Visit any antiques fair, shop or auction and you’ll find the most diverse and unusual items humanity has ever created.

What’s perhaps more intriguing is the cross section of society who collect things that others find peculiar, bizarre or indeed macabre.

Those collecting these things decorate their homes with them and they may well form part of their obsession to curate a collection of extraordinary museum quality antiques most wouldn’t give houseroom.

I’m old enough to remember Victorian and Edwardian chemist shops fitted out with dark wood cabinets, mirrors and gilt lettering. There was something theatrical about them, like a booking office crossed with a mad professor’s laboratory. In the window, large coloured glass bottles and behind the counter, a huge array of drawers containing everything from arsenic to Mrs. Winslow's Soothing Syrup.

They have all but gone. Sometimes life has a strange synchronicity, or maybe it’s events in our lives that suddenly flag them up?

Last week I had some challenging oncology news that I have a prostate tumour that’s cancerous. Yes, a second cancer. I had surgery for colon cancer in 2016 and I feel reasonably OK in myself but something called my PSA has doubled and now I’m to undergo a relatively modern procedure that in theory obliterates the tumour, allowing the prostate to recover. Fingers crossed.

I don’t feel sorry for myself, I feel blessed that at least there’s a possibility of it being treated without side effects.

Since my diagnosis I keep coming across medical antiques. They’re certainly not my bag, as they say, but they have a curious charm I can understand others being drawn to.

When I say “medical antiques” I mean predominantly late 18th Century through to mid 20th Century items used for all manner of medical reasons and uses and of course, these things were there all along. It’s simply that my personal diagnosis has highlighted them to me a bit more, sensitised me perhaps.

If you go on some of the antique sales web sites you’ll find lots of medical items for sale from the practicality of a medical cabinet that sits well in the right kind of modern home; mostly priced around the £700 to £1,000 mark.

Couches and examination chairs also appear and make a quirky addition to a home office or sitting room. Prices vary too, from a few hundred pounds into the thousands; all according to size, condition, maker etc. although it’s a strange eye that puts them all together.

Hampshire Chronicle: An antique ear medical learning mode

I currently have a giant ear medical learning model in stock. A bit of kitsch fun but hugely detailed. I guess if you have a space on a shelf or a medical cabinet they make a more in keeping ornament.

Prices again vary according to age, scale and rarity of the item, certainly they retail mostly in the hundreds of pounds.

Originally designed for higher education, medical schools and training they are mostly plastic, painted and so, so detailed. Of course the medical equipment genre is expansive and veers off into militaria and country house living as well as the quintessential doctor’s bag etc., each to their own you might say but there are so many things to consider.

However strange you might think it is to collect these things, without avid collectors, these hugely well-made antiques might easily vanish. They are part of our history, our social and scientific history and it’s fair to remember that there are multi million pound companies that just make medical equipment.

Maybe if you collect medical related items you can mix in a few Carry on Doctor posters to lighten things up!

I’m sure if the odd purist reads that they’ll be horrified but you get my drift.

If like me you find it interesting a subject but have no desire to collect items like this you can go and view them at the Science Museum in London. You’ll find Gibson and Son's, a Victorian chemist's shop “preserved in time.”

You can also visit Blists Hill Victorian Town in Shropshire where similarly an old chemist shop has been recreated. Fantastic.

In Edinburgh the wonderful façade of Boots Chemist in Princes Street is a work of art in itself.
Sometimes people start collecting something due to a family connection.

My Grandmother was a nurse during WW1 and like many of that era overcame some terrible challenges and my grandfather, as a young lad, was called into a house by a doctor surgeon he happened to be passing to help hold a man down who was having his leg amputated. Terrible.

Every family, if it goes back far enough, will have similar stories. When we put our world into context, however troubled the NHS is right now, we’ve come a long way.

When it comes to hospitals, The Old Operating Theatre is worth a visit, it’s near London Bridge and offers a window into the past that when all is said and done, allowed our health services to get to where they are today.

If you are visiting Wales or fortunate enough to live in this lovely country, Quarry Hospital, Gilfach Ddu, Llanberis, Gwynedd is worth a look too.

For most of us, the nearest we’ll get to a Georgian hospital or Victorian chemist is watching TV. Next time you are enjoying a period drama and wonder where they get their amazing props from, a visit to the website is worth a Google. Their stock is quite extraordinary and you might recognise a few items from film and TV.

If this week’s curiosity corner has introduced you to a less considered area of antique collecting, you never know that you’ll find at a boot fair. Do be careful though! There are some toxic substances out there such as cyanide, left over from the 18th and 19th Centuries, so stay safe never sniff a bottle!

Andrew Blackall is an English antique dealer with more than 30 years of experience selling period furniture and quirky collector's items to clients across the globe. He has written and produced award-winning film and television productions. He was born in St John’s Wood, London and he grew up in and around London. He currently lives in Avebury, Wiltshire. His love of antiques stems from an early fascination with history and from visiting country homes throughout old England and the British Isles. Many of Andrew’s clients are well known on both sides of the pond, patronising his ability to source antiquities with provenance and appeal. His stock has appeared in a number of films and TV shows. Andrew has two styles of business: one selling high-end decorative antiques at The Blanchard Collective, the other selling affordable collectables at The Malthouse Collective.

His website is Find him on Instagram: chairman_antiques