Lives of the fellows

William Victor Wadsworth

b.4 April 1920 d.4 September 1983
BSc Manch(1941) MB ChB(1944) DPM(1948) MRCP(1960) FRCP(1965) FRCPsych(1971)

William Wadsworth was born in Urmston, an outer suburb of Manchester, and was educated at the William Hulme Grammar School, Manchester, where he had a distinguished career, captaining both cricket and rugby and finishing up head boy. He elected to follow in the footsteps of his uncle, Tom Wadsworth, who practised medicine in Rodney Street, Liverpool, and he qualified in Manchester in 1944.

In his first year at medical school he obtained his rugby colours and in 1942 represented the Northern Universities; and he also found time from his studies to be treasurer and later secretary of the University Rugby Club. Bill was not, however, a typical college rugger player, being a serious student and appearing more mature than many of his year. He married while still a student, unusual in those days, but unhappily this marriage only lasted a few years.

He decided soon after qualification to go into psychiatry and mapped out his career in a way unusual for young medical students, starting with a post as house surgeon to the illustrious neurosurgeon Sir Geoffrey Jefferson. He was then called up for military service and served as general duties officer at the head injuries unit in St Hughes Hospital, Oxford, and later went to India with a mobile neurosurgical unit.

On returning to civilian life in 1947 he became medical registrar to the Manchester neurologist Fergus Ferguson. He then moved to Cheadle Royal Hospital as a psychiatric registrar. Cheadle Royal had been closely associated with Manchester Royal Infirmary until the NHS started in 1948, and Fergus Ferguson still had close links with Cheadle. Bill was promoted to deputy medical superintendent in 1951 and on the retirement of Dr Roy, who had held the post since 1922, he was appointed superintendent at the early age of thirty-three. This gave him the opportunity of carrying on the Cheadle Royal tradition of lavish entertainment, thus effectively cutting him off from most of his contemporaries who were still struggling to make ends meet as registrars. Many people in Manchester, both lay and medical, remember with nostalgia the Cheadle Royal parties of those days.

He steered the hospital through the early difficult years when it had to change from virtually being the psychiatric department of Manchester Royal Infirmary (which in the early days in Piccadilly Gardens it had literally been) to becoming a private hospital independent of the National Health Service, although always retaining links with it. He also steered it through the changes which occurred in psychiatry in this period, discarding locks on doors and using drugs, ECT and insulin coma therapy, but later more and more discarding the physical treatments for psychotherapeutic ones. He was a pioneer in two developments: industrial therapy and day hospitals, helping to build up the very successful industrial unit Cheadle Royal Industries, which virtually became a paper hat making factory, selling to firms such as Woolworths. At this time he wrote a number of papers on the rehabilitation of schizophrenic patients by industrial therapy.

In 1959 he invited Gordon Cross to come from the Bristol Day Hospital to open a similar one at Cheadle. This developed as a therapeutic community and in association with the industrial unit helped in the rehabilitation of both neurotic and psychotic patients.

Later he was influenced by Franz Greenbaum, a Jungian analyst, and his interest changed to psychotherapy, at first with a Jungian bias, but later moving to a very original method using abreactive techniques, which did not entirely find favour with either local psychiatric establishments or even his own lay committee. Finally, in 1971, he left Cheadle Royal to establish a private clinic at Toft Hall in Knutsford where he started a charity, ‘The Society for the Investigation of Human Values’.

His later years were unhappy. He split up with his second wife, Barbara, who had helped him in the work at Toft Hall, and because of financial problems had to give up this venture to establish a smaller but similar one at Alderley Edge. He had several heart attacks during these last years and perhaps the best way to illustrate his energy and enthusiasm is to relate a story about one of these. A colleague went to see him in the intensive care unit at Manchester Royal Infirmary, the day after a severe attack, to find him propped up in bed dictating to his secretary. He explained that he had to carry on as all those working at Toft Hall depended on him. In fact he appeared to have no hobbies apart from his work.

He was survived by Barbara and four children, Victoria, Anna, Clare and Andrew, none of whom have gone into the medical profession.

Constance M Duddle

[Brit.med.J., 1983, 287, 992]

(Volume VII, page 587)

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