fonds YMS - York Medical Society Archive

Identity area

Reference code



York Medical Society Archive


  • 1786-1994 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

0.53 cubic metres

29 boxes

Context area

Name of creator


Administrative history

York Medical Society was founded in 1832 at a time when many medical societies were being founded in the English provinces (the British Medical Association – then called the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association - was founded in Worcester in the same year).

The Society was the first in the city to unite physicians and surgeon-apothecaries in one association. It performed a useful role in facilitating communication and cementing relationships between local doctors through regular meetings; these meetings also had an improving and educating role as papers were read and cases discussed. It became a forum for the discussion of important professional issues.

It also encouraged the sharing of books and, later in the 19th century, it developed an extensive library, as well as a small museum of preparations and specimens. In 1890 the Society acquired the library collection of York City Hospital as well as that of the York Dispensary. Gifts of further books from doctors and others meant that the Library soon had between 2000 – 3000 volumes.

Initially, the Society had no premises of its own, and it met at the York Dispensary, on New Street, York. From October 1856 until May 1874, meetings were held in a rented room at ‘Mr Graham’s House in Market Street’. The lease of this room ended with Mr Graham’s death, and for the following three years meetings were held in the Board Room at York County Hospital. Between 1877 and 1878 the Society briefly met at 9 Ousegate and between 1878 and 1890 met at the de Grey Rooms (these more central sites encouraged better attendance).

In 1890 the Society decided to rent permanent rooms, at 1 Low Ousegate, in order to furnish them as a Library and Meeting Room. From there, the Medical Society and Library moved to 23 Stonegate in 1915: these premises were initially rented but were subsequently purchased in 1945. 23 Stonegate had previously been the house of Dr Tempest Anderson, and of his father, the surgeon W.C. Anderson. The York Medical Society continues to occupy these premises today.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

The library and archive were transferred to the Borthwick Institute by York Medical Society in 2003. Further additions were made to the archive in 2011 and 2012.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

York Medical Society records, 1832-1964; York Medical Society Museum and Library records, 19th century-1960; 'Transactions of York Medical Society' volumes, 1890-1905; York Medico Ethical Association records, 1857-1890; Yorkshire Branch of the British Medical Association records, 1842-1958; York Local Medical Committee minutes, 1948-1973; York County Hospital records, 1810-1865; and records of other organisations and individuals, comprising notebooks of lectures by Dr Thomas Simpson given at York Medical School, 1834, transcripts of lectures on chemistry given by Dr Joseph Black at the University of Edinburgh, 1786, notebook of notes on diseases, diagnoses, causes and treatments, 1824-1825, manuscript 'Pharmacopoeia' belonging to a York doctors’ practice, 1831-1981, and prescription books of John Saville and Sons, pharmaceutical chemists of York, 1880-1926.

Additional uncatalogued material, including York Medical Society council minute books, 1964-1994; prescription book, 1900-1904; prescription books from Coverdale the Chemist, York, 1860-1960; book of press cuttings, late 19th century; illuminated address to Dr Richard Turner, 1913; and receipts, papers and photographs, 19th century-20th century.


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Records are open to the public, subject to the overriding provisions of relevant legislation, including data protection laws. 24 hours' notice is required to access photographic material.

Conditions governing reproduction

A reprographics service is available to researchers subject to the access restrictions outlined above. Copying will not be undertaken if there is any risk of damage to the document. Copies are supplied in accordance with the Borthwick Institute for Archives' terms and conditions for the supply of copies, and under provisions of any relevant copyright legislation. Permission to reproduce images of documents in the custody of the Borthwick Institute must be sought.

Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

A typescript finding aid, to file level, is available for consultation in the searchroom of the Borthwick Institute. This includes all material received in 2003. Later material has not yet been catalogued, please contact the Borthwick Institute for further information.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

For related material held by the Borthwick Institute, see the archive of York County Hospital; the archive of Margaret Barnet, secretary and president of the Society; and the archive of Jack Kenneth Willson-Pepper, president of the Society.

The York Medical Society Library is deposited with the University of York Library, Special Collections. The books can be found by going to the online library catalogue: Select 'Advanced Search' and then select 'Provenance' in the drop down menu and search for 'York Medical Society'.

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Place access points

Name access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

GB 193

Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description, International Council on Archives (2nd edition, 2000); Rules for the construction of personal, place and corporate names, National Council on Archives (1997).

Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Created by S. A. Shearn, 31.07.15.




Accession area