Historical Account of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne Including the Borough of Gateshead. Originally published by Mackenzie and Dent, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 1827.
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In the beginning of April, 1777, Dr. Clark, in conjunction with Mr. Anderson, a respectable surgeon, proposed the establishment of a Dispensary; but the plan was opposed by the physicians to the Infirmary, until it was explained that the medical department was to be open to the whole of the resident faculty, when all opposition ceased, and the scheme was immediately carried into execution. A general meeting of the governors was held on September 29, 1777, John Baker, Esq. mayor, in the chair; when the regulations prepared for the government of the charity were confirmed. The Dispensary was opened on the 2d of October following. In November, 1785, the Duke of Northumberland was chosen patron of the institution.
The benevolent projectors of this excellent establishment not only proposed to give advice and medicine to that numerous class of sufferers whose cases excluded them from the Infirmary, but also to extend the limits of the healing art. Accordingly, Dr. Clark provided for keeping accurate journals of the patients admitted, and of their cases, by which the nature of prevailing epidemics might be ascertained, the history of diseases illustrated, and the success of the modes of treatment more accurately known. He also drew up, and distributed among the poor who received relief at the Dispensary, some very judicious rules for preventing the production and propagation of contagion; but this most important branch of the charity was left incomplete; no means of prevention were carried into the houses of the poor, nor was any board of health established for the purpose of enforcing the execution of the rules. This able physician, who for many years drew up the annual reports of the establishment, frequently and strongly stated the lamentable deficiency of its funds. Although 139 persons on an average died annually in Newcastle of the small-pox, yet a proposal made in 1779 for a general inoculation was abandoned solely on that account.
The Dispensary, during the first four years, was kept in apartments in an entry at the Foot of the Side, now occupied by Mr. Marley, cheesemonger. It was next kept in an entry in Pilgrim Street, below the Queen's Head Inn, for many years called the Dispensary Entry. But, in 1790, the governors purchased a lease for 50 years of St. John's Lodge, in the Low Friar Chare, from the Free Incorporated Company of Saddlers, which, including the fitting up, cost £626, 2s. 4d. This building consists of "a hall for the meetings of the governors, a shop and waiting room for patients, two consulting rooms for the physicians and surgeons, an electrical room, and lodgings for the apothecary and his assistant, with a small laboratory behind the building."
In 1786, the plan of a general inoculation, for preventing the great mortality occasioned by the small-pox, was revived and carried into execution. An additional department was also established in 1789, for recovering the lives of persons apparently dead from drowning or other causes; and very plain and useful instructions for attaining this humane object were prepared by the Medical Society. (fn. 1) To this branch the faculty in Newcastle, and the surgeons at Shields, Howdon-Pans, Winlaton, Swalwell, and Newburn, are medical assistants; but only few instances of recovery are recorded. The safety and efficacy of vaccination being fully established, it was judged an indispensable duty to adopt this invaluable discovery in the spring of 1801; since which time, to Michaelmas, 1826, there have been 20,385 patients inoculated, of which number 17,877 had the vaccine disease, and the remaining 2508 were not inspected, as they had not the gratitude to return for that purpose. During the last Dispensary year, 121 were inoculated, and the members of the faculty were accommodated with 378 packets of matter. The numbers inoculated appear, by the Dispensary lists, to have decreased during the last few years. (fn. 2)
Since the commencement of this charity, to Michaelmas, 1826, one hundred and thirteen thousand nine hundred and thirty-six patients have been admitted, of whom one hundred and eight thousand six hundred and twenty-six have been cured. From August 31, 1825, to August 31, 1826, there were (including 68 remaining on the books the preceding year), 4955 patients admitted, 4735 cured, 3 relieved, 12 irregular, 87 dead, and 118 remained on the books.
The limits fixed for visiting such home patients as are confined to their own houses are Shields road bridge, and the utmost extent of the town to the west, north, and south. Gateshead is included as a visiting district so long as its inhabitants subscribe thirty guineas annually to the charity. With respect to out patients, who are able to attend at the Dispensary, all the poor inhabitants of Newcastle and Gateshead are admitted, without any restrictions as to limits; and several resorting from a considerable distance are allowed the benefit of the charity whilst able to attend. Each patient is admitted by a printed letter (on which the physicians write their prescriptions), signed by a subscriber, and addressed to the house-apothecary. Each annual subscription commences on Michaelmas-day; and every subscriber of one guinea has the power of recommending five patients annually, and those who give larger sums in proportion. A subscription of two guineas annually, or a benefaction of ten guineas or upwards, entitles the donors to be governors of the charity. In slight casualties, the house-apothecary is empowered to give patients relief without delay, and to admit them without recommendation.
The establishment of the Dispensary, (fn. 3) for the above year, was as follows:—
Patron, His Grace the Duke of Northumberland. Presidents, The Right Honourable the Marquis of Bute; The Right Honourable Lord Ravensworth; Sir Matthew White Ridley, Bart. M. P.; Cuthbert Ellison, Esq. M. P.; George Baker, Esq.; George Forster, Esq. Mayor. Vice-presidents, Robert Ormston, Esq.; Rowland Burdon, Esq.; Ralph Atkinson, Esq.; Adam Askew, Esq. Treasurer, James Pybus, Esq. Secretary, Mr. Edmondston. Physicians, Dr. Ramsay; Dr. Headlam; Dr. Smith; Dr. Macwhirter; Dr. Bulman. Surgeon, Mr. Murray. Apothecary, Mr. Wilkie. Committee, Nathaniel Clayton, Esq.; Mr. George Currie; Mr. Cuthbert Liddell; Mr. Joseph Arundale; Thomas Shadforth, Esq.; W. S. Batson, Esq.; Rev. W. B. Smith; Rev. J. Collinson; George Doubleday, Esq.; A. Donkin, Esq.