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A Dynasty of Doctors

At least eight other members of the Mallet family belonged to the medical profession.

Jonathan’s youngest brother, John Mallet, born c1745, followed in his footsteps, becoming an army surgeon and serving in the American War of Independence. He was appointed Surgeon of the 45th Regiment of Foot in America in 1775, Surgeon to the 11th Dragoons in 1782, and Surgeon to the forces on the continent under the command of the Duke of York in 1793. He died two years later.

Another brother, James, born c1743, moved from Lichfield to Leicester, and his grandson, George Mallett, founded a dynasty of doctors in Bolton, Lancashire. George himself was a surgeon, and his sons William James and Frederic Blakesley Mallett and grandson Frederic (later Sir Frederic) Rowland Mallett also entered the medical profession.

William qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in London, and registered as a medical practitioner in 1860. He was appointed ensign in the 2nd Lancashire Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1863, and practised as a physician and surgeon in Manchester.

Both Frederics obtained a degree in medicine at Edinburgh University. Frederic Blakesley Mallett registered as a medical practitioner in 1862, and became an army surgeon like his ancestor Jonathan. Immediately after qualifying he was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the 27th Lancashire Rifle Volunteer Corps, and 20 years later he was granted the honorary rank of Surgeon-Major with the same corps. He also appears to have worked as a GP in Bolton in the meantime.

His son Frederic Rowland qualified in 1891, and practised as a physician and surgeon on his own account in Bolton. In 1934 he was awarded the KBE for political and public services.

Sued for Breach of Contract

Thomas Charles Mallet (1860-1939) was the grandson of Jonathan’s nephew Henry, who moved from Lichfield to Nottingham around 1800. Thomas, born in Nottingham, is shown as a 20 year old medical student on the 1881 census. He qualified as a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries in London in 1885, and registered as a medical practitioner on 15th June of that year.

In October 1885 Thomas applied for a position with two doctors called Hall and Palmer, who worked in partnership in Newtown, Montgomeryshire, Wales. The partners agreed to employ him at a starting salary of £130, and he married Harriette Perkins in Wandsworth in the last quarter of 1885, no doubt on the strength of the job offer. He then began work as assistant to Hall and Palmer, having entered into a £1000 bond on 4th December 1885 in which he undertook not to practise as a doctor within a 10 mile radius of Newtown without the partners’ consent. Thomas and Harriette’s first child, Refna, was born in Newtown in 1886. The partnership between Hall and Palmer was dissolved in 1887, and Thomas continued to work for Hall.

Palmer sued Thomas for breach of covenant, and the case went as far as the Court of Appeal. The Court found against Thomas, who was prohibited from practising as a doctor within 10 miles of Newtown. The case was considered to be of particular interest to the medical profession, and was widely reported in the newspapers and law journals of the day.

Thomas returned to Nottingham, and seems to have set up in practice on his own account, as he is shown in Wright’s Directory of Nottingham, 1913-14, as the medical officer of the Hospital for Skin Diseases, the address given being his home address of 4-6 Park Row, Nottingham.

An Early Woman Doctor

Thomas’ eldest daughter, Refna Mallet, followed in her father’s footsteps at a time when it was still very unusual for women to enter the medical profession.

She was educated at the Broadgate School for Girls and University College, Nottingham, and entered the London School of Medicine for Women in 1907 at the age of 20. She qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons of England and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1914, and registered as a medical practitioner on 6th August 1914.

In 1915 she was appointed House Surgeon at Wolverhampton General Hospital. She married a fellow student, Charles Warner, in 1916, and continued to practise medicine after her marriage. She worked as a School Medical Officer in Nottingham from 1923 to 1933, and her name appears in the Medical Register until 1959.

A Nurse at a Women’s Hospital

Yet another member of the family, Refna’s second cousin Henrietta Mallet, who was born in Nottingham in 1873, joined the nursing profession, although her father was a wealthy lace manufacturer, so she would certainly have had no need to work. Henrietta trained as a nurse at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, London, and spent a few months with Princess Christian’s Army Nursing Service (Reserve) in 1900. By 1901 she was a Ward Sister at the New Hospital for Women in London, founded by pioneering woman doctor Elizabeth Garrett Anderson to enable poor women to obtain medical treatment from qualified female practitioners.

Mary in Italy

© Mary in Italy 2009