Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Museums, Public Buildings and Galleries - Royal College of Surgeons

Surgeons, Royal College of ... Admission to view the museum is only granted on an order from any member of the college; but as these to country visitors are not very likely to be known, it may be as well to state that, if respectable, they will find no difficulty in obtaining one from any surgeon of eminence. It is open on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, from 12 till 4, except the gallery, which is not open after 3 o'clock.

The Royal College of Surgeons, in Lincoln's-inn-Fields, is a new and handsome fabric. The building is of the Ionic order, and is ornamented in front with a noble colonnade and portico. The interior is extremely appropriate; and the spacious museum, which is of an oblong form, with galleries, contains the finest collection of anatomical preparations that was ever formed. It includes the entire collection of the great John Hunter, which, after his decease, was purchased by government at the public expense, and presented to the College. The design of Mr. Hunter, in making this collection, was to exhibit the gradations of nature, front the most simple state in which life is found to exist, up to the most perfect and most complex of the animal creation, man himself. By his art, he was able to expose and preserve in a dried state, or in spirits, the corresponding parts of animal bodies; so that the various links in the chain of a perfect being may be readily followed and clearly understood.. Besides the Hunterian collection, this museum contains many valuable contributions made by Sir Joseph Banks, Sir William Blizard, Sir Everard Home, and other eminent persons. Applications to view the museum must be made to the Curators, and it may be seen on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays. and Thursdays, from twelve to four.

Mogg's New Picture of London and Visitor's Guide to it Sights, 1844

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from The Illustrated London News, 1845

COLLEGE OF SURGEONS (ROYAL), LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS, (south side), built 1835, from the designs of Charles Barry, R.A., and is said to have cost 40,000l. "The Royal College of Surgeons in London" was incorporated by charter, March 22nd 1800. The museum of the College, at present (1849) under the direction of Owen, the Cuvier of England, originated in the purchase for 15,000l.made by parliament, of the Hunterian Collection. John Hunter (the founder) was born in 1728 at Long Calderwood, near Glasgow, and died suddenly in St. George's Hospital, London, Oct.16th, 1793.  The Collection is arranged in two apartments - one called the "Physiological Department, or Normal Structures;" the other the "Pathological Department, or Abnormal Structures;" - number of specimens is upwardsof 23,000. Observe.- Skeleton (eight feet in height) of Charles Byrne or O'Brian, the Irish giant, who died in Cockspur-street, in 1783, at the age of twenty-two. He measured, when dead, 8 feet 4 inches. Skeleton (20 inches in height) of Caroline Crachami, the Sicilian dwarf, who died in Bond-street, in 1824, in the tenth year of her age. Plaster-cast of the left hand of M.Louis, the French giant, whose height was 7 feet 4 inches.-  Skeleton of Chunee, the famous elephant brought to England in 1810 - exhibited for a time on the stage of Covent-garden Theatre, and subsequently bought by Mr. Cross, the proprietor of the menagerie at Exeter Change. After a return of an annual paroxysm, aggravated as subsequently appeared, by inflammation of the large pulp of one of the tusks, Chunee, in 1826, became so ungovernably violent that is was found necessary to kill him. Amid the shower of balls, he knelt down at the well-known voice of his keeper, to present a more vulnerable point to the soldiers employed to shoot him, and did not die until he had received upwards of one hundred musket and rifle bullets. On the platform is preserved the base of the inflamed tusk, showing a spicula of ivory which projected into the pulp. - Skeleton of the gigantic extinct deer, (Megaceros Hibernicus, commonly but erroneously called the "Irish elk") exhumed from a bed of shell-marl beneath the peat-bog near Limerick. The span of the antlers, measured in a straight line between the extreme tips, is 8 feet; the length of a single antler, following the curve, 7 feet 3 inches; height of the skeleton to the top of the skull, 7 feet six inches; to the highest point of the antlers, 10 feet 4 inches; weight of the skull and antlers 76 pounds. - Female monstrous foetus, found in the abdomen of Thomas Lane, a lad between fifteen and sixteen years of age, at Sherborne, in Dorsetshire, June 6th, 1814. - Imperfectly formed male foetus founde in the abdomen of John Hare, an infant between nine and ten months old, born May 8th 1807. - Human female twin monster, the bodies of which are united crosswise, sacrum to sacrum; the mother was between sixteen and seventeen years of age, and was delivered, in 1815, without any particular difficulty. - Intestines of Napoleon, showing the progress of the disease which carried him off. - Cast in wax of the band uniting the bodies of the Siamese twins. - Iron pivot of a try-sail mast, and two views of John Toylor, a seaman, through whose chest the blunt end of the pivot was driven. While guiding the pivot of the try-sail mast into the main-boom, on board a brig in the London Docks, the tackle gave way, and the pivot passed obliquely through his body and penetrated the deck. He was carried to the London Hospital, where is was found he had sustained various other injuries, but in five months he was enabled to walk from the hospital to the College of Surgeons, and back again. He returned to his duty as a seaman, and twice, at intervals of about a year, revisited the College in a robust state of health. The try-sail mast was 39 feet long, and about 600 pounds in weight. - Portions of a skeleton of a rhinoceros, discovered in a lime-stone cavern at Oreston, near Plymouth, during the formation of the Plymouth break-water. - Embalmed body of the first wife of the late Martin Van Butchell, prepared at his request in January 1775, by Dr. William Hunter and Mr. Cruikshank. The method pursued in its preparation was, principally, that of injecting the vascular system with oil of turpentine and camphorated spirit of wine, and the introduction of powdered nitre and camphor into the cavity of the abdomen, &c.
"The Museum is open to the Fellows and Members of the College, and to visitors introduced by them personally, or by written orders stating their names (which orders are not transferable), on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from 12 to 4 o'clock; except during the month of September, when the Museum is closed."
Works of Art - Portrait of John Hunter, by Sir Joshua Reynolds; the well-known picture so finely engraved by Sharp: it has sadly faded. Posthumous bust of John Hunter, by Flaxman. Bust of CLine, by Chantry (fine). The old College of Surgeons (known to every reader of Roderick Random) was in the Old Bailey. Here Goldsmith was examined and rejected as unqualified for the inferior office of a surgeon's mate. There is a good engraving of it in the 1754 edition of Stow.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

ROYAL COLLEGE OF SURGEONS OF ENGLAND, Lincoln's Inn Fields. The College was built in 1835, from the designs of Sir Charles Barry, at a cost of 40,000l., and was greatly enlarged in 1852. The Society was incorporated in 1800, and consists of Fellows (F.R.C.S.), Members (M.R.C.S.), and Licentiates in Midwifery (L.M.R.C.S.) A court of examiners periodically meets to test the qualifications of medical students in anatomy and surgery. Candidates who "pass receive a diploma, and are allowed to practise as surgeons, and register as such under the provisions of the Medical Act of 1858.
    The Museum (a highly interesting professional collection) is thrown open to visitors, by personal introduction or written orders, from a Fellow or Member, on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, from twelve to four, every month in the year except September.
    Objects of Interest: A very large collection of skeletons of various animals, including that of Chunee, the elephant exhibited for several years at Exeter Change, and shot by a detachment of soldiers, when seized with a paroxysm of madness, in 1826; skeleton of the gigantic "Irish Elk" (the extinct Megaceros Hibernicus) ; skeleton, eight feet high, of Byrne, the Irish giant, d. 1783; and skeleton, one foot eight inches, of Caroline Crachami, the Sicilian dwarf, d. 1824; bust of Hunter, by Flaxman, and his fine portrait, by Sir Joshua Reynolds. John Hunter was the founder of the Museum, his collection having been purchased by Parliament, on his death, in 1793, for the sum of 15,000l. It contains nearly 25,000 specimens, arranged in two classes, "Physiological Department, or Normal Structures," and "Pathological Department, or Abnormal Structures. The Library, which contains about 40,000 volumes, is open every day to members and others personally introduced by them. It is closed in September.

Cruchley's London in 1865 : A Handbook for Strangers, 1865

see also Andrew Wynter in Our Social Bees - click here

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College of Surgeons (Royal) Lincoln's-inn-fields, contains a fine museum, library, and lecture theatre. In the library is a portrait of Sir Caesar Hawkins, by Hogarth; and in the council-room Reynolds's portrait of John Hunter, Flaxman's posthumous bust of Hunter, and some busts by Chantrey. The museum is open on the first four days of the week (except in September), from 12 to 4 o'clock to fellows and members of the college, and to strangers introduced by them personally, or by written personal orders. It originated in the purchase by Parliament of John Hunter's museum. In addition to the preparations illustrating the normal and abnormal structures of the human frame, there are illustrations of vegetable and animal structures and forms. Amongst the numerous curiosities are the skeletons of giants (the tallest 8 feet high) and dwarfs; the diseased intestines of Napoleon; some Egyptian and other mummies; the embalmed body of the first wife of Martin van Butchell, prepared by injecting the vascular system with oil of turpentine and camphorated spirits of wine; and the skeleton of the gigantic elephant Chunee, formerly exhibited in London. NEAREST Railway Station: Temple; Omnibus Routes, High Holborn and Strand; Cab Rank, Newman's - row, Lincoln's-inn-fields.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of London, 1879

Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians Hall, 1886 [ILN Picture Library]

SURGEON'S MUSEUM, LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS ... A fine physiological and anatomical collection. Admission by member's order.

Reynolds' Shilling Coloured Map of London, 1895

Victorian London - Publications - History - The Queen's London : a Pictorial and Descriptive Record of the Streets, Buildings, Parks and Scenery of the Great Metropolis, 1896 - The Royal College of Surgeons

The Royal College of Surgeons - photograph


Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament, designed the local habitation of the Royal College of Surgeons, on the south side of  Lincoln's Inn Fields and it was erected in 1835. The College originated with the Livery Company of the Barber-Surgeons, and now with the Royal College of  Physicians, it forms a joint board for examining would-be medical practitioners. Our view shows the fine building as seen from the gardens recently secured for the public. It contains an extremely interesting museum, of which John Hunter's collection, purchased by Parliament, formed the nucleus and in this museum are some twenty-four thousand anatomical specimens, physiological and pathological. In the Council Chamber is a portrait of Hunter (who died in 1793) by Sir Joshua Reynolds.