The Operating Theatre Technician
The word Beadle comes from the French word Bedal that means messenger.
Beadles were town criers and were also employed in the Parish workhouses and hospitals. (Mr Bumble of Oliver Twist fame is a fictional example) This Beadle would act as a surgical assistant amongst other duties such as security and ambulance man.
In 1850, the average wage was 3/6p per week, which was at that time a generous wage. One of their duties was too ensure the cautery rod and brazier was correctly positioned and was at the right temperature when it was needed.
The picture to the left shows the Beadle (Head Porter) Mr Streeton at St Thomas's Hospital been given a task by one of the nurses. This photograph was taken in 1960 when the Beadles were effectively the head porter of the hospital. 13
The most famous hospital Beadle of all was Josiah Rampley, he was referred to as the “Grand old man of the London Hospital” He was associated with theatre from 1871 and for 30 years.
Josiah Rampley held this office at the London Hospital. He was working alongside a surgeon Sir Frederick Treves, who was made famous for treating the Elephant Man and also performing anappendectomy on King Edward VII just before his coronation.
Rampley recounted that staff went straight from the post-mortem room to theatre, washed their hands or not as they liked, and then donned ancient frock coats that had stood the test of many years' service. This practice stopped after Rampley had been in post about two years. 14
It was the case that Listers antiseptic practise did not really take off until the late 19th century, then with the recommendations of the likes of Halsted and others, antisepsis started to become common in operating theatres.
Rampley is only really known today for he was the one that developed one of the most common of all surgical instruments, a sponge holder that bears his name and is in use today.