Archive of the Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons

  • Reference
      GB 133 CFS
  • Dates of Creation
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      8 items.
  • Location
      Collection available at University Archive and records Centre, main John Rylands University Library.

Scope and Content

This archive consists of minute books (1892-1969), two annual reports, a pamphlet and a small amount of photographic material. The minute books are a useful source of information about the development of industrial health and the role of certifying factory surgeons. There are no branch records in this archive.

Administrative / Biographical History

In the 1830s, a movement to reform the employment of children in factories and mills developed. The Factory Act of 1833 forbade the employment of children under the age of nine and limited the hours of work for those under eighteen. This Act required the involvement of the medical profession in factories for the first time. Any child between the ages of nine and eleven would require a certificate from a doctor stating that the child was eligible to work. These doctors became known as certifying surgeons. Four factory inspectors were responsible for enforcing the Act. A number of problems affected the implementation of the Act, with parents, employers and even doctors cheating the system to enable underage children to work. The 1844 Factory Act went some way to address this issue by authorizing the inspectors to appoint the certifying surgeons, so ensuring their training and reliability. This Act also widened the role of the certifying surgeon. It required the certificate to state that the child was not only old enough to work, but was not incapacitated by disease or infirmity. Also, any factory accidents which prevented a return to work had to be reported to the certifying surgeon who would make a full investigation.

Certifying surgeons received remuneration in the form of fees for certificates (paid by the factory employer) and for investigations and reports for the Home Office. Later Factory and Workshop Acts extended the role of the certifying surgeon and the Workmen's Compensation Act, 1906, required examinations by Certifying Surgeons with regard to industrial diseases. Certifying surgeons later became known as appointed factory doctors, recognising their official status, as distinct from industrial medical officers.

The Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons was probably founded in 1888. The Association acted as a campaigning body for industrial health issues and professional matters. The Association lobbied parliament and the British Medical Association (BMA). It gave expert evidence to the House of Commons and influenced industrial health legislation. The Association promoted the professional concerns of members, especially regarding remuneration and reporting on standards. The Association was represented on many committees, including the Occupational Health Committee of the BMA, the Industrial Injuries Advisory Council, and the Industrial Health Advisory Committee of the Ministry of Labour. The role of the Association changed over the years, as industrial medicine moved from regulation of employment of children and prevention of infectious diseases to control of industrial diseases.

The Association of Certifying Factory Surgeons was based in Manchester. When it was incorporated in 1910, the registered office was in Manchester. However, members came from around Britain and meetings were regularly held in other industrial towns and cities, such as Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and London. In 1900 a London branch was formed. This was partly to reduce the distance members needed to travel to meetings, but the London Branch also enabled the Association to have better representation on national associations based in London and more lobbying power in government. This branch later became defunct, but the idea of branches was revived in 1935 with the formation of the London and Southern Branch. Later that year the Birmingham and Scottish Branches were also formed. The Society was still meeting in 1969, but its history after that date is not known.


This archive is arranged in three series:

  • /1 Minute Books
  • /2 Annual Reports
  • /3 Miscellaneous Records

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

This finding aid may contain personal or sensitive personal data about living individuals. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The John Rylands University Library (JRUL) has the right to process such personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the JRUL to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the JRUL has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately, according to the Data Protection Principles.

Individuals have the right to make a request to see data relating to them held by the JRUL which falls under the provisions of the DPA. Access requests must be made formally in accordance with the provisions set out in the DPA and all enquiries should be directed to the University's Data Protection Officer.

Other Finding Aids


Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands University Library, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PP.

Custodial History

The custodial history of this archive is unknown. (It possibly came to the library via Dr S. A. Henry.)


D. U. Bloor, 'The Certifying Surgeons',Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Vol 31 (1981) pp 33-7.

Ludwig Teleky, 'Certifying Surgeons - Examining Surgeons, A Century of Activity (Great Britain 1844-1944)', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Vol 16 (1944) pp 382-8.

Yearly reports were made by factory inspectors to Parliament, summarizing developments in industrial health and reporting on the work of factory surgeons. These reports are available as Parliamentary Papers published by HMSO.