Deepings Heritage – The History of Stamford Hospital


Known as Rutland and Stamford Infirmary when it was founded by public donations and legacies in 1828, the hospital has a fascinating past which will be described at our meeting on Friday, 11th November.

The speaker, David Baxter was a leading figure in establishing Stamford Hospital Museum. After working for the NHS for thirty years, he has a wide knowledge and enthusiasm for the hospital’s heritage. The drawing above, shows the original infirmary building.

Most people in the early 19th century never received hospital treatment. Unless they could afford to pay a doctor, they relied on home-made remedies or medicines from the local apothecary. In 1827, Mary Chapman of Deeping St James tried to relieve her acute pain by drinking laudanum – powdered opium dissolved in alcohol. She accidentally swallowed too powerful a dose, which brought on a state of stupor and she died aged 57.

In the event of sudden deaths without evidence of previous ill-health, inquests were usually held in a local public house. When Thomas Bollands was found dead at his home in Deeping St James in 1835, there was no post mortem, and a verdict of “died by the visitation of God” was recorded at The Woolpack pub. Such visitations were widely accepted as a cause of death until the late 1800s.

Local apothecaries or druggists could provide some medical procedures. In 1839 George Linnell of Market Deeping advertised for an apprentice who would “have the advantage of learning tooth drawing and bleeding.” It was thought that bloodletting by cutting a vein in the elbow would improve a person’s health by ridding their body of impurities.

Although deaths at any age were not unusual when medical care was primitive, the early months of 1869 brought particular tragedy to Towngate. Eight residents were buried between 27th January and 13th March, following two in the previous December, and the rector referred to this exceptional number in a sermon. One victim was Benjamin Pearson aged 32, and within a few weeks his widow Jane was also dead, indicating an infection may have been circulating. Elizabeth Clarke aged 7 also died, not long after the burial of her five year old sister.

By 1900 patent medicines with brand names were being widely advertised and sold by chemists, in addition to their own concoctions. The plain glass bottle has horizontal ridges which marked individual doses of one tablespoon.

The small bottle on the left contained Carter’s Little Iron Pills – some of which are displayed in front. The two larger pills are Dr Morse’s Indian Root medicine which contained aloes, mandrake, chillies, gambage (a laxative) and jalap (a purgative), recommended for indigestion, liver and kidney complaints.

David Baxter’s talk starts at 7.30 pm in the main hall of the Community Centre, Market Deeping. Everyone is welcome. Admission for non-members £3.

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