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Two copy letters from James Williams to Mary Williams regarding Hunter’s death

Two letters from James Williams to his sister Mary in Worcester.

In the first letter, James Williams describes his daily work assisting John Hunter with preparations, and his attendance of Matthew Baillie’s lectures on anatomy and Everard Home’s lectures on surgery and physiology. He describes living with Hunter [at 13 Castle Square, backing onto Hunter’s Leicester Square residence], where his room is right below the ‘dissecting room with half a dozen dead bodies in it’, and how ‘there is a dead carcass just at this moment rumbling up the stairs and the Resurrection Men swearing most terribly’. He describes Hunter as a ‘very good kind of man when you have been used to him tho he has some oddities’. He states that the fee to attend dissections is five guineas, ‘besides buying bodies’, generally shared by two students and costing ‘about a guinea’. He asks for Mary’s watch as he does not have one himself, and it is as safe in London as it is in Worcester, promises to pay George back and asks for his books to be forwarded to him.

The second letter appears to have been written on the day of Hunter’s death. Williams states that Hunter had had ‘for these several years a very irregular spasmodic affection at his heart’. Williams describes having had breakfast with Hunter in the morning, after which Hunter left to see his patients and then to St George’s Hospital, where ‘the surgeons of this charity have been at variance with him … respecting some of the pupils’. Following ‘several words with the surgeons which brought on his complaint’, he died at the hospital. Williams says that Mrs Hunter [Anne Hunter] and their children were out of town. He says that ‘the other two pupils’ are leaving London for a while, and with no lectures he also plans ‘an excursion somewhere or other’.

These letters are transcripts and photocopies by George Edwards in 1968 from letters held by a descendant of James and Mary Williams (Edwards, George. 1968. John Hunter’s last pupil. Annals of The Royal College of Surgeons of England 42 (1):68-70).

Medical School Council Minutes and Papers

Minutes of meetings of the Medical School Council. Papers relate to staffing, salaries, funding, committees, costs, curriculum, prizes, examinations, new buildings and facilities, and various other matters.

In 1907 the Medical School Council merged with the Medical School Committee. There was further reorganisation of the medical school administration in 1945 which led to the vision of the Medical School Committtee into a new School Council and an Academic Board. The new School Council met for the first time in October 1946.

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Papers relating to John Hunter

The collection relates to Hunter’s dispute with St George’s Hospital and the division of pupils’ fees among the surgeons, which Hunter perceived as unfair, arguing he brought in more pupils than the other surgeons. The dispute culminated in a meeting in Oct 1793 at the hospital, during which Hunter suffered a heart attack and died.

In addition to the papers relating to the dispute, there are some additional notes, some collected by Charles Hawkins and some by George Edwards. These include copies of two letters from John Hunter’s pupil James Williams to his sister, describing working with Hunter, dissections and the work of the so-called ‘Resurrection Men’, and describing Hunter’s death. These were acquired apparently from a descendant of Williams by Edwards; the location of the original letters is unknown.

St George's Nursing Collection

  • 406 NU
  • Coleção
  • c.1830-2015

Collection charting the development of nursing education at St George's and related institutions from the 19th century to the present day.

The collection includes:

  • Student registers, training and examination records, prospectuses and syllabuses
  • Administrative records, including committee minutes, reports, rules and regulations
  • Publications and printed material including books, newsletters and journals
  • Papers, photographs and artefacts from St George’s Nurses’ League
  • Personal papers, memoirs and memorabilia from individual nurses, including papers of matron Dame Muriel Powell (c.1910s-­1970s)
  • Photographs, including student photographs, group photographs and personal photo albums
  • Artefacts and objects, including items of nurses' uniform, badges, medals, and medical instruments
  • ‘Nurses’ Voices’ oral history project: interviews with over 100 former St George’s nurses and midwives (and related documentation), recorded 2003-2008

From in-­job training at the hospital, nursing education was gradually formalised during the latter half of the 19th century. From 1882 onwards, probationer nurses were offered lectures by the medical school and hospital staff; these lectures developed into a more formal syllabus, becoming compulsory for probationers in the 1890s, and the first formal examinations were introduced in 1894. The archive charts the development of nursing education from the late 19th century to the 21st century, including important changes in the demographics of the nursing staff, such as the arrival of the Windrush generation.

The collection encompasses training of nurses at St George’s and related institutions: for instance, nursing training at Victoria Hospital for Children and Grove Hospital were merged with St George’s School of Nursing in the 1950s, leading to the establishment of a branch of the School of Nursing at Tooting, where St George’s Hospital and Medical School (later university) moved in the 1970s from Hyde Park Corner, central London.

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