Courtesy of The Royal London Hospital Archives & Museum.

The Pioneers

Josiah Rampley

I am adding Josiah Rampley to the Pioneers section of the website purely because his instrument is most likley the most common instrument in use today, the rampley sponge holder, most people also believe he was a surgeon.

Josiah Rampley Surgical Beadle 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 their theatre from 1871 for 30 years. 16

Josiah Rampley was born in 1845 to Joseph Wright Rampley and Sarah Rampley at Wordwell, Suffolk in 1844. He was one of ten children who I presume came from a Christian family as the names of most of his siblings are or contain a biblical character.

Not much is known about his early life but what we do know is that he joined the London Hospital as a Post Mortem Porter in or around 1868/9 and he stayed in that post for 2 years. He was working under a very well-respected Pathologist, Dr Henry Gawen Sutton, who was born near where I live, in Middlesbrough, Rampley speaks very highly of this man who died in 1891.333

After two years Rampley was offered the post as theatre assistant but he was required to also fulfil his duties as a Post Mortem assistant. In his early days in theatre (Prior to diathermy) one of his responsibilities was to keep the iron red hot just in case it was needed to arrest a bleed. He also had to ensure that the ice was readily available which followed the cauterisation of a vessel. One of the junior Surgeons he worked with, was to go on to be one of the most famous surgeons in the world at the time, that was Frederick (Freddie) Treves.

It is thought that that he was appointed surgery beadle in 1893, because his predecessor, Henry Peter Stuckey, was dismissed for not having the stomach pump ready for the surgeon , but to be honest, I found that Rampley was in place, definitely in 1881 and although the dismissal of Stuckey is possibly correct, I could find no trace of him in the 1881/91 census.

Stuckey was employed as the “Surgical Boadler” according to the 1861 census which I presume is the miss-spelt Beadle and in the 1871 census he was on the census correctly as the Surgical Beadle and living in Whitechapel. So, in all likelihood, Rampley took up his position in 1873.

What makes Josiah Rampley so special is not that he was a surgical Beadle, not also that his working career in theatres paralleled Frederick Treves, no it was his commitment to his job, he lived and breathed the London hospital it is been said that he was perpetually on call throughout his service. He never married because he was already married, to the London Hospital.

Most people know him today because of the Rampley’s sponge holding forceps which are the most common instrument seen on a basic surgical tray, even today.

As a Beadle, another of his duties in his early days was to recruit nurses and other servants when required, I mentioned that the word Beadle comes from the French word Be-dal which means messenger. Prior to our technological bleeps, telephones and other communication devices, the Beadle would in effect be the Bleep of the day.

Josiah retired in 1900 and over 72 “Londoners” turned up at his farewell dinner at the Hotel Metropole on December 12th 1900, with even the great Frederick Treves giving a speech on “Ramps” contribution to the hospital and the love and respect that all had for him.

He always kept an association with the London Hospital up till his death in on 20th April 1934 at his home in Willesden where he had lodged with the Parkinson family when he retired.

He was Cremated on the 25th April and many “Londoners” were present at his funeral.

On his coffin was written the words of Christ What fitting final words they are, on who I consider to be the father of our profession, Josiah Rampley. 16

“Well done good and Faithful servant”




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The History of Surgery and Anaesthesia was created as a free resource to educate Students or indeed anyone wishing to understand the beginings of surgery and Anaesthesia.

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