William Dyson WOOD (1844–1900)
St Mary Magdalen section: Row 33, Grave L63

William Dyson Wood


In Remembrance





William Dyson Wood was born in Wakefield, Yorkshire in 1844 and baptised there on 18 February 1845. He was the son of William Wood (born in Sandal Magna near Wakefield in 1813) and Ann Dyson (born in Wakefield in 1813/14). His parents were married in Wakefield on 20 June 1843 and had the following children:

  • William Dyson Wood (born in Wakefield on 11 October 1844 and baptised there on 18 February 1845)
  • Charles Edward Wood (born and died 1845)
  • John Skilbeck Wood (born in Wakefield on 15 June 1847 and baptised there on 9 July)
  • Katherine Anne Wood (born in Wakefield on 31 August 1852)
  • Mary Wood (born 17 June 1851, died in the 1850s)
  • Francis Henry Wood (born in Wakefield in 1853, reg. fourth quarter).

William’s father, who was a Doctor of Medicine of the University of Edinburgh and a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons in London, worked as Surgeon at the West Riding Prison in Wakefield. At the time of the 1851 census William (6) was living with his parents and his brother John (3) at Cheapside in Wakefield; also living with them were their cook, housemaid, and groom.

In 1861 William (16) was a medical student, living with his parents at Cow House, Westgate, Wakefield. His father had an apprentice medical student, Samuel Barton (19), and employed a cook, housemaid, waiting maid, and coachman.

William Dyson Wood became a pupil of the surgeon James Syme in Edinburgh, and in 1866 he passed his first professional examinations at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons there. His first post was Assistant Surgeon to the West Riding Prison at Wakefield under his father.

In 1867 his brother John Skilbeck Wood was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Christ Church at the age of 18, and in 1874 he became a barrister-at-law.

William Dyson Wood’s mother Ann Wood died between 1861 and 1871.

At the time of the 1871 census his father, now a widower of 57, was still living at Westgate in Wakefield with his sons John and Francis, who were undergraduates at Oxford and Edinburgh respectively, and his daughter Katherine; he still employed three servants and a groom. His son William is hard to find in the census that year.

In February 1874 William Dyson Wood was appointed Medical Officer for the Altofts urban sanitary district near Wakefield with a salary of £10 a year, but he remained in his main post as the assistant surgeon at the West Riding Prison, and in 1875 was awarded a grant of £100 “in respect of his services during the late outbreak of typhoid fever in the prison”.

Wood wrote a number of works unrelated to medicine, including a study of “Hamlet from a Psychological Point of View” and “The Genius of Lady Macbeth”, and political monographs on “Social Politics”, “The Present Condition of Political Liberalism in England” (1872), “The Philosophy of Conservatism”, and “The Advantages of Debate”.

In the 1870s Wood was appointed Medical Officer of Health to the Doncaster Rural Sanitary districts.

In 1875 in Wakefield, Wood’s sister Katherine Anne Wood married the solicitor Richard Langhorne.

In 1879 Wood moved to Oxford, where at first he held the office of Medical Officer of Health for a combination or urban and rural sanitary authorities in the county, including Thame. He was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Trinity College at the age of 35 on 11 October 1879.

At the time of the 1881 and 1891 censuses William Dyson Wood was lodging at 50 St John Street, where he occupied two rooms: he was living in far less style than in the days of his father.

In 1885 Wood’s two brothers were both married:

  • In 1885 in Paddington, John Skilbeck Wood married Marian Maria Norton;
  • In 1885 in Llandudno, Francis Henry Wood married Maud Mary Bertram Wilkinson.

Wood’s father William Wood died in Wakefield in 1889, and his obituary appeared in the Wakefield Echo on 17 May 1889,

On 13 May 1893 Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported that the council’s Executive Committee considered that there should be a Medical Officer of Health for the County of Oxfordshire “to whom the Council could resort for advice in special matters, and who would tabulate as a County return the reports and statistics of the several Sanitary Authorities throughout the County now required to be delivered to the Council”, and recommended that Dr William Dyson Wood should be so appointed for one year at a remuneration of £25. and the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved that Dr. William Dyson Wood, who holds the office of Medical Officer of Health for a combination or urban and rural sanitary authorities in the county, be appointed, with the consent of these authorities and the Local Government Board, for one year, at a remuneration of 25l. a year, with the duties assigned to him of collating and tabulating for the use and information of the Council the reports and statistics of the medical officers of health relating to the county.

Meanwhile William Dyson Wood’s brother John was in financial difficulties: the Police Gazette of 21 April 1899 records that in the Metropolitan Police District 84, G Division: “Remanded for obtaining £10 by a worthless cheque on the National Provincial Bank of England— JOHN SKILBECK WOOD, age 51, height 5 ft. 10 in., very corpulent, complexion fresh, hair, whiskers and moustache (turning grey) sandy, eyes blue; dress, black overcoat with silk facings, black morning coat and vest, grey stripe trousers, silk hat. A barrister”. In June that year he agreed to an adjudication of bankruptcy.

William Dyson Wood died of diabetic gangrene in 1900:

† William Dyson Wood died at 50 St John Street at the age of 56 on 16 October 1900 and was buried at St Sepulchre’s Cemetery on 18 October (burial recorded in the parish register of St Mary Magdalen Church).

The death notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal on 20 October 1900 read: “WOOD.—October 16, at 50, St. John-street, Oxford, William Dyson Wood, Medical Officer of Health for the County of Oxford, and eldest son of the late William Wood, M.D., of Wakefield.”

The following obituary appeared in the British Medical Journal on 3 November 1900:

DR. WILLIAM DYSON WOOD, who died on October 16th, was the son of a medical man who held the post of prison surgeon at Wakefield. He received his medical education at Edinburgh, where he was a pupil of Syme. The teaching and personality of the great Edinburgh surgeon made an indelible impression on young Wood. After obtaining the diplomas of L.R.V.S. and L.R.C.P. he was appointed Assistant Surgeon to the West Riding prison at Wakefield under his father. Subsequently he became Medical Officer of Health to the Doncaster Rural Sanitary districts, and finally he was appointed Medical Officer to the Oxfordshire Sanitary districts, and discharged the important duties of that office almost till his death. That event, the immediate result of diabetic gangrene, came as a painful surprise to his friends who were not aware that he suffered from glycosuria, and that his constitution had been fatally undermined. He was possessed of certain remarkable gifts. He had the oratorical faculty in a high degree, and could make an extempore speech with great fluency and excellent effect. Had he studied for the Bar he would have risen in that profession. He had a fine and true literary instinct. He was an accomplished Shakespearean scholar, and had published essays on some of Shakespeare’s characters. He took a keen interest in politics, and was a staunch Conservative of the old school. His nature was of a most genial and sociable kind, and he was greatly loved by an attached circle of friends, among whom his death leaves a sad blank. He was unmarried.



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