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.


Ilkeston’s late Victorian doctors 1880-1901

After Henry George Brigham…

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.


In the early 1880s we find Charles Alfred Cooper at 1 Bonsall Place, Robert Wilkinson at 2 Wilton Place, James Frederick Digby Willoughby at Dalby House, and Robert Wood at the ‘Doctor’s House‘ in Lower Market Place.

A few years later (about 1883/4), Robert Wilkinson moved to Cotmanhay to serve the people there, while into Wilton Place moved Henry Potter. 

By 1888 Joseph Carroll had replaced Charles Cooper at Bonsall Place. John Joseph Tobin had also arrived while doctor Willoughby had left.

All the doctors are on the 1891 census, joined by William Rankin Paton, ‘medical practitioner’, boarding at 5 East Street.

On that census Dr. Carroll is living at his home at 171 Station Road, with his wife Sarah (nee Orme) and two daughters Marguerite, aged 3, and Kathleen, aged 10 months. By 1893 he seems to have moved next door (??) to occupy number 172. On the afternoon of June 26th of that year the doctor’s elder daughter was on her way home from school and standing on the Station Road side of Bath Street when she saw her father across the road and ran over to greet him. What young Marguerite didn’t see however was Henry Gisbourne (silk merchant of Bleak House, Alexandra Park in Nottingham) riding down Bath Street on his tricycle. He collided violently with the child.
Joseph hurried to pick her up, discovering that she was severely bruised though seemingly not seriously injured. By the following afternoon however, Marguerite’s condition had deteriorated and she was taken to Nottingham General Hospital where an immediate operation upon her head was performed — the general medical opinion at that time was that she would surely die without it. Sadly the young lass never rallied and she died the following morning.

At the inquest (the day after) the distraught father gave evidence, as well as a witness, and the rider of the tricycle. Overcome with remorse and finding difficulty in recounting the day’s events, Henry Gisbourne described how he was constantly ringing his warning bell as he went down the street; he had the tricycle under complete control and was travelling at a ‘moderate speed’, confirmed by the witness. “It was a pure accident and one which he would regret to the last day he lived”
A verdict of ‘accidental death’ was returned and recorded.

By 1894 we find a) (Joseph) Carroll &  (Leslie Fyfe) Walker at 103 Bath Street; b) Robert Lowry Moorhead at 65 Station Road; c) William Rankin Paton now at Wilmot Street; d) Tobin & (James George) Willis at Town Hall Buildings in the Market Place; e) Robert Wood at 16 Market Place.

On March 27th 1894 William Rankin Paton married Mary Edith Walker, the daughter of John Flint Walker and Mary Blunston Walker (nee Severn). And less than three months later he was embroiled in a court case where he was defending himself against a charge of assault.
For two and a half years he had employed Florence Edith Lewis of Station Road, now aged 17, as a domestic servant at his Wilmot Street home. In June the doctor gave her notice to leave and her widowed mother, Selina (nee Cordon) was soon round at the house, wanting to know why her daughter ‘had been let go’. It was at this point that, according to Selina, the doctor had assaulted her.
The mother spoke initially to Mrs Paton who explained that the daughter was ‘dirty’ … which puzzled the mother; Florence Edith had worked there for over two years, so had she suddenly become ‘dirty’ ? Whereupon the doctor rushed into the room, struck Selina on the chest and threw her out of the house, followed by her shawl. And all this time William’s wife was trying in vain to restrain him. Things looked bleak for the doctor when Florence Edith recalled exactly the same series of events, in the same sequence.
However Dr. Paton told a different story. Selina had arrived, seemingly determined to have a row. From another room William had heard her loudly berating his wife, and when he entered the room he asked the mother to leave. As she refused he tried to put her out and had to hold her arms to do so — which he eventually managed. Outside she was shouting and screaming, behaving abusively — she even threatened to pull the doctor’s whiskers off !!  For his safety the doctor thus locked her out. And as for his servant, the daughter, she wasn’t even in the room when the argument occurred !!
The three magistrates at the Petty Sessions were convinced that William was justified in putting Selina out of the house and the case was dismissed.

In 1898 David Young Clarke, L.R.C.P & S. Edin., was an Ilkeston doctor, living at 3 Wilton Place. It was there, on July 13th, that his wife gave birth to her son. At the same time Arthur Dobson (M.R.C.S Eng and L.R.C.P. London) of 115 Bath Street was practising in Ilkeston.


And during this period the Medical Officers of Health, serving the town and Town Council, were Joseph Carroll (1887-1894), John Joseph Tobin (1894-1895) and James George Willis (1895-1903). You can find extensive reference to all three in Cyril Hargreaves‘ book ‘Ilkeston as a Borough‘.

Dr. Willis spent some time serving as a volunteer in South Africa during the Second Boer War, as Surgeon-Captain. He returned to Ilkeston at them end of 1900. During his service James had been twice imprisoned by the Boers, confined in a railway carriage for a fortnight where he feared for his life, and had been twice mentioned in despatches for gallantry in the field.

Joseph Carroll and his family left Ilkeston in the summer of 1897, to live in Glasgow, where he continued his practice.


To  be or  not to be … a doctor ?  Who ?

If you glance at some of the Ilkeston trade directories of the late 19th century you will find the name of Robert Frederick Palmer of Stanton Road listed as a surgeon (though some times, mistakenly, he is shown residing in ‘Station Road’). However, if you also examine the censuses covering that period, they also show Robert living in Stanton Road, with his family, though he is not described as a “surgeon” but as a “gentleman” or “living on his own means“.

Robert came to Ilkeston in 1890, previously having lived in Leicestershire for most of his married life, though the last four years had been spent in Codnor, Derbyshire with his family. Framework knitter Joseph Charles Page also came to Ilkeston from Leicestershire with his family, though a few years earlier than Robert; he settled in Belper Street.
By June 1897 Joseph was a man in great suffering — suffering which he had bourne for about seven years. His bodily distress stemmed from his fluid retention (oedema) which, though not persistent, caused him great pain when it occurred. And when it did occur he had been treated by Dr. Tobin (since 1889). However, since Christmas of 1896 he had had three attacks and on each occasion he had summoned ‘Dr. Palmer‘ to treat him. Thus, in early June of  1897, when he returned from his work in great pain, he asked his wife Violetta (nee Warner), to once more send for the same doctor. What neither Violetta nor Joseph knew was that Robert Palmer was an “unqualified doctor”.

Robert tried his usual method of drawing water from the patient but when this proved ineffective a desparate Violetta sent for Dr. Leslie Fyfe Walker. The latter attended only once however and thereafter refused any further treatment as Joseph was ‘under the care‘ of Dr. Palmer — was this a case of ‘medical etiquette’ ?

Once more Robert Palmer had to be called to treat the framework knitter but he proved as unsuccessful as before and after a few days had to admit defeat !! At this point the unqualified medic recommended that Dr. Robert Wood be called in, but once more the suffering Joseph was refused treatment. And so the cycle of treatment turned full circle as Dr. Tobin finally stepped in to fill the void — eight days after Joseph had fallen ill. Some fluid was taken out of his body though Dr. Tobin was frustrated that it should have happened days before — now he feared that advanced uremic poisoning had taken hold. And he was right.

Dr. Tobin’s treatment was too late. The next day Joseph lapsed into a coma and died shortly after. At the inquest John Tobin gave the cause of death as blood-poisoning through the retention of urine; in his opinion the patient’s life could have been saved if water had been successfully drawn much sooner. Medical incompetence was evident. It was all looking very bleak for Robert Frederick Palmer.

At the inquest and under oath, Robert stated that he had previously served as a medical assistant but admitted that he was not a ‘properly qualified medical man‘; he had gone through the full curriculum at Guy’s Hospital, had spent four years at Codnor in private practice, and since 1890 had been in Ilkeston where he had also practised. During his visits to Joseph he had consistently recommended that he should seek further treatment elsewhere, but Joseph was stubborn — he wished to stay at home. The Coronor pointed out that Robert had broken no law by acting as an unqualified doctor; only if there was criminal neglect (by leaving Joseph to die, without treatment) or he had acted rashly, could he be accused of manslaughter — there had to be gross ignorance or criminal intent. However, again according to the Coronor, Robert might have made it clearer to his patient that he could do no more for him, and that he should find an alternative doctor to treat him — before it was too late !!

One supposes that at this point in the proceedings, as the jury retired to consider the case, that Robert was extremly anxious. Fortunately for him the jury consultation was very brief; it returned a verdict of “Death from uremic poisoning” and Dr. Palmer had been guilty of an error of judgment only.

Over three years later, Robert Frederick Palmer was still dispensing his ‘medical knowledge‘ for a fee. In July 1900 41-year-old Thomas Castle, of 7 Brussels Terrace, a labourer at a Gallows Inn ironworks, died in mysterious circumstances. It wasn’t a sudden event however, as Thomas had been off work for about nine weeks with severe pains in his chest, initially caused when he was heavy lifting at work. He had consulted ‘Dr. Palmer‘ who had given him a note so that he could draw sick pay from his club, and had supplied him with a bottle of medicine and four or five boxes of medicine. However Thomas had also consulted several other, more qualified medical men, at Nottingham and in Ilkeston’
At the inquest into Thomas’s death, Robert was once more criticised by a Coroner who wondered why the medical establishment didn’t take action over such unqualified ‘quacks’ — he was told that neither the College of Surgeons nor the College of Physicians would take action, though the Society of Apothecaries might. Careful to keep within the law, Robert didn’t charge for his ‘prescriptions‘ (he wasn’t legally entitled to do so) but he did charge 3d for a visit (as he could). Following the advice of the other doctors who treated Thomas, the Coroner recorded a verdict of ‘Death from natural causes’, though the jury added a rider that they much regretted the employment of unqualified men when there were skilled and qualified men near at hand.

Post script:  Before his death at Ilkeston in 1914, aged 68, Robert Frederick Palmer appeared on one final census. He is shown at 171 Bath Street, aged 64, living with his daughter Alice and her husband George Bertram Barnes, manager of the Ilkeston Furniture Co. — Robert is listed as a “Retired Medical Practitioner (unqualified)!!


Facing Dalby House across Anchor Row is the Unitarian Chapel.