Newcastle Infirmary Time Line


In August, a general meeting passed the following resolution, that "the Infirmary, in its then state, was but ill calculated to answer the benevolent purposes of such an institution; a committee was empowered to carry the projected improvements into execution, and a subscription opened to defray the necessary expenses."

The foundation stone of the new wing was laid on 23rd September by Sir Matthew Ridley, as a representative of the Duke of Northumberland, who had donated 500. The new building and reconstruction cost 5,329.

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Newcastle in 1802. The Infirmary is to the west of the city, just outside the medieval wall, overlooking the river


Building of extension and re-organisation of wards completed. Dr Clark had tried to get a separate fever ward for the Infirmary, and it was built ( at the left hand end of the picture below). However, as most were not keen to have it, another fever house was built at Warden's Close, and the Infirmary gained an extra 20 beds. The improved Infirmary had a ground floor ward in the East Wing replaced by a medical library and museum, a physician's and surgeons' consulting hall ( "outpatients"), a waiting room and a dispensary.

Thomas Leighton appointed surgeon. "He was a spruce, tidy, red-faced little gentleman, closely shaved and scrupulously clean, dressed in a dark blue coat, cut away in front and decorated with double gilt brass buttons, yellow waistcoat and white cravat, with frilled front shirt, drab knee britches, top boots with brown tops and a black beaver chimney pot hat."

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The Infirmary in 1803, showing the new wing

Some 1803 rules for the professional conduct of physicians and surgeons:

-they shall study in their deportment, so as to unite tenderness with steadiness, and condescension with authority, as to inspire the minds of their patients with gratitude, respect and confidence.

-they are urged to avoid overcrowding and to give attention to ventilation and cleanliness.

-the strictest temperance is incumbent on the faculty, as the practice both of physic and surgery at all times requires the exercise of a clear and vigorous understanding; the physicians and surgeons, therefore, should never be unprepared; for on emergencies a steady hand, an acute eye, or an unclouded head, may be essential to the well-being, and even the life of a fellow creature.


Thomas Headlam appointed physician. He held the post until 1840, and was a very respected and influential doctor. He was heavily involved with the new medical school, and was head of the Medical College in 1851. He was also Mayor of Newcastle in 1837, and a leader of the Whig Party.


Robert Steavenson appointed physician, held post 5 years. He also ran an asylum, bought from Dr Hall, named Bellegrove House.


John Forster Baird appointed surgeon to the Infirmary.


Thomas McWhirter appointed physician.


An extra floor is built on the East Wing, to accommodate female venereal patients. They rolled bandages, and were the best behaved patients in the whole infirmary.


Cholera epidemic in Newcastle. Cholera had been brought back for the tropics by sailors, and was thought to have entered the country first via Sunderland.


Thomas Greenhow appointed honorary surgeon to the Infirmary. He had already been surgeon to the lying-in hospital, and in 1822 had established the Eye Infirmary with John Fife.


John Fife appointed surgeon. One of the instigators of the medical school, a dandy and a dashing surgeon. Also, Mayor of Newcastle in 1838, and Knighted in 1840 for ordering the use of bayonets to break a Chartist demonstration ( "the battle of the Forth").


First chloroform anaesthetic in England given during a therapeutics demonstration in the medical school, the situated in the old Barber Surgeons Hall at the Manors, to an unwilling Dr Davison. Anaesthesia, first introduced in 1846, was soon to develop in the north east, and lead to a huge increase in surgical work for the Infirmary.


In April, Mr C J Gibb appointed house surgeon, a resident post, rather than as an honorary "consulting" or visiting surgeon. He was the Dr Gibb of the song, "The Blaydon Races".


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