Nottingham Hospitals History



The First President of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society

1828 to 1839

Godfrey Howitt, (1800-1873), was the first president of the Nottingham Medico Chirurgical Society from 1828 to 1839, when on 30th August with his brother Richard (1799-1869), a druggist and a poet, he migrated to Australia, and "having," as it was said, "made all Europe ring with their fame, went to Australia to listen to the echo." He took with him to Melbourne a wooden house in sections and erected it on land which afterwards became the centre of the city, i.e. Collins Street.

Godfrey Howitt was one of the six sons of Thomas Howitt of Heanor in Derbyshire, who resuscitated the fortunes of an old but generously spendthrift county family by marrying Phoebe Tantum, an heiress of the Society of Friends, and, as required by the regulations, became a Quaker. Another brother of Godfrey was William (1795-1879) also a druggist, for a time in partnership with his brother Richard, and  a poet. He was an indefatigable writer, and with his wife Mary Botham (1799-1888), the daughter of a prosperous Quaker, brought out six works, one of verse, “The Desolation Eyam” and other Poems (1827), and five prose volumes, among them the substantial “Literature and Romance of Northern Europe,” constituting a complete “History of the Literature of Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland” (1852) in two volumes. Fifteen other published books appeared under his own name. The two brothers Richard and William, William's wife, and their eldest son Alfred William Howitt (1830-1908), the Australian anthropologist, are all noticed in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Godfrey Howitt was physician to the Nottingham General Hospital from 1829 to 1839 and was keenly interested in science and literature. He wrote the standard work The Flora of Nottinghamshire, and discovered a new species of catchfly which grew on the Castle Rock. Professor John Wilson ("Christopher North," of Edinburgh) made the "Ettrick Shepherd" in Blackwoods Magazine described his as "Ane o' the best botanists in England an' a desperate beetle hunter." His ardent love for collecting accompanied him to Australia and he bequeathed his natural history collection and library to the Melbourne Museum (The Howitt Collection). He also gave £1,000 to found scholarships in Natural History in the University. In 1847 he became one of the first physicians to the Melbourne Hospital and had the experience of being paid his fees in gold dust by miners who consulted him professionally.

Centenary of the Nottingham Medico-Chirurgical Society.