Pharmacy leech jar, England, 1830-1870

1831-1870 in England and England and

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Pharmacy leech jar, marbled and gilt earthenware, perhaps Staffordshire, English, 1830-1870

Leeches were used in bloodletting – a practice once carried out to treat a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. This jar was used to hold leeches which would have been on sale to medical practitioners. They are a type of worm with suckers at both ends of the body although only the frontal sucker, which has teeth, is used to feed. Once attached to a living body, they feed on blood. They can live for quite a while between meals, so the lid has holes in the top to allow air into the jar.

Leeches were such a popular treatment that by 1830 their demand outstripped the supply. Leeches are again being used today following plastic and reconstructive surgery as they help restore blood flow and circulation.


Medical Ceramic-ware
Object Number:
leech jar
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle
Loan: Wellcome Trust

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