The Emetic Cults of Victorian London
75 Beak Street, Soho, is now a slightly mad Bistro, but until 1861 it was the home of Doctor Bleasdale's Temperance Vomitorium, the last of the great Emetic Cults. It is believed that these mysterious establishments sprang from the coffee-house culture of the 18th century, specifically after an ill-fated experiment with pig's milk at an establishment in Cheapside had unexpectedly explosive and colourful side-effects.
By Victoria's reign, Emetic Cults had risen in tandem with the Temperance movement, in that they encouraged abstinence by permitting patrons to drink until the inevitable occurred. Dickens mentions them in Dombey and Son:
The next morning, refreshed after a visit to Bleasdale's purging-house the previous evening, Dombey again returned his attention to the matter of Paul and Florence ...
Sadly, by 1855 these unusual establishments had fallen from favour and by 1860 only Bleasdale's remained. On the centenary of its closure in 1963, Westminster council attempted to re-establish it, only to fail when three aldermen were hospitalised.