Browse Fellows


www Lives

Biographical entry Lacy, Edward (1799 - 1870)

MRCS Dec 6th 1822; FRCS Aug 12th 1852; LSA 1822.

Salisbury, Wiltshire
7 October 1870
Poole, Dorset
General practitioner and General surgeon


Professionally educated at St George's Hospital. He practised first at Stockport, where he was Surgeon to the Infirmary Fever Wards and to the Queen's Lying-in Institute. At the latter institution he lectured on midwifery and the diseases of women and children. Removing to Poole, he was at the time of his death Surgeon to the Bournemouth General Dispensary and Surgeon to the 4th Dorset Rifle Volunteers. He died at Poole on Oct 7th, 1870.

"Treatment of Fistula in Ano by Chloride of Zinc." - Med Times and Gaz, 1852, xxv, 576.

See below for an amended version of the published obituary:

Edward Lacy made his name as a surgeon and leading citizen in Poole, Dorset. He was born in Salisbury in 1799 and baptised in Salisbury Cathedral on 17 March 1800, although his parents were both from Dorset: his father, James, was born in Poole, his mother, Mary née Bemister, in nearby Wimborne.

He began his medical career as a pupil at the County Infirmary in Salisbury, before moving to London to the Marylebone Infirmary; he then studied at St George's Hospital as a pupil and dresser to Sir Edward Home and Sir Benjamin Brodie, receiving his diploma in 1823. He gained his membership of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1822, the same year he was awarded his licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in 1852.

His first post was in Stockport, perhaps chosen because his brother Henry was at that time in Manchester, when he was appointed as a house surgeon at the Stockport Infirmary in March 1823. He also worked at the Dispensary and House of Recovery, moving on later to the Queen's Lying-in Institution, Manchester, where he lectured on midwifery and diseases of women and children. Edward applied several times, unsuccessfully, to be elected as a surgeon at the Manchester Royal Infirmary during the 1830s. A case study of one of his patients with diabetes mellitus, from his practice in King Street, Manchester, appears in Edward Carbutt's book Clinical lectures in the Manchester Royal Infirmary (London, Longman and company, 1834).

It was while in Manchester that he became embroiled in 1832 in a law suit concerning grave-robbing. The Rev Gilpin of Stockport was successful with a libel case against an activist and publisher, Mr Doherty, who had stated that a body was removed from the graveyard attached to the church to the dissecting room of the surgeon Mr Lacy, who happened to be the Rev Gilpin's brother-in-law. The case featured strongly in the local and London newspapers, and must have been very embarrassing both professionally and personally for Edward.

He had moved to Poole by 1844, taking over the medical practice of Thomas Barter at 90 High Street. Before this move, he had gained considerable experience in hospital work, but there was no hospital in Poole at that time or indeed during his lifetime. His living was therefore from general practice, plus the various contracts available to doctors. He became honorary surgeon to the 4th Dorset Rifle Volunteers, surgeon to several different friendly societies and the Amity Lodge. Another role was medical officer to the Kinson, Canford and Parkstone district of the Poole Union. He was able to later become involved in Bournemouth's first hospital development. He was listed in 1859 as a member of the founding committee of the Bournemouth Public Dispensary for the Sick Poor, as well as working there as an honorary surgeon. The dispensary was established to provide for the poor in the fast-developing town of Bournemouth, but also covering adjoining areas including Poole. As a dispensary, it did not have inpatients, although before his death it had become a cottage hospital, forerunner to the Royal Victoria Hospital. As he grew older, he took William Turner as a partner in his practice in Poole.

His medical interests are shown by publications in the Medical Times and Gazette on ingrowing toenails, treatment of naevi, effects of use of lead powder by actors, and use of zinc chloride in the treatment of anal fistulae. He prepared a report for presentation to the inaugural meeting of the Dorset County Association of General Practitioners in June 1848 on the use of chloroform in surgery, which represented an early clinical review of experience. He was a local secretary of the New Sydenham Society, linking local doctors with the publisher.

A further interest must have been public health, as in 1848 he was invited to present a lecture at Poole Guildhall on 'The health of towns'. The context was the passing of the Public Health Act in that year, but the worry of cholera outbreaks was a constant factor locally and nationally. Using his experience in Manchester, he compared life expectancy in Poole, a small town in a rural area, with northern cities, although stressing nevertheless how Poole's filthy streets affected the health of its population. The bulk of his lecture was educational, using diagrams and other aids, to demonstrate the impact of poor living conditions, showing how cholera could arise. He ended by stating that however well the Poor Law guardians provided aid and nutrition for the poor, they could do nothing to affect ventilation and cleanliness for the general population, suggesting that therefore the poor suffered the most in times of cholera. He offered, should cholera hit Poole, that his surgery would be open at all hours to the suffering poor.

He was first elected to the Poole Town Council in 1848, representing the north-west ward as a Conservative, and remained a councillor until his death. In November 1860, as a long-serving member, he was elected by the town council as the mayor, and by this time he was also chief magistrate for the town. When he died the newspaper headline recorded it as the death of a magistrate, rather than surgeon; perhaps in his later years his presence on the bench was more marked than his medical work.

Outside his medical career, he had at least one business interest. This was the time of 'railway mania', and Manchester was at the forefront. Edward was attracted to the possibilities and developed this interest after moving to Poole. He was heavily involved in the efforts to develop a railway link from Poole to Salisbury. This link was for a time known locally as the 'Lacy line'. There is no evidence this business venture brought him the same financial success as achieved by his brother Henry Lacy, a director of the London and South Western Railway and MP for Bodmin.

Edward married Frances Gilpin on 2 September 1828; she was born in Broughton in Furness, Lancashire, the daughter of a local magistrate. They had four children while living in Manchester: Caroline Mary died in infancy in 1840, but Ruth, Bernard and Frances all grew up in Poole. Bernard Gilpin Lacy is listed in the 1871 census as an 'MD USA not in practice'.

Edward Lacy died on 7 October 1870, aged 70, and was buried in Poole Cemetery on 13 October. The funeral was a large affair, with a procession of civic dignitaries and an honour guard of 30 men from the Rifle Volunteers; flags were at half-mast on the Guildhall and church. His obituary in the local newspaper was accompanied by a eulogy, highly complimentary about his medical career, including his Christian charitable approach to those unable to pay for his care.

As a surgeon and leading citizen of the town, Edward Lacy made his mark in his adopted home of Poole. He was a part of the first hospital development in Bournemouth and Poole, and became Poole's civic leader. The obituary and eulogy published in the local newspaper demonstrate the town held him in high regard as 'a worthy magistrate, a skilful surgeon, and most upright and honourable gentleman'.

New mode of treating ingrowing toenails. Medical Times and Gazette 1852 Aug 172-3.
Treatment of fistula in ano by chloride of zinc. Medical Times and Gazette 1852 June 576.
Use of lead powder by actors. Medical Times and Gazette 1852 Aug 223.
Treatment of naevus by pressure. Medical Times and Gazette 1852.

John Bartling Gill

Sources used to compile this entry: [Poole and South Western Herald 13 October 1870 p.5; newspaper reports from Manchester and Dorset; local directories; Manchester Medical Collection biographies; Medical Registers; census returns].

The Royal College of Surgeons of England