Pharmacy leech jar, marbled and gilt earthenware, perhaps Staffordshire, English, 1830-1870
Leeches were used in bloodletting – a practice once carried out to treat a wide range of diseases and medical conditions. This jar was used to hold leeches which would have been on sale to medical practitioners. 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. They can live for quite a while between meals, so the lid has holes in the top to allow air into the jar.
Leeches were such a popular treatment that by 1830 their demand outstripped the supply. Leeches are again being used today following plastic and reconstructive surgery as they help restore blood flow and circulation.