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Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 06, Issue 01, 1996

Herbert Clapham, Herbal Botanist

page 20

Herbert Clapham, Herbal Botanist

Herbert Clapham came to Nelson early in 1890. His training in herbal treatment had been in Leeds with his uncle, John Clapham. After coming to New Zealand he had spent some months in Gisborne, Whangarei and New Plymouth and was then in Auckland for two years.

In Nelson an advertisement in The Colonist of 15 March 1890 heralded his treatments on offer.

Mr Clapham
(Late of Leeds, England)
Medical Botanist
Corner of Nile and Collingwood Sts Nelson

Specialist for the Scientific and Speedy Cure of Chronic, Nervous and Special Diseases, by the Purest and Safest method – Nature's own herbal remedies.

The diseases he was prepared to treat were Blood, Skin, Kidney, Urinary complaints, Indigestion, Liver complaints, Premature Decline, Nervous Debility and Special Diseases. Patients could feel assured they would receive the advice of a man fitted by superior skill, the result of special study and long practice as a Successful Specialist. He promised absolute secrecy in all cases. His free consultations were to be held 10 am to 12 pm, 2 pm to 4 pm and in the evening.

This advertisement appeared until 18 July 1890 and then on 4 July 1891 the paper told its readers that Mr Clapham had moved from Hardy Street to new premises in Bridge Street. Tins site was opposite Mr W H West, and appears to have been near the present (1995) shop know as 'Knightsbridge'.

The Mayor and Councillors paid a visit to this new establishment and saw over every part, seeing where herbal extracts, pills and the Healtheries Soap were prepared. A separate entrance from Bridge Street, through a hall decorated with shrubs and scarlet hangings, led to a stairway to the treatment rooms. Here were a handsomely furnished cooling room, dressing rooms and the bath rooms. Special baths gave electro-medical treatment and there were baths specially designed to treat consumptive patients.

The Mayor congratulated Mr Clapham on his venture. Dr Webster, another visitor, commented that he had been using herbal treatment for twenty-six years and to this he attributed the present health of Mrs Webster. Councillor Akersten, aged 67, said that he had also benefitted from herbal treatment. Mr Clapham thanked his visitors for their remarks and said that he was now a citizen of Nelson.

page 21

An advertisement on 10 October 1891 described the range of baths more fully. There were Turkish Baths. Warm Plunge Baths. Graduated Showers. Plunge Baths. Thermo-Electric. Electro-Vapour. Electro-Hydric. Electro-Chemical. Hot Air. Vapour. Sulphur. Russian. Roman and Turkish Baths. There were the Fac Simile Baths of Te Aroha and Rotorua, including the famous Priest. Madame Rachael and Blue Baths.

These were open daily for gentlemen on Mondays. Tuesdays. Thursdays and Saturdays 9 am – 7 pm and on Wednesdays and Fridays 9 am – 1 pm. The ladies might attend Wednesdays and Fridays 1 pm – 6 pm. Tickets for a single Turkish Bath cos four shillings, which included attendance and refreshments.

From 17 December 1891 Clapham's Alpine Soaps were also advertised.

All did not go smoothly however, and Herbert Clapham found himself in the Nelson Magistrates" Court on 5 July 1892. Joseph Mallamo, fisherman, was the plaintiff in relation to his wife's unsuccessful treatment by Mr Clapham Mary Ann Mallamo had an internal tumour, which had been diagnosed by Doctor Boor and Doctor Mackie in August 1890. They had felt that an operation would be too dangerous, and Mrs Mallamo had turned to Mr Clapham, who had examined her and prescribed medicines and pills. He had visited her every day for three weeks and she continued under his care for twenty-five weeks.

She spent three months in Motueka and then commenced another three month's course of treatment with Mr Clapham which had finished in August 1891 Mrs Mallamo said she believed that she had been promised a cure of her tumour, but in fact it continued to grow larger. By this time the costs had risen to twenty-five pounds, which Mr Mallamo found difficult to pay, and Mr Clapham threatened to sue him in court for the money owing. This did not eventuate, and in response Mr Mallamo decided to try to recover the money he had already paid.

Mrs Mallamo gave evidence that the tumour had increased, not decreased and this was confirmed by Doctors. Boor. Mackie and Cressey, who also said that medicines could not be expected to affect the tumour. She did accept that Mr Clapham had "livened her up".

Herbert Clapham's evidence was to the effect that he had been in Nelson for a little over two years, that his first experience of herbal treatment was in Leeds with his uncle John Clapham, and that he had not promised Mrs Mallamo a cure. The outcome was that Judgement was given to Mr Mallamo for twenty-one pounds five shillings, being the amount actually paid, and costs of eight pounds ten shillings.

Mr Clapham apparently was not deterred, as a big advertisement appeared in July 1892 for The Sanatorium. Nelson for the Special Care. Nursing, and Scientific Treatment of Invalids. Founded in 1891, under the auspices of the Mayor and Members of the Nelson City Council, it had a fine view of sea and mountain, and was set in a beautifully laid out garden.

page 22

Treatment specialised in the Clapham Combination Cure for Consumptives using a secret electrical treatment.

A fortnight later Mr Clapham was encouraged when he received a large number of patients in his dispensary who presented him with an illuminated address, in token of their appreciation of his services. Twenty of them had signed the address. Mr Langley Adams spoke on behalf of his fellow patients, mentioning Mr Clapham's skill, kindness and gentle feeling. Mr Clapham returned thanks, saying that he had always tried to do his best. Mr Jules Simon of Westport, who had been at the Sanatorium for six weeks, said that he was about to return home a different man and he thanked Mr and Mrs Clapham.

How long Mr Clapham was in Nelson is uncertain. By 1915 the Directories show that Herbert Clapham was living in Auckland, a botanist of 480 Queen Street, and he was still recorded as living there in 1928 but not in 1930. Perhaps he had died by then.


Colonist 15 March 1890. 18 July 1890. 4 July 1891. 22 August 1891. 10 October 1891. 17 December 1891. 5, 12.25.26 July 1892.