Friday, 13 October 2017

Doctor Constance Robertson

According to Historic England, there were nearly 1000 female doctors by 1914. One of these doctors was living on Stanhope Road in Darlington. Constance Charlotte Robertson was born in Alnmouth around 1883 to William and Ann. William’s occupation on the 1901 census is given as a timber merchant, house furnisher, and auctioneer and valuer. Constance is listed as a medical student.
Advert from the UK Medical Directory 1910, via Ancestry
Advert from the UK Medical Directory 1910, via Ancestry
The Durham University Calendar for 1903-4 shows Constance as a student at the Medical College based in Newcastle. She is one of only 12 female students in a body of nearly 200. One of her peers, Aleen Cust, went on to become the first female veterinarian. For that year of her studies, her final year, Constance was able to benefit from ‘A new college building [that] has been erected on a site, an acre in extent, situated in Northumberland Road… at the cost of about £31,000. Every modern improvement has been adopted by which the Medical Education and well-being of the Students of the College may be furthered. The Electric Light has recently been installed through the whole of the College, including Lecture Theatres, Laboratories, and Dissecting Room’.

Ancestry has medical directories available to view online. The 1910 directory shows Doctor Constance Robertson living at Semmercote, [Stanhope Road], Darlington, having attained an MBBS with honours from Durham University in 1904. This qualification is a Bachelor Medicine Bachelor of Surgery. The directory also shows that she is a member of the Medico-Psychological Association, and where she has worked:
Assistant anaesthetist at the Royal Infirmary, Newcastle
Clinical assistant in Gynaecology at a hospital in Newcastle and at Northumberland County Asylum [Morpeth]
Assistant Medical Officer at Tue Brook Villa Asylum, Liverpool

The 1911 Census has her at the same address, of which John Hern is the head. His wife and daughter are also listed as is a cook and a page. Both John and Constance are listed as medical practitioners and Constance’s relationship to head looks like ‘Assist. Med.’ From the medical directories, it appears she stays in the same work over the next several years. The directories do show that she moved to a property named Waleric, also on Stanhope Road, which is where I initially found her in the 1917-18 Ward’s Directory [Hern remained at Semmercote].

There is no indication that Constance Robertson undertook any war service (John Hern was too old for service). In researching her, I have found it very difficult to find out about medical provision for civilians during the First World War. 

In the 1925 and 1929 Kelly’s Directories, Constance Robertson is listed as a physician and honorary anaesthetist to the Darlington General Hospital. On the 1939 register she is still on Stanhope Road as a medical practitioner. A Newcastle Journal article dated 21 September 1940 reported ‘As no suitable applicants had applied for the post of Assistant Medical Officer… it was decided by the [Darlington Corporation Health] Committee that Dr Girgis be asked to undertake the work at the Maternity Hospital, and that Dr Constance C Robertson be asked to carry out the work of the Maternity and Child Welfare Clinics’. This position is the last I have been able to find about Doctor Robertson until her death in 1974 in Bournemouth.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for posting this. Constance was my Great Aunt, and I've been trying to find out more about her. I can add a couple of points to the above though. Waleric was the name of a house in Alnmouth where my grandfather, CCR's brother, was born. When Dr Hern retired, they split the house in two and CCR set up her practice in her half (I understand she took the stables / garage too) and renamed it Waleric. I think she remained in England throughout WWI, though her home became a refuge for injured family members whom she nursed. That included my grandfather who was a POW and then caught Spanish Flu. She introduced him to the Haward family and they set up a furniture removal company together which my father later took over. We actually have the diary he kept as a POW (my husband has transcribed it), perhaps this site and project might be a home for it? Please feel free to email me