Dr Ernest Noel Reichardt

Dorset House, Cheam Road, Ewell
Medical practitioner


Following the death of Dr G R Barnes the medical practice at Dorset House was taken over by Dr E N Reichardt, whose name appears, followed by 'MB London', in the 1895 Directory for Ewell. He may also be found as one of the 1900's Biographies on this website.

His father, Rev Henry Christian Reinhardt, was a Prussian Lutheran Missionary and a member of The London Society For Promoting Christianity Amongst The Jews from 1848. During 1865 Rev H C Reichardt had been assigned for service in Corfu and there, on 20 October in that year, his son Ernest Noel was born. The Treaty of Paris, 1815, made the Ionian Islands a protectorate of the United Kingdom with a British High Commissioner resident on Corfu. Although, on 28 May 1864, the Ionian Islands were united to the rest of Greece by the Treaty of London, Ernest became a naturalised British subject.[Henry Christian Reichardt 'from Germany' was living in London and became a naturalised British citizen on 6 November 1882 - his death aged 72 was registered at Wandsworth 9/1897.]

E N Reichart was registered for general practice having become a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries on 18 April 1888, subsequently MB 1890 & MD 1896 (University of London).

During February 1893, banns were read in St Mary's church, Ewell, announcing the marriage of Ernest Noel Reichardt to Mary Elizabeth Jessie Atkins of Sutton [Reg. Epsom 3/1893]. Their first child Madeline Cynthia Noel was baptised on 12 January 1894 and others followed.

Private asylums proliferated from the middle of the 19th century as an alternative to large scale public hospitals. Inmates were regarded as 'voluntary boarders' sometimes 'put away' to be forgotten by their family but often provided with a therapeutic respite from the real world. On Saturday 18 June 1898, before Epsom Magistrates, Dr Reichardt was charged on an adjourned summons at the insistence of the Public Prosecutor "for taking charge of a lunatic at an unlicensed house contrary to Section 315, Sub-section 1, of the Lunacy Act 1890...". A person could not lawfully receive two or more lunatics in a house unless it was an Institution for lunatics or a Workhouse. Dr Reichardt was permitted, though his house was not a place for the reception of lunatics, to take patients under certificate but under no other circumstances.

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

The case became widely reported and even received publicity in New Zealand as shown by the following extract: -
"Mataura Ensign, Issue 479, 1 September 1898

An extraordinary story of love disappointment, delusion, and suicide was related lately at the Epsom Police Court, in the course of proceedings instituted by the Commissioners in Lunacy against Dr Ernest Noel Reichardt, of Dorset House, Ewell, for a breach of the law by receiving and detaining a lady of unsound mind at his residence when it was not licensed for the reception of lunatics.
According to Mr Bodkin, who prosecuted; Miss Ethel Hannah Stolterfoht, a single lady of thirty-three years of age, returned with a chaperone in March last year from India, where she had been for eighteen months, and went to live with her brother, Mr Perryng Thomas Stolterfoht, at Oakfield, Wavertree, Liverpool. She appeared to be somewhat strange and sullen, and complained that she had nothing to do. In July she became a probationer lady nurse at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, where she speedily developed symptoms of mental trouble, and accused herself of every kind of crime except drunkenness, and declared herself a vile creature unfit for the society of respectable people. She was placed under the supervision of two nurses, and in the following month was removed to the residence of a relative, Dr Kingsford, at Brondesbury, where a nurse had charge of her. While there she made an unsuccessful attempt at suicide by taking laudanum, which she had purchased in small quantities. She was then sent to Dr Reichardt's house, without any certificate or reception order, and a payment of seven guineas a week included the services of two nurses who never left her night or day. She, however, escaped their vigilance, and was found drowned at Dorking with a brick attached to the boa around her neck.
Mr P. Stolterfoht stated that about a week or ten days before her death his sister sent him a letter telling him he was leading a useless and stupid kind of life, and advising him to make away with himself. Witness sent the letter to Mr Reichardt.
Miss Isla Stewart, the matron of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, stated that the day after admission. Miss Stolterfoht became depressed, said her life was absolutely useless and exhibited suicidal tendencies. The lady was taken off duty, and given in charge of two nurses, with instructions that they were not to lose sight of her.
Superintendent Alexander said that Dr Reichardt told him Miss Stolterfoht, who was a paying guest, was a little queer in her head, having been upset over a love affair, but she was getting a great deal better.
Evidence having been given as to Miss Stolterfoht's conduct at Brondesbury and as to other ladies staying at Dr Reichardt's house. Mr H. C. Richards, M.P., for the defence, denied that the lady was of unsound mind, when received, and called Dr George Henry Savage, who said he was called to see Miss Stolterfoht, but was unable to certify her as a lunatic. He could get no evidence of delusions. She answered his questions coherently, though reluctantly, as to her past. The only unreasonable thing was that she did not admit the attempt to take her life was enough to alarm her friends. The whole of her history was told him. She had been a little hysterical, and had been sent to India for a change, and to visit her relations. She there formed an attachment to a young man without money or position, and younger than herself. This was disapproved of by her friends, and he understood that for that reason they sent her back to England. She then seemed upset, and her physical and mental health became irregular. When witness spoke to her about her love affair she told him that it was nothing to do with him. (Laughter).
One of Dr Reichardt's servants, declared that the windows were barred to prevent the children falling out.
The magistrates committed Dr Reichardt for trial at the Central Criminal Court.
Dr Reichardt then addressed the Bench, stating that, in the face of Dr Savage refusing to certify the lady to be insane he could not refuse to take into his house.
In a later account it was revealed that, about the end of March 1898, Miss Stolterfoht had been provided with a different suite of rooms including what had been Dr Reichardt's bed chamber to be used as her sitting-room. The window of the latter was some 25 ft above the ground and not fitted with bars. During the absence of her nurse at times in the evenings the patient found an opportunity to sew pieces of material together to produce an improvised rope. This was used on 4 April 1898 by Miss Stolterfoht to let herself down into the garden. Her disappearance remained unnoticed for three-quarters of an hour, giving her enough time to catch a train from West Ewell to Dorking.

Next day, a gold watch and hat were discovered laid out on the bank of a pond at Pixham mill followed by a body in the water with a ribbon tightly tied about its neck and attached to a brick. [Death reg. Dorking 6/1898 as Ethel Anna Stolterfoht]

The case came to trial in the Surrey Quarter Sessions at Kingston on 4, 5 & 6 January 1899. Reichardt admitted that he had previously been warned by the Lunacy Commissioners about the patients he accepted and since that time had been careful to obtain an independent specialist opinion in each case. The issue was whether the lady had been suffering from hysteria rather than certifiable insanity. Dr G H Savage, who examined the patient at Ewell in September 1897, reported raising the matter of her becoming attached to a man with very little money, younger than herself, and of being told to mind his own business, raising laughter in the Court. J H Cornish, organist and choirmaster to Ewell Parish Church gave evidence that he had frequently met the deceased lady at the Defendant's house and had no idea she was a patient. Eugene H Goddard, of Ewell [and 6 Old Serjeant's Inn, Chancery lane, E C] solicitor, first saw Miss Stolterfoht in Dorset House during December 1897 when there was nothing to suggest she was of unsound mind.

After the Chairman had summed up, the jury retired for an hour and a quarter but could not agree: having been sent back to re-consider, they returned after half a hour with a verdict of 'Not Guilty' - received with applause!

Dr George Savage, 25 Portland Place, W., had appealed in the British Medical Journal of 25 July 1898 for funds to support the defence of Dr Reichardt. The BMJ for 28 January 1899 contained a follow-up letter from James F Goodhart, 24 Portland Place, W., another witness in the proceedings, headed 'The Case Of Regina v Reichardt: An Appeal'. He stressed that the case had been one of the greatest importance, both to the medical profession and the public at large. "The action of the Commissioners is, therefore, virtually an attempt to compel medical men to treat all cases of unsoundness of mind by Act of Parliament by placing them under certificates. If the prosecution had been successful in this, and in a prior case, no one would have been any longer able to take any case of temporary unsoundness of mind into his house except as a certified lunatic. A more cruel, radically unsound, or preposterous doctrine it is impossible to conceive. With the temporarily deranged recovered of their madness and prosecuting their medical advisers because of their certification on the one hand, and the Commissioners prosecuting us on the other because of the absence of certification, God help the unsound of mind who will yet be needing treatment." Although the prosecution failed, Reichardt had been saddled with expenses amounting to £700 "because he did his duty and best for the patient". Correspondence continued in the BMJ of 4 February 1899.

In the 1901 Census only one 'Boarder' resided at Dorset House.

During 1912, E Noel Reichardt published The Significance of Ancient Religions in relation to Human evolution and Brain Development propounding a theory he claimed "explains every fact in human development and gives us the key to every problem in morbid psychycology."

Mary Elizabeth Jessie, beloved wife of E Noel Reichardt of Dorset House, Ewell, died in her 39th year on 22 February 1913. He married secondly Florence A Hinds [reg. Hungerford 3/1915]

For 1915 he was listed in practice as Reichardt & Ferguson - Surgeon and Medical Officer, and Public Vaccinator for Ewell Chessington and Cuddington District, Epsom Union - at Dorset House, Cheam Road, Telephone Epsom 550.

With anti-German feeling running high during the Great War, Reichardt had anglicised his name to Ryecart by 1916 when a son Nigel John was born to him and Florence Ada before being taken to St Mary's, Ewell for baptism. By 1917, when another son arrived, he had moved his family to The Corner House.

Ernest Noel Rycart, Doctor of Medicine, late of The Corner House, Chessington Road, Ewell, died on 4 July 1920, aged 54. [Reg. Bridge (Kent) 9/1920]

Dr W H Rogers had taken over the premises in Cheam Road, Ewell by 1922.

Brian Bouchard © 2011

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