Dr. Brigham

Dr.Brigham was the next doctor at Dalby House.

Arrival and assimilation

Henry George Brigham, M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P., was born in Beverley, Yorkshire in 1850.
Having been the resident surgeon at Victoria Hospital, London, he came to Ilkeston in September 1874 when he was taken into partnership by Dr. Norman.

In March of 1875 he married Irish-born Zanna Bayly, daughter of William and Ann, at Christ Church, Clapham.
She was a very proficient pianist and an accomplished vocalist, as evidenced at the several musical events within the district which she took part in during the couple’s few years at Ilkeston.

Henry George appeared to fit immediately and seamlessly into that section of Ilkeston society previously and actively occupied by George Blake Norman.
The newly-arrived doctor gave several lectures to and prepared essays for the Ilkeston Church Mutual Improvement Society. For example in April 1876 his subject was ‘Air and Water, in relation to Public Health’ given in the Boys’ National school, the same lecture he had given three months before at Kirk Hallam village school-room.
The Doctor explained the nature and action of the four component gases of air (Nitrogen, Oxygen, Carbon Dioxide and the rare gases?) and proceeded to discuss the causes and evils of impure air. He spoke too of the absolute necessity of purifying water to avoid the spread of disease.
“The lecture was rendered extremely interesting by a number of experiments, in the performance of which Mr. Brigham proved himself to be a thorough master of his subject”. (NG).
(On the day before and at the same place, by a show of hands, Henry George had been elected as Parish Warden over his rival Bartholomew Wilson.)

Just over a year later Henry George had prepared a ‘rather lengthy’ paper on ‘Nature viewed from artificial eyes’ when he brought in his own compound microscope to assist in his presentation and explain its construction to the Society. He showed slides of several vegetable and insect parts, including a spider’s leg, a gnat’s head, and the wing, leg and proboscis of a house fly, and tried to convey to the members of his audience the wonders which could be opened up to them through this instrument.

And at Christmas of 1877 he presented an essay on A few hindrances to Church work’ when he condemned the pew-letting system ‘and declared himself an ardent advocate of the free and open church’.
In the following discussion the majority of the Society concurred with his view.
(At this same meeting the Society gave formal thanks to Edwin Trueman who had just resigned as Secretary, presenting him with a fine office desk bearing a brass plate marking the occasion).

In November 1877 Dr. Brigham was elected vice-president of the newly-formed Ilkeston branch of the English Church Union.

Aneurysm and amputation

Also in November 1877 the conduct of Henry George Brigham was called into question at the inquest into the death of 15-year-old Thomas Winfield of Shortwood in Trowell.
Five months earlier the lad had injured his right arm while throwing a stone and didn’t know whether it was broken or out of joint. He visited a bone-setter who, on manipulating the arm, declared it ‘out of joint’ and promptly put it ‘back in joint’. However his mother Ann (nee Stevenson) was not convinced and took Thomas to Nottingham General Hospital where a broken arm was diagnosed and a splint applied.
The boy continued to visit the hospital and was eventually told he could do light work, but when the pain increased he went again to the hospital where he was examined by a surgeon. A ‘next-day’ appointment was made and which Thomas attended, and this was followed by another visit but each time the patient was put off by the doctors or not seen at all. Nothing was done.
When Thomas subsequently slipped and fell on his injured arm Dr. Brigham was consulted. On examining the arm, the doctor was very concerned by what he found; a circumscribed aneurysm was discovered and the lad’s father, gamekeeper John Winfield, was told that an operation was required, with his permission.
The bleeding vessel inside the arm must be secured … his son’s life depended on it!   What could John do?
The following day, at Thomas’s home and with one assistant, Dr. Brigham operated and removed three pieces of rotten bone from the injured arm, but the prognosis was bleak. This was a very bad case and the arm would have to come off at the shoulder joint.
Another day, another operation, the same patient, the same place, the same doctor — but this time, to amputate the arm.
Chloroform anaesthesia was employed and there was little loss of blood during the procedure, according to the doctor. However forty minutes later the assistant, Mr. Mollineaux, came out of the room to inform the father that Thomas ‘was gone’, without recovering consciousness. This assistant was qualified as such, but was not on the register of surgeons.
Dr. Brigham was sure that death was due to ‘exhaustion caused by the pain Thomas was in’, probably accelerated by the administration of chloroform, and not by the amputation.
The inquest Coroner probed the doctor. Amputation of a limb was rarely done except in hospital “where well skilled men were found, who had a large amount of practice in such matters”. Why had Henry George chosen to operate at the patient’s home and alone? The doctor felt confident that the case was so clear, and urgent. Although the Coroner was of the opinion that this might have been an error of judgement, he didn’t think that the lack of a qualified assistant surgeon had anything to do with the death.
Thus the inquest jury returned a verdict and cause of death in line with the opinion expressed by the doctor.
Henry George was however very critical of the ‘bone-setter’ and thought he was the primary cause of the lad’s death, but as Thomas had gone to him voluntarily he could not be prosecuted.
The casual approach of some of the Hospital doctors and the dismissive way in which Thomas had been treated were also criticised by the jury, and these were matters which were to be followed up.

.….and adieu

Henry George was also at this time a member of the Local Board and President of the Ilkeston and Shipley Floral and Horticultural Society; both positions he resigned in May/June 1878 when he left his practice in Ilkeston to return to London.
He was replaced at Dalby House by Dr. Samuel Armstrong, who, with his family, then lived at the house, taking out a lease for seven years.

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After Henry George …

In April 1880 Dr. Armstrong was appointed medical officer and public vaccinator for the Ilkeston district of the Basford Board of Guardians in the place of Dr. Thomas Arthur Crackle who had just died – on March 9th at Bonsall Place off Bath Street, aged 31.

About September of 1881 Samuel and his family left Dalby House.
Into the house and into the role of public vaccinator and medical officer for the Basford Board of Guardians came James Frederick Digby Willoughby, M.R.C.S.
On September 29th 1881 Thomas Murdoch was employed by Dr. James Frederick Digby Willoughby as his out-door assistant at the doctor’s Dalby House practice. Thomas had previously been employed by the doctor’s predecessor, Dr. Samuel Armstrong, also at Dalby House — Samuel had only stayed in Ilkeston for about a year and a half.
Thomas’s job was to attend any patients at their homes, as directed by the doctor, and carry out other professional work as required. No particular working hours were agreed, but Thomas was to be at his Market Place home or within easy call if needed. In return he wanted to be paid an annual salary of £120 — too much for the doctor who counter-offered £60, and suggested a trial period of six months, which Thomas accepted, thinking that any experience and qualification he might gain in that time would be worth it.
All was well for some time, the doctor seeming to have full confidence in Thomas, who, in turn, introduced some of his own customers and several medical clubs to the doctor. However at the end of March 1882, the doctor wished to terminate the agreement — he was not happy that Thomas could not always be present. Somewhat miffed and recognising no fault on his part, the latter asked for a quarter salary to be paid or a quarter’s notice — neither was forthcoming !! — though he was paid up to the end of that month.
As a result of this disagreement, Thomas took his case to Belper County Court in August, 1882, seeking to recover the £15 salary that he thought was owed to him. At that hearing it was alleged that Thomas had failed to visit one patient as instructed and had been absent from the surgery during his allotted hours on a few occasions — and habitual neglect or disobedience were sufficient excuse for instant dismissal. These allegations were supported by witnesses although the number of Thomas’s absences was admitted to be minor. Counter to this, serious doubt was placed upon the initial contract between the two men and the length of employment agreed. And after Thomas’s dismissal the doctor had continued his practice without any help — was he thus finding any excuse to get rid of his assistant, having discovered that his practice was not sufficiently large to warrant help ? The judge, in his summing up, found the last insinuation very ‘regrettable’ and unsubstantiated — ‘by acting thus, one would cease to be a gentleman’. Despite other ‘adverse’ remarks by Judge Woodforde, Thomas left court, having won his claim for the full amount he had asked for.

By 1888 lace manufacturer Charles Maltby was resident at the house and was to remain there into the next century.


Facing Dalby House across Anchor Row is the Unitarian Chapel.