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Royal Maternity Charity

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 1538 S60
Held at: Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
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Full title: Royal Maternity Charity
Date(s): 1761-1949
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 43 volumes and 1 file
Name of creator(s): Royal Maternity Charity x Charity for Attending and Delivering poor Married Women in their Lying in at their Respective Habitations x Lying-in Charity for Delivering Poor Married Women at their Own Habitations
Barnes | Robert | 1817-1907 | physician


Administrative/Biographical history:

The 'Charity for Attending and Delivering poor Married Women in their Lying in at their Respective Habitations', later known as the 'Lying-in Charity for Delivering Poor Married Women at their Own Habitations' and finally as the 'Royal Maternity Charity for Delivering Poor Married Women in their Own Habitations', was established in March 1757. Its main instigator was James Le Cour, an 'eminent jeweller' of Huguenot descent.

The Charity offered a service to 'sober and industrious' married women 'destitute of help in time of labour'. It supplied them with medicines, provided midwives for 'common cases' and surgeon accouchers or physicians for more 'difficult cases', allowing them to give birth more safely and comfortably in their own homes.

Those paying a yearly subscription became 'Governors' of the Charity, able to recommend a certain number of cases for every guinea donated. Initially, general meetings or 'courts' of Governors were held every quarter 'to receive the report of the Committee and regulate the affairs of the Charity'. A smaller Committee and Officers were elected annually to oversee day-to-day management. By the mid nineteenth century a pattern of Annual General Meetings and General Committee meetings was supplemented by those of a Medical Sub-committee, chaired by one of the Physicians, and other sub-committees, such as a Finance Committee.

Early meetings were held in various coffee houses and taverns in the City of London, mainly Will's Coffee House in Cornhill and the Bank Coffee House, Threadneedle Street. From the 1840s the Charity had its own premises in Finsbury Square, in 1918 moving to offices in John Street, and subsequently to 46 Bedford Row.

By the late nineteenth century the Charity employed the voluntary services of 'Visiting Ladies', 'for the purpose of lending material assistance in addition to medical, in cases of great necessity and destitution'. These ladies visited cases and handed out relief from the Charity's Samaritan Fund. In 1905 a further venture was a 'Training School for Midwives', preparing them for the new CMB examination. This was based at the house of the then Head Midwife in Paddington, with lectures being delivered by one of the Charity's Physicians.

By the mid twentieth century there were several other agencies providing a similar service, and the Charity was advised by the Ministry of Health to affiliate with another organisation. Its investments were transferred to the official trustee of charitable funds, and were used for grants to the Central Council for District Nursing in London. The Charity wound up its affairs in 1949.

Robert Barnes was born, 1817; apprentice to Dr Richard Griffin, Norwich, 1832; studied at University College London, and St George's Hospital; member of the Royal College of Surgeons; year in Paris; taught at the Hunterian School of Medicine and in the discipline of forensic medicine at the Dermott's School on Windmill Street; obstetrician at the Western General Dispensary; Doctor of Medicine, 1848; Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, 1848; obstetrical assistant, 1859; obstetrician in chief, (Royal) London Hospital, 1863; obstetrician in chief, St Thomas' Hospital, 1865; obstetrician in chief, St George's Hospital, 1875; consulting obstetrician, St George's Hospital, 1885; actively involved at The Seamen's Hospital, the East London Hospital for Children and the Royal Maternity Charity; one of the founding members of the Obstetrical Society of London, 1858; President of the Obstetrical Society of London, 1865-1866; founded the British Gynaecological Society, 1884, of which he was Honorary Chairman until his death; died, 1907.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of the Royal Maternity Charity, 1761-1949, including minute books, 1761-1949; 'Rough minute books', 1772-1826 and case-book of Robert Barnes at the Royal Maternity Charity, Oct 1857-Oct 1858.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in sections as outlined in the Scope and Content. On their transfer to the RCOG the Charity's minute books were divided into two sequences: one of minutes and one of 'rough minutes'. The former (S60/A) were conserved and rebound (in 1955) and (in the 1980s) microfilmed. The latter (S60/B) remain in need of conservation treatment. This artificial division has been maintained, although, on further examination, it was found that the two sequences are not distinct. S60/A3, for example, is clearly labelled as a 'rough minute book', others only appear to be so from their contents and some (for example S60/B/11-12) do not. This may explain why some of the minute books in S60/A overlap in date, and also why there are some lacunae in the sequence. The arrangement has, however, been retained since there may have been internal evidence, lost at the time of rebinding, which led to the division, and also because the volumes in S60/B were, at time of listing, too fragile to be handled extensively in order to determine the exact nature of their contents.

Conditions governing access:

The volumes in S60/A and S60/C are generally only made available on microfilm. The majority of the volumes in S60/B are closed for preservation reasons.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Finding aids:

Detailed catalogue available in the RCOG Archives.

Archival Information

Archival history:

On its demise, the records of the Charity were passed to the Central Council for District Nursing in London. At some stage they suffered considerable water and rodent damage.

Immediate source of acquisition:

The records were presented to the RCOG Library in 1955 by the Central Council for District Nursing in London.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Papers of Robert Barnes (Ref: S61).

Publication note:

S A Seligman, 'Domiciliary obstetrics in the 19th century- Robert Barnes' case book from the Royal Maternity Charity 1857-1868', The Practitioner (1979, Vol 223, Aug 1979, pp 281-286).

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled by Sarah Drewery.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
Jul 2008

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