Hey Family Collection

Scope and Content

The collection includes papers, correspondence and medical casebooks by members of the Hey family, surgeons of Leeds.

The casebooks form the bulk of the collection, with 21 medical and obstetrical case notebooks by William Hey I (1736-1819). These include descriptions of cases Hey attended and treatment provided as part of his private medical practice. There are also case notebooks by his sons William Hey II and Richard Hey.

In addition, the collection includes some correspondence between members of the Hey family, other notebooks kept by William Hey I, and papers written by William Hey II on the life of his father, which contributed to John Pearson's biography of Hey.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Hey family have been prominent in the history of the city of Leeds and in the development of surgery since the mid-18th century. Many of the family members have had significant links with the development and work of both the Leeds General Infirmary and the Leeds School of Medicine.

William Hey (1736-1819) FRS, surgeon and Mayor of Leeds:

William Hey was born in Pudsey, near Leeds in 1736. He was educated at the Heath Academy near Wakefield from 1743 and after this became an apprentice to William Dawson, a Leeds Surgeon Apothecary. Hey continued his surgical training in London at St George's Hospital from 1757-1759, when he then returned to Leeds to set up his own practice.

Hey became an influential figure in the city. The Leeds General Infirmary (opened in 1767) became a major part of Hey's life and work: he was at the forefront of the campaign for its creation and then became its senior surgeon from 1773 until his retirement in 1812. He became a fellow of the Royal Society in 1775. In addition to his work as a respected surgeon, Hey was also a prominent figure in Leeds civic life, becoming Mayor of Leeds in 1787-1788 and 1802-1803. He founded the Leeds Medical Society in 1768 and was president of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society in 1783.

Hey published a number of works, his most significant being 'Practical Observations in Surgery' (1803). A number of surgical tools, techniques and medical conditions were named after him, including Hey's Saw, which was used for trephining the skull.

Hey married Alice Banks (c.1737-1820) in 1761, they had 13 children, though sadly a number of them died in infancy. Two of their sons, Richard Hey (d.1789) and William Hey (1772-1844) became surgeons and worked alongside their father. Their youngest child was Reverend Samuel Hey, (1781-1852), vicar of Ockbrook. William Hey died on 23 March 1819 and was buried in the St Paul's Church crypt, Leeds.

William Hey (1772-1844) MRCS, surgeon and Mayor of Leeds:

William Hey was born in Leeds on 19 Feb 1772, the son of surgeon William Hey (1736-1819) and Alice Hey (née Banks, c1737-1820). Hey followed in his father's footsteps as a surgeon, becoming his apprentice in 1787. He then continued his training at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London (1792-1794) and became a member of the Company of Surgeons. After training he returned to Leeds where he joined his father's practice and later succeeded him as principal surgeon at the Leeds General Infirmary between 1812 and 1830.

Hey was one of the original 300 fellows elected to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1843. He was a member of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society and Mayor of Leeds twice. His most prominent work, 'A Treatise on Puerperal Fever', was published in 1815.

Hey married Isabel Hudson in 1796 and they had 5 children: William, Mary, John, Richard and Samuel. William, John and Richard all went into the medical profession, with William (1796-1875) becoming particularly prominent. William became principal surgeon at Leeds General Infirmary on his father's retirement in 1830. He was a founder of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831 and became a lecturer and president there. John Hey also became a surgeon and joined the Leeds School of Medicine, teaching botany and anatomy.

Hey died in March 1844 and was buried in the family crypt at St Paul's Church in Leeds.

Richard Hey (d1789), surgeon of Leeds:

Richard Hey was the son of the surgeon William Hey (1736-1819) and Alice Hey (née Banks, c1737-1820). Richard also trained in the medical profession as a surgeon at St Thomas' Hospital, London. He died in 1789.

Samuel Hey (1815-1888) FRCS, surgeon of Leeds:

Samuel Hey was born in Ockbrook, Derbyshire in 1815. He was the son of Reverend Samuel Hey (1781-1852), vicar of Ockbrook, and Mary Hey (née Gray). His grandfather was the surgeon William Hey (1736-1819).

He began his medical training at the Leeds General Infirmary, where he was an apprentice to his uncle William Hey II. He was one of the first students of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831, and he then went on to further training in London at St George's Hospital and the North London Hospital (this became University College Hospital). Once he returned to Leeds he joined the Hey family practice.

His links with the Leeds School of Medicine continued, as he became a lecturer there between 1841 and 1870, then also president and treasurer. He was surgeon at the Leeds General Infirmary from 1850-1872.

Hey married twice: to Martha Jane Jowet in 1842, and after her death to Sarah Jane Pratt (1836-1874) with whom he had four children. He died in 1888 in Leeds.

Margaret DeLacy, 'Hey, William (1736-1819)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13163, accessed 15 Dec 2015]

Josephine M. Lloyd, 'Hey, William (1772-1844)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/13164, accessed 15 Dec 2015]

Josephine M. Lloyd, 'Samuel Hey (1815-1888)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/71410, accessed 16 Dec 2015]; 'Hey, Samuel (1815-1888)', in Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online: http://livesonline.rcseng.ac.uk/biogs/E002213b.htm


The collection has been catalogued to item level with funding from the Wellcome Trust as part of the Medical Collections Project (2015-2018). The collection has been split up into three different sub-collections for each family member who created the records, as follows:

MS 1991/1: Papers, correspondence and casebooks of William Hey I (1736-1819)
MS 1991/2: Papers, notebooks and casebooks of William Hey II (1772-1844) and his brother Richard Hey (d1789)
MS 1991/3: Correspondence from Samuel Hey (1815-1888) to his brother, William Hey (1811-1882)

Access Information

Access to this material is unrestricted.

Users are advised that this collection may contain descriptions of medical symptoms and treatments and / or graphic images of wounds, injuries or disease and / or medical illustrations and images. General readers may find these upsetting.

Some volumes in the collection are fragile and currently unfit for production - see individual catalogue entries for further information.

Conditions Governing Use

Material in this collection is in copyright. Photocopies or digital images can only be supplied by the Library for research or private study within the terms of copyright legislation. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain the copyright holder's permission to reproduce for any other purpose. Guidance is available on tracing copyright status and ownership.

Custodial History

The Hey Family Collection is made up of a number of different archives by members of the Hey family which were previously catalogued as separate manuscript items and given individual reference numbers: MS 628, MS 268, MS 560, MS 567, MS 183, MS 184, MS 504, MS 505, MS DEP/1990/4. These have all now been brought together under one artificial collection.

The archives came to Special Collections through various accessions. William Hey III (1796-1875), the grandson of William Hey I (1736-1819), gave the papers and books of his father and grandfather to the Leeds Medical School Library in 1865, and these were later passed on to Special Collections in 1981. 10 of the casebooks in MS 628 were part of this accession; though two of the casebooks (MS 628/7-8) had previously been held at the Thoresby Society library along with MS 268, which were passed to Special Collections. Casebooks MS 628/7-8 were therefore originally catalogued as reference number MS 268/1-2.

The correspondence previously catalogued as MS DEP/1990/4 (between William Hey I and Richard Walker and between Samuel Hey and William Hey), was in the custody of members of the family until it was deposited at the Brotherton Library by William Cobb, in June 1990. William Cobb is connected with the family is through William Hey (1811-1882) whose daughter Emily married William Henry Cobb in 1862.

[Source: Josephine Lloyd, 'The casebooks of William Hey F.R.S. (1736-1819): an analysis of a provincial surgical and midwifery practice', thesis (Leeds: 2005), p.27]

Catalogued as part of the Wellcome Trust-funded Medical Collections Project (2015-2018).