Doctor Donald Hood

We were recently asked if we knew anything of Dr Hood, born Market Lavington, who featured in a book about the Duke of Rutland. We had to find out more, so here is what we now know.

We started by finding Donald on the 1901 census.

Donald Hood found on the 1901 census

Donald Hood found on the 1901 census

So there is Donald W C Hood, consulting physician at 43 Green Street, Westminster aged 53 born Market Lavington, married to Alice and with several children.

This enabled us to find Donald on the 1851 census.

Donald Hood, aged 3 in 1851

Donald Hood, aged 3 in 1851

And there he is, aged 3 and living in Clapham in South London but born in Lavington. Donald’s father, William Charles was a doctor of medicine in practice and his mother was Jane. Donald had a younger sister and brother, both born in Lavington. The younger brother has been given the forename of Willett and this offers a clue to the family. Jane, his mother was born Jane Willett and she married William Charles Hood in the Devizes district (so probably at Lavington) in the summer of 1846. Jane, we assume, was a relative of Robert Willett who owned the Fiddington Asylum.

The following extract is from http://www.british-history.ac.uk/ .

Fiddington House at Market Lavington was originally intended for pauper patients. In 1829 the justices licensed Robert Willett, a non-medical man, for the reception of about 72 patients; the medical attendant visited the house twice a week. The visitors reported the house to be clean and comfortable and that restraint when used was of ‘the mildest and most simple nature’. At a later date the Lunacy Commissioners reported that the use of restraint was habitual. The original asylum consisted of detached buildings mostly of one story, some with stone floors and without ceilings. Considerable overcrowding occurred around 1846 when about 200 patients were received although the premises were only licensed for 175 patients. Charles Hitchcock received the licence in 1850 and soon after the opening of the county asylum the pauper patients were transferred. The number of private patients for which Fiddington was licensed in 1862 was 24 male and 26 female. Reports on the house became more favourable and in 1882 the accommodation was described as plain but comfortable at an average cost of £100 a year.

We believe that Dr Hood, the father of Donald was that Medical attendant who worked with Robert Willett. Further evidence comes from http://munksroll.rcplondon.ac.uk/

Sir William Charles Hood

b.1824 d.4 Jan 1870 MD St And FRCP Edin FRCP (1863) JP

Charles Hood was born at Lambeth, the son of a doctor, and sent to school at Brighton. He was admitted to Trinity College, Dublin, at the age of seventeen, but acquired his professional training at Guy’s Hospital, qualifying in 1845 and taking the St. Andrews degree in the year following. He held an early appointment as resident physician to a private asylum, Fiddington House, Devizes, but was soon made the first medical superintendent of Colney Hatch. In 1852 he obtained the same post at the Bethlem Hospital, where for ten years he worked indefatigably for the improvement of the patients’ conditions, and particularly for the segregation of the criminal insane. He resigned on appointment as a Lord Chancellor’s visitor in lunacy. He was elected treasurer of Bridewell and Bethlem Hospitals in 1868, the year of his knighthood. He died in the treasurer’s house at Bridewell.

So, Donald was born in Lavington whilst his father was medical superintendant at the Fiddington Asylum.

But Donald causes confusion by not being clear about his birth place. The 1871 census has his birth place just recorded as Wiltshire. In 1881 the enumerator has written Potten. In 1891 his birthplace is given as Fiddington. Maybe Donald was confused because until the 1870s Fiddington had been part of West Lavington and various land transfers took place which saw it transferred to Market Lavington. Donald would not have remembered his time in Wiltshire and may not fully have grasped the changes in parish boundaries which affected his birthplace.

However, in 1911, the first census to be actually written by householders, Donald has made a clear entry of Potterne as his birthplace.

Donald was certainly involved in medical controversy as highlighted by his views on appendicitis. This article comes from the Ryde Social History Group at http://www.rshg.org.uk/

In 1910 the English surgeon Dr Donald Hood caused considerable worldwide interest with his assertion of the infectious nature of appendicitis.

A distinguished surgeon, who has had great experience of appendicitis, has been suggesting in the columns of the Lancet that the complaint is contagious. He points out how much more frequent and severe are cases of appendicitis than they used to be, and how often the members of the same household are seized with it in quick succession, and surgeons are attacked by it after operating on patients suffering from this complaint. It is now suggested that there must be a particular microbe that causes appendicitis, which on this hypothesis is set up by contagion. It seems rather difficult to suppose that there is a microbe which acts only on the appendix, but now that the suggestion has been made, pathologists will be on the look-out for the hypothetical microbe, and if it really exists it should not be long before it is discovered. Unhappily, the surgeons of the day are afforded numerous opportunities of detecting it by the frequency of operations for the removal of the appendix.  Source: Isle of Wight Observer 18 June 1910

We now turn to the part Donald played in the strange story of the Duke of Rutland and we have an article published in the Leicester Mercury for October 25th 2012

When historian Catherine Bailey was invited to chronicle the history of the Duke of Rutland’s family during the First World War, she uncovered a secret which had remained hidden for more than 60 years. Reporter Peter Warzynski talks to the author about her discoveries…
When John Henry Montagu Manners, the 9th Duke of Rutland, died of pneumonia on April 22, 1940, he was remembered as a soldier who fought with comrades on the Western Front.
His name and rank formed the centrepiece at the chapel at Belvoir Castle as a tribute to his virtuous war record.
But the Duke had spent his final days locked in a dank room at the castle, frantically trying to erase any record of his involvement in the Great War.
In all, 249 men from the Belvoir estate were killed fighting on the frontline in France between 1914 and 1918. The Duke was never among them.
Despite leading the Remembrance Day parade through Rutland year after year and presiding over the ceremony, his supposed military service was a sham – but not one of his own making.
His mother, Violet Manners, the 8th Duchess of Rutland, used her considerable persuasive powers and position to approach Lord Kitchener and Sir John French, the Commander in Chief of the Western Front, to keep her son from the fighting.
Eventually, she rigged a series of medical examinations and dashed any hopes John had of battling in the trenches in Ypres with his regiment – the 4th Battalion Leicestershire (the Tigers).
In the years before he died, ashamed of his sham military service, the Duke became reclusive as he obsessed over the family’s meticulous records.
His aim was to erase any reference to his military past and rewrite the family’s history – and he succeeded.
However, the truth did not come to light until historian Catherine Bailey began combing through the records in 2008.
“The archive was prist-ine,” she said. “It went all the way back to the 12th century and included tens of-thousands of documents.
“But when I began studying them, I noticed gaps.”
On April 22, 1940, the Leicester Mercury reported “with great regret that the Duke of Rutland, head of the ancient family of Manners, died at his seat”.
The article paid tribute to the 53-year-old, stating: “He went to the front in February 1915, serving with the rank of Captain.”
Catherine said: “The family had no idea John had altered documents and letters and rewritten history. It was only when I unearthed a small trunk containing more letters I was able piece together the clues and unravel what had happened.”
Catherine first entered the Muniment Room at Belvoir Castle – where the family archives are kept – in 2008, after the Duke and Duchess of Rutland agreed to let her research the family for a book about the First World War.
“My original idea was to write about a great family during the Great War and the Duke and Duchess agreed to take part. But after just a few months, I noticed things were missing from the records,” she said
Catherine found three gaps – 1894, 1909 and 1915 – in the otherwise perfect chronological archive.
“It soon became a detective story,” she said.
The first gap related to the death of John’s brother, Haddon.
“When John was eight his brother died, but the reason for the death was not what the family believed had happened to him.”
Catherine stops there. “I don’t want to give too much of the book away,” she explains.
“John was banished from Belvoir Castle on the day of Haddon’s funeral and spent most of his childhood years estranged from his parents.
“That event is the key to his character and shaped the rest of his life.”
Haddon’s death shook Violet, his mother, who made no secret of the fact he was her favourite.
But the tragic event had further implications. Were anything to happen to John, she would lose her money and privileges when her husband – the 8th Duke – died.
His title and estate would be handed over to his half-brother, leaving Violet penniless.
Catherine believes the Duchess’s efforts to keep her only son from the frontline were motivated by neurosis rather than love.
“She did everything she could to prevent him from fighting on the frontline, because the most likely outcome of being on the Western Front was being killed,” she said.
It was true John was a Captain in the 4th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment before it was absorbed into the 46th North Midland Division.
He was appointed aide-de-camp to General Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, a role which included instructing soldiers in Britain.
However, when he was sent to Ypres, France, in 1915, much to his frustration, he only witnessed the Great War from the safety of Goldfish Chateaux, the Army’s regional headquarters.
John’s exclusion from the carnage of the frontline was due to his mother’s relentless interference.
Violet wrote letters to GHQ (General Headquarters) and General Wortley and even pressured her daughter into seducing a man whom she thought would be able to influence senior officers.
She finally turned to family physician Dr Donald Hood to give false evidence about John’s health, claiming he had recurring dysentery.
“The more I got to know him, the more his story became a tragic one,” said Catherine. “For the first year of the war he did all he could to fight with the men of the 4th Leicesters.
“But it was his mother’s meddling and constant undermining that finally got him returned home.
“He spent the rest of life ashamed and his final years locked away trying to erase his past.”
The Secret Rooms, published by Penguin, is out on November 1.

Donald Hood died in 1924 in the London area.

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