In 1832, John Snow was 19 years old and in the fifth year of his apprenticeship with William Hardcastle in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.  In October of that year, six local practitioners joined together in a private venture to teach medical courses for interested local students. There were eight or nine individuals who attended these initial set of lectures, presented in such areas as chemistry, surgery, anatomy and physiology.  John Snow was one of those students. 

The 1832 group  assembled in Bell's Court on Pilgrim Street in downtown Newcastle- upon-Tyne (center right), near the town jail built in 1823.  (see 1831 map to the right and current photo below).

The lecture room was over the shop on the north side of the entrance to Bell's Court off Pilgrim Street. To get to the lecture room, Snow walked into Bell's Court, turned left and climbed the stairs to the second floor (see current photo below) 

The fee for each six month lecture was 2 guineas ($475 in 1999 US$). The total annual cost for a full set of 12 lectures (six each half year) and infirmary attendance was 29 guineas ($6,888 in 1999 US$).  

If Snow attended all of the courses, he probably was either provided a scholarship based on need, his connections to William Hardcastle, or was given financial assistance from his uncle Charles Empson or Robert Stephenson, the close friend of his uncle.  Both Empson and Stephenson were living in Newcastle-upon-Tyne; the former finding success as a seller of fine art books and the latter as an engineer and entrepreneur.  Robert Stephenson, along with his father George, built high-speed locomotives (including the famous Rocket) at Robert Stephenson & Company on Forth Street in Newcastle- upon-Tyne.  His successful and lucrative company was the world's first locomotive builder. 

Two years after the Bell's Court beginning, a new start was made by the group of medical instructors, but this time with 26 students.  The 1834 group of practicing doctors moved to another setting, the Barber Surgeon's Hall, which was about 200 yards south of Bells Court next to the Holy Jesus Hospital (see 1831 map to the right).  By then, John Snow had already relocated to Burnopfield for his second apprenticeship, but managed to periodically make the eight mile return trip to attend various lectures. 

All that is left now of Barber Surgeon's Hall is the Gardener's Cottage on City Road (see white building in current photo below).

The Barber Surgeon's Hall was demolished in 1847 by the York, Newcastle and Berwick Railway Company to make way for the rail line to Edinburgh, Scotland.  Some of the arches of railway bridge are seen on the right of the above photo.  In the background with the clock spire is All Saint's Church which was erected about 50 years before Snow's arrival in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 

Finally, the Holy Jesus Hospital (located in above map) also remains today, with a building that dates from the seventeenth century (see current photo at left). 

After having planted an educational seed, the initial experience that John Snow participated in lead to the formation of the School of Medicine, now an institution with the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. 


Bettenson EM. The University of Newcastle upon Tyne: a historical introduction. 1971.

Charlton, M. Personal Communication, January, 2000.

Charlton, M. Current photographs, February, 2000.

Dale, G., Miller FJW. Newcastle School of Medicine, 1834-1984. 1984.

Oliver, T. Map of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1831.

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