Dr George Robinson Barnes

(1831 - 1892)
Medical practitioner at Dorset House, Cheam Road, Ewell

George Robertson Barnes was brought for baptism at St Mary, Our Lady of Bloxham, Parish Church in Oxfordshire on 17 December 1831 by his mother Ann Barnes. His father, George North Robinson (1763 -1858), lived at Ledwell House in a hamlet forming part of the parish of Sandford St Martin near Woodstock, Oxon, and practised as a doctor in Chipping Norton.

His parentage was acknowledged by Dr G North Robinson who probably arranged for the boy's education at a college in nearby Adderbury before apprenticing him to Dr Philip Bernard Ayres, Professor of Chemistry at Charing Cross Hospital. In the 1851 Census, aged 19, Barnes may be found resident with Dr P B Ayres at 6 Upper Holland Place, St Mary, Lambeth.

He had also become a student at University College, London, during 1847 and passed the examination of the Society of Apothecaries five years later, being certified to practice 9 December 1852. A diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons followed in January 1853.

Critical position of HMS Investigator on the north coast of Baring Island, Northwest Territories
Critical position of HMS Investigator on the north coast of Baring Island,
Northwest Territories. 20 August 1851
Image Source - National Archives of Canada via Wikipedia

It has been reported that shortly thereafter he "was appointed surgeon" to HMS Investigator, "making two voyages in her" but his membership of the crew could only have been in a lesser capacity. Investigator, 422 tons, had been fitted out at Messrs Green's yard, Blackheath, April 1848 for Arctic service to be engaged in a search for the North-West Passage, and Sir John Franklin's lost expedition, from 1850. The ship became trapped in ice at Mercy Bay, 3 June 1853, before being abandoned.

Barnes may have been one of those rescued in a starving condition and brought home in 1854. In any event, on 9 July 1855, he was attached to the Anglo-Turkish contingent in the Crimea, as assistant surgeon with the Royal Engineers under Major John Stokes.

Major [John] Stokes and others. Stokes (seated) was the Chief Engineer of the Anglo-Turkish contingent during the Crimean War.
Major [John] Stokes and others.
Stokes (seated) was the Chief Engineer of the
Anglo-Turkish contingent during the Crimean War. c.1855
Image - Source National Archives Via Flickr

George Robinson Barnes subsequently received a Turkish medal with clasp, awarded by Sultan Abdulmecid 1 of the Ottoman Empire for the services of allied military personnel in the Crimean War.

Dr Barnes' father, George North Robinson, continued in the medical profession to an advanced age. In the 1851 Census he was still residing at Ledwell House, a widower aged 86, born in Middlesex, London, looked after by servants, who described himself as "Doctor of Medicine, graduated in London for General Practice, licentiate of the College of St Andrew's, Scotland, Not practising except in cases of emergency". Having been appointed Surgeon to the Oxford Regiment of Militia on 28 July 1810 he did not retire from that position until 21 August 1852. Dr Robinson lived on until 29 July 1858, attaining the age of 95. His son, George, was remembered in the Will but a life interest in Ledwell House was bequeathed to James Paxton (surgeon and medical writer who died in the property during 1860): there was also a pecuniary legacy to the Royal Benevolent College, Epsom.

After the Crimean war, Barnes had "settled for a time at Dunkinfield in Cheshire, as a general practitioner, but finding the work in this mining district very laborious, he sold the practice and went to study in Paris for two years. From there he went to Edinburgh and, after two years study at that University, he took the MD degree and the diploma of LRCP." He appears to have married in Scotland before a son, George E. Barnes, was born at Belgrave Villas, Hope Terrace, Edinburgh, on 19 August 1865.

In Officers and Gentlemen we are told that Major John Stokes, R E, had returned to Ewell after the Crimean war and lived in Spring House. On 6 July 1867 he gained promotion to regimental lieutenant colonel. He may have been instrumental in a decision by Dr George Robinson Barnes to settle in the village, during 1867, where he became a partner of Dr Arthur O'Brien Jones of The Shrubbery, Epsom.

Consequently Dr Barnes became available to attend upon the "Outrage at Ewell" in 1869. [In Ewell Copyholds he has been listed for that year as "Dr George Thomas Barnes occupying Plot 286 - now Dorset House car park on Cheam Road formerly Eastern Approach.]

Dorset House Front 1955 Dorset House Rear 1955
Dorset House in 1955
(Front elevation on left, Rear elevation on right)
Reproduced by permission of Surrey History Centre
Copyright of Surrey History Centre

Following the example of his late father, he became honorary assistant surgeon to 25th Surrey Rifle Volunteer Corps during August 1871, then 1st Administrative Battalion Surrey Rifle Volunteers, 5 June 1872, and advancing to Surgeon. A grant of the rank of Surgeon Major with 3rd Surrey Rifles was reported in the BMJ for 9 July 1887.

C S Willis, in A short History of Ewell and Nonsuch, mentions "Good Dr Barnes arrived late having visited his patients and, standing up, said his prayers over his hat; when the Volunteers attended church he wore his cocked hat with white plumes."

George Robinson Barnes passed away on 25 August 1892, aged 60. His obituary concluded:- "he remained in active pursuit of his profession until he was incapacitated by an incurable disease from further work. He was of a most kindly disposition, a good practitioner, and a kind, warm-hearted friend."

By 1895 his place in Dorset House had been taken by Dr Ernest Noel Reichardt

Brian Bouchard © 2011

Lady Berkeley
Lady Berkeley
Rooths House
Rooth's House
Singeing Beard
Singeing Beard
Chamiers of Epsom
Chamiers Epsom
Woodcote Park
Woodcote Park
Rev. Boucher
Rev. Boucher
Rev. Parkhurst
Rev. Parkhurst