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Strangeways Research Laboratory

  • Strangeways, T.S.P., 1866-1926.
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


This is a valuable and important archive for an independent medical research institution of worldwide importance. Although for many years it existed on limited resources without guaranteed funding, numerous distinguished British scientists were associated with it for longer or shorter periods, and its international reputation drew scholars from many countries.

The collection consists primarily of papers on the Laboratory, 1900s-1990s. The papers of T S P Strangeways (formerly Pigg), the founder of the Laboratory, however, have been retained among the archives of the Laboratory (Section A), along with some small groups of papers of other individuals who worked there (Section K); the latter include Professor M. Abercrombie, C. Robinow and E. Brieger. There is also some Radium Commission material, 1932-c. 1948 (Section L), and some material relating to the work undertaken at the Strangeways during World War II under government auspices (Section M).

Unfortunately there are some significant lacunae in this collection. The surviving annual reports do not make up a continuous sequence, and the survival of correspondence has been somewhat haphazard. However, it should be pointed out that there is a series of Annual Reports 1929-1950, and other material about the Strangeways, among the papers of F G Spear, former Deputy Director, held in the Wellcome Library's Archives and Manuscripts collection as PP/FGS.



Physical description

31 boxes 1 o/s vol


The collection is divided into sections as follows:

A. T.S.P. Strangeways: papers

B. Annual reports, etc

C. Trustees (and Governors): minutes and correspondence, 1929-1971

D. Account books and ledgers, 1929-1970

E. Funding:

Various bodies, A-W, 1929-1975

Medical Research Council, 1962-1969

Miscellaneous specific grant files, c.1963-1970

Grant files: new series, c.1967-1980

F. Miscellaneous administrative matters, 1931-1971

G. General Correspondence, 1942-1947, 1954-1956, 1965-1970

H. Files on various matters, 1930s-1960s

J. Miscellaneous historical material re SRL, including G E H Foxon's research

K. Individuals:

C. Robinow

E. Brieger

M. Abercrombie

L. Radium Commission, 1932-1943

M. Wartime projects, and other government work, 1939-1951

Acquisition note

The bulk of these papers were received in three accessions in 1986, 1989 and 1991, with a small amount of additional material in 1994. They were found to include a considerable amount of material of Dame Honor Fell (1900-1986) not directly relating to her function as Director of the Strangeways 1929-1970, and this has been separated into a separate collection, PP/HBF, consisting of 12 boxes. In addtion, a set of Annual Reports 1951-1970 and 1985- was received from the SRL in Oct 1995 (Acc. 601: SA/SRL/B.19-48). The files now in Section M (Acc 1557) were received in Nov 2007 via The National Archives, to whom they had been offered as they relate to worked undertaken for the government during World War II

Biographical note

The Cambridge Research Hospital was founded in 1905 by T.S.P. Strangeways in 1905 and renamed the Strangeways Research Laboratory in 1929, following his death.

The key events in the life of T.S.P. Strangeways and of the institution are as follows:

For further information see A.28 and Section J

1866 28 Dec birth of Thomas Strangeways Pigg (name changed to Strangeways on his marriage)

1890 studies medicine at St Bartholomews

1895 awarded Matthews Duncan Gold Medal

1897 goes to Cambridge as demonstrator in Pathology

1900 awarded honorary MA

1905 formation of a Committee for the Study of Special Diseases at the initiative of T S P Strangeways to promote the scientific investigation of joint disease; opening of a small research hospital in Hartington Grove, Cambridge

1912 Opening of Cambridge Research Hospital in new premises

1914-1917 Hospital taken over for military purposes

1917 arthritis investigations resumed

1920 early tissue culture research begins

1923 Honor Fell becomes Strangeways' research assistant. Wards at the Research Hospital closed and clinical work transferred to St Bartholomew's.

1926 23 Dec Strangeways dies aged 59, precipitating a crisis

1927 Jan Meeting of Hospital Trustees; with staff support hospital continues on a temporary basis under interim directorship of Dr J A Andrews

1928 Jul the Trustees appoint Dr Honor Fell (Senior Beit Fellow) as Chief of the Laboratory; hospital renamed Strangeways Research Laboratory.

1929 Medical Research Council funds extension to house x-ray equipment

1931 Bequest by Sir Otto Beit, appointment of Honor Fell to a Royal Society Research Fellowship, F G Spear appointed Deputy Director

1933 Dr Alfred Glucksmann joins laboratory

1938 New wing presented by Rockefeller Foundation

1949 Nuffield five-year funding for the development of research in cell physiology

1951 Royal Society grant of £3,500 for use at Director's discretion

1954 Rockefeller Foundation presents electron microscope

1955 Wellcome Trust makes a grant of £60,000 for building expansion

1958 F G Spear retires

1960 Glucksmann becomes Deputy Director

1963 Honor Fell receives DBE

1970 Dame Honor Fell retires

1970-1979 Professor Michael Abercrombie as Director

1971 Glucksmann retires

1972 Dr J T Dingle becomes Deputy Director

1979 Dingle takes over as Director on Abercombie's retirement

For further information see A.28 and Section J.

Related material

In the Wellcome Library:

The Honor Fell papers (PP/HBF) should also be consulted by anyone interested in the history of the Strangeways.

The papers of F G Spear, former Deputy Director (PP/FGS) include a series of Annual Reports, 1929-1950, and other material about the Strangeways Laboratory.

Sir Peter Medawar's papers (PP/PBM) include correspondence of his as a Governor of the Strangeways.

Sir R A Peters papers on British Anti-Lewisite, GC/197, overlap with the material in SA/SRL/M.1 relating to chemical warfare research

Appraisal note

A certain amount of rearrangement of the papers took place in the interests of coherence and consistency, and duplicate, ephemeral and routine material was weeded. The funding files in particular were found to contain large amounts of very routine letters dealing with grant administration, and as far as possible only policy correspondence has been retained.

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