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Bloomsbury Institutions


Provident Surgical Appliance Society

Also known as Surgical Appliance Society (Provident)


It was founded in 1872 by J. P. Caesar, formerly of the Provident Dispensary in Islington, who had become convinced of the need for an institution which supplied medical appliances to the poor cheaply (London Mirror, 21 December 1872)

Caesar, who became Secretary of the new Institution, was supported by C. Holthouse, who became its Hon. Surgeon; the resident surgeon was Henry Waldo (flyer from 1873, A/FWA/C/D/15/001, London Metropolitan Archives)

By early 1873 the Society had already supplied 654 instruments and appliances (London Mirror, 20 December 1873)

It was described in 1878 as a “very useful charitable institution”, “which provides the working classes and persons of small means with trusses, elastic stockings, &c” (Edward Walford, Old and New London, vol. 4, 1878)

In the 1870s it was estimated that 1 in 8 of the population needed such appliances (London Mirror, 21 December 1872)

It was wound up in 1948

What was reforming about it?

Unlike the four other similar societies then extant (the Truss Society, the National Truss Society, the Rupture Society, and the Surgical Aid Society), no letter of recommendation was required in order to obtain an appliance (London Mirror, 21 December 1872)

The institution also operated on a system of taking whatever payment each patient could afford, with credit extended where necessary, and benefactors’ tickets sold to support the poorest in need (London Mirror, 21 December 1872)

Its opening hours from the start were planned as 10am until 8pm, Monday–Saturday, so that working men would not have to lose half a day’s work to get the help they needed (London Mirror, 21 December 1872)

Where in Bloomsbury

After brief temporary offices at 3 Old Broad Street in 1872 (Metropolitan, 28 December 1872) and a short period sharing the premises of the Royal General Dispensary near St Bartholomew’s Hospital (Circular, 12 February 1874), the Society established itself at 37 Great Ormond Street in 1873 (London Mirror, 20 December 1873)

By 1882 it had moved out of Bloomsbury to 12 Finsbury Circus (Thomas J. Woodrow to Charles Loch, 17 November 1882, London Metropolitan Archives), where it remained until at least 1900 (Burdett’s Hospitals and Charities, 1900)

Website of current institution

It no longer exists

Books about it

None found


Records relating to its investigation by the Charity Organisation Society are held in London Metropolitan Archives, ref. A/FWA/C/D/15/001–004; details are available via Access to Archives (opens in new window)

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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