Vaughan Thomas Collection

Scope and Content

Manuscripts and printed papers relating to the Queen's College and hospital, Birmingham (formerly known as the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine and Surgery). The collection includes letters to Vaughan Thomas from William Sands Cox, founder of the hospital and college and Rev Samuel Warneford, a benefactor of the hospital. It also includes printed reports, addresses, presscuttings, prospectuses and other materials relating to both institutions.

Administrative / Biographical History

Administrative/Biographical History

Vaughan Thomas (1775-1858) was an Anglican clergyman, antiquary and philanthropist. He was admitted as a scholar of Corpus Christi College, Oxford in 1794 and subsequently elected to a fellowship which he held until 1812. He was awarded his BA in 1796, MA in 1800 and BD in 1809. In 1803 he became vicar of Yarnton in Oxfordshire; in 1804, he was appointed vicar of Stoneleigh, Warwickshire; and then in 1811, he was given the rectory of Duntisborne Rous in Gloucestershire. He held all three livings until his death in 1858.

He was a voluminous author and his principal work was The Italian Biography of Sir Robert Dudley Knight , (Oxford, 1861) for which he began to collect materials in 1806. Numerous addresses and sermons which he delivered were printed and published and these include several relating to Birmingham hospitals and to the development of surgical and medical education in Birmingham. For example, he delivered an address delivered at the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine and Surgery at the third anniversary meeting August 29, 1838 (1838); and a sermon entitled Abound in this grace also which was preached on Sunday August 17, 1845, in aid of the fund for erecting a fever ward at the Queen's Hospital (1845). Vaughan Thomas appears to have been a member of the Queen's College Council (formerly the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine and Surgery) in the 1840s.

Clinical teaching of medical students had been undertaken on the wards at the Birmingham General Hospital since 1779. However, it was only in 1828 that a medical school in Birmingham was formally set up. The school had its origins in a successful series of lectures on anatomy which William Sands Cox (1802-1875), a surgeon, had delivered in Birmingham in 1825 and in April 1828 he took the decision to set up a complete Medical School. In 1836, when King William IV became patron of the School it was renamed at the Birmingham Royal School of Medicine and Surgery and William Sands Cox was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Cox, who was not on the staff of the General Hospital, found it difficult to obtain clinical teaching for his students and he decided to establish a hospital designed primarily for teaching. With financial support from Dr Samuel Warneford, rector of Bourton-on-the Water, the Queen's Hospital in Bath Row was opened in 1841. In 1843, a charter was obtained by which the Royal Medical School was renamed the Queen's College, Birmingham and certificates issued by the College were to be recognised by the University of London for admission to examination for medical degrees. An Act of Parliament of 1867 repealed this and supplementary charters of Queen's College and separated it from the Queen's Hospital which became an autonomous body. In 1892, the Medical Faculty of Queen's College became the Medical Faculty of Mason College which, in turn, became the University of Birmingham.

Reference: A short History of the Medical School of the University of Birmingham ( University of Birmingham, 1957 ). Dictionary of National Biography ( London, 1909 ).

For further reading about the University of Birmingham see: Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwarz The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980 An Introductory History ( The University of University of Birmingham Press. 2000 ).


This collection is arranged into three series: manuscript material; printed leaves; printed books and pamphlets.

Access Information

Access Conditions

Open. Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was purchased at Sotheby's in July 1982. The papers were originally collected by the Reverend Vaughan Thomas.

Other Finding Aids

Finding Aids

Please see full catalogue for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the University Archivist, Special Collections. Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult. Special Collections will assist where possible with identifying copyright owners, but responsibility for ensuring copyright clearance rests with the user of the material.


Further deposits are not expected.

Related Material

University of Birmingham Information Services, Special Collections Department also holds the archives of the University of Birmingham and archives of other former staff, officials and students.