Newcastle Infirmary Time Line


5th January – Richard Lambert, a prominent Newcastle surgeon, writes a letter to the Newcastle Courant ( under the initials B.K. ) urging the foundation of a voluntary hospital in the city. The Infirmary is intended for the poor and needy, unable to pay for the attentions of surgeons, physicians or apothecaries.

Subscription begins enthusiastically, and plans are made . Four physicians and two surgeons are appointed ( all unpaid), as well as a secretary, an apothecary and a matron, in preparation. Due to the generosity and enthusiasm of subscribers, it is decided to rent a house immediately to found the infirmary, while plans are drawn for the construction of a permanent building.

23rd May – With the support of the Mayor, Matthew Ridley and local notables, the first Infirmary is opened in Gallowgate. At 9.30 in the morning, proceedings started with a service at St Nicholas' church, to hear a sermon by Dr Sharp, Archdeacon of Northumberland. They then proceeded to the house procured in Gallowgate ( then a"very tollerable street and a very pleasant Place"), and immediately 7 patients were admitted. Initially, there was space for 23 patients, but this was soon expanded to 40. There was no proper water supply, but they did have a silver chalice for communion.

As well as "staff" already mentioned, there were 36 persons forming a "house committee", 12 each from Newcastle, Northumberland and Durham.

Admission to the Infirmary was only allowed to patients who had been recommended by a subscriber, and had been examined by the medical staff and deemed worthy and suitable for a bed. This practice was to continue for over 100 years.

5th September – Foundation stone of new infirmary laid on Forth Banks, by Joseph Butler, Bishop of Durham. The stone was inscribed:


"The Foundation of this Infirmary was laid on the 5th day of September,

in the 25th year of the reign of King George the second, 1751,

by the Right Rev. Joseph, Lord Bishop of Durham, Grand Visitor"

and on the reverse

"The ground was given by the Corporation of Newcastle, Ralph Sowerby, Esq., Mayor. William Clayton, Esq., Sheriff."



Other benefactors include Sir Walter Blackett, Newcastle’s member of Parliament, who gave 200, and Martin Benson, Bishop of Gloucester.

14th November - first recorded operation at the Infirmary. "Cutting for the stone" produced a 2oz bladder stone from an Edward Lough, who later gave formal thanks to the committee. Being grateful was compulsory !


up to 7th April - A report is made of the first year's work at the Infirmary. 167 in-patients and 178 out-patients were recorded.

Ailments included abscesses, wounds, "strumous and scrofulous" conditions, the flux and the bloody flux.


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The new Infirmary, Forth Banks (viewed from the south)


8th October – Infirmary on Forth Banks opened. It was a well built edifice of stone ashlar lined with brick, with two wings forming a "L" shape. The southern block consisted of a basement and three storeys. The ground level had the chapel, board room, physicians room, surgery and matron's parlour. The next floor housed three men's wards, and at the top two further wards and the operating theatre. The East wing had two ground floor wards and three women's wards above. It cost 3,697! There is provision for 90 in-patients, all crowded in together independent of medical condition. Mrs Dorothy Jackson is appointed matron, and Mr Henry Gibson as resident house apothecary. There is also a porter, at a wage of 8 guineas, and a brewer for 7. Nurses were appointed at the matrons discretion for 4 a year.

Richard Lambert and Samuel Hallowell continue as appointed surgeons. Lamberts 14 year old apprentice, William Hewson of Hexham, went on to be John Hunter’s favourite pupil, and a famous anatomist in London.

First physician is Adam Askew, a notably well to do gentleman. He had a reputation for money making that was at least equal to that of his professional skill. Lord Eldon told a story of him, in which he cheats a lawyer in a land deal, buying an estate from a dying patient. When the patient's lawyer complains, having hoped to acquire the estate for even less, Askew says "Scold on, do you imagine that anybody will think I have done wrong if I have cheated thee, a lawyer, who has cheated all the rest of mankind?"


Infirmary doing well financially, and is able to lend the town 2000 at 3 1/2%! Patients complain about the poor meat and beer quantity and quality, and for this they are severely reprimanded and ordered to have toast and water for a week. However, after this it was ordered that the meat and beer ration was to be increased.

Disorderly, dirty, and drunken habits amongst the patients, and occasionally on the part of the servants, caused the names of the delinquents to be posted up and read out in the wards.


As well as an endowment of 50 a year, Sir Walter Blackett gives 1000 to the Infirmary Charity.


Samuel Hallowell Jnr appointed to replace his deceased father as surgeon, but dies himself two months later.


John Rotheram and John Hall appointed as physicians.


William Ingham ( 1754 – 1817 ) appointed surgeon to the Infirmary. Previous apprentice of Lambert’s, and later his partner in the Bigg Market.


John Ralph Fenwick appointed as physician, served for 4 years


John Clark appointed physician. He had already founded the Newcastle Dispensary in 1777, much to the displeasure of the Infirmary doctors. He was well travelled, and an expert on fevers. Much of the coming re-organisation and expansion of the Infirmary was due to him. He noted that the Infirmary Statutes and Rules were out of date. By the end of the eighteenth century, the wards were too large, badly ventilated and insanitary and the patients too closely crowded in them. At that time it was thought that infection was rife in direct proportion to the number of patients crowded together in a ward. All the bedsteads were of wood, with flock mattresses, which must have proved comfortable homes for vermin. There was only one room which could be used for isolating a patient who was dangerously ill or suffering from some disease dangerous to others.



John Ramsey appointed physician, who was Newcastle's leading physician at the time. A supporter of Clark's thinking on fevers.


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