In 1200 Liverpool was a fishing village with its name meaning a pool or creek with muddy water. It was granted a Charter by King John advertising the establishment of a new borough at Liverpool, and inviting settlers to come and take up holdings there. Since that day we can be sure that its people have strived to help those that have been ill or injured. People over centuries were carried to hospital in many ways including on wheeled hand litters.
What we know of the humble origins of its Ambulance Service; is that it dates back to 1883 at the Northern Hospital in Leeds Street when the first horse drawn ambulance service in Great Britain was started. The credit for this is attributed to a surgeon by the name of Reginald Harrison having seen a similar service in New York. Records show that in the first 5 months the ambulance dealt with 186 cases but within 1 year there was a great increase in activity levels within over 1000 calls being attended. The service reported its busiest days being Saturday and Sunday with over 13 calls being attended within a 24 hour period.
To summon the “new” ambulance, the police would be alerted in the first instance by a member of the public, the police station would then contact the hospital porter lodge by direct electric wire. The porter would ring the electric bell which alerted the surgeon and the police driver, the latter running to the stable to harness the horse to the “ambulance”. He would then drive round to the front of the hospital to pick up the surgeon who would be carrying his Gladstone bag.
By 1890 Horse drawn ambulances replaced the hand drawn litters. The horses and drivers were supplied by the Mounted Police Department and were stationed at:
Central Fire Station, Hatton Garden. Northern Hospital. Southern Hospital. Royal Infirmary. Ivanhoe Road, Aigburth. Derby Lane,Old Swan. Seel Street, Town centre.
The dangers of emergency response have always been there and historical records show that on the 19th May 1899 a young Police Constable John Young was killed when the horse drawn ambulance he was driving and conveying a man who had been run over to hospital; struck a lampost on Heyworth Street, Everton with disastrous results. The patient also died and the other crew which consisted of a second Police Office and a Doctor were injured. The jury found a verdict of accidental death and they thought a one eyed horse was not a proper animal for ambulance work. The jury also asked “Don’t you think it is very dangerous to drive an ambulance through the streets of Liverpool at the rate of 12mph”
“Proudly advertising the new service comparing it to the car ambulance torture as practised elsewhere”