A Journey of Healing

The Journal (Newcastle, England), August 18, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Journey of Healing


2006 is the centenary of the opening of the Royal Victoria Infirmary by King Edward VII. In response, we have organised a Culture Club walk that marks the event by looking at some of the sites in central Newcastle which have played a role in the city's medical history.

The walk will take place on Saturday, September 16 and will be led by John Griffiths, a writer and historian who teaches on townscape at the University of Sunderland Centre for Lifelong Learning, Newcastle.

In the centuries before the establishment of the NHS, the health of Newcastle was catered for by a variety of religious, charitable, private and municipally sponsored institutions. The descendants of some of these bodies survive today under different names, while others are long forgotten.

However, they played an important role in what was to become, in the course of the 19th Century, one of the most overcrowded and unhealthy cities in Britain.

The walk will start at Times Square, next to the Centre for Life, which was developed on the site of the original Newcastle Infirmary (opened in 1752), and end up at the RVI. On the way, the walk will pass such places as the House of Recovery, a fever hospital built outside the city walls in 1804. It will also pass the Lying-in Hospital (maternity hospital) designed by John Dobson in 1826, better known as the BBC's Broadcasting House and now part of the Newcastle Building Society HQ, and the 1887 Medical School on Northumberland Road.

Numerous less well known sites include those of the medieval Hospital of St Mary the Virgin on Westgate Road and the leper hospital of St Mary Magdalene at Barras Bridge, now occupied by St Thomas' church. Also of note is Dispensary Lane, named after the Dispensary where the poor could receive advice and medication, and the 'Lunatic Hospital' on Bath Lane which served from 1767 until the 1850s.

The group will be limited to 20 places for Culture Club members.

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