Weaste Cemetery

Biographies of people buried between 1900 & 09

Charles Harrison Blackley MD (1820 - 1900)

Charles Harrison Blackley was a pioneer in allergy research. He focussed on hay fever, of which he himself was a sufferer, and had two studies published.

He was born on 5th April 1820 in Bolton. Not a lot is known about his early life, but he was apprenticed to Bradshaw and Blackstock as an engraver. In 1844, he married Mary Mills at Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester, by Registrar. Mary was born in 1825 in Edgeley, Stockport, Cheshire. In 1851 they lived at 32 Dalton Street, Hulme, Manchester, where Charles was aged 30 and a Printer and Stationer, and Mary was aged 26. Their children were John Galley (born 1845 in Hulme, Manchester, who later became a Surgeon in London), Charles (born 1848 in Hulme), Samuel Ellis (born 1851 in Hulme) and Bertha Mary (born 1855 in Hulme and died 9th February1879 aged 23).

The 1860 Manchester Rate Books show that Charles Harrison Blackley was living at 304 Stretford Road, Hulme, Manchester, and in 1866 he was renting a property at 344 Stretford Road, Hulme, owned by James Gaskill, (probably Rev James Gaskill, Minister of the Bible Christian Church in Hulme). The Manchester Courier of 10th February 1883 shows that Charles became a member of the Stretford Local Board. And the Manchester Times of 29th March 1890 says that Dr Charles Harrison Blackley of Arnside House, Old Trafford, was elected unopposed.

Charles suffered from (what is now called) hay fever, so he embarked on the journey to qualify as a Medical Doctor in order to research the causes and possibly the cure of this affliction. In 1855, at the age of 35, he enrolled at the Royal Manchester School of Medicine, and qualified as a Medical Practitioner in 1858. In 1859, Charles began a systematic research programme into hay fever which took him 14 years. He exposed his nose, mouth and eyes to over 80 types of plant pollens, and even placed various dampened pollens against his scratched skin (a system used today to identify people's allergies). He concluded that the cause of hay fever was grass pollen and the nose was the most susceptible route of entry. His results were published in "Experimental Research on the Causes and Nature of Catarrus aestivus," ie hay fever in 1873. A second edition published in 1880 included his ideas on treatment.

Further experiments measured the amount of pollen at different locations in town and country at different times of the year (pollen counts). He even went as far as to place sticky microscope-slides on kite strings at different altitudes to identify how high pollen rose and spread. He concluded that hay fever symptoms increased and diminished as the amount of pollen in the atmosphere rose and fell. He also found that hay fever, more often affected the privileged class, and that farm workers seemed to be immune from hay fever. His work was highly praised and he attracted admiration and correspondence from Charles Darwin. The potency of pollens led him to develop an interest in homoeopathy. He joined the British Homoeopathic Society and became editor of the Manchester Homoeopathic Observer.

In 1894, Dr Charles Harrison Blackley retired and moved to Southport, Lancashire, where he died on 4th September 1900, aged 80. He was buried at Weaste Cemetery.