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1807-1890: Dr Thomas Byass Cuckfield surgeon with a sense of humour

Updated: Mar 19, 2021

Marshalls the home of the Byass family

Thomas Spry Byass (1807-90)

Thomas Byass was born at Cuckfield, in Sussex, his father having been for many years an inhabitant of the town. Father and son, indeed, were connected with Cuckfield for nearly a century. Byass received his professional training at Guy's Hospital, and after qualifying settled at Cuckfield, where he practised for some sixty years.

He was for a long period a most active member of the Court of Assistants of the Apothecaries' Company, and as Master during the International Medical Congress of 1881 he entertained at the Hall a large number of distinguished guests.

He belonged to the party of progress, and in London was well known to most of the leading consultants for his sound common sense and ripe experience. At Cuckfield he took a keen interest in the volunteers from their earliest days, and was for many years Acting Surgeon Major. He was President at one time of the Brighton and Sussex Medico-Chirurgical Society, and was always well abreast of professional knowledge and progress.

After the completion of fifty years of practice, Byass was presented with a testimonial consisting of a silver salver, a purse of 500 guineas in an antique silver casket, and a finely illuminated album.

Patients showed him constant attention in his old age, and thus testified their affection for him, but occasionally this enthusiasm took the form of calls to a great distance from home, so that he had often "to journey to London and to Brighton on the same day, as well as doing a hard day's work in the country".

His small spare frame was full of restless activity, and he never knew what it was to tire in his work. He had the conscience and manners of a true gentleman, was liberal to the poor, and retained a fair share of physical strength until a few months before his death. His full mental vigour remained till the last.

He died at his residence, Marshalls, Cuckfield, on Sunday, July 13th, 1890. At the time of his death he was a Certifying Factory Surgeon, Medical Referee to the London Life Assurance Company, and Medical Examiner, Government Insurance.

Dying in his 84th year he severed a connecting link with a long-past generation. He was a contemporary at Guy's of the two Coopers, Aston Key, Addison, etc., and told entertaining stories of medical life sixty years ago. His funeral on July 17th was masonic, as he was a Past Provincial Grand Officer of the Province of Sussex and one of the founders and a Past Master of the Ockenden Lodge.

Source: Obituary from Royal College of Surgeons - Plarr's Lives of the Fellows. The original text was from Lancet, 1890, ii, 209.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.


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