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Allen & Hanburys’ Surgical Appliances

February 14, 2013
by the gentle author

Continuing my series of the great hardware catalogues of the East End, it is my pleasure to publish these pages from Allen & Hanburys’ 1938 catalogue of Surgical Instruments & Appliances courtesy of Rupert Blanchard of Styling & Salvage. Founded in 1715 in Plough Court, Lombard St by Silvanus Bevan, Allen & Hanburys moved to Bethnal Green in 1874 where they built a factory to manufacture surgical appliances and operating tables – producing  an unparalleled array of medical equipment, until they were bought by Glaxo in 1958 and closed in the nineteen sixties.

Instrument Fitting

Machine Shop & Operation Table Erection

Tinsmiths’ Shop

Sheet Metal & Furniture Shops

Machine Shop

Location of Allen & Hanburys factory in Bethnal Green

You may also like to take a look at these other magnificent catalogues

Crowden & Keeves Hardware

Nicholls & Clarke’s Hardware

23 Responses leave one →
  1. February 14, 2013

    I had to look at most of these through my fingers covering my eyes…

  2. February 14, 2013

    Many of these terrifying ‘appliances’ are still in use in one form or another. As a very young girl I worked for the Department of Mental Health. Restraining cuffs and Straight Jackets were still applied with regularity, as were caged beds and chemical restraints. We are not as enlightened as you might think.

    Thank you for another fascinating read!

  3. Melvyn Brooks permalink
    February 14, 2013

    I am a General Practitoner in Israel, and admit to being old-fashioned. I still use my ENT mirror as illustrated in the catalogue that allows me the use of two hands when I need them and cannot hold the light source in one of my hands. And yes I still have, but rarely use, my Thudichum’s Nasal Speculum. Soap and water is probably one of the best ways of keeping down infections being transfered by doctors.
    Thanks for allowing us a glimpse at the catalogue. Anyone remember Allenbury Throat Lozenges?

  4. Maureen Gardner permalink
    February 14, 2013

    Was this the same Company who made the throat pastilles, I seem to remember tins of Allen and Hanbury’s throat pastilles in a silver and yellow tin, bought from Chemist shops

  5. John Campbell permalink
    February 14, 2013

    Masturbation appliance? The mind boggles…

  6. February 14, 2013

    Fantastic. A friend of mine used to squat in the old music hall in Dalston years back and picked up a dustbin full of old surgical instruments from a local junk shop. Some of them are works of art. Really great to see how diverse the manufacturing history of the area is (was).

  7. Hilary permalink
    February 16, 2013

    The pastilles,amongst other products,were manufactured at the Ware factory in Hertfordshire.
    Ware museum has a small but very interesting Allen and Hanbury display including tins of pastilles! ( It also has the Great Bed of Ware on loan from the Victoria and Albert Museum till April.)

  8. February 17, 2013

    Its scary to think how far our surgical appliances have come. Not to mention the surgeries themselves. Very cool list.

  9. Cherub permalink
    February 27, 2013

    The surgical boots take me back to childhood and kids with polio, such an awful disease. My mother used to swear by giving us Allen and Hanbury’s blackcurrant pastilles for sore throats and I still have an old empty tin. I use it for keeping buttons in and I just like the colour of it. It’s about 45 years old and as you can guess I’m a great fan of recycling, especially tin boxes and jars.

  10. Ronald permalink
    April 8, 2013

    I have an old medical kit. Still full with all contents! Would like information on this that I have if you could help thanks

  11. Anne permalink
    July 24, 2013

    Just looked up Allen and Hanburys as there is a reference in my grandfather’s diary for 7 July 1916 that he hardened scalpels and forceps for Allen and Hanburys. My grandfather worked for Thos Firth in Sheffield. Following the discovery of stainless steel by Harry Brearley in 1913, he was given the task of developing the uses of the material. He made and tested the first stainless steel knife, on display in the Cutlers Hall, Sheffield. His name was Ethelbert Wolstenholme, 1875 – 1940

  12. Ian permalink
    November 1, 2013

    History in a box …… I was clearing out some “Junk’’ from my loft and came across a small tin box. Allen & Hanburys Ltd – Glycerine & Blackcurrant Pastilles. I had a niggling feeling I knew the Company name and out of curiosity decided to do a little online research. A fascinating company history, origins dating back to its founders in 1715. I found an article from EASTENDLIFE, (LB of Tower Hamlets news letter) “Crumbling tiles on a factory wall and the dawn of a global giant”. A decaying, Smog stained 1920s factory in Londons East End……And yes, I had passed the site at Bethnal Green for 20 year + on my commute into the city.
    Saw an interesting eBay book listing, might be worth a read
    ISBN: 0719547865
    TITLE: At the Sign of the Plough: Allen and Hanburys and the British Pharmaceutical Industry, 1715-1990 AUTHOR: Geoffrey Tweedale PUBLISHER: John Murray Publishers Ltd PUBLICATION DATE: 1990-07-12

  13. Ronald Moore permalink
    May 18, 2014

    Hi,I have a very old medical kit! It’s made by your company. It’s stamped with 22 on it and contains a screw cap that goes in the side of it. Inside it has all the medicine intact and the syringes.
    Could you please provide me with any more information of its history as I have enquired about it and have been advised its quite old and possibly valuable.

    Yours sincerely
    Ronald Moore

  14. Andre Roets permalink
    September 16, 2014

    I need urgent information on a Allen & Hanbury operating table. Can anyone please direct me to somone? Kind regards

  15. Beryl Happe permalink
    October 11, 2014

    I must admit I am a bit late reading this, but I am mightily impressed. Wow, some of the
    appliances and instruments are terrifying…..glad I was born too late to be subjected to them.

  16. Estelle Voges permalink
    February 14, 2015

    I am an amateur antique medical instrument collector and a nurse educator, who stumbled upon a post mortem Allen and Hansbury set and collected their pastille boxes, infant rusk boxes and ventolin apparatus. I love medical history and like all shudder at the instruments used in the past….Very grateful to be alive in this day and age, enjoyed your site tremendously, thanks!

  17. Kathryn Barnicott permalink
    December 20, 2015

    I am staying with my 96 year old mother-in-law who grew up in Bethnal Green and worked for Allen and Hanbury’s from the late 1930’s until early 1950’s. She has been telling me fascinating stories of working life in the East End of London during the war years, including the bombing of the Bethnal Green factory which lead to her working at Ware in Hertfordshire. She recalls meeting Alexander Fleming who came to visit the factory where she was working on the production line for the manufacture of penicillin. The old catalogues are a fascinating record of medical history.

  18. Max Hall permalink
    April 11, 2016

    Whist searching my family history, I have discovered that a descendant of my Great Grandfather’s brother was a Director of Allen & Hanbury Ltd in 1939. He was John Netherway.
    He had a wife Charlotte and 3 children, Kathleen, Stanley and Mabel. Any information about him or his descendants would truly be gratefully appreciated.

  19. Pam victors nee Ayton permalink
    May 21, 2016

    Aged19 in 1952 I worked in the Export Dept., as a secretary. The surgical dept. shared this space. I remember prosthetic legs “with squeaks” arriving from Africa etc, to be repaired, with accompanying beatles and spiders. I went on to be private secretary to Raymond Hanbury, New Products Dept. A wonderful boss who was in charge of company archives. I was sent to the British Museum to a musty room there where these papers were stored. They were used for “Through a City Archway”. When I left A&H in 1958 to have my son, Raymond insisted that we should really keep in touch. He took early retirement and with Betsy, his wife, moved to Scotland. We kept in touch for about 26 years. He kept up with the lives and careers of all of my three children. A real gentleman.

  20. Pam victors nee Ayton permalink
    May 21, 2016

    Further to my previous comments, I was reared on Allenburys baby food,risks etc. ,and remember Haliborange as delicious!

  21. antonio marte permalink
    September 2, 2019

    Dear Sirs . I’m the chief of Pediatric Surgery – Vanvitelli University- Naples Italy.
    I’m preparing a manuscript on History of Hernia in children entitled :The history of inguinal hernia repair in children.
    Could I have the permission of reproduction of the images : Trussess and specifically n. 8526,8527, 8528, 8540?
    Best Regards Antonio Marte MD

  22. GSK Heritage Archives permalink
    April 9, 2020

    Hi all, if you have any questions regarding the history of GSK, including Allen & Hanburys please send them to our archives email:

  23. Carmen Chilson permalink
    October 14, 2022

    Nicola found part of a container from your company. Only words on it we can make out are: IS ENTIRETY SAFE,
    -MENT THAN HALF A -, and
    Could you share a photo of a complete bottle?

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