Bishop Isaac Maddox and Dr. John Wall were interested in providing Worcester with an infirmary. They looked to other infirmaries founded in the 1700s, like Bristol and Northampton, which were financed by voluntary donations to provide care for the ‘respectable poor’. After some research, they bought out the tenants of 18 Silver Street in 1745 to open their own Voluntary Hospital on January 11th 1746.
The first patients were welcomed by staff including: Thomas Bourne the Apothecary; the Physicians Dr. Wall, Dr. Atwood, Dr. Mackenzie and Dr. Cameron; the Matron Mrs White; Nurse Goslin and the Maidservant Patience Perry. The Surgeons included Mr. Edwards and Mr. Russell.
The infirmary was not open to all. It had just ten beds and admitted “...only such persons who have been recommended by a subscriber, and appeared to the Committee, Receiving Physician and Surgeon to be curable and objects of the charity.” Among others, all children, pregnant women, and those with venereal diseases were refused entry.
Very soon, the entire row of houses was taken over to provide a ‘Hot Bath’, a mortuary, a meeting room and space for 50 beds. In 1751, 191 inpatients and 325 outpatients were treated, and with developments in Medicine and Surgery, along with a growing population, Worcester soon needed a new hospital. In 1765 the Governors erected an infirmary on Castle Street.
This wooden operating chair was used at the Infirmary on Silver Street, Worcester, which opened its doors to patients in 1746.
At this time surgeons lacked the knowledge required to perform complicated or internal surgeries, so amputation of a limb could be the only way to save a patient’s life. Also, anaesthetics had not yet been introduced, so straps were fed through the holes in the chair’s back and legs to hold the screaming patient down.
Visit the George Marshall Medical Museum and see if you can spot the scratch marks at the front of the seat and at the very top of the chair back? Do you think these are from terrified patients’ fingernails? They could also be from the surgeons’ sharp knives.