Glass leech jar, Europe, 1851-1900

1851-1900 in Europe

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Science Museum Group Collection
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum

Clear glass leech jar with internal glass protuberances, European, 1851-1900

Leeches were used in bloodletting – a practice once carried out to treat a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. Leeches were such a popular treatment that by 1830 demand for them had outstripped the supply. They are a type of worm with suckers at both ends of the body although only the frontal sucker, which has teeth, is used to feed. Once attached to a living body, they feed on blood. Leeches normally live in freshwater and collecting leeches from river beds was traditionally a female occupation.

This unusual glass jar was specifically designed to house leeches. It has a number of inward pointing hollow glass tubes that terminate in tiny air holes which were intended to provide structures that the leeches could attach to as well as ensuring a supply of fresh air.


Sir Henry Wellcome's Museum Collection
Object Number:
leech jar
  • furnishing and equipment
  • container - receptacle