Times Past: Romford MP died after falling from train and being treated at inn
Finding suitable healthcare in the 19th century was rarely easy. And sometimes, even an MP couldn’t guarantee himself the best treatment.
James Theobald was born into a distinguished family in Winchester in 1829. He entered parliament on the Conservative ticket for Romford at the 1886 general election, and was reportedly very popular and hard working.
On March 9, 1894, Theobald was rushing through Romford Station to catch the 2:16pm train to London. He attempted to board a carriage, but the train had already started moving, and he tripped and fell between the footboard and the platform.
The station staff quickly stopped the train and pulled the severely injured Theobald to safety.
In this situation today, we would not hesitate to call an ambulance, or take him to an A&E department.
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However, Romford lacked both of these in 1894, so its MP (at his own request) was instead carried on a stretcher to the Golden Lion Hotel.
This may seem odd, but the Golden Lion could provide a comfortable bed, and was convenient for doctors and chemists to reach.
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That is not to say that there were no hospitals in Romford at the time. The Victoria Cottage Hospital had opened in Pettits Lane just six years earlier, however it was mainly used by GPs to perform minor operations.
Another option was the new infirmary at Romford Union Workhouse, opened the previous year – although this was out of the question for a man of Theobald’s status.
Two local doctors and a surgeon from Guy’s Hospital were summoned to the Golden Lion, and diagnosed four fractured ribs and wounds to the head and body, as well as internal injuries - the Honourable Gentleman would not last the night.
To make his last hours as comfortable as possible, straw was laid in the road outside that night to deaden the traffic noise. After a brief rally, James Theobald died at 6.02 the next morning.
Romford Union Workhouse gradually evolved into Oldchurch Hospital, and its first specialist A&E department opened in 1968.
Discover more about the history of local healthcare in Havering Museum’s upcoming exhibition In Sickness and in Health: 800 Years of Healthcare in Havering, which runs from January 12 to March 23.
For more information call the museum on 01708 766 571.