A mid 19th century Staffordshire leech jar made by Samuel Alcock & Co. who traded between 1830 and 1859.
A striking example in maroon and cream with gilt bordering. The vase shaped jar has foliate handles and a ribbed body with the lettering “Leeches” in gilt across the cartouche. The lid has multiple perforations to allow the leeches to breathe.
The application of leeches to the skin was first documented as medical practice in 100 BC but peaked in popularity in the early 19th century. A staggering 42 million leeches in 1833 alone, were imported to France for medical use (Ackerknecht 1967, p 62). The leeches would suck several times their original body weight in blood and once engorged would be left to fall off.