Sir Charles Hastings
was a medical surgeon and a founder of the British Medical Association
The British Medical Association is the professional association and registered trade union for doctors in the United Kingdom. The association does not regulate or certify doctors, a responsibility which lies with the General Medical Council. The association’s headquarters are located in BMA House,...
, the BMA
BMA may stand for:* Backup Management Applications* Baltimore Museum of Art* Bangkok Metropolitan Administration* Bangladesh Military Academy* Baptist Missionary Association of America, an association of churches in the United States...
, originally Provincial Medical and Surgical Association on July 19, 1832.
He was also a notable lifelong philanthropist
A philanthropist is someone who engages in philanthropy; that is, someone who donates his or her time, money, and/or reputation to charitable causes...
, investing his own money in new housing designed to improve public health and founding a natural history museum.
Birth & early life
Charles Hastings was born at Ludlow
Ludlow is a market town in Shropshire, England close to the Welsh border and in the Welsh Marches. It lies within a bend of the River Teme, on its eastern bank, forming an area of and centred on a small hill. Atop this hill is the site of Ludlow Castle and the market place...
Shropshire is a county in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes, the county is a NUTS 3 region and is one of four counties or unitary districts that comprise the "Shropshire and Staffordshire" NUTS 2 region. It borders Wales to the west...
, the ninth of fifteen children born into the family of a Rev. James Hastings, a clergyman who was rector of the church in Bitterley
Bitterley is a village and civil parish in Shropshire, England. According to the 2001 census it had a population of 802. The village is about four miles east of Ludlow on the western slopes of Titterstone Clee Hill...
near Ludlow, but about to take up the position of incumbent at Martley
Martley is a village and civil parish in the Malvern Hills district of the English county of Worcestershire. It is approximately nine miles north-west of Worcester. The population of the village is approximately 1200 people...
Worcestershire is a non-metropolitan county, established in antiquity, located in the West Midlands region of England. For Eurostat purposes it is a NUTS 3 region and is one of three counties that comprise the "Herefordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire" NUTS 2 region...
. It was in Worcestershire that he was educated and spent his formative childhood, attending Worcester Grammar School. He was a younger brother of Admiral Sir Thomas Hastings.
Charles was interested in natural history as a young boy and as he matured he was drawn towards the study of medicine, especially after his father suffered an incapacitating accident. In fact it would seem he was quite a precocious student, becoming an apprentice to an apothecary
Apothecary is a historical name for a medical professional who formulates and dispenses materia medica to physicians, surgeons and patients — a role now served by a pharmacist and some caregivers....
initially then attending anatomy school in London at age sixteen and becoming house surgeon as Worcester
The City of Worcester, commonly known as Worcester, , is a city and county town of Worcestershire in the West Midlands of England. Worcester is situated some southwest of Birmingham and north of Gloucester, and has an approximate population of 94,000 people. The River Severn runs through the...
Infirmary at eighteen years of age, before entering Edinburgh University at twenty one, where he was elected President of the Royal Medical Society, returning after completing his studies and gaining his medical degree, immediately to Worcester Infirmary again. He even declined a lectureship at Edinburgh in order to do so.
Campaigning work in Worcester
Charles Hastings obviously had a close relationship with his home city, Worcester. He could have developed a very interesting, challenging and rewarding medical career anywhere, especially London or Edinburgh but he made a very conscious and obvious decision to invest his career in the locality where he had grown up.
In 1854 Dr Charles Hastings was seeking to put much of his own money into innovative, purpose designed living and working accommodation for Worcester's artisans. These 'modern dwellings' as he called them were well built, well designed houses of varied construction intended to replace often cramped, very old, crowded, medieval buildings and later cheaply built terraces and town houses which in Worcester were little more than slums by Hastings time where diseases such as typhus
Epidemic typhus is a form of typhus so named because the disease often causes epidemics following wars and natural disasters...
would break out in the right conditions, an all too regular development.
Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae. The main symptoms are profuse watery diarrhea and vomiting. Transmission occurs primarily by drinking or eating water or food that has been contaminated by the diarrhea of an infected person or the feces...
had broken out in Worcester many times. It spread throughout the city in 1832, claiming many lives and recurred in 1849 and 1853 taking children and workers of all ages. It is said that Hastings attended to people in every outbreak, personally seeing every single case and ministering to the sick and dying with no regard for his own health.
The new housing he had helped to introduce, for example in Copenhagen Street - now sadly demolished in turn - was having a dramatic effect on health with the death rate dropping by 45% in a decade. However he was facing a great reluctance on the part of Worcester City Council to introduce even simple measures, as we see them today, such as introducing clean water to their houses, pumps and streets. In fact it was 1872 before legislation was on the statute books for clean water to be piped into most metropolitan areas, Worcester included.
Sir Charles was also forthright critic of hydropathy, and of the famed Dr James Gully in particular.
He was knighted by Queen Victoria in 1850 for his pioneering work, resolve and social conscience.
Among his children was George Woodyatt Hastings
George Woodyatt Hastings was an English Liberal politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1880 to 1892....
He also founded the Worcester museum of Natural History, hoping that it might inspire the younger generations following him to have at their disposal a valuable facility in which they could further their studies and gain an insight into the wonders of the world around them and a greater understanding of how to improve it for the greater good.
In the last years of his life Hastings was the first chairman of the ill fated Worcester, Bromyard and Leominster Railway
The Worcester, Bromyard and Leominster Railway was a long Worcester, Bromyard and Leominster Railway Company built single track branch railway line that ran between a junction near Bransford Road on the West Midland Railway line south of Worcester to the Shrewsbury and Hereford Railway line south...
and during his tenure the operating company had spent £20,000 on line without purchasing the necessary land or signing a contract with the construction company.
Death & legacy
His grave lies in Worcester's Astwood Cemetery, alongside his wife Hannah, who predeceased him by just three months. They had two daughters, and a son who became a local MP. He had lived out the final years of his allotted span in his home in the Malvern Hills
The Malvern Hills are a range of hills in the English counties of Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a small area of northern Gloucestershire, dominating the surrounding countryside and the towns and villages of the district of Malvern...
and died at age seventy-two safe in the knowledge that what he had been able to achieve in his lifetime was of great value to the wider world as well as that on his very doorstep.
He was at the time of his death Worcester's most respected citizen, the value of his work already appreciated. Today however he could be slipping from the public consciousness and even in his home city he is not as widely spoken of today as say Sir Edward Elgar, maybe Worcester's most celebrated son. Many admirers of Sir Charles Hastings would argue that he has been of the greater value and is worthy of renewed and continued recognition today and in the future.