Last week I was introduced to a pile of dusty old portraits of unknown origin, retrieved from the depths of the Greater Manchester County Record Office. Some had names and dates attached, mostly referring to the late 1800s/early 1900s. There was a suggestion that the portraits had been rescued from a hospital, and some of the men in the portraits were listed as doctors. The poster below was also found with the portraits:

Altrincham General Hospital


The hospital in question evidently played a key role in WWI, and had likely been located somewhere within Greater Manchester or the surrounding area. In order to find out more, I began to search for evidence of the men named in the portraits, such as Frederick Raymond Barber Lindsell (below).

Frederick Raymond Barber (1904 - 1905)

Frederick Raymond Barber Lindsell (source)

His portrait was simply labelled “FRB Lindsell: Chairman – Board of Management (1898-1917)”. Based on these dates I found only one potential candidate with the corresponding surname and initials, so am fairly confident that Mr Lindsell was born in 1852, died in 1917 and was a solicitor at Nicholls, Harris and Lindsell, a firm based in South Manchester.

Dr Percy Cooper, Honorary Medical Officer (1914-1925)

Dr Percy Cooper: Honorary Medical Officer – 1914-1925  (source)

Percy Robert Cooper also had links with South Manchester/Cheshire – he lived in Altrincham, in a house called Glenthorn.

Another man in the portrait collection, William Agar Renshaw (a surgeon and member of the board of management between 1900 and 1917), was also Mayor of Altrincham in 1891, 1901, and 1902. Unfortunately his portrait was too large for me to scan.

Dr George P. Chappel: Honorary Physician (1920-23)

Dr George P Chappel: Honorary Physician – 1920-1923 (source)

Having located Dr Chappel’s obituary (see the full text here), I was able to establish that he was born in 1868 and grew up in Cornwall, where his father worked as a rector. After his schooling at Marlborough College he attended Gonville & Caius College at Cambridge University, where he studied medicine. He trained at the London Hospital and served as a major in Egypt and France during WWI, then commanded a military hospital in London. His move north coincided with his return to civilian life. He settled with his family in Altrincham – his wife’s childhood home, working at Altrincham General Hospital during his final years.

Dr Chappel’s obituary led me to believe that these portraits may have originally belonged to Altrincham General Hospital, which was used by the local Red Cross Society as a training base for volunteer nurses in the early 1900s, having previously been known as Lloyd’s Fever Hospital in the 1800s. By November 1914 the hospital wards were dedicated to treating wounded WWI soldiers. This all made sense in relation to the portrait collection: the Great War poster, the links to Altrincham and South Manchester, and the dates on the portraits.

Dr Herbert F. Ransome (1898-1916) Honorary Medical Officer

Dr Herbert Fullerton Ransome: Honorary Medical Officer – 1898-1916 (source)

One of the hospital’s doctors, Dr Herbert Ransome died serving as a Lieutenant with the Royal Army Medical Corps in WWI, on November 14th, 1917. His RAMC profile is here. Sadly due to a lack of documentation at the time, I have not been able to find out which unit he was attached to, or whether he died at home or abroad. It is fortunate that his portrait has been saved and his memory preserved. WWI is such a huge part of our national history, but with the passage of time many of its stories risk becoming lost.

Indeed, these portraits are still very much a mystery. Many are unnamed, and those that are were not easy to research. I’m not even 100% certain about the nature of their links with Altrincham General Hospital and WWI more generally. I like to think someone out there might know more, having received a very interesting comment on my previous post about the Armenian Genocide.

Head over to the Archives+ blog to find out more about one of the portraits – a gentleman with Armenian connections.