26/09/2013 09:13 BST | Updated 26/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Vibrators Of The Past: Victorian 'Hysteria' Massagers (PICTURES)

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They look not unlike egg whisks and drills, but these fierce-looking implements are actually vintage Victorian vibrators.

The sex toys of yesteryear are currently on display at Littledean Jail in the Forest of Dean, a former house of correction, police station and courthouse turned visitor attraction.

Exhibits include Dr Macaura's Pulsocon Hand Crank Vibrator, which dates back to 1890 and resembles an old-fashioned egg whisk.

victorian vibrator

Loud and proud: One of the first electromechanical vibrators

Despite its liberal, sexy connotations, the modern-style vibrator was actually invented by respectable Victorian doctors, who diagnosed pelvic massage as a common treatment for well-heeled ladies deemed to be suffering from "hysteria".

"Hysteria" was so termed after the Latin hystericus, meaning "of the womb" and was apparently characterised by "weeping, nymphomania, frigidity, melancholia and anxiety", afflictions believed to stem from a "disorder of the uterus".

However, doctors found the process of administering the stimulation by hand tiring and time-consuming, and so devised a labour-saving, manually-operated device to do the job for them.

Then in around 1880, Dr Joseph Mortimer Granville patented an electromechanical vibrator, in a story told in the film Hysteria, featuring Maggie Gyllenhaal.

victorian courting couple

You look a little hysterical my dear...

While some of these contraptions now look like they belong more in a torture chamber than beneath the sheets, they serve as testament to the ingenuity of Victorian inventors.

The sex toys also offer a fascinating insight into the supposedly prim-and-proper Victorian world, in which some families would supposedly cover up table legs since they were seen as suggestive and risqué.

Littledean Jail owner and curator Andy Jones, 51, described the assortment of sex toys as "a fascinating insight into women's pleasure during Victorian times."

"If you plug them in, the force is incredible," Jones said. "They're loud and some of them look like hairdryers.

"I would imagine it would have been quite a painful exercise, judging by what I've seen of them, like having a kango hammer pressed against your body."

Photo galleryVintage vibrators See Gallery

Photo galleryVintage vibrators See Gallery