Barber Surgeon's bowls

The barber surgeon's bowls

The two-handled bowl was used to catch the blood.

The two bowls shown here are for two very different uses and illustrate the range of the Barber Surgeon’s work on board the Tudor ship, The Mary Rose. He cut hair, shaved and performed simple surgery.

Medical theory was based on the “humours”. It believed that the body was made up of four humours or liquids. They were phlegm, blood, yellow bile and black bile. If a person had too much of one humour they fell ill. For instance if a person had a fever he must have too much blood. The treatment was to cut the patient and let him bleed. The two-handled bowl was used to catch the blood.

The other bowl with the indentation is for shaving and is designed to fit around the neck and under the chin of a man being shaved. It would hold soap and warm water. This bowl has a 5 litre capacity and is made of brass.

Quick Facts

  • Found on The Mary Rose
  • Artefact number #80A1618 (Shaving bowl)
  • Artefact number #80A1625 (Bleeding bowl)
  • Shaving bowl dimensions Diameter 395mm, Height 138mm, Capacity 5 litres
  • Bleeding bowl dimensions Diameter 160mm, Height 23mm
  • Shaving bowl made of brass
  • Bleeding bowl made of pewter
  • Period Tudor
  • Date made 1545 (about)


  • The barber surgeon's wooden chest was discovered during the excavations of the Mary Rose. It was made of walnut, with elm handles and beech battens and contained approximately sixty items.
  • Items contained within the barber surgeon's chest included stoneware medicine bottles with cork stoppers, wooden ointment cannisters, spatulas made of pine for spreading the ointments, glass bottles, a brass syringe and wooden bowls and handles for surgical instruments.
  • Also found in the barber surgeon's cabin, situated amidships on the main deck, were some personal objects, a velvet coif (a small 'bonnet', usually linen as worn by most men, but here of silk), and an extensive range of razors and other shaving gear.
  • The barber surgeon's cabin was furnished with a simple oak treatment bench.

Did you know?

The velvet coif, or bonnet found in the barber surgeon's cabin suggests that he was a Master Surgeon of the Guild of Barber Surgeons. He would have been granted his licence to practise after a 7-9 year apprenticeship and after passing an examination. Unfortunately, the identity of the barber surgeon on the Mary Rose in 1545 is lost in archives that have not survived.


Barber surgeon's items

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