Life and Times: The trial of Dr Hadwen
THE Hadwen Medical practice with three surgeries across the city commemorates Dr Walter Robert Hadwen, a well-known and respected doctor in Gloucester, who died in December 1932.
Sources in the Archives suggest what a charismatic and sometimes controversial figure this man was. He was born in Woolwich in 1854 and trained as a doctor in the University of Bristol and St Bartholomew's Hospital, London.
He moved to Gloucester in the mid-1890s during the smallpox epidemic in the city and involved himself in many aspects of public life.
He was passionately interested in some the great moral debates of the late 19th Century.
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He campaigned against vivisection – he was the President of the British Anti-Vivisection Society.
He was an outspoken supporter of the movement to repeal the Vaccination Act – vaccination against smallpox was made compulsory in 1867. He was a committed member of the Christian Brethren and built the Albion Hall, now the Southgate Street Evangelical Church. He wrote articles and books in support of his beliefs and you can see many of these in the Archives.
He was a very controversial figure and his strongly expressed opinions brought him into conflict with other doctors and scientists of the time. When one of his patients died in August 1924, Dr Hadwen was accused of her manslaughter and sent for trial at the Gloucester Assizes at the end of October. The reports of the trial in the local and national papers show just how much popular interest there was in the case and the issues it raised. Our image comes from the Cheltenham Chronicle and Gloucestershire Graphic for November 1 and gives us a clear idea of the size of the crowds that waited outside the Shire Hall for the trial to begin. The Citizen for Monday 27 October reports that by 10 o'clock the public gallery was full. It remained full for the whole trial.
Dr Hadwen pleaded 'not guilty' to the charge and his defence was led by Sir Edward Marshall Hall, one of the leading barristers of the day who appeared in other high profile cases. The local solicitors, Messrs Langley Smith & Sons acted on Dr Hadwen's behalf. The trial lasted three days and the jury heard evidence about the diagnosis and treatment of the patient's illness from a variety of expert witnesses as well as the patient's own family. At the end of the trial, the jury took only 20 minutes to deliver its verdict and Dr Hadwen was discharged to the cheers of the spectators in the packed public gallery.
On the day after the acquittal, the Gloucester branch of the Citizens' League held a meeting in the Albion Hall to celebrate the verdict.
The hall was filled to capacity before the meeting started and Dr Hadwen spoke for over an hour to thank his supporters.
He received a standing ovation but at the request of the chairman of the meeting there was no triumphal procession through the city centre as Dr Hadwen and his wife returned home.