International Women’s Day: Brighton’s pioneering female doctors

9th March 2015

By Abby Wharne

Women’s hospitals in Brighton and Hove played a vital role during the late 19th century and early 20th century – offering low-cost healthcare to women in need. In today’s post, we profile two female doctors who helped to found and shape these important establishments.

HB 242/1: Photograph of Helen Boyle receiving an award (c1925)Dr Helen Boyle

Dr Helen Boyle (1869-1957) was one of the first female general practitioners to work in Brighton, and a renowned pioneer of psychiatry.

Born in Dublin in 1869, and educated in France and Germany, Boyle went on to train at the London School of Medicine for Women between 1890 and 1893. In 1894, she achieved her MD at Brussels with distinction.

Before moving to Brighton, she worked at the London County Council Asylum at Claybury, and the Canning Town Medical Missionary; this was to be the beginning of her enduring interest in mental health. Boyle’s ground-breaking work stemmed from her belief that a patient’s treatment ought to start early on, before certification became unavoidable.

Helen moved to Brighton in the late-nineteenth century and initially shared a practice with a colleague, Dr Mabel Jones, in Palmeira Terrace, Hove. She also worked at The Lewes Road Dispensary for Women and Children, which was situated in what was then a poor area of Brighton. The concept behind the hospital was to offer low-cost or free treatment to women, by women.  Both Boyle and Jones became the establishment’s honorary medical officers.

After Jones relocated to Glasgow, Helen was keen to pursue her interest in treating women suffering from early-stage mental illness. She consequently formed a hospital at 101 Roundhill Crescent, designed to treat women who experienced serious nervous breakdown. Further details about the hospital’s formation can be found in the Lady Chichester Hospital administrative records (1900-1948) held by East Sussex Record Office. In 1912, the Lady Chichester Hospital for Nervous Diseases opened at 70 Brunswick Place, Hove, and was a much larger house than its predecessor. The hospital also had other sites.

In her work at these hospitals, Boyle was determined to offer women respite from inadequate living conditions, tiredness and poor nutrition – things that she believed made mental illnesses worse.

During the First World War Boyle worked in Serbia. She was also the Vice-Chairman of the National Council for Mental Hygiene, which became MIND.


BH610MAR: Louisa Martindale Book Dedication (1922)Dr Louisa Martindale

Louisa Martindale (1873-1966) grew up in Lewes and Brighton, and attended Brighton and Hove High School for Girls from 1885. Her mother (also Louisa Martindale) was involved in the suffrage movement, and Louisa herself would become known as a suffragist and supporter of women’s rights.

Martindale attended Royal Holloway College, and then the London School of medicine, graduating with her MB and BS in 1899. Her career in medicine began in Hull where she worked as a general practitioner with an old friend Murdie Murdoch. In c1907, she moved to Brighton and set up her own practice at 10 Marlborough Place.

Like Boyle, Martindale was a pioneer in many ways. Following a trip to Germany, where she was studying the use of radiotherapy in gynaecological conditions, she invested in x-ray apparatus for her own practice. Her obituary in the British Medical Journal states that upon her return she:

… began to treat certain cases of fibroid uterus, metropathia haemorrhagica, and cancer of the breast with deep x-ray therapy. She and Mr F L Provis were the first to? employ this method in Britain, and over the years she did an enormous amount of work in this field. 

Later, Martindale helped to found the New Sussex Hospital for Women, which opened in 1920. She was also Brighton’s first woman Justice of the Peace. Her main adult relationship was with Ismay Fitzgerald (1872–1946) who lived with her from 1911 until her death.


Tomorrow, Andrew Lusted will be writing about Gertrude and Maud Brand – sisters who were prominent in the great Sussex women’s game of stoolball.




Keep Asking Questions: Catalogue searching – the three prongs of optimisation

In a previous blog post Abby Wharne, the Asa Briggs intern at The Keep, explained how searching our archive catalogue can be different to searching on Google or other popular search engines.  Abby mentioned some of the ways that we have tried to improve our catalogue to make it more accessible and I want to elaborate more on this in this post.

The process of optimising our catalogues is three-fold:

  1. Optimise descriptions in catalogue records
  2. Improve the mechanics of the search engine
  3. Create curated content on the website.

The first is really an extension of one of the archivists’ core roles – to describe archival documents in an easy to understand fashion so that people can find them.   Most of our records have been catalogued with the aim of having them published in a printed hand-list, but this is problematic now that the records are online.

As an example, let’s take a look at Baptism registers for the Parish of Glynde:  If you wanted to find these using a hand list you would pick up the Parish of Glynde hand list and find the series called “Incumbent Registers (1558-1994)”, within this series there would be a sub-series called “Baptism registers (1813-1899)”, within this you would see the record “Baptism register (Jan 1813-Jun 1899)” and note the reference number to order it.   When this hand list is transferred to an online environment it is represented by separate records in a hierarchy:

Parish of Glynde (record representing the hand list)

Incumbent Registers (1558-1994) (record representing the series)

Baptism registers (1813-1899) (record representing the sub-series)

Baptism register (Jan 1813-Jun 1899) (record representing the physical register)

See our FAQ :What is the hierarchy? for a more detailed explanation of the hierarchy.

If a researcher finds this record by browsing the Parish of Glynde hierarchy they know the register belongs to this parish, but if they do a search for “Glynde register”, they won’t find it because there is no record in the hierarchy with the words “Glynde” and “register” in it.  The researcher must go to the top level of the hierarchy and then browse to the register.  Browsing the hierarchy depends on the researcher being familiar with the hierarchy in the first place.  Not so difficult for the seasoned researcher, but certainly very different from the immediacy of a Google search that an archive novice might be used to.

To improve this, we need to change the lowest level catalogue record to read “Parish of Glynde Baptism register (Jan 1813-Jun 1899)” to make the record show up in a search for “Glynde registers”.

The second job is to optimise the mechanics of the search engine and as an example we have improved its ability to recognise dates and date ranges.

Before the optimisation a search for records with a date range of “1850-1870” would only bring up records that specifically had “1850-1870” in them.  After the optimisation, the search engine delivers records with any date in that range e.g. 1859 or 1869 and also from 1874 as there is a 5 year buffer on either side of the date range.  A search for “Early 17th cent” would only find records with the specific text “Early 17th cent”, after optimisation this search also find records with specific dates such as 21st March 1603 or 21/03/1603.

The third job of optimisation is related to curated content.

Curated content is new content that we have added to our web pages that sums up a particular subject, person or place and provides links to related catalogue records.  As Abby mentioned in her post we are in the process of creating Places pages for every parish in East Sussex.  So rather than doing a search for a place you can look the place up on the places page that can lead you into a particular area of research relating to that place.  We also have other pages such as Leonard Woolf Papers and German Jewish Collections that explain more about the person or subject area and can lead you into related catalogue records.  We aim to create much more curated content like this in the future to offer researchers a more targeted way to conduct their research.

These three methods of catalogue optimisation will over time make our catalogues easier to use and bring more useful search results to the top of the results page.  Having just over a million records to deal with means that this is a large job and as we learn more about how researchers search our catalogues we can make changes to the search engine to improve their experience.  Google has been going since 1998 and are a multi-billion dollar company; our resources don’t stretch that far so it might take us a little while to catch up!



Keep Asking Questions: How does The Keep’s catalogue differ from a search engine?

5th December 2014

By Abby Wharne

This is the first in a series of blog posts designed to answer frequently asked questions. I thought I’d start the ball rolling by looking at a tricky one – how does an online archive catalogue differ from a search engine?

I first encountered an archive catalogue when I was writing my undergraduate dissertation. My research had led me to the National Archives website, and I soon realised that their search feature was no Google. Since working in the Reading and Reference Room at The Keep, I now know that I’m not alone; many users are thrown by initial search results. So, to understand more, I asked several members of The Keep team: why is an online archive catalogue different from a search engine? I hope their responses, listed below, will be helpful:

  • The Keep’s catalogue doesn’t use predictive text, so users really need to make sure they enter an exact spelling, wording or document reference.
  • Unlike Google, the search results are not listed by popularity.
  • The title and description of a file level document is all a user can see – not what is contained within (generally!) However, there is often much more information listed in the series or fonds/collection level (see below to find out how to get to this level). Clicking ‘read more’ will only reveal a little more information about the record.
  • Archives are arranged according to the person, or organisation, creating them. Consequently, our users may need to use the ‘browse by hierarchy’ tab to look up or down the ‘tree’ to find discover more details about a document.

It was also noted that:

  • Cataloguing is an ongoing process – it takes time to list an archive, so what the user sees online could be a work-in-progress.

Finally, the company who designed our website commented:

  • It’s mainly about context: the hierarchy, browse and serendipity of an archive catalogue are hard to reproduce in a straight search-engine listing.

So … it’s complicated. For people who have never used an archive before, a few of the responses in themselves might require more explanation. When I first started working at The Keep, I used some of the excellent resources on The Archives Hub, which explain many of the challenges involved in using and searching archives; they are well worth a read.

rudyard lockwood kiplingBut, don’t fear, there’s good news. As you can tell from the responses above, the Keep team are aware of the complexities in using the catalogue, and are constantly working hard to make it more accessible. The University of Sussex, for instance, has removed a lot of initials and abbreviations, and replaced these with full descriptions and names – making it easier for users to find information. They have also added detailed pages to the website, which focus on some of their larger collections. The great thing about our website is that these introductory pages appear in search results. For example, someone looking for more information about Rudyard Kipling’s personal papers can find an introductory page by simply searching Rudyard Kipling.

East Sussex Record Office (ESRO) has recently relisted some of their records, making it easier for users to find detailed information. A good example is a sample* of pre-1857 Registry of Shipping and Seamen records for vessels registered at Newhaven and Rye. They include merchant ships’ agreements, crew lists and official log books required under the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1835, 1862-1914, and crew agreements for fishing boats over 25 tons required under the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1835 and later, 1884-1915.

RSS_1_87_1Previously, someone looking at these records on the online catalogue would have had no idea whether or not details of their ancestor might be found within. To improve the catalogue listing, ESRO added the names of the crew, their ages, place of birth and rank, and also the details of the voyages undertaken.The Record Office are also creating place-themed pages, which include links to The Keep’s online catalogue, scanned images and historical information about local parishes.

We hope that our new ‘question-themed’ blog posts will be another way of supporting our visitors. And, if you ever have any questions, please ask a member of staff in person, over the phone, or email us at – we are very helpful! You never know, your question might inspire a blog post …


*The pre-1857 Registry of Shipping and Seamen records are held by The National Archives. The agreements, crew lists and logbooks dating from 1857 onwards have been dispersed to various locations: the bulk of the records were sent to the Memorial University of Newfoundland, while a number of samples were retained by The National Archives, The National Maritime Museum and local record offices.



Treasures at The Keep: Antarctic explorer George Murray Levick’s archive

24th October 2014

By Abigail Wharne

After a century trapped under ice, a notebook belonging to George Murray Levick, many of whose papers are held at The Keep, was discovered outside Captain Scott’s Terra Nova base following last summer’s thaw.  Only this week was its existence made known by conservationists from New Zealand’s Heritage Trust, who recovered and repaired the book. It is now on display alongside other artefacts in Scott’s Hut on Ross Island – the world’s least visited museum.

George Murray Levick was commissioned as a surgeon in the Royal Navy in 1902, and in 1910 was chosen by Robert Falcon Scott as surgeon and zoologist on his second Terra Nova expedition to the Antarctic. He was not involved in the fatal race to the South Pole, but was assigned to what became the northern party of six men who spent the period 1910-1912 exploring the Victoria Land coast. During the winter of 1911-1912, he lived off seal and penguin, an outstanding example of survival which would stand him in good stead when engaged in commando training during the Second World War.

Levick’s work in medicine brought him to East Sussex and many documents relating to the man and his career are held here at The Keep, by East Sussex Record Office (ESRO).

Liked by all members of the northern party, Levick’s continued contact with survivors is demonstrated by a photograph from 1926 (left) showing Apsley Cherry-Garrard with Levick and his family in Sussex, and his address book containing names of survivors and some of the Terra Nova widows.

Levick went on to have a distinguished career in the First World War. He served in the Grand Fleet in the North Sea, and supported the Dardanelles Campaign, which took place from April 1915 to January 1916; he was in the last party to leave Gallipoli. In 1915, Levick was promoted to surgeon-commander, and was later to give evidence of the poor conditions which were included in The Final Report of the Dardanelles Commission.

ESRO’s interest in Levick is derived from his appointment as medical director of the Chailey Heritage Craft Schools and Hospitals for Crippled Children from 1920 to 1950. The Heritage had been established at Chailey by Grace Kimmins in 1903, and became a forerunner in its field. Levick was particularly involved in promoting heliotherapy for the treatment of his patients. ESRO holds an extensive archive for Chailey Heritage, where Levick spent most of his medical career after the First World War. The archive is ongoing; two more vans of records were collected earlier this summer, including photographs of Levick at the Heritage’s coastal heliotherapy station at Bishopstone near Newhaven.

A large number of his articles and papers, also a considerable number of photographs demonstrating work with his young patients at Chailey, can be seen at The Keep by ordering through our website.

Last year, Friends of East Sussex Record Office presented a family album, which included the address book and the photograph of Apsley Cherry-Garrard mentioned earlier.  And last month ESRO added another purchase of family albums and papers, which include material reflecting Levick’s work with the Royal Navy during the Second World War, when he assisted in the training of commandos.

Archive Assistant Lyndsey Tydeman has been listing these personal papers:

The family albums and papers contrast with the material we hold relating to Levick’s work at Chailey. They offer an intimate view of his family life – group portraits, photographs from holidays in the West Country, images of his homes in Surrey and Budleigh Salterton – and show a doting husband and father. I particularly like this menu from a meal at The Trocadero, dated July 1913 – just one year after his return from the Antarctic.

The international press interest created by this discovery, on the other side of the world, has reminded us of the wider significance of our Levick archive and the multi-faceted character of the man himself.