Lives of the fellows

Stephen Barton Hall

b.25 October 1899 d.11 October 1978
MB ChB Liverp(1922) MD(1930) DPM(1931) MRCP(1950) FRCP(1964) FRCPsych(1971)

Stephen Hall was the only son of Webster Hall, a clergyman whose forbears were tailors and landowners in Great Eccleston in the Fylde, Lancashire, and Clara, only daughter of William Barton of Ambleside in the Lake District, who was connected with buying and selling property and was a great fell walker.

Stephen was born in Liverpool and educated at Liverpool College and the University of Liverpool, where his medical studies were interrupted by military service. As a student he was a champion three miler and an expert oarsman. Qualifying MB ChB in 1922, he pursued postgraduate studies in the psychological aspects of medicine at the Maudsley and other London hospitals. In 1924 he married Muriel Pickering Jones, who later gained international recognition as a child psychiatrist, and who co-operated with her husband in many of his professional activities.

In 1924 Stephen established the Liverpool Psychiatric Clinic (renamed the Liverpool Psychiatric Day Hospital in 1948) - a pioneering venture of which he was honorary physician (consultant psychiatrist) until his retirement in 1964. In 1929, together the Halls started the Liverpool Child Guidance Clinic, of which Stephen was honorary psychiatrist and director from 1929 to 1932, and Muriel, honorary psychiatrist from 1931 to 1938.

In 1930 he was appointed honorary consultant psychiatrist to the Liverpool Royal Infirmary. He was consultant psychiatrist to the Borough of Birkenhead from 1934 to 1939, and to the North-West Regional War Neurosis Centre (Emergency Medical Service), Aintree and Southport, from 1940 to 1946.

His publications reveal his wide concept of the role psychological medicine should play in the care of patients, and, indeed, in the conduct of society, covering, as they do, psychological aspects of organic disease, of disorders of speech and the special senses, of physiological processes such as adolescence, of social adjustment, and of air raids and of the re-armament programme. It was on the basis of his publications, particularly his book Psychological Aspects of Clinical Medicine (1949), that he was elected a member of the College.

In the University of Liverpool he was appointed lecturer in psychological medicine in 1944; and in 1952 a department of psychological medicine was established, with Stephen its first director of studies. He was devoted to his department, which grew steadily during the twelve years of his direction. He aimed to ‘approach psychological medicine as an integral part of general medicine rather than a special or separate subject’, as he states in the introduction to his book, and to that end he sought to establish links with other departments in the Faculty of Medicine. The link with the department of child health was especially fruitful.

His wife, Muriel, consultant psychiatrist to the Royal Liverpool Children’s Hospital since 1947, was appointed lecturer, part-time, in his department in 1955 and, following her untimely death only nine months later, Stephen arranged that her successor should also be a child psychiatrist, with duties in the children’s hospitals and University department of child health as well as his own department — a highly satisfactory arrangement and one of the first of its kind in this country.

He was also quick to realize the contribution his discipline might make to the study and teaching of normal psychology, especially to psychologists in clinical practice. The appointment of a senior lecturer in clinical psychology in his department, and the provision of a course in clinical psychology for psychologists, the first in this country, soon necessitated the establishment of a sub-department of clinical psychology within the department of psychological medicine. Stephen was always concerned that a Chair should be established for his successor, and on his retirement in 1964 that hope was realized.

Following retirement, he taught in his former department, was for many years a member of the University Court, and in 1972, as youthful and energetic as ever, undertook a lecture tour of the United States and Canada, visiting several centres where former students of his were working. In March 1977 he went to live in Aynhoe in Oxfordshire.

As a clinician, Stephen was methodical and sincere, and capable of a degree of detachment which greatly enhanced the value of his clinical judgement. He was a quiet, retiring man whom few knew well, but in conversation and committee he was a good listener, considerate and modest - attributes which, together with his quiet sense of humour, contributed greatly to his friendly and fruitful co-operation with colleagues.

He had many interests, including fast cars and ice skating, and he shared with his wife a love of the countryside, bird-watching, and landscape and rock gardening. Nevertheless, they both accepted hotel life for many years for the sake of their work, and it was sad that Muriel’s rapidly fatal illness supervened within a year of their building a house with a garden in Mollington, near Chester. They had no children.

JD Hay

(Volume VII, page 239)

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