City honours William Marsden

The Lord Mayor and Professor Hancock looking at the plaque.

Today, the Lord Mayor of Sheffield, the Right Worshipful Councillor Tony Downing unveiled a plaque for one of the city’s most famous sons.

Nearly 20 years ago a bronze plaque was erected at Watson’s Walk in honour of William Marsden, founder of the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.

Marsden was born in a house very near to the top of the original Watson’s Walk in 1796, close to the Dove and Rainbow pub in Hartshead Square.

As a young man, Marsden left Sheffield to study at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital and was admitted as a member of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1827. In 1828, he founded the country’s first free hospital, the Royal Free Hospital, which was based on the principle “that disease and poverty should be the only claims for admission.”

In 1851, following the death of his wife from cancer, he opened a cancer hospital which is now known as the Royal Marsden.

In his speech at the unveiling, The Lord Mayor of Sheffield, the Right Worshipful Councillor Tony Downing said:

“For those of us used to the NHS, it is difficult to imagine just how revolutionary Marsden’s new hospital was. The ‘Institution for the Gratuitous Cure of Malignant Diseases’ opened for business on 28 February 1828, and became known locally as the Free Hospital; and in 1837, when Queen Victoria became the patron, she changed the name to the Royal Free Hospital.

“Sheffield, very appropriately commemorates a great surgeon and a visionary who devoted his life both to the service of others and medicine; and therefore we are delighted to honour one of Sheffield’s proud sons here today.”

The original bronze plaque went missing before 2009, though there is still a mark where it was attached to the wall.

The Aesculapian Society of Sheffield, working with Sheffield City Council, has sponsored the making of a new blue plaque with identical wording to the original.


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