A Regency Era Teaching Hospital

Jeffers-TMDOMD In THE MYSTERIOUS DEATH OF MR. DARCY, I spent a great deal of time researching medical practices of the period of which my fictionalized surgeon might be aware, as well as early medical schools students might have attended. I purposely chose the area of Manchester, although my fictionalized school is nothing like the one described below. It is much cruder in its use of illegal bodies. Early on, hospitals depended on resurrectionists to supply anatomy students with corpses upon which to complete their studies of the body. (Please see yesterday’s post on the UK Resurrectionists.)

There are thirty-two medical schools in the United Kingdom that are recognised by the General Medical Council and from which students can obtain a medical degree. There are twenty-four such schools in England, five in Scotland, two in Wales and one in Northern Ireland. All but Warwick Medical School and Swansea Medical School offer undergraduate courses in medicine. The Bute Medical School (University of St Andrews) and Durham Medical School offer undergraduate pre-clinical courses only, with students proceeding to another medical school for clinical studies. Although Oxford University and Cambridge University offer both pre-clinical and clinical courses in medicine, students who study pre-clinical medicine at one of these universities may move to another university for clinical studies. At other universities students stay at the same university for both pre-clinical and clinical work.

The earliest place of medical training in Britain was Barts Hospital, now part of Queen Mary, University of London, where it has taken place continuously since its foundation in 1123. Medical teaching has taken place at the University of Oxford since at least the 13th century and its first Regius Professor of medicine appointed in 1546. Medical teaching began at the foundation of University of Aberdeen School of Medicine in 1495, although even as late as 1787 there were calls “for the establishment of a medical school” in Aberdeen. The University of St Andrews began teaching medicine in the late 15th century. The University of Cambridge appointed its first Regius Professor of medicine in 1540 although it is likely teaching occurred well before this date. Teaching began in 1550 at St Thomas’ Hospital, London. St George’s, University of London has its origins in 1733. The London Hospital Medical College (LHMC) was founded in 1785 and is now part of Queen Mary, University of London’s School of Medicine. Formal medical education began in Birmingham in 1767, and in Manchester in 1814. In the early 19th century, medical schools in Belfast, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle, and Liverpool were formally established, between 1821 and 1842.

Picture of the old Medical School in 1908 Source: School of Medicine

Picture of the old Medical School in 1908 Source: School of Medicine

Currently, the School of Medicine at the University of Manchester is one of the largest in the UK with around 2,000 undergraduates, 1,400 postgraduates and 1,200 staff. The school is divided into five separate divisions, also called schools, one of which, Manchester Medical School is responsible for medical undergraduate tuition. The others, Community-Based Medicine, Translational Medicine, Biomedicine, and Cancer and Enabling Sciences Sciences, are primarily postgraduate and research divisions. As of 2008 the medical school admits some 380 home medical students and a further 29 from overseas per year.

The School of Anatomy at Manchester Royal Infirmary was opened by Joseph Jordan in 1814. In the intervening 60 years more than one private medical school existed in Manchester: the most successful was that in Pine Street not far south of the Infirmary. The Royal Manchester School of Medicine and Surgery did not open until 1874 (at Owens College), and medical degrees were awarded by the Victoria University from 1883. The school was made co-educational in 1899 after a long and contentious debate about whether women could be members of the College at all. The first female medical student to qualify Catherine Chisholm practised as a paediatrician after graduating. The success of the school meant that the building needed to be extended twice, in 1883 and 1894. From 1903/04 degrees were awarded by the Victoria University of Manchester.

A considerable space was allocated to the library of the Manchester Medical Society (founded 1834) which until 1930 remained in their possession while accommodated in the University. The library became part of the university library at that time and remained in the building until 1981 when it was transferred into the present Main Library building of the John Rylands University Library (part of the rare books went to the John Rylands Library).

Additional departments were added from time to time: chronologically these were pharmaceutics, dentistry, public health. A dental hospital was associated with the department of dentistry.
Until 1908 the Manchester Royal Infirmary was at Piccadilly a mile away from the school but in 1908 it moved to a new site on Oxford Road much nearer the medical school and the two institutions were interdependent.

The medical school expanded greatly in the 1950s, culminating in the opening of the Stopford Building in 1973, and additionally providing clinical studies for students who had completed their pre-clinical studies at St Andrews.


About Regina Jeffers

Regina Jeffers is the award-winning author of Austenesque, Regency and historical romantic suspense.
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