Thursday, May 10, 2012

Middlesex Hospital ca.1810

Thursday, May 10, 2012
Loretta reports:
MIDDLESEX HOSPITAL, for the reception of the sick and the lame, and for lying-in married women, is situated in Mary-bone-fields, near Oxford-road, now called Charles - street.  . . . Nature and religion teach us to patronize every instance of distress, but most powerfully that deepest of all distresses, sickness in poverty.  . . . how much stronger a sympathy must then arise at the idea of sickness aggravated by poverty; or considered in another view, of poverty disabled by sickness! Most men are inclined, but very few, in comparison, have individually the power, to relieve: public contributions, therefore, seem the most likely to effect what the private bounty of individuals cannot. These considerations gave rise, a few years since, to infirmaries, and in particular to this, which has the merit and the honour of being the first hospital in this kingdom for lying-in women, and of setting an example which has been so happily followed.

 . . . The patients are attended without fee or reward by three eminent physicians, a man-midwife, three surgeons, and a clergyman. The physicians visit the patients every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, and on intermediate days when particular cases require it. The surgeons attend every day.

Patients are admitted on a letter of recommendation from a governor or contributor, who may recommend in-patients, and have out-patients on the books... and when in-patients are recommended, and there is not room in the house to receive them, they are put on the list, to be admitted on the first vacancy, and in the mean time prescribed for as out-patients.

No security is required for burials. All accidents are admitted without recommendation. Tuesday being the day appointed for the admission of patients, they are expected to be at the Hospital, with their recommendation, at ten o'clock.

The physicians and surgeons meet every Saturday at twelve o'clock at the Hospital, where they give advice gratis to all such diseased poor who shall come, though unrecommended, and require it.
—Rudolph Ackermann, The Microcosm of London: or, London in Miniature, Volume 2, 1808-1810

Rowlandson & Pugin illustration from the book.


Gemma said...

"All accidents are admitted without recommendation."

Except the accident of getting knocked up when un-wed!

[MIDDLESEX HOSPITAL, for the reception of the sick and the lame, and for lying-in married women.....]

nightsmusic said...

Not all hospitals required recommendations then, did they? Hospitals for the indigent accepted anyone, didn't they?

Philippe de St-Denis said...


Most hospitals of the period required recommendations for admittance. The alternative was to show up on taking-in day, which meant hours sitting and waiting on hard, backless benches. Even then there was no guarantee: several hospitals had a large list of cases they would not accept (no cancer, no TB, no children, etc).

Hospitals were commonly viewed with horror and suspicion by the poor, as they strongly suspected (with good reason, as it turns out) that the doctors were performing experimental procedures on them. And if the doctors weren't the issue, there was always the alarmng lack of sanitation. In one instance (at St. George's in 1828, I believe), mushrooms were found growing in the bedclothes of a man who had undergone surgery!

The Middlesex Hospital would have been a place of anxiety and woe, as gynacological science was really in its infancy and women undergoing surgery for these issues suffered the highest mortality of any other class of patient.

For further reading on the state of medical science and hospital care of the period, I strongly recommend Ruth Richardsons Death, Dissectin and the Destitute, as well as Peter Stanley's For Feat of Pain, about the development of surgery in the pre-anaesthetic era.

Sorry to blather on so!

Sarah Tobias said...

Hello Nerdy Girls,
If you are 'nuts about history' and can get to Brighton (Sussex) - come to my history courses, talks, lectures, dayschools. I am an entertaining educator (mostly of mature adults)and LOVE the subject I have the good fortune to teach or talk about!

By the way, I was born in the Middlesex Hospital.

Keep up the good (history) work!
Very best wishes,
Sarah Tobias - Sarah Tobias

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