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2003/02 p6


Sarah Mapp, the bone-setter


In my book, Epsom Past, I gave a brief account of the life of Sarah Mapp. My wife, Barbara, has recently come across the following reference to her in The History of Signboards by Jacob Larwood and John Camden Hotten, published in 1866, in connection with an inn in Whitechapel:


On Friday, several persons who had the misfortune of lameness, crowded to the White Hart Inn in Whitechapel, on hearing Mrs. Mapp, the famous bone-setter, was there. Some of them were admitted to her, and were relieved as they apprehended. But a gentleman who happened to come by declared Mrs. Mapp was at Epsom, on which the woman thought proper to move off. The genuine Mrs. Sarah Mapp was a female bone-setter, or ‘shape mistress’, the daughter of a bone-setter of Hindon, Wilts. Her maiden name was Wallis. It appears that she made some successful cures before Sir Hans Sloane, in the Grecian Coffee- house. For a time she was in affluent circumstances, kept a carriage and four, had a plate of ten guineas run for at the Epsom races, where she lived, frequented theatres, and was quite the lion of a season. Ballads were made upon her, songs were introduced on the stage, in which the ‘Doctress of Epsom’ was exalted to the tune of Derry Down; in short, she was called the ‘Wonder of the Age’. But alas! The year after all this éclat we read in the same Grub Street Journal, that had recorded all her greatness ‘December 22, 1737. Died last week at her lodgings, near the Seven Dials, the much-talked of Mrs. Mapp, the bonesetter, so miserably poor, that the parish was obliged to bury her’. Sic transit gloria mundi.


Charles Abdy

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