In 1851, Dr John Propert was moved to establish a school to help widowed medical families, naming it The Medical Benevolent College. The name changed to Epsom College in 1910, but benevolence has remained at the heart of the College to this day.
Today’s medical profession is a far cry from that of the mid-1800s. Today doctors undergo extensive education and training, their counterparts in the 19th century were qualified by apprenticeships and a grounding in science was not required. Illness could be blamed on all manner of causes – wet feet, night air, violent emotion – and cured by leeches or a change of air. 100 years before the NHS, a visit to the doctor was a financial stretch for most – and payment was difficult to enforce. As a result, finances were often perilous for medical families.
Yet the biggest threat was exposure to the illnesses they attempted to treat. Death rates were high, and the families left behind had little means to support themselves.