Holloway, Thomas (1800-1883) (DNB00)

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HOLLOWAY, THOMAS (1800–1883), patent medicine vendor, was born at Devonport, then called Plymouth Dock, on 22 Sept. 1800. His father, at one time a warrant officer in a militia regiment, became, on retiring from the service, a baker in Fore Street, Devonport. After a time he removed to Penzance, and took the Turk's Head inn in Chapel Street, where he resided during the remainder of his life. He married Miss Chellew, the daughter of a farmer at Trelyon, in Lelant parish, Cornwall, by whom he was the father of several children. The son, Thomas, was educated at Camborne and at Penzance until 1816. After the death of his father, he, with his mother and his brother Henry, kept a grocery and bakery shop in the market-place, Penzance. About 1828 he removed to London, where he held various situations until 1836, when he established himself as a merchant and foreign commercial agent at 13 Broad Street Buildings. One of his clients was Felix Albinolo, a native of Turin, settled in London, who was proprietor of ‘Albinolo's or the St. Come et St. Damien ointment,’ and vendor of leeches. Holloway introduced him to the authorities at St. Thomas's Hospital as the inventor of a new ointment, and succeeded in obtaining for him testimonials as to its use and efficacy. This apparently suggested to Holloway that a similar ointment well advertised might be a profitable speculation. Having made an ointment of very harmless properties, he, according to his own account, announced it for sale on 15 Oct. 1837; the earliest traceable advertisement is in the ‘Town’ of 16 June 1838, where the curative value of ‘Holloway's family ointment’ was vouched for by ‘Herbert Mayo, senior surgeon, Middlesex Hospital, 19 Aug. 1837.’ On 4 Aug. 1838, however, F. Albinolo in the same paper warned the public that Mayo's letter was given in connection with Albinolo's ointment, the composition of which had been kept a secret. On 9 Oct. 1839 Albinolo was committed to a debtors' prison, and no more was heard of him. In the same year the name ‘Thomas Holloway, patent medicine warehouse, 244 Strand,’ appears in the ‘London Directory.’ He spent all the money he could spare in advertising his ointment and the pills which he very soon added. He visited the docks daily to bring his new preparations under the notice of the captains of vessels and passengers sailing to all parts of the world. For a time he met with little success, and getting into money difficulties was obliged to compound with his creditors, chiefly newspaper proprietors, but ultimately paid them all in full. Soon after his arrival in London he married Miss Jane Driver, who afterwards helped him in his business. A steady demand for the pills and ointment gradually arose. In 1842 he spent 5,000l. in advertising, in 1845 10,000l., in 1851 20,000l., in 1855 30,000l., in 1864 40,000l., in 1882 45,000l., and at the time of his death he was spending about 50,000l. per annum. Directions respecting the use of his medicines were translated into nearly every known tongue, including Chinese, Turkish, Armenian, Arabic, and most of the vernaculars of India, and his advertisements were found in newspapers in all parts of the world. On 9 Nov. 1850 he obtained an injunction against his brother, Henry Holloway, who had commenced selling ‘Holloway's pills and ointment’ at 210 Strand (C. Beavan, Reports of Cases in Chancery, 1853, xiii. 209–14). In 1860 he employed a Dr. Sillon to introduce his medicines into France; but the laws in that country were not favourable to secret remedies, and the attempt was a failure. An action afterwards arose out of this transaction (John Scott, Reports, 1863, xiv. 336–7). His premises, 244 Strand, being demolished to make room for the new law courts in 1867, he removed to 533 New Oxford Street, since renumbered 78 New Oxford Street, where, without counting various branches of outdoor assistance, he employed one hundred hands. Here he lived many years in a very quiet way; latterly he removed to a country house at Tittenhurst, Sunninghill, Berkshire, but was always very simple in his habits. The profits of his business finally reached 50,000l. a year, and, combined with judicious speculations in stocks, made him very rich. An offer on his part to bestow some of his money on his native town was not well received by the municipal authorities. Shortly after, on the advice of Lord Shaftesbury, he decided on building a sanatorium, as a hospital for the mentally afflicted of the lower middle class. His wife had died at Tittenhurst on 25 Sept. 1875, aged 71, and in her memory he also determined to erect a ladies' college.

Holloway attended carefully to his business and to the arrangement for establishing the two institutions to the last. He died of congestion of the lungs at Tittenhurst on 26 Dec. 1883, and was buried in St. Michael's churchyard, Sunninghill, on 4 Jan. 1884. His will was proved on 16 Jan. for 550,061l. 8s. 2d., there being also considerable freehold property. He left all to Miss Mary Ann Driver, his wife's sister.

On 8 May 1876 Holloway purchased ninety acres of land at Mount Lee, Egham Hill, Surrey, to form the Holloway College estate. In forming the picture gallery for the college he bought for 6,000l. Sir Edwin Landseer's ‘Man Proposes and God Disposes,’ the first of a collection of pictures for which he at various times paid 83,446l. The total amount spent for the land, buildings, furniture, and pictures exceeded 400,000l., to which in 1883 he added 300,000l. to complete and endow the college, in which there are one thousand rooms, provision being made for two hundred and fifty students. This institution was opened by Queen Victoria 30 June 1886 (Times, 21 June, 1 July 1886, 12, 28 May and 17 Dec. 1887). The sanatorium at Virginia Water is a magnificent building, containing four hundred and eighty rooms, and giving accommodation to two hundred and forty patients. It was opened by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, when Prince and Princess of Wales, 15 June 1885.

[Medical Circular, 1853, ii. 45, 67–8, 86–7; Saturday Review, 1 Oct. 1887, p. 452; Annual Register, 1883, pp. 186–7; Illustrated London News, 5 Jan. 1884, p. 24, with portrait, 20 June 1885, pp. 621–2, 3 July 1886, pp. 19–21, with six views of the college, and 10 July, pp. 28, 29; Times, 28, 29, 31 Dec. 1883, 1, 2, 3, 5 Jan. 1884, 12–28 May 1887; Graphic, 5 Jan. 1884, p. 5, with portrait, and 10 July 1886, pp. 29–30, 44, 45; Pall Mall Gazette, 28, 29 Dec. 1883, 1, 2, 5, 9, 10, 11, 16, 19, 25 Jan. 1884; Western Antiquary, Plymouth, February 1885, pp. 183–7; Pictorial World, 8 July 1886, pp. 29, 32, 33, 34, 40, with portrait; Judy, 30 June 1886, p. 307, with portrait; Morning Post, 28 May 1887, p. 2.]

G. C. B.