Making a Gout Stool – Part One

Gout – the Georgian disease par excellence – is a form of arthritis that usually affects the big toe, ankle, heel and knee, forming when an excess of uric acid crystallizes in the joints and immediate tissue. It often occurred through overindulgence in high purine fare such as alcohol, mushrooms, and shellfish etc. – hence its epithet, Rich Man’s Disease.

James Gillray (who himself, suffered from gout during his latter years), The Gout, circa 1799.

James Gillray, Punch Cures the Gout.

John Nixon, Physical Advice, circa 1784.

W. Dickinson, Geoffrey Gambado, circa 1786.

George Cruikshank, Consolation in the Gout, circa 1796.

Charles Williams, Pope Joan, circa 1805.

The seventeenth-century herbalist and physician, Nicholas Culpeper, has a very tasteful remedy for gout: “The berries or roots [of the Cuckoo-Pint – Arum vulgare] beaten with hot ox-dung, and applied, easeth the pains of the gout.” [1]

Thomas Rowlandson, Comfort in the Gout, circa 1809.

Henry Bunbury, Origin of the Gout, circa 1815. (National Library of Medicine Image Gallery)

Anything from an up-turned bucket to a serf on all-fours could be employed to elevate the leg in order to assuage the excruciating pain, but by all accounts, this practice only provided limited relief, further encouraging the sufferer to remain immobile and consume even more wine and rich foods. Nonetheless, any remedies (and there were many) or alleviations were in high demand amongst those well heeled patricians with un-well heels.

Advertisement for “Quintessence of Mustard”, London Evening Post, 27th December, 1755.

Wealthy patronage soon sought out the dedicated gout stool. Not wanting to pass over the excessive consumptive ailments of his clientele, George Hepplewhite included a design for a multi-positional “Gouty Stool” in his pattern book, The Cabinet-Maker and Upholsterer’s Guide.

Hepplewhite’s design for a Gouty Stool, circa 1788.

Neither I, nor my wife suffers noticeably from gout, but we’re both as partial to putting our feet up as any sluggard. I’m told a gout stool would be a goodly and useful addition to our sittingroom, so I’ve undertaken to make one. However, if the stool causes the usual domiciliary accord to erupt into a fracas, I may have to knock up a second one – for myself.

[1] Culpeper’s Complete Herbal: Consisting of a Comprehensive Description of Nearly All Herbs with Their Medicinal Properties and Directions from Compounding the Medicines Extracted From Them, Culpeper, Nicholas, 1616-1654.
Originally published in 1652 under the title: The English Physician.

About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
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6 Responses to Making a Gout Stool – Part One

  1. Brian says:

    Gout is like having the worst possible throbbing toothache in the affected area, and I know of patients in their twenties. I’m lucky and control mine by diet. As a woodworker, period furniture enthusiast, and a modern gout sufferer (and no, I am anything but rich) I’m very interested in your postings generally, and these in particular.


  2. Pingback: Gout: The Fashionable Disease « Author's Notes- a Blog by Emery Lee

  3. Pingback: Gout: The Fashionable Disease « GEORGIAN JUNKIE

  4. Ivana says:

    Hi! Your postings are very interesting. My poor husband has gout.


  5. Pingback: Behold the Lowly Gout Rocker. | The Furniture Record

  6. Anthony Heslenfeld says:

    I built my own gout rocker thanks to a pattern I bought. All built from 3/4 birch plywood and a few feet of round sticks . This was more than30 years ago. I used after my knee operations and now for the sciatica ,in both legs, which is bothering me. I am 95 and couldn’t do without the thing. Totally amazing that there is no enterprising furniture manufacturing to mass-produce and market these so
    useful items.. Maybe some outfit in China will . Canadian and American merchants don’t have it anymore. !!!!
    Anthony Heslenfeld
    Daysland AB


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