Catalogue description Papers of and relating to Thomas Horrocks Openshaw (1856 - 1929), surgeon to the London Hospital

This record is held by Royal London Hospital Archives

Details of PP/OPE
Reference: PP/OPE
Title: Papers of and relating to Thomas Horrocks Openshaw (1856 - 1929), surgeon to the London Hospital

This collection is a remarkable insight into Thomas Horrocks Openshaw, ranging from the manuscript notebooks he kept as a medical student at the London Hospital through to the numerous letters of condolence received by his daughter on his death. There is a fine collection of certificates, which include one commemorating his being awarded a prize for minor surgery in 1879, his medical degree certificates and citations of his being made Knight Grace of the Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem and Companion of the Order of the Bath. Amongst the collection of photographs is a set taken from his trip to South Africa as a surgeon during the Boer War. These photographs would have been taken with one of the earliest forms of 'pocket' cameras, and give a remarkable insight into the War. The majority are annotated on the reverse. Unfortunately, due to the nature of the paper, some of the images are beginning to fade.

Date: 1879-1971
Related material:

Openshaw's military medals, decorations and Masonic jewels were donated along with this collection of papers. These have been listed as a separate collection with the reference DEC/OPE.


Papers relating to Mrs Openshaw (nee Pratt) were donated at the same time. These include references and testimonials for Mrs Openshaw before she was married and working as Sister Rowsell at The London Hospital. She was applying for matron's positions in other hospitals. They have been listed with the reference PP/PRA

Held by: Royal London Hospital Archives, not available at The National Archives
Language: English

Openshaw, Thomas Horrocks, 1856-1929, surgeon

Physical description: 111 Files
Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated by Miss Margaret and Mr John Jenner, Royston, Hertfordshire, grandchildren of T H Openshaw, April 2004

Administrative / biographical background:

Thomas Horrocks Openshaw was born in Bury, Lancashire on 27 March 1856, eldest son of John Lomax Openshaw and Mary Horrocks. He attended Bristol Grammar School and originally began training as an engineer. However, he soon gave this up and entered Durham University to study medicine with practical experience at The London Hospital. He gained the following qualifications MRCS (1882), LSA (1882), MB BS Durh. (1883), MS Durh. (1887) and FRCS (1886). Openshaw was appointed assistant demonstrator of anatomy in 1886 and curator of the medical college's Pathology Museum in 1888. During his time as curator he developed the collection and comprehensively catalogued it. He was appointed assistant surgeon to the London Hospital in 1890, surgeon in 1902 and consulting surgeon in 1922. He took an early interest in orthopaedic surgery, which developed into his speciality. As well as being associated with The London, Openshaw played an active role in other institutions, such as the Poplar Hospital for Accidents, the National Orthopaedic Hospital, the City Orthopaedic Hospital and the King Edward VII Hospital for Officers. Openshaw was also instrumental in establishing Queen Mary's Convalescent Auxiliary Hospital for the Limbless at Roehampton, where he spent much of his later life working with amputees.


Openshaw, a keen volunteer, was appointed surgeon to the Volunteer Medical Staff Corps in 1888. He travelled to South Africa during the Boer War as surgeon to the Imperial Yeomanry Field Hospital. During the war he was captured and held for two weeks, finally being released as part of a 'trade'. He then became principal medical officer of the no.3 medical school hospital in Pretoria. Openshaw was made Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George (C.M.G) in 1900, in recognition for his services during the South African War. In 1908 he was made Lieutenant Colonel of the Territorial Force of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Although too old to serve abroad during the First World War, he was appointed consulting surgeon to the Eastern Command with the rank of Colonel. In 1917 he was awarded the Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (C.B.) for his services.


Outside of medicine, Openshaw had a wide range of interests. He was master of the Worshipful Company of Wheelwrights, the Worshipful Company of the Barber-Surgeons and the Worshipful Company of Glovers. So passionate was his belief in these livery companies, rumour has it that when he found that the Glovers Company actually had very few members who were manufacturers of gloves, he actively sought to bring more of them in. Openshaw was also an active Freemason and he was one of the founder members of the London Hospital Lodge, as well as a number of others. He was master of the London Hospital Lodge in 1904 and was made Past Grand Deacon in 1905. Ever proud of his Lancastrian roots, he was President of the Association of Lancastrians in London, and an early master of the Lancastrian Lodge.


Openshaw was an ardent cyclist and a Fellow of the Old Time Cyclists Club. A skilful fisherman, he was president of the Red Spinner Angling Society.


Affectionately known as 'Tommy', his slightly sturdy appearance and gruff accent, did not frighten the children who attended his out-patient clinics, who admired and loved him. He was greatly respected by medical students and colleagues alike, and reminiscences of him recall how he would always support his colleagues.


Openshaw married Selina Gertrude Pratt (known as Gertrude), a nurse who had trained at The London, in 1890. They had a son and a daughter. Unfortunately, his son was killed in a tragic flying accident at an air show in 1927. The death of his son had a severe impact on Openshaw's health. The sudden death of his wife in 1929 weakened him further. He developed diabetes and died a few months after his wife on 17 November 1929.

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