Museum acquires doctor's 19th century biography

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Curator: Emily Hicks with the book on Dr Roberts Curator: Emily Hicks with the book on Dr Roberts

BRIDPORT Museum has acquired a handwritten 19th-century biography of one of the town’s most famous figures.

Curator Emily Hicks said the biography will help deepen the town’s understanding of Dr Giles Roberts.

Born in West Bay in 1766, Dr Roberts set up a chemist’s business in Bridport and later undertook medical training in London.

He found fame with his skin disorder medicine Poor Man’s Friend, which was still available in the 1950s.

In 1807 he was appointed medical attendant to the poor in Bridport, campaigning for better hygiene, often funded by his own pocket.

Miss Hicks said: “Dr Roberts undoubtedly deserves to be more appreciated in the history books than he is.

“There was obviously great trust generally in his techniques, as this biography describes him as ‘the best physician... not who talks best or writes best, but who performs the most cures’.”

She added: “The addition of this book to the collection has brought to light much more than we already knew about him.

“One of the most entertaining bits is the description of his museum of curiosities which he arranged in a room in his house.

“On February 9, 1822, the Weymouth Gazette listed some of its contents.”

These included a number of human skulls from New Zealand tribal chiefs, a large whale or mammoth bone found in cliffs at Burton Bradstock, a musical clock, flying fish brought back on a Bridport ship and a large glass case containing a penguin, an African crane and other small, rare birds.

Miss Hicks said: “He apparently paid exorbitant prices for things and the collection had cost him several thousand pounds.

“A visitor’s book was kept and recorded many thousands of visitors from a wide area. In 1834 Princess Victoria and her mother, the Duchess of Kent, passed through Bridport and stayed at the Bull Hotel.

“Dr Roberts sent them his card and invited them to visit his museum of curiosities, which they declined.”

The museum already has a substantial collection relating to Dr Roberts, including a medical book brought last year containing many of his recipes, including that for Poor Man’s Friend.

Miss Hicks thanked the Friends of Bridport Mus-eum, who contributed funds to buy the book at auction.

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