OTLEY AND DISTRICT MEN’S FORUM

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   History of The Thackray Medical Museum
Betty Smithson

 20th Sept 2012

From a nineteenth century Workhouse to a twenty first century Museum we heard the story of the development of the Thackray Medical Museum told to us by Betty Smithson a member of the Friends Committee.  

Built in 1846 and rebuilt in 1858 on land that is now St James Hospital the Workhouse provided accommodation and food for out of work immigrants from all over England . They were bathed and redressed in uniform, sent out to work in quarries and to do oakum picking and provided with a ration of food far in excess of the Second World War food ration limitations.

 The establishment of the Old Age Pension in 1909 and the building of St James’s Hospital both contributed to the decline of the Workhouse. The construction of the Ashley Wing on the Workshop site finally caused its closure. From 1950 until 1995 the Ashley Wing was used for geriatrics. When it was closed Charles and his son Paul Thackray obtained the Ashley Wing and opened the Thackray Medical Museum in 1997.

 The present museum, located on Becket Street , Leeds LS 9,  outlines the development of medicine since the 1880’s and is specifically directed to the education of school children of which they see about 25,000 per year. Adults are catered for with a series of medical lectures on Saturday mornings and there is also an extensive library of medical books, reports and documents dating back to the 1700’s.

 Surgical implants for hips and knees made by Thackray’s are also on show with 20,000 other medical artefacts.

 Recently the Museum, which has become a Charity, purchased Prince Albert ’s Medicine Chest for the princely sum of £7,500 and continues to try obtain medical artefacts and written information that will be of interest to visitors.  Anyone interested in helping the museum can become a member as  a “Friend of the Thackray Museum ”.


 Our next talk on Thursday 4th of  October at Otley Methodist Church at 10-00am has the enigmatic title “Sex, Drugs, Rock and Roll (3000 Years of the Olympics)”. Presented by Nicola Down it could be either hilarious or serious.

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