Artifact Corner: Victorian Sitz Bath

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a sitz bath, spelled s -i-t-z, or otherwise known as a hip bath. The term sitz comes from the German verb sitzen, which simply means to sit. The sitz bath tub was invented in 1842, and was used as part of the Malvern Water Cure. The tub was designed in conjunction with a number of other activities that “cured” almost anything that could ail a person. Let’s learn a bit more about sitz tubs and the Malvern Water Cure.
Malvern, England is famous for it’s water. The water has been lauded for not only being refreshing, but also for curing afflictions. The first mention of the waters at Malvern goes as far back as 1622, from Bannister’s “Breviary of the Eyes.” In it he states;
“A little more I’ll of their curing tell.
How they helped sore eyes
with a new found well.
Great speech of Malvern Hills
was late reported.
Unto which spring
people in troops resorted.”

Following the discovery of the curative powers of the spring water, it started to be bottled and shipped all over England. Throughout the 17th and 18th Century, people were prescribed the water by their doctors, and either bought bottles of it, or made the trek to Malvern itself. In the 1830’s two doctors, Dr. James Wilson and Dr. James Manby Gully, set up hydrotherapy centers in Malvern. The clinics became known as The Malvern Water cure. It was a regime of plenty of Malvern water, a very strict diet, and plenty of exercise. Most of these things we can recognize today as beneficial, and this hydrotherapy actually was successful. People flocked to Malvern for “the cure,” including some very well known names like Charles Darwin. Charles Dickens wrote of the cure the following;
“It is a most beautiful place. Oh heavenly to meet the cold waters as I did this morning when I went out for a shower bath.”

Even today you can visit the many wells around Malvern and drink the water. It is reported that Queen Elizabeth II has gone to Malvern to drink from the waters, so it truly is fit for royalty.

The sitz bath was invented to be part of the regime for the patients going to the hydrotherapy clinics. It was designed to cure ailments of the lower body, and again, it did ease the discomfort of many of the patients. So, the sitz bath became popular outside of Malvern England. Our Fannie Delord Webb Hall was a self taught pharmacist, who studied medical texts voraciously. She was up to date on all of the best treatments, and ordered all of the latest apparatus of the day, so it is unsurprising that she would have purchased a sitz bath for her practice. The sitz bath was thought to help with things like digestive problems, hemorrhoids, liver obstruction, and constipation, just to name a few. It could be used with hot water or cold water, depending upon your ailment. Our sitz bath is in ok condition. There is some cracking and it will no longer hold water. Despite that, it is a unique look back into Victorian medicine, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot