William Sands Cox and related families

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises the personal papers of William Sands Cox; papers related to members of his extended family (the Sands, Cox and Kendrick families); and papers related to other associated families including those related to his wife, Isabella Lichfield. The collection also includes legal items and associated material belonging to William Matthews and Francis Matthews, executors of William Sands Cox's estate [William Matthews' mother, Frances (Fanny), being a sister of Isabella Lichfield]. The vast bulk of the papers of William Sands Cox comprise letters, largely sent to him, concerning the Birmingham School of Medicine, subsequently Queen's College. The correspondence includes letters relating to subscriptions and gifts to, appeals for, and patronage of, the institution. Numerous letters are written from members of the landed gentry, the nobility as well as other institutions such as King's College in London.

The correspondence also includes a number of letters of testimony for Sands Cox, mostly written in 1839, which appear to relate to his application to become a surgeon at the Birmingham Infirmary. These testimonials include recommendations from Astley Cooper, James Quain (from Paris) and Joseph Henry Green. The collection also includes Sands Cox's indenture which apprenticed him to his father. Later correspondence from the early 1870s includes letters of thanks for girts of annals of the College which Sands Cox appears to have distributed before his death. Printed items relating to the College include an item titled 'exhibits by the faculty of medicine', a printed descriptive 'general design of the college' and an open appeal letter of 1870 for the preservation of its buildings. There are also a number of newscuttings concerning the College including items relating to the centenary of its foundation.

Personal items relating to William Sands Cox and his wife, Isabella (nee Lichfield), include a single love letter from him dated 1830; a copy of their marriage certificate of 1866; photographs of Sands Cox; a diary of 1866 which largely records business and other appointments; a letter from the Earl of Warwick regarding his appointment as a Justice of the Peace in 1853; and a printed sale catalogue of the estate of Isabella Sands Cox at Kenilworth following her death in 1885. There is also an engraved trowel presented to Isabella Sands Cox on the laying of the corner stone of the church of St Thomas in the Moor in Birmingham, which was erected in memory of Sands Cox's parents; and an engraved presentation silver case to Sands Cox from the Committee of Queen's Hospital upon the completion of the building of supplementary wings to the hospital. Ephemeral items include engravings of King Charles I and cuttings relating to a chair belonging to King Charles I which Sands Cox appears to have inherited. He subsequently bequeathed the chair to Moreton in the Marsh Cottage Hospital.

Extended family items include plans of a freehold estate in Highgate in the parish of Kings Norton and which belonged to Sands Cox's father, Edward Townsend Cox; letters of administration of Edward Payne Cox and Robert Cox; a copy will of Edward Cox, Sands Cox's paternal grandfather; the will of his father and some Payne family members who he was related to through his mother; and letters and papers relating to the Sands Cox cup. Seemingly unrelated miscellaneous items include a proclamation issued upon the death of Queen Victoria and consequent accession of King Edward VII in 1901; pew certificates for the Slater family which were issued from St Martin's church in Birmingham during the 1780s; and a copy of a coded letter relating to the escape of Charles Stuart (the future King Charles II) to France during the English Civil War in the seventeenth century.

Administrative / Biographical History

William Sands Cox (1802-1875) was the eldest son of Edward Townsend Cox (1769-1863), a well-known Birmingham surgeon. After being educated locally at the King Edward VI Grammar School, he was articled to his father and later studied medicine at Birmingham General Hospital. He later studied at Guy's and St Thomas' Hospitals, London, from 1821 to 1823, and after being admitted as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) in 1824 he spent twelve months at the École de Médecine, Paris. In 1825 he settled in Birmingham and was appointed surgeon to the General Dispensary, and he gave his first lecture on anatomy, with physiological and surgical observations, on 1 December, at Temple Row. He became surgeon to the town infirmary, jointly with his father, in 1827. In 1828, after a good deal of opposition, he, in conjunction with doctors Johnstone, Booth, and others, founded the Birmingham School of Medicine, later called Queen's College; Cox himself lectured on anatomy at first, and afterwards lectured on surgery. In 1834 he took an active part in the formation of the Provincial Medical and Surgical (later the British Medical) Association, becoming a member of its council. In 1836 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).

In 1840 Cox founded the Queen's Hospital, Birmingham, to serve as a clinical school for the existing Birmingham Royal School of Medicine, and through his work alone it was opened free of debt in 1841. He was appointed senior surgeon, and later became consulting surgeon. Having secured considerable funds from the Revd Dr Samuel Warneford, he was able to enlarge the scope of the medical school to that of a college, with instruction instituted in arts (1847) and theology (1851), and he secured for it in 1843 a royal charter by the title of Queen's College. In 1857 a sum of £1050 was subscribed by the public as a testimonial to Cox, which he devoted to founding scholarships and to completing the museums of Queen's College. In 1858–9 he was elected principal of the college.

An inquiry by the charity commissioners in 1860 led to the separation of Queen's College and Queen's Hospital, after which Cox was obliged to cease taking part in the work of either. He left Birmingham in 1863, on his father's death, and lived successively at Bole Hall, near Tamworth, and at Leamington Spa. Cox married to Isabella (nee Lichfield) on 30 August 1866 whose father, Joseph Lichfield, is listed as a farmer on their marriage certificate. Sands Cox was also a magistrate and deputy lieutenant for Warwickshire. He died at Glass House, Kenilworth, on 23 December 1875 and was buried at Aston Parish Church, Birmingham.

Source: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

Conditions Governing Access

Access to all registered researchers.

Acquisition Information

Acquired at auction in 2006.

Other Finding Aids

Please see the full catalogue for further details

Archivist's Note

Papers arranged and described by Mark Eccleston, January-February 2010.

Conditions Governing Use

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in advance in writing from the Director of Special Collections (email: special-collections@bham.ac.uk). 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.

Custodial History

This material appears to have been in the custody of Sands Cox's executor, William H. Matthews and his relation, Francis Matthews.

Related Material

University of Birmingham, Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections holds a number of letters written to William Sands Cox in the LAdd sequence (Finding numbers: LAdd/6071-6074); while letters written by Sands Cox can be found in the Vaughan Thomas Collection (Finding number: VT).