Sue Young Histories

Henry Valentine Knaggs 1859 – 1954

March 03, 2009

Henry Valentine Knaggs 1859 – 1954 was an English doctor and author who was a notable practitioner of nature cure methods (now called Naturopathic medicine).

Valentine Knaggs was a friend of Charles William Daniel, and Erich Kurt Ledermann.

Henry Valentine Knaggs was the second son of Henry Guard Knaggs and Ellen Mares. He was born on February 14, 1859 (St Valentine’s Day) in St Pancras, and there is no evidence that he was ever baptised. Like his father and grandfather before him, he embarked on a medical career.

There is no evidence of an apprenticeship but he obtained his LSA in 1881 after studying at University College. He was awarded his MRCS and his LM in the same year and also an LRCP from the University of Edinburgh.

In 1889 he is recorded as being a Fellow of the Zoological Society. He worked in the service of the Peninsular and Oriental Steamship Company from 1883 to 1886 presumably on their liners.

In 1889 he was resident surgeon at Boscombe Infirmary but his address, from 1883 until 1912 was 189 Camden Road, London NW where he was in general practice as a doctor.

He married Mabel Emily Stow on 24 June 1897 at St Paul’s Church, St Pancras - Mabel’s father James was just described as “gentleman” on the marriage certificate. They had two daughters - Dulcie (born 1901, who married George Menzies Trevor Lambrick (an officer in the Indian Army) 1929 in Witney), and Nora (born 1902, who married John B. Maxwell 1929 in Hatfield).

The 1913 Medical Who’s Who gives Knaggs’ addresses as 41 Welbeck Street and Combe Edge, Langley Park, Mill Hill. In 1914 he was living at 41 Queen Anne Street, then, to 1921 (and probably later) he was practising from the up market address of 25 Wimpole Street, but he was living at “Arbor”, Kings Langley in rural Hertfordshire.

His specialities were listed as electro therapeutics, dietetics and haematology, and his recreations as athletics and literary work of various kinds.

Even late in his life he continued in practice, in his 80s seeing patients in London’s West End during the The Blitz, “for which he had a nonchalant disregard”.

In 1954 he was living in 80 Leigh Gardens, Kensal Rise, London. Knaggs was a prolific author. Among his more professional works are On the Treatment of Diphtheria by Frequent Small Doses of Sulphur, On the Treatment of Gout by Salicylate of Potash and the like.

But by far the more numerous are his books and pamphlets for the general public. They are mostly on various aspects of personal health and diet, and have been described as “mostly harmless.”

Examples are Rheumatism and Allied Ailments, The Cleansing Saline Fast, The Misunderstood Microbe, How to Prevent Cancer and Potatoes as Food and Medicine (the last one still in print).

He was a teetotaling vegetarian, an early advocate of nature cures, and a long time member of the National Anti Vaccination League. He is reported as saying that during the last fifty years as a physician he never prescribed a single drug. He preferred raw foods to cooked ones, and plain water to milk and beverages such as tea and coffee. He was an advocate of exercise and shunned alcohol.

He died at the age of 95, on 11 July 1954. In his will, he stipulated that his body was to be cremated, the ashes to be scattered, and that there should be no flowers, tombstone or other memorial. He left his furniture and personal effects to his “friend” Mrs Lily Colburn (who shared his address), and the rest of his estate to be divided equally between his wife (who died in 1962) and this “friend.”

The Times obituary described him as “a man of great physical courage” who “had the gift of making little fuss about the details of life”. Saying that he had lived to see many of his originally controversial views on diet and hygiene generally accepted, it concluded that “his loss will be deeply regretted by the thousands to whom his name is a household word”.

Henry Valentine Knaggs was a prodigious author.