Sir Charles Brown

At the old Preston Royal Infirmary there was a ward known as the “Brown Ward”. It was so called in honour Sir Charles Brown, a Preston doctor who lived for all but ten years of his life at number 27 Winckley Square. He was born there in 1836, educated at the Grammar School in Cross Street, did his medical training in London, and, on qualifying, returned to Preston to be House Surgeon at the Dispensary in Fishergate. The Preston Royal Infirmary was opened in 1870 and Dr. Brown was appointed a member of staff. He remained there until 1922, being 'Sixty Four Years a Doctor' - this being the title of a book he wrote when he eighty-six years of age.

His father had also been a doctor; Dr. Robert Brown, born in 1800. His medical training, in a country practice, had been very hard, with visits done on horseback. He had to wash, in all weathers, in a stone trough in the stable yard, unlike his son who, at number 27 Winckley Square, enjoyed the luxury of a “beautiful, full-length marble bath, combined with a shower bath, supplied with hot and cold water, and wash-basin similarly furnished”.

In his book 'Sixty Four Years a Doctor' Dr Brown recalls his early years at number 27 Winckley Square, where he lived with his parents, two brothers and four sisters. The domestic staff consisted of a governess, nurse, cook, parlourmaid and housemaid. Each servant had her own particular duty. The cook had to prepare four meals daily for the fourteen people. The parlourmaid waited upon everyone except the two youngest children and the other servants. She also had to answer the door bell day and night. The housemaid, with the help of the parlourmaid, had to make all the beds and attend to most of the rooms. The washing was done by the cook, housemaid, parlourmaid and nurse. They were called for the purpose every Monday morning at one o’clock, one and a half hours earlier than the maids were called at the Leach household for the same task, and by that same night watchman who patrolled the neighbourhood and called the hour and the state of the weather.

There was no gas in any of the bedrooms and coals had to be carried up from the cellar. The servants had to clean both the inside and outside of the windows because there were no window cleaners then. Lowest paid was the nurse who received £8 a year. "The coachman, a married man, had 14 shillings a week and a bonus of £2 on Christmas Day, Samuel Cave was the coachman. He had four sons... The coachman's wife and my good mother were examples in character generally, and household management in particular."

Dr. Brown was always concerned about the bad health of the town and felt that the inadequate domestic training given to young girls who had been put in the mill at an early age was largely to blame, since when they married they made very inadequate wives and mothers. He constantly urged the authorities in Preston to make domestic science a compulsory subject in elementary schools and he finally succeeded, which is why In 1896 the School of Domestic Science opened in Glover's Court.

At Preston Royal Infirmary he defrayed the expense of building a new operating theatre at a cost of £2,700, provided money for structural improvements and equipment which kept the Infirmary thoroughly up to date in every respect. He greatly valued 'his' nurses and gave them a free day out in Fleetwood and Blackpool every year.

Whenever important people visited the town he delighted to entertain them at his home in Winckley Square, always showing off to them the things in Preston of which he was most proud – the Preston Royal Infirmary, the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, and the Harris Orphanage.

Dr. Brown, who never married, died in November 1925. An announcement placed outside his house read 'Sir Charles Brown passed peacefully away at 8.35 this morning.' He was cremated in Manchester and, at the same time as the service there, a full civic memorial service was held in Preston Parish Church for Preston's ‘Grand Old Man’.

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© Marian Roberts 1996