Medicine and welfare in British Civil Wars to be examined at new exhibition

Surgeons who could remove a bladder stone in 50 seconds, military hospitals run with stern hygiene standards and a complex system of war pensions for the maimed, widowed and orphaned.

Hardly sounds like the mid-17th century, but a new exhibition on medicine and welfare in the British Civil Wars will open eyes on what experts believe was a ground-breaking period.

The six-month show at the National Civil War Centre in Newark, Nottinghamshire, which opens on Saturday 19 March 2016, is being curated by Dr Andrew Hopper, from the Centre for English Local History and Dr Eric Gruber Von Arni, once the most senior nurse in the British Army.

The conflict claimed six percent of England's population and saw Parliament establish the very first permanent military hospitals (The Savoy and Ely House in London, 1642).  It also assumed an unprecedented obligation for the welfare of its troops and their families. 

On display is a chilling array of surgical instruments including bullet extractors, bone saws and skull elevators, all used without an anaesthetic, together with medicine books such as Gerard's Herbal.  While some 'cures' offered real practical relief, even for dysentery, others such as those for venereal diseases – ingesting mercury - worsened the condition of sufferers.

The National Civil War Centre is open daily 10am to 5pm.  Admission is £7 adults, £6 concessions and £3 children.  A season ticket is just £11.  English Heritage members half price.