The Spirthill Urine Burner

Written by Louise Ryland-Epton

In researching the religious history of Bremhill, I’ve been reading some of the observations local vicars made of their parishioners. Sometimes, the anecdotes are very surprising. One I found recently was bizarre.

In the 1870s, according to the vicar, there was a local man in Spirthill who claimed he could cure jaundice or rather ‘yaller jarndice’. The way the remedy was made, was without medication but by the burning of the patient’s urine and a process that involved ‘the ashes of a maiden ash tree.’ However, the exact procedure was a secret, as on it’s telling the power would be lost. The medical practitioner, in question, was ‘E.S.’, possibly a labourer by the name of Elijah Smart, whose own parents had also provided the cure. Mrs E.S. provided testimony to her husband’s ‘miraculous powers’ but could also, apparently, give the treatment if her husband was ‘agreeable’.

The vicar, Rev. Eddrup observed during the year 1876 an old man living close by had sent a number of bottles of his urine to E.S. The man told the vicar of several cases where the cure had been successful. But, Eddrup observed ‘this old man was not cured and died soon afterwards.’ It is perhaps unsurprising, that after the old man’s death, E.S. would not accept the vicar’s calls.

Source: Rev. E. P. Eddrup, 'Notes on some Wiltshire Superstitions', Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Magazine Vol. 22 (1885).