Although the references to Nicholas Searle are scarce, he’s particularly interesting in two respects. First, along with William Raby (who came later in the 17th century) he’s the only other Newmarket medic known to have been described as a barber-surgeon. Second, he would have overlapped with the early career of Francis Greene the apothecary. So it’s possible their roles were complementary, Francis Greene providing the more medicinal services as the apothecary and Nicholas Searle doing the minor surgical procedures in his barber’s shop (see the page on Francis Greene for further discussion on this and The history of medical treatments, training, qualifications and regulation regarding this distinction more generally). As far as we know, there were no other medics active in Newmarket in the 1640s, unless William Raby’s uncle was medical and was in practice that early. It seems quite likely however that the William Rabys in some sense succeeded Nicholas Searle as Newmarket’s barber/surgeons (see the page on William Raby for more about that possibility).
The only known reference to Nicholas Searle’s occupation is an indirect mention in the will of Henry Blackwyn, a Newmarket yeoman, written in 1647:-
For any who can’t read the above, here is a transcription:-
‘I doe give & bequeath unto Willm Blackwyn my kinsman the some of ffive pounds of like lawfull English money to be payed unto him at the end expiration of the terme of years for [which] terme he standeth bound as an apprentice unto one Nicholas Serle of Newmarkett aforesaid Barber Surgeon’
There were probably two Nicholas Searles in Newmarket at the time who this could refer to, father and son. Nicholas the son of Nicholas Searle was baptised in 1626. There appears to have been an older sister Anna baptised in 1622. In 1640 Elizabeth the wife of Nicholas Searle was buried. This must have been the wife of the older Nicholas Searle and therefore mother of the younger. Then in 1645 a Nicholas Searle married Elizabeth Barwicke at St Mary’s church in Newmarket. This was likely the son getting married. In 1655 a widow Searle was burried at St Mary’s, so it’s possible that by then both Nicholas Searles were dead?
It’s perhaps most likely that the older Nicholas Searle was the barber-surgeon. He would have been in practice therefore from about 1620 to perhaps the 1650s, then could have been succeeded by the Williams Rabys. Newmarket was likely served by two medics from about 1590 (Richard and Robert Greene). So perhaps Nicholas Searle filled a gap in provision on the death of Richard Greene in 1615? That would give a neat pattern of one medic from the 1580s (Richard Greene), then two from the 1590s (Richard Greene and Robert Greene, then Robert Greene and Nicholas Searle, then Nicholas Searle and Francis Greene, then Francis Greene and William Raby). Then towards the end of the 17th century we start to see three or four medics in practice at a time, mirroring the growth in population from perhaps about 300 in the mid 16th century to over 600 by the end of the 17th century, typical for the number of medics per head of population at that time (one medic for 200-400 population has been seen elsewhere).
It’s interesting to consider what became of William Blackwyn, the apprentice barber-surgeon. Did he become a barber, barber-surgeon or evolve into a surgeon-apothecary even? And where did he end up? These things are not yet known.
Image 1: The 1647 will of Henry Blackwyn (probate 1648), reference IC500/1/105(5) (cropped – red annotations mine); image ©, reproduced with kind permission of the Suffolk Record Office, Bury St Edmunds.
Note: see comments regarding images and copyright © etc. on the Usage &c. page as well.
1622, June: Anna daughter of Nich Searle baptised, All Saints’, Newmarket. Reference: J502/17, microfilm of archdeacon’s transcripts, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1626, 28th February: Nicholas sonne of Nicholas Searle baptised, All Saints’, Newmarket. Reference: J502/17, microfilm of archdeacon’s transcripts, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: this is on the 1625 transcript – see New Year change.]
1640, 26th December: Elizabeth wife of Nicholas Searle buried, ‘The Register Book of Newmarket all SSts’. Reference: Microfiche of Newmarket all saints’ parish register (fiche 1), (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds). [Note: the date is quite difficult to read, but is confirmed on the 20th century transcript J562/69, which appears to have been made when the register was in a better condition too, well before the microfiche images were taken – see comment on the William Raby page.]
1645, 17th April: Nicholas Searle married Elizabeth Barwicke, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J552/9, microfilm of Newmarket St Mary’s parish register, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1647, 10th March: The will of Henry Blackwyn (probate 1648). Reference: IC500/1/105(5), (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1655, 25th October: Widow Serle buried, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J552/9, microfilm of Newmarket St Mary’s parish register, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
May P. Newmarket Medieval and Tudor. Published privately; 1982.
Mortimer I. Introduction. A Directory of Medical Personnel Qualified and Practising in the Diocese of Canterbury, circa 1560-1730. PAPER No. 021. http://www.kentarchaeology.ac/authors/021.pdf (accessed 10th January 2015).
The research notes of Peter May. Reference: HD1584, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St. Edmunds).
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