The Original School of Anatomy, Medicine & Surgery
The Original School of Anatomy, Medicine & Surgery

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Most of the text below is derived almost literally from "The History of Medicine in Ireland", by John F. Fleetwood, 2nd edition, the Skellig Press, Dublin, 1983. Additional material (including the illustrations) is taken from "A 'Peculiar' Place; the Adelaide Hospital, Dublin 1838-1989" by David Mitchell, the Blackwater Press, Dublin, undated.

In 1809, John Timothy Kirby and Alexander Read (1786-1870) opened a private medical school at the rear of a house in Stephen Street, Dublin, near Mercer's Hospital, The first lectures in the school were delivered between October 1809 and March 1810. In 1810 the school moved to 28 Peter Street and was renamed "The Theatre of Anatomy and School of Surgery". Kirby became sole proprietor of this school when Read retired about 1812. When the Army required candidates for surgeoncies to produce evidence of hospital attendance, Kirby set up a hospital, which was dedicated to saints Peter and Bridget, and opened on 2nd August 1811. The school and hospital enabled him to give the necessary certificates to prospective army and navy surgeons. According to Kirby the hospital had 12 beds; according to his enemies, there were only two. Kirby countered this slur by setting up a "distinguished Board of Governors", and proceeded to add ten medical beds "under the clinical direction of Dr Leahy". His certificates were then accepted by all authorities, including the Colleges of Surgeons in London and Edinburgh. By 1828, Andrew Ellis (1792-1867) was a "Professor" at the school; John Edward Brenan and Thomas Bunbury Young were demonstrators. The school closed in 1832 on Kirby's appointment as professor of medicine to the College of Surgeons (although he was later obliged to resign following charges that he advertised and practised pharmacy). Ellis wished to continue, but could not come to an agreement with Kirby: the museum was presented to the College and the house was stripped of its fittings. Ellis took the house next door (no. 27) and fitted it out as a medical school under the same name of "The Theatre of Anatomy and School of Surgery". The anatomy and surgery lectures were successful, but in 1833-4 only 12 pupils attended the lectures on medicine. The school subsequently fell on hard times and gradually became moribund until the "Dublin School of Anatomy, Medicine and Surgery" which had opened in 1832 at 15 Digges Street, moved into its premises in 1841. This school in turn went into decline in 1846, when its primary attraction, Dominic Corrigan (1802-1880) - one of the most prominent medical men of his day - left for the "Carmichael school", which had been set up in 1826 as the "School of Anatomy, Medicine and Surgery of the Richmond Hospital", and renamed in 1849, when its first lecturer, Richard Carmichael, died and left it £10,000. In 1857 the Dublin School closed.

In or before 1824 an maternity hospital called the Anglesey Lying-In Hospital opened at 50 Bishop Street, Dublin. In connection with this hospital a medical school was established in 1827 by Charles Davis and George T. Hayden; this was more of a "grinders" establishment that a regular school, but it was recognised by the surgical colleges in London and Edinburgh, as well as in Dublin. In 1836 Hayden moved hospital and school into Kirby's old house at 28 Peter Street: the hospital in the front, and the school in the back. The school was renamed the "Original School of Medicine", and its "foundation" was dated to 1810; this to the annoyance of Ellis and Brennan, next door.

Peter Street, Dublin, from a 18th century map.

Hayden brought a small class with him from Bishop Street, and with this nucleus soon had a flourishing school. By 1850 he was a well-known - and controversial - figure on the Dublin medical scene, as his blatant advertisement in an 1850 Dublin Directory shows. He died in 1857 (upon which the Angelsey Lying-in Hospital closed down).

In 1858 the number of students at the "Original" school was 154. Until 1856 the building was very inferior; in that year a laboratory, that could also be used as a lecture theatre, was built. In 1863 this became a museum, and the front of the house, which had been occupied by the Angelsey Lying-in Hospital, was taken over. The premises were enlarged (to include no. 29, and perhaps also no. 30) and improved on several subsequent occasions. In 1868, the name of the "Original" school was, at the request of the pupils, changed to the "Ledwich school", in memory of Thomas. H. Ledwich, who had been largely responsible for the schools reputation in anatomy since 1849.

The Ledwich School, Dublin, after enlargement.
Compare this to the illustration on the Certificate issued to Dr Loney. The doors under the portico give access to the lane (shown on the map) to the stables (later: dissecting rooms).

Amongst the distinguished pupils of the school were Arthur Hill Hassell, the English food analyst, who appeared on the rolls in 1836, and Charles Culverwell. Culverwell became famous on the stage in later years as Sir Charles Wyndham.

In 1839 the Adelaide Hospital, initially only for Protestants, had been established at 43 Bride Street; Albert Jasper Walsh (1815-1880) was the first surgeon, with John T. Kirby and Maurice Colles. From the beginning, clinical instruction was given to students of the "Original" school. In 1848 the hospital was forced to close due to lack of funds, and was only able to reopen in 1858, when a committee of clergymen purchased 24 and 25 Peter Street and fitted these houses out as a hospital with 75 beds. No. 27, recently abandoned by the "Dublin School" was bought by the medical staff as a student hostel. In 1859 no. 26 was bought, and the stables were opened as "fever shed" in 1861; In later years nos. 22 and 23 were acquired, and in 1878 a new main building was opened on the site of these houses, and the existing buildings were modernised.

When Ledwich died, the Adelaide rejected the suggestion that they take over the school as an "Adelaide Hospital Medical School", similar to those of the London teaching hospitals. Nonetheless, the school still flourished, and in 1885 the number of students was 212. It was finally amalgamated, together with the Carmichael School, the only other remaining private medical school, with the College of Surgeons in 1889. In 1894 the buildings were bought by, and incorporated into, the adjacent Adelaide Hospital; a boiler-house and laundry were subsequently built on the rear of the site.

The Adelaide Hospital (±1910?);
the five-storey wing in the foreground occupies the "Ledwich" site.

In 1961 the Adelaide purchased nos. 21 and 31-33 Peter Street, coming into possession of the entire north side of the street, with the exception of no. 20 (at the eastern end, demolished by Dublin Corporation as part of an abortive road widening scheme) and no. 34 (the Molyneux House site at the western end, on which Jacobs biscuit factory, the occupier of the entire south side, had built a garage). In recent times the Adelaide merged with the Meath Hospital, established in 1753, to form the "Adelaide and Meath Hospital, Dublin, incorporating the National Children's Hospital" and in 1998 moved to a new 600-bed complex in Tallaght, in the western city suburbs. The old Adelaide building in Peter Street was subsequently converted to apartments (in July 2002 building work was still proceeding on the westmost five-storey block on the Ledwich site).

Adelaide Chambers, July 2002
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