Newcastle Infirmary Time Line


Mr Greenhow, as spokesman for the honorary medical staff, points out that again the Infirmary is inadequate for the needs of the area, which had tripled in population in the last 100 years. The annual report draws the attention of the governors and public to the Infirmaries shortcomings.


Greenhow and Gibb visit hospitals in London and elsewhere to gain insight in modern hospital design, and report back to the committee. On March 13th John Dobson, the famous architect, laid his plans for a new wing and redevelopment of the Infirmary before the committee, and they were agreed on April 3rd.


Severe Cholera epidemic in Newcastle, unfinished new wing used to house patients. Dr Edward Charlton appointed physician, later to be Professor of Medicine and President of the College of Medicine . Dr Dennis Embleton appointed surgeon, previously apprentice of Thomas Leighton.


Massive explosion in Gateshead, leading to fire in Newcastle. The   Infirmary received 124 burned patients in 24 hours. George Yeoman Heath appointed surgeon.

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The Infirmary viewed from the southwest, showing the Dobson Wing on the left


The Dobson Wing opened, costing 10500. Charles Gibb appointed honorary surgeon, and holds post until 1870.

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Percy Ward, male surgical


The start of the "Florence Nightingale" era. The Infirmary notes the number of nurses employed - 11! They are attending up to 175 patients a day, around the clock. Infection in surgical patients is a huge problem, and a change to the floors is made - polished varnish instead of scrubbed boards.


Sir John Fife resigns, and William Arnison elected to replace him.


Mr Heath notes that there are only 3 of the Infirmaries 13 nurses working in the "low flat side", 2 during the day and 1 at night. A Miss Dunn is appointed housekeeper, allowing the matron to attend to more nursing duties. Dr (later Sir)George Hare Philipson appointed physician.


Luke Armstrong appointed as assistant surgeon to the Infirmary, and full surgeon in 1870. George Hume also appointed assistant surgeon, becoming full surgeon in 1873.


Mr Frederick Page appointed house surgeon. Becomes honorary surgeon in 1877, and goes on to be Professor of Surgery.


New operating theatre built in the angle between the south and east wings, following a donation by Lord Armstrong. The old theatre on the second floor came to be known as "the ovarian room".

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Dr G.T. Beatson follows Mr Frederick Page as a house surgeon. He had previously worked for Lister, and brings his antiseptic techniques to the Infirmary.


A report notes how successful antisepsis has been. Infection rates are greatly down, and the cost of the new techniques is balanced by the three tons of linseed meal, which was previously used every year to make poultices for infected wounds.


Dr David Drummond appointed physician


Dr Thomas Oliver appointed physician


The Infirmary again needs more space. The medical staff call for a new Infirmary to be built, but the governors compromise with the Ravensworth Wards, built of wood, and increasing total beds to 270. This allows the opening of a childrens department. Dr James Limont appointed honorary physician, having previously been both house surgeon and house physician.


Important changes are made to the administration of the hospital:

  1. the letter system is abolished, and the hospital made free access to the poor

  2. the house committee and the medical board amalgamate

  3. the house committee is reconstituted and includes 9 working men governors in it's 32 members

  4. a special selection committee created for the appointment of honorary officers

  5. charges for out-patients introduced ( this was dropped again in 1890)

  6. the resident non-qualified medical clerks and surgical assistants are replaced by two house physicians and four house surgeons, all newly qualified.

This is Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee year, and the committee seeks permission to adopt the title "Royal". The request is graciously granted by the Queen, and the infirmary becomes "The Royal Infirmary for the Counties of Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland and Durham".



to be strictly observed in the

Administration of Anaesthetics,

October 29th, 1888:

  1. -The house surgeons shall administer anaesthetics.

  2. -No Resident Medical Officer shall put a patient under the influence of a general anaesthetic, unless one of the Honorary staff, or another officer of the Resident staff be present.

  3. -The condition of the heart of every patient is to be ascertained by the stethescope, previous to the administration of the anaesthetic.

  4. -The graduated drop bottle is to be used on every occasion.

  5. -The administrator is to give his undivided attention to his important duty.

  6. -The administrator, on every occasion, is to be provided with a tongue forceps, and a hypodermic syringe filled with ether, and is to see that a portable electrical battery is ready at hand.

  7. -That after the operation is completed, the anaesthetic that is left in the graduated bottle is to be at once returned to the bottle from which it was taken.

  8. -That if any anaesthetic is regarded as impure,and, consequently, improper to be used, it shall be handed to the dispenser, and on no account has it to be left in the box in which the anaesthetics are kept.

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The operating theatre in 1892

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