon to King’s College Hospital, etc.
March 8th, 1844
I have directed the application of Mr Macords Prepared Isinglass Plaster in cases of ulcer and recent wound, and I think very favorably of the Invention. It is clearly an effective dressing, and easily applied.
Benjamin Travers Jr.
Resident assistant surgeon.
March 27, 1844
The Isinglass plaster as prepared by Mr Macord is superior to any I have had made elsewhere, being both more adhesive, more transparent, and altogether more easily applied.
See Lancet Jun15, 1844, page 365.
May 21 1844
I have made trial of Mr Macords waterproof transparent plaster in the treatment of wounds, and have been quite dissatisfied with its adhesive properties. It is, moreover, an irritating, and in most circumstances must be more advantageous than plasters containing resin.
James M. Arnott
Surgeon to the Middlesex Hospital.
May 30, 1844
I have used Mr Macord’s Transparent Plaster for the last three years with much success, and am happy to bear testimony to its great utility, also his Sedative Solution of Opium, which proves most effective.
Surgeon, Royal Ordnance Hospital, Purfleet.
October 24th 1844
Sir – having used the different specimens of your Isinglass Plaster, I beg that you will be so good as to send me, for the use of Sligo Infirmary, twenty yards each of the four kinds you sent to me. Your transparent plaster may be considered expensive for hospital use. I consider it otherwise: through it you can see the state of the surface underneath ot, and thereby only have to remove it when it necessary, this measure being economical of your plaster and of the state of the wound to which it may be applied. I look upon your plaster as being cleanly and nice, as well as as being more applicable to most parts than any oily or resinous plasters can possibly be.
Your obedient servant ,
Thomas Little MD, LL.D., F.R.C.S.I
Surgeon to the Sligo Infirmary
September 1st 1845
We have employed Macord’s Transparent Sticking Plaster during the last twelve months, and in all cases where sticking plaster is required, except in operations for hare-lip, we prefer it to any other.
Surgeons to the General Hospital Nottingham.
November 5th, 1848
I feel great pleasure in testifying to the utility of Mr Macord’s Transparent Isinglass Plasters; in small flesh wounds, they surpass in efficacy any I have ever used. In haemorrhage, from leech bites, they form a crust with the blood which effectually covers it.
J.J. Rygate, M.B. Lond.
November 23, 1848
Sir – I have used the plaster you sent me, and have much pleasure in adding my favouritable testimony to those you have already received. Its transparency permitting without disturbance the satisfactory inspection of the wound. Its adhesiveness superior to that of any other application, and unaffected by washes, which are so frequently necessary to moderate inflammation in wounds. Its complete freedom from any irritating quality; and its cleanliness will render it henceforward and indispensable requisite to every practical surgeon.
I am, sir, your obedient servant,
Henry Thompson, M.D., F.R.C.S.I.
Surgeon to the Tyrone Infirmary
To Mr Macord, 58, Minories.
Macord’s Isinglass Plaster, 1s 6d per yard: 14 in wide, on white or black calico. Directions – wet the plaster well with a damp sponge, or dip in water.
Macord’s Waterproof Isinglass Plaster, 1s 6d per yard; 14 in wide, on white or black calico. Directions – wet the plaster well with a damp sponge, or dip in water.
Macord’s Transparent Skin, 2s 6d per yard: 5 in wide. Directions – wet well the part, and apply the plaster dry.
Macord’s Waterproof Transparent Plaster, 4s and 6d per yard; 14 in wide. Directions – wet well the part, and apply the plaster dry.
A discount of 15% on purchases to the amount of £2.
The Medical Times: a Journal of Medical Science, literature, criticism, and news. 1848 – 49, October – June. Retrieved via Google Books on Friday 3rd December 2021 from a volume held in the Bavarian State Library at Munich.
Robert John Macord died in 1863, but his business interests clearly outlived him; after his death the plaster (still bearing his name) continued to be made and packaged at 58 Minories, by a company named Winifred Hora & Co. They employed a number of day-labourers to accommodate fluctuating demand, and one of those day-labourers was Frances Coles, aka Frances Coleman, who at the time lived in Union Street, near Southwark Bridge. More information about Frances will be found in Part Two.
Of the names listed above, J.J. Rygate (who seems to have qualified in 1847) is of particular interest: Robert John Macord’s fourth son, Herbert Rygate Macord, born in 1849, is clearly named after him – and at just the time when the medical plaster business seems to have been flourishing. Herbert Rygate did not go into medicine or any related career; he seems to have been happy enough as a stationer and later a lodging-house keeper.
Robert John Macord’s third son, however, Horace Walford Macord, might fairly be called the ‘black sheep’ of his particular family. He described himself as a ‘druggist’ in the 1871 census, with premises in Kemp Town, Brighton. He married Alice Hurn in 1869 and they rapidly had three children; however the marriage seems to have broken down in 1878 when he alone emigrated to Australia – claiming to be an M.R.C.S. – leaving his wife and three children behind with her parents. Alice subsequently reverted to the use of her maiden surname, although I have been unable to trace a divorce. For the next few decades Horace Walford seems to have lived in New South Wales – where it is quite possible he started a whole new family which has descendants in the area to this day. He did, however, return – and indeed officially immigrated – to England in 1918, possibly reconciling with his wife Alice. He died in 1924, but a shop bearing his name – H.W. Macord, Chemist – was trading at 120 East India Dock Road, London, until at least 1934.
Obviously there are a lot of gaps in this narrative and lot of questions remain to be answered – what, for example, were Robert John and Horace Walford’s qualifications, and did Horace Walford father another dynasty in Australia? Watch this space, or one very much like it, for further details!
*If the word has ear-wormed you, be reassured that it gets a passing mention in the lyrics of ‘Surrey with the Fringe on Top’ from Oklahoma!