Retro: S Yorks caring profession that we all rely upon

Dr Tim Longmore - 1990'Incubator
Dr Tim Longmore - 1990'Incubator
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The latest job in the Midweek Retro A to Z of careers is a vital one for all of us - that of the doctor.

Back in the 18th century, the job must have been a strange one, if Worsbrough is anything to go by.

Doctor Julia Phythain-Adams of the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, examines an x-ray - 14th July 1994

Doctor Julia Phythain-Adams of the Northern General Hospital, Sheffield, examines an x-ray - 14th July 1994

Dove Valley GP practice website says that the town’s first training practice was set up in 1743 by apothecary and surgeon Dr William Elmhirst at Genn House on Genn Lane.

The website says: “In addition to his fees for medicines, surgery, veterinary work and tooth-pulling, he earned extra income selling ‘fat oxen’ to a Barnsley butcher, and letting out property to one of his clients, a ‘constipated tallow-chandler’.

“The terms of an apprenticeship stipulated that those studying under him ‘readily and chearfully (sic) obey’ and conduct themselves ‘with all due diligence, honesty, sobriety and temperance’.

“Elmhirst met an untimely death when he was thrown from his horse at the nearby Hangman-Stone toll-bar.”

A Sheffield GP Jenny Stephenson has written a book about the history of Walkley House Medical Centre, which was built in 1870.

Walkley House, built in 1870, has always been in the hands of doctors who initially practised on their own.

Jenny said that these days, family doctors are having to meet the demands of an ageing population, the need for investment and national difficulties in recruiting GPs.

“Patients still need good quality medical care from somebody they know and have built a relationship with,” she added.

In her introduction to the book, she wrote: “The thread running through it all is that of a committed personal care given to local people and their families, which in turn has been much appreciated and so remembered over the years.

“The present large scale and far-reaching changes in the NHS impact on general practice in such a way that I feel this individual care may be more difficult to achieve and so be under threat.”

Jenny also writes of the ‘great privilege’ of being a GP.

“We are invited to share part of our patients’ lives on a long-term basis, seeing their children through from birth to adulthood, being with them in their aspirations, their struggles and their achievements, being there to support in times of difficulty and distress.

“This is well illustrated by the earlier GPs who set up their business in Walkley House and served the local community in this way.”

In the early 19th century in Sheffield a surgeon apothecary called Hall Overend decided to begin teaching medical students.

The move to formally recognise medical education began with the Society of Apothecaries, which awarded its licence to practise.

Although he was never registered as a lecturer with the society, he is regarded by the Sheffield School of Medicine as the city’s father of medical education.

Hall Overend also established an anatomy museum at his home in Church Street, where he conducted demonstrations of dissection. His son, Wilson Overend, became an official lecturer in 1828 and ran Sheffield School of Anatomy and Medicine on Eyre Street.

However, there were moves to open a medical school connected with Sheffield General Infirmary, which Overend supported.

Funded by public subscription, the Sheffield Medical Institution opened in 1829 on Surrey Street, which is the true precursor of today’s Medical School, based at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

The Wilson Overend school was destroyed by fire in 1835, following a riot.

The crowd misinterpreted the noise of a domestic argument on the premises as a dispute over grave robbing at a time when the scandal over Burke and Hare made this a very real fear.