Doctor Spencer at the Strand Street Dispensary

“A brief and useful life”

As the first house surgeon of the Douglas Medical Dispensary, Doctor John Henry Frederick Spencer (1813 – 1850) was a key figure in the history of free medical care on the Isle of Man.

JHF Spencer was born in Maughold in 1813. After training in Dublin and spending a few years in Cheltenham, he was elected to the post of House Surgeon for the Douglas Medical Dispensary in 1839, running the Strand Street premises until his resignation in 1849. His sudden and unexpected death in 1850 cut short his ongoing efforts to improve medical provision for the poor in Douglas.

Running the only free medical institution on the island was not an easy task, and the Dispensary often came in for criticism. However, Dr Spencer remained a popular and well-known figure, and earned praise for his kindly and energetic approach to the treatment of the poor. He pushed himself to exhaustion to look after his patients, and campaigned tirelessly for better medical care and living conditions for Manx people.

His life gives an insight into both medical care, Manx society and living conditions on the Isle of Man at the time.

Explore Doctor Spencer's life here

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