Thomas Allinson

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

"Wholemeal Bread" – caricature of Allinson in Vanity Fair, 4 October 1911

Thomas Richard Allinson (29 March 1858[1] – 1918) was a British doctor, dietetic reformer, businessman and journalist. He was a proponent of wholemeal (whole grain) bread consumption. His name is still used today for a bread popular in Europe, Allinson bread.[2]


Allinson was born in the Hulme district of Manchester on 29 March 1858. He went to school in Lancaster and Manchester and at fifteen began work as a chemist's assistant. With money he saved and financial help from his stepfather, he was able to attend the extramural medical school in Edinburgh, which was less expensive than the University medical school. He graduated as a Licenciate of the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh (LRCP, LRCS) in 1879 at the age of 21. After assistantships in Hull and the East End of London he established his own practice in Marylebone in 1885.

During the 1880s Allinson developed his theory of medicine, which he called Hygienic Medicine.[3] In place of orthodox medicine, he promoted health through diet, exercise, fresh air and bathing. He advocated a vegetarian diet and the avoidance of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. He especially promoted the benefits of stone-ground wholemeal breads. He opposed the use of drugs by doctors, many of which at that time were ineffective and toxic and was a lifelong opponent of compulsory vaccination against smallpox. This approach became known as Allinsonian Medicine.[4] He became medical editor of the Weekly Times and Echo in 1885, for which he wrote over 1000 articles during his life,[5] as well as answering readers' medical queries.

He wrote a number of books and pamphlets directed at a general rather than medical readership, including A System of Hygienic Medicine (1886), How to avoid Vaccination (1888), The Advantage of Wholemeal Bread, Medical Essays and A Book for Married Women (1894) and books on stomach diseases, consumption (tuberculosis), rheumatism, vegetarian cooking and healthy diet. He gave frequent public lectures throughout the country propounding his ideas. In one of his books, The Advantages of Wholemeal Bread (1889), he proposed that wholemeal bread was healthier than white (or refined) bread. He believed that smoking was a cause of cancer, which was a radical idea at the time. Allinson regularly sought publicity for his theories and practices in the press and directed his energies not just towards his colleagues but directly to the public. To demonstrate the suitability of a vegetarian diet for strenuous exercise, he undertook a walk from Edinburgh to London in 1891.[6] He walked for 15 consecutive days, averaging 28.5 miles (45.9 km) a day, arriving in London on Saturday, September 12.

His views often brought him into conflict with the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and the General Medical Council, particularly his opposition to doctors' frequent use of toxic drugs, his opposition to vaccination and his self-promotion in the press.[7] In 1892 he was struck off the Medical Register. Despite this he continued to practise and indeed maintained he had the largest medical practice in England. Also at this time he was expelled from the Vegetarian Society because of his views on birth control. Gandhi, who was studying law in Britain at the time and was also a member of the Vegetarian Society, spoke in favour of Allinson's right to support contraception, despite being opposed to it.

In 1892 he founded the Natural Food Company with the intention of producing and selling healthy foods; he bought a stone grinding flour mill in Bethnal Green, and a bakery was established shortly afterwards.

His Book for Married Women advocated equality of women and men, the right of a woman to choose the size of her family, and birth control. For this he was prosecuted and convicted under the Obscene Publications Act in 1901.

During World War I, the food value of wholemeal bread was recognised. Although it has been claimed that Allinson was offered the right to re-register during WW1 the General Medical Council has no record of this and by that time he had no registrable qualifications. His company flourished from the increased demand for whole-grain bread and meal. After his death, the company grew (two more stone-grinding mills were purchased in Newport, Monmouthshire and in 1921 Castleford, Yorkshire). The mills stand to this day.


Allinson's original bread recipe (100% whole grain flour, no fat, less yeast, more water) is still used today, though some lovers of Allinson bread report that it's not as hearty nowadays as it used to be.[8] The advertising slogan for the brand since the 1980s is "Bread wi' nowt [with nothing] taken out".

Vanity Fair[edit]

In 1911 Allinson bought the failing magazine Vanity Fair from Frank Harris. He failed to revive its fortunes and in 1914 Vanity Fair merged with Hearth and Home.


  1. ^ Allinson, T R (1894). Medical Essays volume III. F Pitman. p. 66.
  2. ^ Welcome to over 100 years of Allinson quality and taste.
  3. ^ Pepper S (1992) Allinson's Staff of Life. History Today 42:30–35
  4. ^ Metcalfe, R (2007). Allinson's Essays. Richmond Towers. p. 1.
  5. ^ Corley TAB Allinson, Thomas Richard (1858–1918). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  6. ^ "A Vegetarian Doctor's Walking Tour". The Vegetarian Messenger. 4 (1). 1892.
  7. ^ Scott, C. J. (1999). "The life and trials of T.R. Allinson ex-L.R.C.P.ED. 1858-1918". Proceedings of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. 29 (3): 258–61. PMID 11624001.
  8. ^ Flour Power – A Scottish Perspective Archived 9 June 2008 at the Wayback Machine at

External links[edit]