Victorian London - Organisations - Royal Humane Society


There cannot be a more opportune period than the present bathing-season, for introducing to our readers the many advantages which have accrued to the public from the establishment of the Royal Humane Society, for the recovery of persons apparently drowned or dead.
    The Institution was founded in 1774, by Dr.. Goldsmith, Heberden, Towers, Lettsom, Hawes, and Cogan; but principally by the exertion, of the last three gentlemen. The Society offers rewards and medals for saving lives. The number of cases in which successful exertions have been made, have amounted to several thousand.; and the number of claimants rewarded - so long as nine years ago -  exceeded 20,000. Similar institutions have been established us other parts of Great Britain, in our colonies, and elsewhere.
    The Society has eighteen receiving-houses in the metropolis. The principal house was erected in the year 1794, on the north bank of the Serpentine, in Hyde-park, upon a piece of ground presented to the institution by George III., and subsequently extended by William IV. the patron. The fitness of this site is attested by the number of persons resorting to the Sepertine in the bathng and skating seasons, and consequently the number of accidents occurring there. Indeed, it is stated that not lens than 200,000 persons on an average annually baths is the river and the neighbourhood of the receiving-house; and on one occasion, during a frost, twenty-five individuals were submerged by the breaking of the ice; but, by the exertions of men (who are required to be good swimmers) employed by the Society at such seasons, and the proximity of the receiving-house, no life was lost.
    The house built in 1794 was taken down in 1834, and the foundation-stone of the building shown in the engraving was laid by his Grace the Duke of Wellington. It is a neat structure, of fine brick, fronted and finished with Bath and Portland stone. The front has pilasters at the angles, and a neat entablature, which is surmounted by the royal arms upon a pedestal. Over the entrance is a pediment supported by two fluted Ionic columns rod pilasters; upon the entablature is inscribed "Royal Humane Society's Receiving-house." The doorcase is tastefully enriched; over it is sculptured in stone a facsimile of the Society's metal, encircled with a wreath; the design being a boy endeavouring to rekindle an almost extinct torch by blowing it, and the motto being "Lateat scintillvla forsans" - "Perchance a spark may be concealed."
    The interior of the receiving-house consists of an entrance-hall, with a room for medical attendant, on the left, and waiting-room on the right; parallel with which are two separate wards for the reception of male and female patients. Each contains bed, warmed with hot water, a bath, and a hot-water, metal-topped table for heating flannels, bricks, &c.; the supply of water being by pipes around the stalls and beneath the floor of the rooms. Next are a kitchen and two sleeping-rooms, for the residence of the superintendent and his family; adjoining is the furnace for heating water, planned by Messes. Simpson and Thompson, engineers of the Chelsea Water-works. In the roof of the building are two cisterns for cold, and one for hot water. In the rear is a detached shed, in which are kept boats, ladders, ropes, and poles; wicker boats are likewise in constant readiness. In short, the whole of the arrangements are upon the most complete scale; the medical assistants of the institution reside near the spot; and the superintendent supplies the furnace from daybreak till eleven o'clock at night; so that a hot water bath can be made ready for use in a minute. Lastly, the Committee consider this receiving-house a model for all other institutions of the same kind.
    This unique building was erected from the design of J. B. Bunning, Esq., architect, who is a member of the Committee, and, upon this occasion, generously relinquished all claim on the Society for his professional services.
    Proper attendants, warm baths, beds, and tables apparatus, and copper, are is constant readiness during the bathing and skating seasons, to present the fatal or injurious effects of any accident. Our second engraving represents the interior of one of the wards; with the arrangement of the bath, the bed, table, the electrical machine, &c.
    According to the last report of the Society, there had been, within one year, 164 claimants to rewards; to 23 of whom the silver medal had been awarded;  to 15 the bronze medal; and and pecuniary rewards bestowed on 26. Within this period, the lives of 171 persons had been preserved from casualties. The apparatus for the preservation and restoration of life is very complete; and the Society lose no opportunity of introducing improved methods. Among the latter are newly-invented circular bellows for inflation; Mr. Williams's floating drag, with a zinc buoy; and Mr. Pigot's inflated cravat.
    A Director of the Society has recently asserted that there in not an establishment in Europe more perfect, or in more efficient order, than the receiving-house in Hyde-park; and the activity of its superintendents and boatmen is best arrested by the promptness with which, in three minutes, one of lbs latter, at the beginning of the present month, found a body, having, in the meanwhile, picked up another man who was drowning. A daily report of the estimated number of bathers is made to the Secretary and, by a careful and moderate computation, they have exceeded 270,000 during June and July of the present year. During this period thirty-one cases were rescued, and fifteen taken to the Receiving-house, where they were successfully restored from apparent death and, up to the 2nd instant, only there casualties had proved fatal since the bathing season had commenced. It should be added, that the Institution cannot exceed its present expenses; and the establishment in Hyde-park already costs a very large portion of the Society's income. "If we look at the crowded state of the river Thames, the wonderful increase of traffic by steam, and the numerous accidents - so many of which have been fatal - we shall find ample room for the employment of more men and boats by the Humane Society. There is, indeed, a fine field for the Institution to carry out its objects, and cheerfully would the Committee endeavour to do as much on the Thames as it has done on the Serpentine, if the public, whose salety alone is concerned, would enable it to do so."

from The Illustrated London News, 1844

HUMANE SOCIETY (ROYAL) for the recovery of persons from drowning; founded by Dr. Hawes; instituted 1774; and maintained by voluntary contributions. The Receiving House, a tasteful classic building, by Decimus Burton, is close to the Serpentine River, in Hyde Park, and the Society's office at 3, Trafalgar-square.

Peter Cunningham, Hand-Book of London, 1850

see also Charles Manby Smith's Curiosities of London - click here

The ROYAL HUMANE SOCIETY, office, 4 Trafalgar Square, limits its operations to the recovery of persons from drowning, end prevention of accidents of a fatal character, by the establishment of receiving-houses at convenient points. Drags for rescuing drowning persons are placed by the Society at the principal piers on the River, at certain stations on the metropolitan canals, and in the Parks. It bestows honorary rewards on those whose heroism has rescued human life. In the winter, when thousands gather in the Parks to skate upon the ice, its operations are of the highest value. Of 187 persons immersed in 1860 (including twenty-seven cases of attempted suicide), 172 were successfully treated; and in the same year twenty-four silver and sixty-five honorary medals, fourteen vellum and sixteen parchment testimonials, besides seventy-two pecuniary rewards, were distributed. Annual income, about 2000l.

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

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Humane Society, Roya1, Office, Trafalgar-square.—Receiving-houses and places appointed for receiving persons apparently drowned or dead, and at which drags and other apparatus are kept.

Hyde-park receiving-house
Kensington-gardens-bridge, and Palace gates and lodges
St. ,James’s-pk, at the lodges opposite Horse Guards and Palaces
Westminster-bridge, at the piers.
Millbank: “White Hart”
Pimlico-pier and police-station
Royal Hospital, Chelsea
Thames-bank:    “Spread Eagle” and “William IV.”
Regent’s-park:   Gate - keepers lodges at York, Clarence, and Hanover gates.
Waterloo-bridge toll-houses and piers, and Society’s receiving-house.
Tower Wharf: Guard-house.
Barking: “The Anchor”
Beckton Gas-works: Coal-jetty
“Bell and Anchor,” Victoria Docks.
Bethnal Green: Workhouse, Twig-Folly; “Queen’s Arms,” Old Ford-rd; “Crown”
Blackwall: Brunswick-wharf and Collier-docks
Bromley: Bromley-locks, “Fishing Boat,”” Locks,” and “Five Bells”
“Lea Tavern,” White Post-lane Limehouse Hole: “Royal Oak” and “Britannia”
Limehouse: “Sir J. Franklin,” Narrow-st
Mile End: “Gunmaker’s Arms,” Canal-rd; “St. Andrew’s Inn,” Burdett-rd
Millwall: “Torrington Arms,” Pier Tavern,” Manchester-rd, and “Waterman’s Arms”
North Woolwich: “Old Barge House”
Old Ford: “Three Colts,” and “Five Bells,” locks, Hertford Union Canal
Regent’s Canal-docks: lock-houses, “Two Brewers,” and “Britannia”
Shadwell: “Ship,” Bell-wharf” stairs
Thames Tunnel-pier
Victoria-park:    The lodge and ornamental water
Wapping and Blackwall police-stations
West Ham: “White Swan,” Abbey Mills
Blackfriars: “ Bear and Ragged Staff,” and “Old Barge House,” Upper Ground-st
“Coronet,” Westminster-bridge-rd
Lambeth: “Feathers,” Commercial-rd
Letts’-wharf Commercial-rd
Old Toll house, Waterloo-bridge “Red Cow,” Princes-st.
Bankside: “Waterman’s Arms,” and “The Welsh Trooper”
Bermondsey:  “Bunch of Grapes” Bermondsey-wall, nr. steam-boat pier.
London-bridge steam-boat pier
“The Vine,” Vine-st, Tooley-st
Cambridge-heath: “Ion Arms”
Edmonton: Cook’s-ferry
Enfield: lock
Essex-street-bridge: “Prince of Wales”
Haggerstone-bridge: “Duke of Sussex”
Haggerstone: “Sportsman” and workhouse
High-hill-ferry: “Robin Hood”
Hoxton: “Block Tavern,” police-station, and “Tiger” and “Carver’s Arms”
Islington: “Princess of Wales”
Kingsland: police~station
Lea River: ‘Jolly Anglers,”  Homerton-lock, “Prince of Wales” Cook’s-ferry, King’s Weir lock-house
Regent’s-row: Acton-lock
Shoreditch, Canal-rd: “Stag’s Head”
Spring-hill: boat-house
Stamford-hill: Burr Cottage
Tottenham: “Ferry Boat”
Upper Clapton: No.1 station, North Metropolitan Volunteer Fire Brigade Station
Waltham Abbey: police-station, “Cock,” and Royal Gunpowder Factory
Walthamstow: Higham-hill-ferry
Albany-road: “William IV.”
“Bridge House,” Kent-road
Crystal Palace: the lakes
Neate-street: “Skinner’s Arms”
St. George’s-br: “King’s Arms”
Surrey Canal: Camberwell
Sydenham-common: “Dartmouth Arms”
Peckham: “Kentish Drovers’
Peckham-fields: “Globe” and “Waterman’s Arms”
Trafalgar-road: “Grand Surrey Canal Tavern”
Deptford - creek: toll-house and “Oxford Arms”
Deptford, Lower-rd: “Black Horse” and “George IV.”
Deptford, Trundley-lane: Mrs. Bigsby’s
Erith: Pier-master’s office
Greenwich: police-station and “Yacht Tavern”
Old Kent-rd: “Bridge House”
Rotherhithe:  “Angel,” “Plough,” Ship,” Hanover-stairs; “Globe,” Globe-stairs; “Ship and Whale,” “Spread Eagle,” Church-stairs, and police-station
Woolwich: “Roffe’s Town-pier,” “United Service Tavern,” Marine Society’s ship, and Charlton-pier
Albany-st police-station
Hampstead police-station
Regent’s-pk: suspension bridges, ‘Prince Albert,” Princes-ter, “York and Albany”
Brentford-bridge: lock - house, Grand Junction Canal
Brentford: police-station, “Fox and Hounds,” Brentford-bridge; “The Waterman’s Arms,” Ferry-lane; “Six Bells,” High-st
Chelsea: police-station, King’s-rd, Cadogan-pier; “The Cricketers’ Arms” Cheyne-walk; Mr. Johnson’s boat-house, Battersea-bridge ; and New-bridge
Chiswick: “Star and Garter,” Kew-bridge; “Bull’s Head,” Strand-on-the-Green, Maynard’s boat-house, Grove-park-rd; “ Red Lion,” Chiswick-mail; “Oxford and Cambridge,” Kew-bridge
Fulham: “The Crab Tree,” Fulham-fields, and John Phelps’ boat-house
Hammersmith: “The City Arms,” Hammersmith-bridge, & Biffen’s boat-house, Hammersmith-mall
Hampton : The engine-house, Snell’s boat-house
Hampton Court: Mr. T. J. Tagg’s
Isleworth: “London Apprentice,” neat the church; “Coach and Horses,” Rail’s Head-ferry
Laleham: “Three Horse Shoes”
Staines: “Pack Horse,” the boathouse and lock
Sunbury: “White Horse,” “Flower Pot” Inn, “Lock and Magpie”
Teddington: Messenger’s boathouse and lock
Twickenham: “White Swan”
Barnes: “Bull’s Head”
Battersea: “Swan,” the pier, and “Swan and Magpie”
East Moulsey: “Castle Hotel” and “King’s Arms”
Kew: “Rose and Crown” and “City State Barge”
Kingston-on-Thames : “Row barge,” “Angler’s,” Messenger, and “Sun Hotel”
Mortlake : “Ship”
Putney: “Bells’ and University boat-house
Richmond: “Three Pigeons” and “White Cross,” swimming-baths, boat-houses, and Wheeler’s boathouse
Thames Ditton: “Swan”
Wandsworth: “White Horse,” “Feathers,” and police-station.
Clapham-common: “Keeper”
Nine Elms: landing - pier and “Swan”
Hillingdon; Cowley lock-house
Kensal-green: “Victoria Tavern” and “Shepherd’s Hut”
Paddington: “Grand Junction Canal Office, workhouse, Harrow-road stop-lock, and police-station
Willesden: “Gd. Junction Arms”
Wormwood Scrubs: “Mitre”
Uxbridge: “Chiltern View Tavern”
Camden Town: “Devonshire Arms,” police-station, Somers Town
Enfield: “Nag’s Head,” “Crown and Horseshoe”
Highgate: Mr. Ward’s farm, Seven Ponds
Highgate: police-station
Lea River: lock-house at Ponder’s End, Enfield-lock police-station
Park Keeper’s Lodge, Finsbury-pk.
Tottenham: Hillyer’s-ferry
Tottenham Mills: the lock-houses
Tunnel Cottage, Catherine-street, Caledonian-rd
Church Mission Society’s Vessel Swan
Greenwich-pier Company’s wharf.
Southwark-bridge: floating fire-engine
Billingsgate: “Newcastle Tavern” and Billingsgate-wharf
Blackfriars: “Glazier’s Arms,” Water-lane
Queenhithe: “King’s Arms”
St. Paul’s-pier  

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

Drowning. - Methods of treatment recommended by the Royal Humane Society. Directions for restoring the apparently dead.
    I. IF FROM DROWNING OR OTHER SUFFOCATION OR NARCOTIC POISONING. - Send immediately for medical assistance, blankets, and dry clothing, but proceed to treat the patient instantly, securing as much fresh air as possible. The points to be aimed at are: first, and immediately, the restoration of breathing; and secondly, after breathing is restored, the promotion of warmth and circulation. The efforts to restore life must be persevered in until the arrival of medical assistance, or until the pulse and breathing have ceased for at least an hour.

Treatment to Restore Natural Breathing. 

Rule 1.-To maintain a Free Entrance of Air into the Windpipe. - Cleanse the mouth and nostrils; open the mouth; draw forward the patient's tongue, and keep it forward: an elastic band over the tongue and under the chin will answer this purpose. Remove all tight clothing from about the neck and chest.
Rule 2.- To adjust the Patient's Position. - .Place the patient on his back on a flat surface, inclined a little from the feet upwards; raise and support the head and shoulders on a small firm cushion or folded article of dress placed under the shoulder-blades.
Rule 3. - To imitate the Movements of Breathing  - Grasp the patient's arms just above the elbows, and draw the arms gently and steadily upwards, until they meet above the head (this is for the purpose of drawing air into the lungs), and keep the arms in that position for two seconds. Then turn down the patient's arms, and press them gently and firmly for two seconds against the sides of the chest (this is with the object of pressing air out of the lungs. Pressure on the breast-bone will aid this). Repeat these measures alternately, deliberately, and perseveringly, fifteen times in a minute, until a spontaneous effort to respire is perceived, immediately upon which cease to imitate the movements of breathing, and proceed to induce circulation and warmth (as below). Should a warm bath be procurable, the body may be placed in it up to the neck, continuing to imitate the movements of breathing. Raise the body in twenty seconds in a sitting position, and dash cold water against the chest and face, and pass ammonia under the nose. The patient should not be kept in the warm bath longer than five or six minutes. But it is preferable that artificial respiration and friction of the limbs and body with dry flannel or cloths should be first had recourse to and that the warm bath should not be employed till there is proof of respiration having been restored.
Rule 4. - To excite inspiration - During the employment of the above method excite the nostrils with snuff or smelling-salts, or tickle the throat with a feather. Rub the chest and face briskly, and dash cold and hot water alternately on them.

Treatment after Natural Breathing has been restored

Rule 5. - To induce Circulation and Warmth. - Wrap the patient in dry blankets and commence rubbing the limbs upwards, firmly and energetically. The friction must be continued under the blankets or over the dry clothing. Promote the warmth of the body by the application of hot flannels, bottles or bladders of hot water, heated bricks, &c., to the pit of the stomach, the armpits, between the thighs, and to the soles of the feet. On the restoration of life, when the power of swallowing has returned, a teaspoonful of warm water, small quantities of wine, warm brandy and water, or coffee, should be given. The patient should be kept in bed, and a disposition to sleep encouraged during reaction large mustard plaisters to the chest and below the shoulders will greatly relieve the distressed breathing.

II. IF FROM INTENSE COLD. Rub the body with snow, ice, cold water. Restore warmth a slow degrees. In these accidents it is highly dangerous to apply heat too early.

III. IF FROM INTOXICATION - Lay the individual on his side on a bed with his head raised. The patient should be induced to vomit. Stimulants should be avoided.

IV. IF FROM APOPLEXY OR FROM SUN-STROKE - Cold should be applied to the head, which should be kept well raised. Tight clothing should be removed front the neck and chest. Stimulant should be avoided. 
    Appearances which generally indicate Death. There is no breathing or heart's action; the eyelids are generally half-closed ;  the pupils dilated ; the jaws clenched; the fingers semi-contracted; the tongue appearing between the teeth, and the mouth and nostrils are covered with frothy mucus. Coldness and pallor of surface increases.
    General Observations. - On the restoration of life, a teaspoonful of warm water should be given; and then, if the power of swallowing be returned, small quantities of warm wine or weak brandy and water, warm : the patient should be kept in bed, and a disposition to sleep encouraged, except in cases of apoplexy, intoxication, and coup-de-soleil. Great care is requisite to maintain the restored vital actions, and at the same time to prevent undue excitement. The treatment recommended by the society is to be persevered in for three or four hours. It is an erroneous opinion that persons are irrecoverable because life does not soon make its appearance, as cases have come under the notice of the society of a successful result even after five hours' perseverance and it is absurd to suppose that a body must not be meddled with or removed without permission of a coroner.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881