The Taylors of Whitworth were a family of extremely successful and famous surgeons and medics in Whitworth, near Rochdale, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There are a number of apocryphal stories relating to the family, which reflect the almost mythical status the family gained. From the 1750s to the 1870s, the family had eighteen practitioners, of whom only the later generations were qualified. The family came to Whitworth as blacksmiths and farriers, but soon demonstrated an unusual ability for treating animal fractures. They later began to treat humans, gaining widespread reputation as bone-setters. The Taylor family were also famous for their treatment of cancers using an ointment called 'keen'. A liquid known as 'Whitworth red bottle' was applied to sprains and bruises. Often members of the family moved away from Whitworth, but would return if required. These include branches of the family in Todmorden and Lockwood. Edmund Taylor, who practised in Besses o' th' Barn, gained fame as the Oldfield Lane Doctor (see MMC/2/TaylorEO), and used similar practices to the Taylors in Whitworth.
By the late eighteenth century, vast numbers of people were coming to Whitworth to be treated. John Taylor d 1802, in particular gained widespread fame. He was known to have attended the Princess Elizabeth, daughter of George III, and was 'taken into consultation' by John Hunter. John Taylor was a contemporary and friend of John Collier (Tim Bobbin). Although it is fairly certain that the family came to Whitworth with John's grandfather James, there are stories which relate to John Taylor coming to Whitworth in 1764 as a blacksmith. There was said to be a rivalry between John Taylor and Charles White, and many considered the Taylor family to be quacks. There appears to have been a different John Taylor practising in Manchester at the same time, with a continental MD, who was also regarded as a quack. The last Taylor to practice at Whitworth was James Eastwood Taylor, 1823-1876. He was unusual in that he had a formal medical education, having been apprenticed under Mr Field of Charterhouse and under Miles (sometime president of the Society of Apothecaries). He also spent some time at King's College London, and qualified in 1845 before returning to Whitworth. He adopted a more orthodox approach, but still used the traditional skills of the family and gained a reputation as a bone-setter.
The following is a list of the Whitworth doctors, giving brief biographical summary and family relationships. Almost all of these practised as bone-setters, surgeons or physicians.
- James Taylor, d 1752, farrier of Whitworth. Had four sons, James, Edmund, Henry and George.
- James Taylor, [1708?]-1777, son of James Taylor d 1752. Farrier and cow doctor of Whitworth, died 1 Mar 1777 aged 69. Had two sons, John d 1802 and George d 1804.
- George Taylor, d 1795, apothecary of Rochdale, possibly son of James Taylor d 1752.
- John Taylor, [1740?]-1802, son of James Taylor d 1777. Famous surgeon and physician in Whitworth. Died 26 January 1802, aged 62. Had three sons, James, John and Edmund. (Also daughter Betty, who married James Maden of Bacup, she practised medicine gratuitously among the poor).
- George Taylor, [1753?]-1804, son of James Taylor d 1777. Surgeon with his brother John in Whitworth, died 24 Dec 1804 aged 51. Had two sons, James Joseph Hague and George. When he died the practice was continued by his widow (Betty Goodeson, d 1830) and sons.
- James Taylor, [1768?]-1826, son of John Taylor d 1802. Practised with brother John, but by 1819 in charge of Whitworth practice. James Taylor died 12 March 1826, a bachelor, aged 58 years.
- John Taylor, [1769?]-1803, son of John Taylor d 1802. Was possibly was apprenticed to his father John in 1791. John practised in Whitworth then went to Lockwood. Had son James.
- Edmund Taylor, [1774?]-1853, son of John Taylor d 1802. Went to Oldfield Lane. See MMC/2/TaylorEO.
- James Joseph Hague Taylor, d 1810, son of George Taylor d 1804. Surgeon of Whitworth, married Ann Crossley and went to Todmorden. Died 8 Jan 1810, killed by his brother in a shooting accident on the moors. His widow and sons continued to practice in Todmorden after his death. Had four sons, John, George, Joseph Crossley and James.
- George Taylor, [1792?]-1831, son of George Taylor d 1804. Practised in Whitworth. Died a bachelor on 17 December 1831, aged 39.
- James Taylor, [1793?]-1848, son of John Taylor d 1803. Known as James Taylor of Lockwood. Later went to Whitworth to assist Betty Taylor (widow of George Taylor, d 1804). Taylor died of apoplexy on 6 May 1848, aged 51. Had son, James Eastwood Taylor.
- John Taylor, 1803-1827, son of James Joseph Hague Taylor. Surgeon of Todmorden Hall. Born 7 Sep 1803, died in Sidmouth 2 Apr 1827.
- George Haigh Taylor, [1805?]-1829, son of James Joseph Hague Taylor. Surgeon. Died 4 Sep 1829 aged 24.
- Joseph Crossley Taylor, [1807?]-1836, son of James Joseph Hague Taylor. Surgeon, LSA 1828, died in Todmorden 24 Aug 1826, aged 29.
- James Taylor, d 1873, son of James Joseph Hague Taylor. MRCS 1825, LSA 1824, trained Middlesex. Surgeon in Todmorden then Reading.
- James Taylor, [1804?]-1822, son of Edmund Taylor, d 1853. (see MMC/2/TaylorEO)
- Edmund Taylor, d 1851, son of Edmund Taylor d 1853. (see MMC/2/TaylorEO)
- James Eastwood Taylor, 1823-1871. Son of James Taylor, d 1848. Last surgeon of direct line of family in Whitworth. He died on 8 April 1876, aged 53.
- Herbert Coupland Taylor, 1855-1891. Son of one of the Todmorden Taylors, born 11 April 1855, died in Torquay, 14 September 1891. MB CM Edin 1878, MD 1882. JP in Todmorden and later went to Madeira. Was the author of Wanderings in search of health, 1890.