James Beveridge: Norwich doctor, Rotarian and campaigner for city’s Bethel Hospital

A Norwich doctor, James Beveridge, who died on his 83rd birthday, campaigned to find a further use for the Bethel Hospital after it was closed.

When the mental health authority declared the building no longer suitable, he and a senior Norwich consultant, Dr Alan Green, tried to find an alternative caring use for the city-centre site.

Sadly, their efforts over many years to persuade several groups to convert it into a type of secure retirement complex came to nothing.

The Bethel, which was the country's first purpose-built asylum, had been founded by Mary Chapman in 1713 on land leased for 1,000 years at a peppercorn rent. For the next 101 years, it was the only public facility for the mad in the city until the county asylum was opened: 'This house was built for the benefit of distrest Lunaticks Ano Dom. 1713 and is not to be alienated or employed to any other use or purpose whatsoever.'

Dr James Beveridge, who was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, went to school in Chester-Le-Street. He read medicine in Newcastle at what was then King's College, where he met his wife, Jane, who was also a GP.

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They came to Norwich in 1957 and he joined Dr Ronnie Scott's general practice in the north of Norwich, firstly in Magdalen Road and then at Lawson Road. He retired in 1988.

In a tribute, Dr Alan Green said that he was 'one of the best I had the privilege of helping as a consultant. He served in the best traditions of our profession and devoted and dedicated his life to his patients.'

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In the days when doctors attended confinements, he went on to care for many patients that he had actually delivered.

For many years, he was secretary to the Norwich division of the British Medical Association and the Norwich Medical Benevolent Society. He was also elected a president of the Norwich Medico Chirurgical Society, which was a measure of the professional esteem in which he was held by colleagues.

He was a sidesman at St Peter Mancroft for many years and was also a keen member and a former president of both Rotary and then Probus. He leaves a widow, Jane, and is survived by a son, Robert and daughter, Margaret, and nine grandchildren.

A service of thanksgiving will be held at St Margaret's Church, Old Catton, on Saturday, December 1 at 11am.

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