Nick BlackNick Black lives in Stonefield Street and is the author of the acclaimed  Walking London’s Medical History.  The following extracts from his book describe two properties in the area with interesting medical links.




Godfrey & Cooke’s Dispensing and Family Chemist, Cloudesley Road

GC PharmacyAt the north end of Cloudesley Road, you will see a handsome old shop front with Corinthian columns. Built around 1830, it is notable for the plate glass windows which, at that time, represented the height of modernity. It was Godfrey & Cooke’s Dispensing and Family Chemist, a private business that, like other pharmacists, made a modest but important contribution to providing primary health care. Behind each window would have been a large carboy containing coloured water with oil lamps or gas jets to illuminate them at night and cast an attractive multi-coloured glow into the street. There was also likely to be an outside lamp in coloured glass. In addition to dispensing medicines, pharmacists sold an eclectic collection of items, essentially anything related to treating and curing ill-health plus anything that involved chemicals such as photographic equipment, turpentine, paraffin, perfumes and cosmetics, toiletries and cleaning agents. Perhaps relating back to their 'druggist' origins, chemists also sold tobacco, which was not at that time seen as harmful to health. A record of the range of items on sale can be seen in the extensive advertisements painted on the side wall, in Cloudesley Road.

Robert Stuart’s surgery, Cloudesley Square

Robert Stuart SurgeryEntering Cloudesley Square, the small building (No 18 ½) on the left, was built in 1907 by Robert Stuart who lived in the adjacent house. He had qualified in medicine from Dublin in 1896 and after practicing from a house in Cloudesley Road for eight years he moved here and added this purpose-built GP surgery. This was unusual - most GPs converted a couple of rooms in their own home. At that time, small social insurance 'clubs' run by Friendly Societies meant increasing numbers were entitled not only to sickness benefit but also access to the 'club doctor', a GP who received an annual payment from the Society to provide all necessary care, including medications. GPs needed the income from being a club doctor but resented the club's interference in their work. Some clubs would instruct doctors how long they could spend with each patient, banging on the surgery door when time was up!

By the start of the 20th century, government felt that insurance could not remain voluntary. In 1911 compulsory National Health Insurance was introduced for all employed workers with an income of less than £160 pa. They were required to pay 4 pence a week to an approved society. Their employers had to contribute thruppence and the government tuppence a week. This entitled the insured worker (but not his or her family) to limited cash benefits when sick, the services of a GP, and any prescribed pharmaceuticals (but not hospital treatment).

Instead of only the one club doctor, people could now choose their GP from all those on the 'panel' or list. In turn, GPs were free of the lay control exerted by the 'clubs' and they remained independent contractors operating from their own premises. Robert Stuart left in 1915 (for Hertfordshire) and it’s not known if the building continued to be used as a GP's surgery.

Further Notes (Nick Collin)

From the records (see Cloudesley History) it seems 18 Cloudesley Square was indeed used as a doctor's surgery for many years.  The 1911 census lists John Spence, Medical Practitioner, aged 25 as living at No 18.  Given that he was born in Ireland, we can surmise he was connected to Dr Stuart in some way, who, as mentioned above, did not leave the area until 1915.  Perhaps Dr Spence just happened to be staying at No 18 while Dr Stuart was away?  By 1916, the appropriately named Henry James Hacker occupied No 18 and baptised his daughter Joan Ready Hacker at Holy Trinity Church.  As late as 1940, Barney Kessel, Physician and Surgeon, is listed at No 18 in a business directory for the area.  In fact it turns out that Dr Kessel qualified in 1922, spent a year in Johannesburg, then took up residence at 18 Cloudesley Square in 1924.  Remarkably, he remained there until 1981 when he moved to Belsize Park. By 1981 he would have been about 81 years old!  Perhaps some of our more longstanding residents remember him?

The extension which Dr Stuart built to no 18 is variously known as No 18 ½, No 18A or "Cloudesley Cottage".  Interestingly, the house opposite across the road at No 17 is sometimes referred to as "Cloudesley Villa".  Clearly this was the upmarket side of the Square (full disclosure: I live at No 16)!

Apart from this, the baptism and birth records refer to the following medical folk in the area:

  • 1832.  Joseph Chamberlin Buston, Surgeon, 37 Lower Islington Terrace (now Cloudesley Road)
  • 1836.  John Watson, Surgeon, 29 Cloudesley Terrace (now Liverpool Rd, the other side of Cloudesley Square)
  • 1836.  Joseph McCrea, Surgeon, 30 Cloudesley Terrace (ie next door!)
  • 1860.  Thomas Griffith, Surgeon, 28 Cloudesley Street (from the Post Office City Directory)
  • 1862.  Charles James Sayer, Medical Agent, ? Cloudesley Terrace
  • 1899.  Henry George Carsberg, Surgeon Instrument Maker, 17 Cloudesley Road
  • 1917.  Alfred Truston, "Hospital Suppliance", 67 Cloudesley Road

Joseph McCrea turns up again in a Post Office City Directory for 1840, but by this time he has moved to Compton Terrace near the Union Chapel in Canonbury.  However, he is still listed as practising as a surgeon at 30 Cloudesley Terrace, now in partnership with a Dr Goldsmith - see below.  Does this mean that doctors Watson, McCrea and Goldsmith were all part of the same medical practice based at 29-30 Cloudesley Terrace?


McCrea Record