AIM25 : Click here to go back to the AIM25 homepage
Archives in London and the M25 area


Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0114
Held at: Royal College of Surgeons of England
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Date(s): 1745-date
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: Currently located in strong room, manuscript room, furniture store, silver vault, modern records store.
Name of creator(s): The Royal College of Surgeons of England


Administrative/Biographical history:

In 1745 a split in the Company of Barber-Surgeons [est. 1540] led to the formation of The Company of Surgeons. The Company of Surgeons obtained a Royal Charter in 1800 and became the Royal College of Surgeons of London. A new charter in 1843 led to the current name The Royal College of Surgeons of England.

The Company of Surgeons started by keeping the bylaws of the Barber-Surgeons, which mean that they elected a Court of Assistants consisting of twenty one members including a Master and two wardens. From the Court of Assistants was chosen a ten member Court of Examiners testing students at the end of their apprenticeship. Despite a change in the bylaws of Apr 1748 stipulating that the Court of Assistants should meet every month this did not happen and the Assistants rarely met and so until 1799 the Company was under the effective control of the Master, Wardens and Examiners. The Examiners remained in post for life. The examinations were well administered but the running of the Company was subject to much criticism without a proper lecture theatre, or library. A Royal Charter was obtained in 1800 changing the name of the Company but the administration was still basically the same. Proposed changes in the constitution were delayed by failure of the College to gain control of surgical education in the wake of the Apothecaries Act of 1815 and it was only in 1822, William IV agreed to allow amendments to the charter and from that time on the College was controlled by a President, two Vice Presidents and a Council.

The Council discussed all aspects of policy, membership and its members also sat on a number of committees to cover the main activities of the College relating to finance, examinations, library, museums, discipline, building projects etc.

The day to day running of the College was given to a Secretary - there have only been eight incumbents of this role since 1800. Two Assistant Secretaries were created after the Second World War- one of whom was in control of finance. The other principal employees were Conservator of the museums from 1800; Librarian from 1828 and Secretary to the Conjoint Examining Board from 1888 [to administer the examinations system which was jointly run with the Royal College of Physicians].

From 1931 the College supported a research institute called the Buckston Browne Research Farm at Darwin's former home at Downe in Kent and laboratories were also built in extensions to the College's buildings at Lincoln's Inn Fields between from 1937 until the 1950s. The title of the Conservator was changed in 1933 to include Conservator and Director of Research. These posts were separated in 1941 with the creation of the Bernhard Baron Research Professorship, and the following year chairs were created in anatomy and pathology - each chair had a well equipped laboratory and post graduate teaching was established as part of the Institute of Basic Medical Research [IBMS]. The IBMS was a constituent part of the British Postgraduate Medical Federation of the University of London and had its own committee of Management, Academic Board and Dean and received funding from the University of London. By 1959, there were six Scientific departments in the IBMS - anatomy, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, opthalmology, and biochemistry. Two other Research Departments, of Dental Surgery and Anaesthetics, were part of the corresponding Faculties of the College with more independence than the other departments. The Faculty of Anaesthetists broke away entirely in 1988 with the formation of a separate Royal College of Anaesthetists. In 1986 the IBMS was dissolved but many of the research departments continued under a newly created Hunterian Institute, funded entirely by the College. Work at the Buckston Browne Research Farm was also drastically reduced at this time, with a complete cessation of all research at Downe by 1989. A decision was taken in 1992 for the Hunterian Institute to come to an end, and an Education department was formed in 1993 to take over the post graduate training courses for surgeons, dental surgeons and general practitioners. In 1996, the last research department of the Hunterian Institute based at the College - the Pharmacology department - was closed.

In 1990, the structure of administration of the College was revised with the creation of five boards - External Affairs, Training, Finance, Academic and Internal Affairs - with several specialised committees e.g. Regional Training Committee reporting to the appropriate Board and the Boards themselves reporting the Council. Also created were a Presidential Board of Surgical Specialities and a Welsh Board. By 1992 the Academic Board had gone to be replaced by an Examinations Board, Research Board and an Education Board and in 1997 the Internal Affairs Board was abolished.

From 1746 the Company of Surgeons leased a site at the Old Bailey next to Newgate Prison and George Dance built them a hall between 1847 and 1851. The Company was not a guild and the connection with the city lessened and it was thought better to move further west and in 1797 number 41 Lincoln's Inn Fields was purchased followed by number 42 in 1802. At one time the College the owned numbers 35 to 49 Lincoln's Inn Fields but in 1967 numbers 47-49 were sold to the Imperial Cancer Research Fund.

Between 1886 and 1908 the conjoint MRCS examinations were run from a purpose built building on The Embankment, which was then sold to the Institute of Electrical Engineers. New premises were found at 8-11 Queen's Square, Bloomsbury until 1993 when examinations moved back to Lincoln's Inn Fields.


Scope and content/abstract:

Legal Records: Charters and Bylaws (1462) - date

Court and Council : Court of Assistants 1745-1827; Council 1827-date; Council in Committee 1963-1989; Revision committee 1981-1987; Nomination Committee 1934-1970; Annual Reports of Council 1884-date

Secretariat: Correspondence, arranged by subject c.1880-1983; Letterbooks 1810-1866, 1900-1925; General Purposes Committee 1808-1962; Joint Secretariat Committee 1961-1974

President: Committee of President and Vice President 1836-1855; Presidential Committee on Examinations 1985; Presidential Committee on the College's Educational Policies for the Future 1981-1982; Presidential Correspondence 1945-1948; President's Conversazione 1899-1934; President's newsletter 1967-1991

Museum: Board of Curators 1800-1844; Museum & Building Committee 1799-1814; Museum Committee 1844-1988; Hunterian Trustees 1805-present; Letter books 1800-1883; Museum Accounts 1800-1832; Annual Reports 1827-1946; Correspondence 1845-date; Special Collections Committee 1989; Donations Registers and Correspondence 1802-1967; Human Remains [archaeological Finds} 1907-1937; Visitors 1805-1989; Odontological Museum correspondence 1943-1989;

Building: Building Committee 1844-1966; Committee on Accommodation 1982; Committee on the Extension of the College Buildings 1885-1891; Furniture & Building 1966-1992; Hospitality & Catering Committee 1956-1988; House Committee 1944-1961; Building Estates Committee 1989-1992; Property Committee 1978-1982; Rebuilding of College 1946-1955; Plans for rebuilding 1957; Correspondence 1910-date, photographs 1880-date.

Examinations: Court of Examiners 1796 -1832; Registers 1745-1983; Committee of Management Conjoint Board 1884-1929; Letters books 1832-1865; Committee on Courses 1981-2; Working Party on Future of Examining Board In England 1972-1981

Membership: Signature books 1800-1970; Apprentices 1800-1846; Death Registers 1800-1889; Membership lists 1788-1970; Discipline Committee 1915-1955; Licentiate registers 1885-1898; Certificates 1850-1870; Register of Certificates 1821-1835

Fellowship; Fellowship Election Committee 1943-1975; Fellows Committee 1988-1999; Overseas Fellows Committee 1986-1989; Honorary Fellows 1900-1978; Fellows & Honorary Fellows photo albums 1840-1968;

Lectureships & Awards: Lectures & Orations 1810-1842; Erasmus Wilson Committee 1879; Jacksonian Lectureship Committee 1800-date; Prize & Medal Committee 1956-1987; Macloghlin Scholarship committee 1965-1975; Joseph Toynbee Memorial Lecture Committee 1988; Lionel College Memorial Fellowship Committee minutes 1982-1985; Norman Capener Travelling Fellowship Advisory Board 1981-1988; Ratanji Dalal Research Scholarship Committee 1963-1990; Tudor Edwards Memorial Fund Committee 1989; Walker Prize Committee 1956-1980; Windsor Prize Committee 1982

Publications: Transactions Committee 1841-1842; Annals Committee 1947-1989; Almanacks 1903-date

Annual Meetings: Annual & Provincial Meetings Committee 1965-1966;

External Affairs: External Affairs Board Minutes 1989-1992; International Relations Committee 1983;

Finance: Accounts 1745-1974 ; Committee of Auditors 1811-1888; Finance Committee 1888- 1977; Cashbooks 1887-1959; Finance & General Appeal Committee 1967-1972; Building Committee Accounts 1806-1838; College Chest 1978-1982; Committee on Income & Expenditure 1868

Fundraising: Appeals Committee 1956-1978; Restoration funds records 1945-1956

Library: Library Committee 1833-1989; Acquisitions 1833-1850; Letter book 1828-1851; Correspondence 1935-1965; Donations 1868-1957; Purchases 1887-1952; Visitors 1889-1946;Binding 1856-1951; Books Received 1839-1951; Periodicals Received 1881-1938; Binding 1951-1964

Media: Audio Visual Techniques Committee 1980-1982;

Surgical Specialities & Training: Examiners in Anatomy & Physiology Minutes 1880-1918 ; Examiners in Midwifery minutes 1852-1857; Board of Examiners In Dental Surgery 1860-1909; Board of Surgical Specialities 1976-1988; Committee on Higher Specialist Assessment in General Surgery 1984; Committee on Training of Surgeons later Surgical Training Board minutes 1959-1971; Courses & Lectureship Committee 1982; Committee on Courses 1981-1982; Special Advisory Committee on General Surgery 1978-1981; Surgical Teaching Films Committee 1985-1986; Joint Committee for Plastic Surgery, Postgraduate Orthopaedic Training 1948-1959; Postgraduate Education Committee 1947-1959

Research Laboratories Committee 1890-1905; Ethical or Research Ethics Committee 1974-1983; Hunterian Institute Board Minutes 1986-1989; Hunterian Institute Academic Advisory Committee 1986-1989; Institute of Basic Medical Research Correspondence & Minutes 1946-1983; Joint General Board 1966-1983; Joint Research Board 1975-1979; Museum & Research Committee 1937-1974; Research Establishment at Downe Management Committee minutes 1974-1977; Research Grants & Development Committee 1979-1985; Research Ethics Committee 1985-1992; Streatfield & MacKenzie Mackinnon Research Fund Committee 1989; Anatomy Correspondence 1948-1980

Club College Council Club minutes, photographs, correspondence 1931-date

Dinner: Hunterian Festival programmes 1881-1975; Buckston Browne 1928-1956

War: Committee of Reference 1916-1919

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

By record type and subject.

Conditions governing access:

Access only on written application to archivist.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Copy permission on application to Archivist, Royal College of Surgeons of England 35-43 Lincoln Inn Fields London WC2A 3PN. Copyright is held by the President and Council of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

Finding aids:

Archival Information

Archival history:

Accumulated 1745-date

Immediate source of acquisition:

Allied Materials

Related material:


William Clift papers - Curator of the Museum [1792 -1842] includes diaries, draft museum catalogues, correspondence

Sir Benjamin Collins Brodie papers includes draft of lectures given at RCS 1810

Anthony Carlisle papers includes draft of lectures given at RCS 1818

Sir Francis Legatt Chantry papers includes correspondence re bequests to RCS

John Chatto papers includes material re RCS library 1865-1888

College Centenary papers 1900

William H Collins papers re bequest to the RCS 1880

Sir Astley Paston Cooper papers

William Henry Flower papers includes draft catalogues and correspondence re RCS museum collections.

Frederick Fowler papers includes material re bequest to the RCS 1847

Examination papers

Joseph Henry Green papers includes lectures given at RCS 1824-1828

Sir Everard Home papers incldues material relating to the RCS Hunterian museum

Sir Henry Greenway Howse papers includes lectures given at RCS 1903

William Hunter papers

Baillie Hunter papers

Jacksonian Prize essays

George Langstaff papers includes correspondence re material given to RCS museum 1835

'Letters relating to the college before 1840' [275.h.2,4-5,7,9,10,11,12,15] Mss box 1;3; mss cabinet 2 [Paget]

' Letters and Documents relating to the Museum before 1862'

'Letters from Interesting Correspondents'

'Letters relating to the affairs of the Museum and College 1810-1844' [275.h.7]

'Letters relating to the staff of the Royal College of Surgeons 1816-1844' [275.h.12]

'Library letters' mss box 2

'Autograph letters' [series 2] - mostly correspondence with librarian 1880-1980.

'Museum Lists' 275.h.3-7

John Lizars papers includes work as student of anatomy at RCS 1854

Thomas Longmore papers includes correspondence with RCS librarian 1890

'Memoranda and Documents relating to museum prior since 1862'

'Memoranda of donations to the Museum 1803-44' [275.h.7]

'Memorial to the Lord of the Treasury for a grant of 15,000' 1851[275.h.7]

Henry Monckton papers includes diary of time as student of anatomy at RCS 1850-1852

'Monsters' [275.h.3 (17)]

'Museum and College Documents prior to 1862' [275.h.7]

'Notes on Elephants Head presented to the College of Surgeons' 1857-1866

Pamphlets museum and college documents prior to 1862 [275.h.7]

Sir Richard Owen paper [Museum conservator 1827-56]

Sir James Paget papers

Victor G Plarr papers includes- draft entries for Lives of the Fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons of England.

John Thomas Quekett papers includes museum diaries 1840-1848

George Shaw papers includes catalogue of material donated to the museum

Sir John Simon papers includes papers relating to RCS affairs 1878-1892

G Simpson papers includes reminiscences of taking MRCS examinations in 1886

'Specimens offered for sale' 1826 [275.h.5]

T S P Strangeways papers c.1890

John Flint South papers - includes lectures given at RCS by William Clift 1819

Thomas Madden Stone papers

John Henry Sylvester papers includes material relating to time as students at RCS 1852

John Tomes paper - includes material on Odontological Collection of RCS 1866

Trustees of the Hunterian Collection papers

Visitors to the museum [mss box 1]

'Volume containing signatures of Fellows'at jubilee dinner 1893 [129.c.3]

Sir Erasmus Wilson papers [mss box 3]

'Catering records' [mss room]

'Old library and College records' [Mss room cabinet 7]

Lord Moynihan papers

Add Mss 59, 60, 61 62, 193, 298, 366, 555 William Clift

Add Mss 519, 489, 490, 492 Sir George Buckston Browne papers

Add Mss 511 Sir James Paterson Ross papers

Add Mss 16 Hunterian Festivals 1843-1855

Add Mss 17 Hunterian Trustees 1799-1856

Add Mss 18 Resolution of council on the retirement of E.J.Trimmer 1901 [NC 2d]

Add Mss 106 RCS Promissory Notes for Licence 1770-1816

Add Mss 107 RCS 'Miscellaneous papers' 1745-1980

Add Mss 108 RCS College affairs

Add Mss 142 Invitation to Duke of Wellington 1845

Add Mss 128 Stone Watson Collection of RCS papers 1745-1901

Add Mss 126 Court of Examiners - certificate of G. Glaise 1806

Add Mss 209-211, 260,394 Zachary Cope papers

Add Mss 185 Opening of Coulthurst Room of RCS Library 1957

Add Mss 509 Appointment of Honorary Librarian 1929

Add Mss 495, 392, 410 Sir William Fish papers includes formation of Faculty of Dental Surgery [nc 4d]

Add Mss 315 Mark Hovell papers re FRCS examination in 1878

Add Mss 137,138,154,204,333,383,411,174, 446, 325 Arthur Keith papers

Add Mss 394 Sir Geoffrey Keynes papers

Add Mss 392 Leatherman papers includes formation of Faculty of Dental Surgery

Add Mss 418 Sir William Lawrence papers

Add Mss 571 William Lefanu papers

Add Mss 372 John Leigh papers

Add Mss 512 Sir Victor Negus papers

Add Mss 262, 192, 109, 322, 433 Sir Richard Owen correspondence

Add Mss 509 Sir D'Arcy Power papers

Add Mss 184 Sir Henry Souttar includes development of Faculties of the RCS 1947

Add Mss 542 Applications for wounds to be examined by Company of Surgeons and RCS 1783-1835

Add Mss 409 - Letters relating to College 1860-1880

Add Mss 414 Testimonial to Charles Hewitt librarian 1907.

Add Mss 391, 340 Cecil Wakely papers

Add Mss 515, 516 Alfred Webb-Johnson papers

Add Mss 469 Hunterian Festival Photographs 1978

Add Mss 496 Proceedings of a meeting of fellows of RCS 1948 [NC 3c]

Add Mss 189-190 Sir James Berry papers

Buckston Browne Research Farm papers [NC 5a & filing Cabinet and sub basement]


History of the Royal College of Surgeons of England - Zachory Cope 1959

History of the Surgeon's Company 1745-1800 - Cecil Wall 1937

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:
30 May 2000

Related Subject Search

* To search for other records with similar subjects, tick any subjects above then click "Run New Search"

Related Corporate Name Search

* To search for other records with similar names, tick any names above then click "Run New Search"