Hugh Beavin

A celebrated medical history

HINCKLEY'S Hospital is celebrating its centenary this year having opened to patients as the third town hospital in November 1900. Medical practice in Hinckley has a long and distinguished history.

Dr Robert Chessher, the first English orthopaedist practised in the town at the beginning of the 19th century and many notable people including William Wilberforce and George Canning sought his assistance either for themselves or others.

However, it is an earlier medical man with whom I wish to deal in this article. He is commemorated by a street name, that of Nutt's Lane, which older readers may remember as Dr Nutt's Lane.

Joseph Nutt was born at the beginning of the 18th century and attended Hinckley Grammar School. After his schooling was completed he became apprenticed to John Parr, the Hinckley apothecary or pharmacist. Joseph later went to London to complete his studies and training.

Later, he returned to Hinckley where he set up as an apothecary, renting a house from the Reverend Robert Parr, remaining a friend of the Parr family who had first started him on his professional career.

For nearly 50 years Joseph practised as an apothecary in Hinckley. He gave advice and medicines to the poor, often without payment. Indeed, his shop became renowned as a dispensary to the poor over a wide area.

He was not only a man of science but was also a classical scholar with an interest in antiquities, including those in the locality of Hinckley.

Joseph subsequently became a surveyor of highways for the parish. He was particularly interested in the improvement of Coventry Road and used water from a reservoir to wash off muddy parts of the route. His experiments were the subject of considerable local controversy and many vowed to turn him out of his office.

In 1775, after a half century of service to the sick, Joseph Nutt died. In his will he left six large oak trees to be used in the construction of a new Hinckley Town Hall. The Leicester Journal published the following obituary notice in October 1775:

"His death is very sensibly felt by the poor of Hinckley and its neighbours, the deceased having attended many families for upwards of 50 years and furnished them with advice and medicines without any other prospect than the heart-felt satisfaction which must always accompany beneficent and humane actions - his shop was always a general dispensary for the poor."

Joseph Nutt's memorial is the lane which bears his name but I wonder how many who pass along it today know of the man?

Author: Hugh Beavin

Written for: Hinckley-on-line