The Victorian era saw the development of several
hospitals in Wolverhampton. On the succession of Victoria to the
throne in 1837, Wolverhampton only had a six-bedded Public
Dispensary in Queen Street, whilst limited in scope and
provision it was one of the first such units in the country to
use ether, in the early 1840s.
The first real in-house provision of medical care in Wolverhampton
lay in the opening of a public dispensary in Queen Street in
1821. The house is to be found on the eastern side of the
Street. On this evidence it would appear the first use of the
property was for medical provision for the Wolverhampton poor.
Funded and supported by charity, its first year budget being
some 300 plus pounds. A ten-bedded unit was established with
local doctors giving freely of their services in an honorary
capacity. The treatments of the period, i.e. blistering,
cupping, scarifying and much poultice use was pre-eminent; the
surgery and reduction of fractures was of a rudimentary nature
and much use of laudanum was seen.
By 1825 the dispensary was considerably enlarged and refurbished
to contain 20 beds. Some relief of ear, nose and throat and eye
conditions was offered separately by a medical practitioner in
With the demands on the dispensary becoming greater from the
burgeoning growth of the town it was perhaps fortunate that
prominent local businessman George Briscoe was treated there in the
early 1840s, as on the basis of this care he determined to raise
funds to establish The South Staffordshire General Hospital (later
to become ‘The Royal’) in Cleveland Road in 1849.
Additionally Briscoe went on to found the Eye Infirmary,
originally in St. Mark’s Road in 1881 and Chapel Ash in 1886.
Another milestone in the life of the public
dispensary was the use of ether as an anaesthetic in 1847 by
local prominent medical practitioner Dr. E.H. Coleman, said to
be the third such use of the product in England.
In 1848 the process of transferring services
and facilities to the new Cleveland Road Hospital began. It then
became evident that local philanthropists John Lees and Marson
converted the premises for use as an Orphan Asylum prior to the
new building in the Goldthorn Hill area of Penn Road.
The Staffordshire Infirmary in Cleveland Road
opened in1849 and provided 83 beds for “patients who are unable
to pay for medicine and are destitute of funds to make provision
for them”. In the later development of this hospital it was
renamed The Royal Hospital in 1928.