Edward Christopher Holland L.R.C.P. M.R.C.S. (26 May 1811 – 5 January 1886) was an English orthodox physician who converted to homeopathy, claiming to be among the five or six earliest British homeopathic physicians. Holland eventually joined the British Homeopathic Society in 1855, and was listed at Honiton, Devon, in the 1851 British Homeopathic Journal Directory of Homoeopathic Practitioners.
Edward Christopher Holland was born in Lambeth in May, 1811, to War Office official Christopher Holland (1768 – 1818) and his wife, Ann Ireland.
After the death of his father, Holland went to live with his grandfather, Dr Holland, in Honiton, Devon. He received his education at the Honiton Grammar School and, aged nineteen, commenced medical studies at St. Thomas’ Hospital Medical Schools. There he was taught by the noted surgeon and anatomist, Sir Astley Paston Cooper, and also worked as clinical clerk to Prince Albert‘s future personal surgeon, Charles Aston Key. To develop his medical knowledge and pursue further studies in anatomy Holland also visited Paris.
That October, 1834, Holland married Devon-born Henrietta Augusta Sarah Torring (c. 1810 – 1867). They had a daughter, Eliza Henrietta Hartnell (c. 1836 – 1922).
Around this time, Holland was visited by a colleague from his student days, Dr. Harris Dunsford, who had studied homeopathy under the tutelage of Samuel Hahnemann. Dunsford introduced Holland to the new medical “craze” he had recently embraced and cured a sick child under Holland’s care by homeopathic methods. Holland was convinced and enthusiastically immersed himself in the study of homeopathy, and “He always claimed that he was the fourth practitioner in the kingdom to undertake practice on the basis of homoeopathy.”
A deadly cholera outbreak in Devon in 1849 led an Honiton Union surgeon named Devenish, and his assistant, William Cox, hitherto both deeply hostile to homeopathy, to beg Holland’s assistance. He obliged and treated the patients homeopathically. To Devenish and Cox’s astonishment all but one of the cases were successfully cured. As a result, Cox became a convert to Hahnemann‘s system and took up the study of homeopathy, serving as Holland’s assistant.
In 1850, Holland was the target of a concerted effort by the Honiton Poor Law Board to force him to abandon the practice of homeopathy when treating the poor, or face removal from his position as a Union surgeon. Leading the charge against Holland, and homeopathy, was Sir Edmund Saunderson Prideaux, 9th Baronet (1793 – 1875). After writing many letters to the Board, documenting statistically the efficacy of his homeopathic treatment of more than 1700 people in over a decade as an homeopath, Holland resolved to offer whatever mode of treatment, homeopathic or allopathic, his poor law patients chose:
I consider I have a right to protest against the improper and unjust course pursued by Sir Edmund Prideaux, and express my utter disregard of the opinions of so fallible a body as The College of Physicians. Considering the immense multitude of the poor who would be deprived of the benefit of Homeopathic treatment were I to resign my appointment, I am willing to act in compliance with your views, and as regards medical treatment, PUT THE POOR ON A LEVEL WITH THE RICH, by giving them a choice as to the plan on which their complaints shall be treated.
In 1852, Holland left Honiton to set up in practice in Rochdale. He was joined there by Cox in 1854 who resumed his duties as Holland’s assistant. However, a combination of the climate and overwork proved too much for Holland’s health, and he relocated to Norwich, where he succeeded Dr. William Bell, with Cox taking charge of Holland’s Rochdale practice.
E. C. Holland remained in Norwich for twelve years, during which time he enjoyed a successful practice, and formed a large circle of friends.
In 1858, Holland and his colleague Francis Alexander Hartmann were embroiled in a scandal after a patient died in Norwich from a rare condition and a missed diagnosis. Compounding the patient’s anomalous strangulated hernia, was the intransigence of the allopathic surgeons who refused to consult a patient who was being attended by a homeopath. The portrayal of this incident differed markedly between the allopathic press and the homeopathic press.
A measles outbreak in 1873 compelled the editor of the Homoeopathic World to inquire whether other homeopaths concurred that when treated homeopathically the illness was not dangerous. Holland was one of the respondents included on the front page of the January 1874 issue of the journal:
“The mortality under Allopathic treatment has been very great amongst the poorer classes; and I believe the want of fuel contributed in a great degree to the fatality of the disease. But I am not aware of a single death has occurred in Homoeopathic practice: I have not lost a single case, though I have attended a very great number, and many of the cases have been unusually severe. It must, however, be born in mind that my patients have had the advantage of every collateral means of cure, such as warmth, proper attention to diet, etc.”
Holland remained actively involved in the professional homeopathic medical community. He was a participant in the 1870 British Homoeopathic Congress, held in September at the Great Western Hotel in Birmingham, and attended the 1874 Congress, held at the London Homeopathic Hospital. Holland was also a substantial contributor to a homoeopathic benevolent fund, and he was consulted by his old friend, William Cox, Vice-President of the 1875 British Homoeopathic Congress, held at the Palatine Hotel in Manchester. Although Holland was unable to attend that year, Cox visited him in Bath to discuss the organization of the conference.
Holland also continued to maintain contact with his home town. In 1867, he was listed in the Taunton Report of the Schools Inquiry Commission as one of the Trustees of his alma mater, Allhallows Grammar School, Honiton.
Holland’s character, described as “one of a thousand, or rather of ten thousand,” revealed him to be a genial and hugely popular figure with patients and colleagues alike. At a meeting of the Liverpool branch of the British Homeopathic Society in December, 1911, Thomas Simpson reminisced:
The commanding figures who adorned our ranks in the ‘sixties were men of distinct and opposite qualities of mind and heart. Holland, of Bath, a born aristocrat, who was recognized (as he paraded each morning the streets leading to the market) by almost every person he met, dined at 7 each night in full-dress, and seemed to “glide through life quite free o’care.”
After a prolonged illness, attended by his friend and successor, John Hamilton McKechnie, Edward Christopher Holland died at his home, Catherine Place, Bath, on January 5, 1886, aged 74.
Courtesy of Martin Beavis –
There is a postscript. The wealthy bachelor Colonel Henry Beavis of Barnstaple died in 1826, leaving the annual rents and interest from his estate as a lifetime income to his two grand-daughters, and thereafter to their descendants. Those two sisters were actually the daughters of Henry’s mysterious “adopted” daughter, but that’s another story, as yet unresolved. In the event of the sisters having no heirs, Henry named Edward Christopher Holland, his then 15-year-old first cousin twice removed, as a contingency beneficiary of the whole estate, subject to him changing his name to Beavis and adopting the arms of Beavis. The sisters had no children but one of them lived to the great age of 91, thus outliving Edward such that he never inherited and in 1891 the eventual beneficiary of Henry’s fortune was Edward’s daughter, Eliza Henrietta Hartnell, who was by then the widow of a Cunard sea captain. Eliza duly adopted the Beavis name and Queen Victoria granted her the right to bear the arms of that name, while her children subsequently adopted the Hartnell-Beavis surname. Despite my own surname, I have no direct connection with Henry Beavis; my interest arises from an acquaintance with the widow of ECH’s great-grandson. I should have mentioned that Edward Christopher Holland came from a medical family. Edward Holland I (the first of whom I have found any record) had a son Edward II who was apprenticed in the 1740s to John Hayne, surgeon, of Honiton. In 1765 Edward II married Elizabeth Ewings (a first cousin of Col. Henry Beavis of Barnstaple) with whom he had five children before Elizabeth died in 1774 and his father Edward I died in 1775. Those children included Edward III who also became a practising apothecary but died in 1789, at the age of 19, from a “putrid fever” contracted from one of his patients, having been nursed by his sister Lucy who died of the same a few days later. That might seem a young age but the Worshipful Company of Apothecaries of London has confirmed that a lad apprenticed about 14 might well have been qualified and practising at 19. Another child was Charles Holland who became a (senior?) clerk in the War Office and married in London where his son Edward (IV) Christopher Holland was born in 1811. After Christopher’s death in 1818 the young Edward IV, age 7, went to live at Honiton with his apothecary grandfather Edward II, who must have encouraged IV’s medical studies. and the rest is history.
George Calvert Holland M.D. (no relation) was a Sheffield author and physician who later converted to homeopathy.