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Benevolent Scocieties and Institutions in Newcastle, 1855

Extract from: History, Topography, and Directory of Northumberland...Whellan, William, & Co, 1855.



THE INFIRMARY. Among the many institutions which Newcastle possesses for the alleviation of suffering humanity, the Infirmary justly occupies the first place. This noble institution was established in 1751, by a small society of benevolent individuals, at the suggestion of Mr. Richard Lambert, an eminent surgeon of the town. On the 9th of February of the above mentioned year, a public subscription was commenced, which, by the following June, amounted to a sum sufficient to produce the annual revenue of £1,500. The first stone of the edifice was laid on the 5th day of September following, and in October, 1752, the building was finished, at cost of about £3,000. In the year 1802, a further sum of £5,329 was subscribed for its enlargement. Considerable additions have recently been made to this excellent institution by the erection of a new wing, 116 feet in length by 56 in breadth. This wing contains four storeys, the lowest of which is divided into several rooms constituting the out patient department. The three upper storeys are each separated by a central partition-wall into two large wards for the reception of in-door patients. By this arrangement the out-patients are provided with ample accommodation, and the in-patient department has received an accession of six; large wards, capable of containing 144 patients. The cost of this enlargement, exclusive of interior fittings, was £5,821. 10s. It was a fortunate circumstance that the enlargement of the Infirmary was completed previous to the late melancholy catastrophe, for, on the day of the explosion, the number of patients was increased to 234, all of whom were relieved with comparative ease, and no similar occurrence could so perfectly have demonstrated the great capabilities of the institution.

The Bishop of Durham is grand visitor, besides whom there are six presidents, six vice-presidents, and six stewards - these officers, together with the governors, regulate the affairs of the institution, and their reports are annually submitted to all the contributors. The establishment is supported by the interest arising from numerous legacies and annual subscriptions, payable in advance; and it must afford much gratification to the benevolent and humane mind to contemplate the extensive benefit that has been afforded by this infirmary. The following extracts from the rules will give a sufficiently clear idea of the conditions of governorship, and the privileges which the governors and subscribers enjoy:- 

"Subscribers of two guineas, or more, per annum, are governors during their subscription; and benefactors of twenty pounds, or more, at any one time, are governors for life; and such governors have the direction of the affairs of the Infirmary. 

"Any subscriber, being absent from the three counties, may, by a note under his or her hand, delivered to the house committee, appoint a person, residing in one of the said counties, to recommend proper objects in the name of such subscriber. 

"General courts of the governors are held four times in every year, viz., on the first Thursday in April, July, October, and January, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, to receive the reports of the house committee, to inspect the accounts, and to transact such other business as shall be laiJ before them, viz., ordering payment of the quarterly accounts, and for the dispatch of any extraordinary matter which may occur. The anniversary meeting of all the contributors is held on the day on which the High Sheriff of Northumberland meets her Majesty's Justices of Assize for the Northern Summer Circuit.

"Special courts may be summoned, when judged necessary by the grand visitor, or any one of the presidents, or any two of the vice-presidents, or by the house committee, or by any six governors, on delivering to the secretary a requisition for the purpose. 

"The house committee consists of twelve ordinary and thirty-six extra-ordinary members. The twelve ordinary members are chosen from the governors resident in Newcastle or Gateshead. At the general court in April, six of the ordinary members, who shall have been two years in office, go out and six others are elected in their stead. Thirty-six extraordinary members (twelve for each county) are appointed in alphabetical rotation, from three distinct lists of the governors, and, in addition, the attending physician and surgeon are officially members of this committee, and all governors who choose to attend the same have votes as members thereof.

"This committee, of which three are a quoum, meet at the Infirmary every Thursday, at eleven o'clock in the forenoon, to admit and discharge patients, and to direct all matters which concern the ordinary expenses and government of the Infirmary, such as to examine the weekly accounts, to superintend the conduct of the officers and servants, and to control the expenditure of the house. The duties of this committee (which in its constitution is an open committee) are, in their nature, important and various, the presence, therefore, of any governor, not named on the committee, is particularly solicited.

"The house committee, weekly, appoint two governors, resident in Newcastle or Gateshead, in rotation, from the alphabetical list, to act as house visitors for the ensuing week. Their supposed duties are to visit the house, and to inquire into the conduct of the different departments, and as to the behaviour of the matron, patients, and servants, and to report their observations to the house committee, in 'The House Visitors' Book,' in the governors' hall. Governors residing in the country are requested to visit the house as often as they have an opportunity.

"The economical management of the Infirmary being intimately connected with the regularity of its payments, subscribers will perceive how desirable it is that their subscriptions be paid immediately after the 1st of April, being the commencement of the Infirmary year. 

"Subscribers may recommend, for one guinea yearly, one out-patient; for two guineas, two out-patients, or one in-patient, and so on in proportion for larger sums. Benefactors of ten pounds have the same right of recommendation as subscribers of one guinea yearly, and benefactors to a larger amount, after same the ratio. 

“Persons meeting with sudden accidents, or labouring under diseases requiring the immediate help of surgery, are admitted without any recommendation, at any hour of the day or night, but all other patients (not syphilitic) must make application at the Infirmary, by a letter of recommendation (signed according to the fourteenth of the Infirmary rules, by a subscriber whose subscription is paid), on Thursday only, between the hours of nine and eleven in the forenoon. Printed forms can be had on application at the Infirmary to Mr. Gibb, the house surgeon and secretary."

This institution is gratuitously attended by four physicians and the same number of surgeons.  Charles John Gibb, house surgeon and secretary Rev. G. Heriot, M.A. Chaplain - Elizabeth Dowson, matron. 


THE LUNATIC ASYLUM is situated on the east side of Bath Lane, and was built by subscription in 1767. It is a well designed and skilfully constructed edifice, possessing accommodation for 88 patients, who are divided into six classes, each of which has a separate airing ground adjoining their apartments. In consequence of the death of the other subscribers it came into the possession of the corporation, in 1824, at which time the old building was improved and altered, under the superintendence of J. Dobson, Esq.; a lease of the building was granted at the same time, to T. N. Smith, M.D., and subsequently to Dr. Macintosh.


BELLGROVE RETREAT is a private lunatic asylum retiredly situated between the "Leazes" and the Town Moor, and since 1766 has been devoted to its present use, for persons of respectability none others being admissible. The establishment is conducted on the most approved and humane principles, and the apartments are fitted up with every convenience, and have garden ground attached. 


THE DISPENSARY erected in 1838, is situated in Nelson-street. It is a fine commodious building, the front being in the Italian style, in unison with the other buildings in the same street. It contains every requisite accommodation for an institution of the kind, besides a dwelling-house for the resident medical officer, Mr. J. S. Pearse. 

There is also the Eastern Free Dispensary situated in Howard-street. It is under the patronage of the Lord Bishop of Durham. R. Y. Green, Secretary.


HOUSE OF RECOVERY, or Fever Hospital. This institution is a commodious and well ventilated Fever Hospital, situated in an airy and retired spot in Bath Lane. It was erected in 1804, at an expense of about £1,800, and contains seventeen rooms, outbuildings, etc. An annual subscription of one, or a donation of two guineas, is the qualification for governorship; but the medical officers alone decide on the admission of patients. House Surgeon, John J. Pierce.


THE LYING-IN-HOSPITAL is situated in New Bridge-street. Itis a fine stone building erected in 1826, at a cost of £1,550. The institution was founded in 1760, and a temporary hospital was opened in Rosemary Lane, but it was removed to the new hospital on its completion. It possesses accommodation for seventy poor married women. In addition to this there is an Out-charity, chiefly supported by ladies, it was founded the same year as the above. Mr. R. C. Frost, Secretary.


THE EYE INFIRMARY is situated in Saville Row. This institution founded in 1822, owes its origin to the exertions of Messrs. T.M. Greenhow and John Fife, Surgeons, and depends upon annual subscriptions and donations for its support. Patients are admitted every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Mr. John Brown, Secretary.


ROYAL VICTORIA ASYLUM FOR THE INDUSTRIOUS BLIND. This institution is situated in Northumberland-street, and was founded in 1838 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Victoria. The object of this establishment is to "afford to the Indigent Blind, a religious, moral, and elementary education founded on Scriptural principles, and to teach such trades as are suited to their capacities." The institution is supported by donations and subscriptions, assisted by the profits from the sale of the various articles manufactured by the inmates.


THE DEAF AND DUMB INSTITUTION is situated in Charlotte Square. It was founded in 1838 for the education of the deaf and dumb in the counties of Northumberland, Durham, Cumberland, and Westmoreland, and depends for its support on subscriptions, donations, and the payments which are made for the board o! its inmates. Since the establishment of this institution at the period above-mentioned, 98 pupils have been admitted. Of these 44 are under tuition, and the remaining 54 have gone into the world, and are now occupying various situations in society, which the education received at this establishment has qualified them to fill to advantage, each becoming a missionary testifying to the benefits of education, and prompting parents, hitherto incredulous or careless, to apply for the same blessings for their children similarly afflicted. The number of pupils at present in the institution is 46, and there are upwards of 20 applicants for admission to its benefits, whose parents are unable to pay the yearly sum required by the regulations of the establishment. Children are received as pupils from any of the four northern counties, at the rate of £10 per annum, payable half-yearly in advance. The regular time for admission is August, when the classes are resumed after the holidays. Children should be sent not later than eight years of age, so that their education may be completed at the proper time for their being apprenticed to some useful trade. William Neill, head master and secretary.


THE PENITENTIARY. This useful and praiseworthy institution is situated in Diana-street. It was founded in 1831, but the present edifice was not erected till 1837. It is constructed of brick and contains nine apartments on the ground floor, and forty-two rooms on the first floor. It is under the patronage of the Mayor of Newcastle. Mrs. Robson, matron. 


Among other benevolent funds, societies, and institutions, are the Mendicity Society, a Fund for the Relief and Support of Disabled Seamen; an Association for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck a Society for the Relief of the Widows and Orphans of Shipwrecked Seamen a Society for the Sick and Indigent - a Society for Infirm and Aged Females - a Repository, in Granger-street, for the eleemosynary sale of needle and fancy work a Domestic Guardian Institution, and a large number of benefit societies. 


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Newcastle, 1855


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