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Research on Pearson From The Society Of Apothecaries

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Research on Pearson From The Society Of Apothecaries

Post by Karen on Tue 1 Oct 2013 - 16:44

I will now post the entire research report on Dr. Alfred William Pearson, which was conducted by the Royal Society of Apothecaries. I thank them most sincerely for all of the hard work that they did on my behalf.

Dear Karen

Dr. Alfred William Pearson

I have checked the records and Dr. Pearson was neither a Licentiate nor a member of the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries of London.

I have, however, found his entry in the Medical Students' Register for the year 1869. This register was printed and published by the General Council of Medical Education and Registration of the United Kingdom, which became the General Medical Council (GMC). The GMC continues to regulate the medical profession in the UK today. It was set up as a result of the Medical Act, 1858, and from 1 January 1859 all medical practitioners had to be registered (and continue to have to be registered today) with the Council in order to practise legally. By an order of the Council made in 1860, all those wishing to study medicine had to have passed what was called a Preliminary Examination in Arts, and this exam had to be one recognised by the Council. Various organizations, including the Society of Apothecaries offered such an exam. It comprised a range of subjects in which the candidates had to demonstrate a reasonable level of competence. The 1868 Regulations for the Apothecaries' Arts exam state that:

"The Examination will be conducted by means of Printed Papers; and for the purpose of further ascertaining the competence of the Candidates to pass, a viva voce Examination will also be held. Candidates will be examined in the following subjects; and no Candidate will be approved unless he show a competent knowledge of each branch of the Examination: -
I. English History and the English Language
II. Mathematics and Natural Philosophy
III. Latin
Candidates may also, at their own option be examined in the following additional subjects: proficiency in the whole five branches entitling the Candidate to a Special Certificate
IV. The Greek Language
V. Logic"

The fee for admission to the exam was 1 guinea (1 pound 1s. 0d. in old money).

Alfred William Pearson passed the Preliminary Examination in Arts of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in December 1868 (I do not have details of this exam but I imagine it would have been very similar in content to the Society's), and went on to register as a medical student on 25 October 1869. The place of medical study in his entry is given as Birmingham General Hospital.

Birmingham General Hospital, Summer Lane, Birmingham, formed part of one of the provincial schools of medicine of this period, namely Queen's College, Birmingham (which had been incorporated by Special Act of Parliament). The Medical Directory (1875), the year before Dr. Pearson qualified in Edinburgh, includes details of lectures covered and of the teaching staff of the Faculty of Medicine during the Winter Session and the Summer Session for 1874-75. The Summer Session included Midwifery and Diseases of Women and Children. The "Composition Fee" for all the Lectures required by the Examining Boards (i.e. nationwide, including Scotland) was 50 guineas, and arrangements had been made "whereby all Students of the College will in future attend the Clinical Lectures and Practice at both the General and the Queen's Hospitals for a common fee." Clinical experience therefore could be gained in the Out-Patients and wards of the two teaching hospitals: Birmingham General (which had been established in 1772 and had 240 beds in 1874-75 and "upwards of 30,000 patients" in receipt of "medical and surgical relief" during the previous year) and Queen's Hospital, Bath Row (then containing "150 beds, which are constantly filled", with relief having been "afforded to over 2,000 In-Patients").

The records of Birmingham General Hospital which have survived (held by Birmingham City Archives and at Warwickshire County Record Office) do not include anything of relevance to Dr. Pearson as a medical student. Queen's Hospital is now Birmingham Accident Hospital, but similarly there are no relevant extant records.

Dr. Pearson's entry in the Medical Directory (1885) records that he trained at both Queen's College Birmingham and at Edinburgh. I do not know when he left Birmingham and how long he was studying in Edinburgh, but the following information (again, from the Medical Directory (1875)) is provided for the School of Medicine, Edinburgh. It too offered a Winter Session and a Summer Session of Lectures, including Midwifery and Diseases of Women and Children. "The Lectures qualify for the University of Edinburgh and other Universities, the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Edinburgh, London, and Dublin, and other Medical and Public Boards. In accordance with the Statutes of the University of Edinburgh, any four of the Medical Classes required for Graduation, or two complete Anni Medici may be attended in this School; or on one of these and two Three Months' Courses. The Regulations require that the Fee for any class taken for Graduation in Edinburgh shall be the same as that for the corresponding Class in the University."

Other information supplied in the Medical Directory (1885) about Dr. Pearson's medical qualifications and career path include the following:

  • LRCP Edin 1876; LRCS Edin and LM 1876 [i.e. in addition to becoming a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh he also qualified as one of their Licentiates in Midwifery]
  • his address was Stella House, Kingswinford, Dudley, Staffordshire
  • he was a member of the British Medical Association and of the Midland Medical Society [the BMA Archives may be able to help]
  • he was the Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator of the Kingswinford No. 3 District of the Stourbridge Union
  • he was Surgeon to the Odd Fellows, Foresters, and Free Gardeners ["friendly societies" or non-profit organisations, owned by their members not shareholders, with income ploughed back into services and benefits for their members]
  • he was Medical Referee to the Prudent (Prudential), People's Fam (Family) and Wesl (Wesleyan) Assurance Societies [these still exist, with slightly altered names. You can access their present-day offices via their websites. They may hold archives which contain material relating to Dr. Pearson. Similarly, with regard to the previous set of organisations to which he was Surgeon]

Medical Officers were appointed by the Poor Law Commissioners and discharged their duties for the most part only as additional to their ordinary practice (i.e. Dr. Pearson was a general practitioner of medicine (what we call a GP today) who also worked at the Union Workhouse, looking after the poor and needy). Midwifery and the diseases of women and children were very important components of the GP's practice and of the Medical Officer's responsibilities, which is presumably why he sought to gain the additional qualification.

To be continued...........................

Last edited by Karen on Tue 1 Oct 2013 - 17:56; edited 2 times in total

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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Re: Research on Pearson From The Society Of Apothecaries

Post by Karen on Tue 1 Oct 2013 - 17:26

The District Medical Officer

Unions were generally too big an area for a single medical practitioner to cover alone and were usually divided into several districts, each of which was allocated to a District Medical Officer. District Medical Officers were generally employed on an annual contract which, as well as attendance on the sick, usually included the supply of any necessary medicines. For example, in 1835, the Guardians' minutes of Abingdon Union recorded that James Hester was appointed at 110 pounds per annum "to include all cases of casual poor, accidents, surgery and midwifery, and to supply medicines, ointments, bandages and leeches".

A District Medical Officer's main duties were:

  • To attend duly and punctually upon all poor persons requiring medical attendance within the District of the Union assigned to him, and supply the requisite medicines to such persons according to a written or printed order of the Guardians, or of a Relieving Officer of the Union, or of an Overseer.
  • To make a return to the Guardians at each meeting of the date of every attendance, and the other particulars required.

The above information on the DMO comes from a website on workhouses:

As does the following:

After 1834

Stourbridge Poor Law Union was formed on 13th October 1836. Its operation was overseen by an elected Board of Guardians, 24 in number, representing its 14 constituent parishes as listed below (figures in brackets indicates numbers of Guardians if more than one):

Worcestershire: Cradley, Lutlers, Old Swinford (3), Stourbridge (3).
Shropshire: Cakemore, Halesowen Borough (2), Hasbury, Hawn, The Hill, Illy, Lapal, Ridgacre.
Staffordshire: Amblecote, Kingswinford (6).

The population falling within the Union at the 1831 census had been 35,911 - ranging from Hawn (population 98) to Kingswinford (15,156) with Oldswinford the next biggish parish (6,490) then Stourbridge itself (6,145). The average annual poor-rate expenditure for the period 1834-36 had been 8,339 pounds.

Initially, the former Kingswinford parish workhouse was used by the new Stourbridge Union. The Poor Law Commissioners authorized and expenditure of 1,500 pounds for its enlargement, the architect of which was a Mr. Griffiths. Over the next half century a number of additions and alterations were made. Additional land was purchased in 1858-9, with the erection of new infectious wards in 1861 and 1871, a children's block in 1869, and a detached board-room at the west of the workhouse in around 1874.

The 1869 children's building included schools for 200 children with dormitories above, a class room, staircases, lavatories, baths, water closets, play sheds and playground. The old wall and privy to the drying grounds were rebuilt as the playground walls.

On 10 May 1872, the Board of Guardians agreed that "the erection of a detached building for a Board Room with suitable offices for the deposit of the Books of the Union and waiting rooms for applicants attending for relief" was necessary. On 31 May 1872, the Board met with the architect Mr. Smalman Smith and decided on a suitable site for the building. Plans were produced by the architect and then approved. However, due to the economic climate and inclement weather, the formal building contract was delayed until the spring of 1874. The Local Government Board stipulated that the building work be completed by April 1875. The builder was John Guest of Amblecote. The block included the Relieving Officer's room, the Board Room itself, a Waiting Room, a Clerk's Office, and a lavatory.

Another website ( about the Stourbridge Union Workhouse includes an Abstract of receipts and payments from the Poor Rate return for the year ending 1878 and 1879. Included on the return, under the heading "Purposes unconnected with relief to the Poor" are Vaccination fees.

Stourbridge Workhouse (1839-1929) is now the Wordsley Hospital, in Stream Road, Stourbridge.

Poor Law Union records are held by Worcestershire Record Office, County Hall Branch: County Hall, Spetchley Road, Worcester WR5 2NP (Email: Amongst them, hopefully, should be the returns Dr. Pearson made to the Guardians at each of their meetings for whatever period of time he was Kingswinford No. 3 District Medical Officer of the Stourbridge Union.

A later Medical Directory (1893) includes several additional items of information: his address is now Townsend House, Kingswinford; he either has been or still is Surgeon to the Post Office; he has also been (and still is, I think) Surgeon to the Earl of Dudley's, Himley and Old Park Collieries in addition to the friendly and assurance societies mentioned above (1885) and one new one: the New York Assurance Society.

The Medical Directory (1915) entry for Dr. Pearson indicates that he is still living in Townsend House, is still in general practice and still the Medical Officer of No. 3 District of the Stourbridge Union, and states that he had served as a police surgeon.

To be continued.....................

Last edited by Karen on Tue 1 Oct 2013 - 17:55; edited 1 time in total

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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Re: Research on Pearson From The Society Of Apothecaries

Post by Karen on Tue 1 Oct 2013 - 17:53

There is an interesting website ( about the company Harris and Pearson (firebricks works), and its former office building (in Brettell Lane, Brierley Hill, West Midlands), which was constructed in 1888. A Grade II listed building, it has recently been restored (completed in February 2005). The website (a few printouts enclosed) includes histories of the Harris and Pearson families and of the company. The biography of John Pearson (1808-1878) reveals that his first business venture was as a partner in a company operating coal mines in the Brierley Hill area. He married in 1830 and later moved from Brierley Hill to Townsend House, Market Street, Kingswinford, where he stayed until his death in 1878. His house then "passed to his son Dr. Alfred William Pearson who carried on his medical practice there until his death in 1920". John and Ann were buried together in the parish churchyard in Wordsley, and their son, Dr. Alfred William Pearson is in the adjacent grave. Dr. Pearson "left a vast and valuable estate consisting of mines not just in the Black Country but also in Shropshire. In addition, he was a partner and co-owner of "E.J. & J. Pearson"...with the additional fireclay mines, etc associated with this venture. His will, because of its extent, took over twenty years to settle, and involved a Lawsuit in Chancery involving his descendants."

The compiler of the family history on the website is Steve Pearson. He presumably has or had access to many company and family papers, including Dr. Pearson's will. I suggest that you try contacting him by sending a message to the West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust (there is a "Contact Us" link on the Harris & Pearson website homepage).

Parish records should provide information about Dr. Pearson's birth, marriage (if indeed he did marry) and burial. And in addition to births and marriage, deaths had to be registered from 1837 onwards (printout about the UK BMD register enclosed). Once you know his date of death you should be able to track down his will. Again the Worcestershire Record Office may be able to help, but in this case it is a different branch of the archives service: Worcestershire Library and History Centre, Trinity Street, Worcester WR1 2PW (Email: In addition to parish records, this branch holds many other types of records useful for family historians, such as wills and local newspapers. These latter might contain articles, stories, obituaries and photographs relating to Dr. Pearson (man and doctor), his family, the firm, and possibly the collieries although they were in different counties. I have enclosed a printout explaining what the main sources at the History Centre include. You have not said what your primary interest in Dr. Pearson actually is, so I have given you information about both branches and suggest that you consult both websites.

I have also tracked down archives relating to the firm Harris & Pearson. It could be that some original documents written or signed by Dr. Pearson exist among them (see printouts A and B, the record offices are highlighted in yellow). Also at Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Archive Service is another collection (ref: D1222) which comprises ledgers, journal, order books, stores, equipment, time and wages books, 1858-1968. If records exist for the collieries where he worked as surgeon (there were always accidents and fatalities in the coalmines) there may be journals or accident books which he would have had to keep.

Although I have not been able to locate specific instances of Dr. Pearson's handwriting or a photograph of him, I believe I have managed to provide you with a number of significant leads which should help you with your research into Dr. Alfred William Pearson. And given my resources, I have provided as much information as I could on his professional training and qualifications and on his medical career and varied working life.

I hope the other repositories, which I have mentioned above, will be able to assist you.

With kind regards,
Yours sincerely

(Name withheld)

Society of Apothecaries of London
Black Friars Lane, London EC4V 6EJ

Karen Trenouth
Author of: "Epiphany of the Whitechapel Murders"
Author of: "Jack the Ripper: The Satanic Team"

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