Hitchin to Repton and back – Dr Gilbertson 1860-1938

The Repton School Register includes a Hitchin boy who later returned to his native town to work in the community.

In 1873, thirteen-year-old James Henry Gilbertson of 103 Walsworth Road (a detached house opposite the end of Radcliffe Road), son of Henry Gilbertson, started at Repton School in South Derbyshire. According to the school prospectus, Repton is the very finest co-educational boarding and day school, founded in 1557 on the site of an Augustinian Priory. Its alumni include a wide range of well-known figures, from Christopher Isherwood to Jeremy Clarkson, Roald Dahl to Christopher Frayling, and include three former Archbishops of Canterbury. The School Register tells us that James Gilbertson was born in 1860 and attended the school for four years (presumably as a boarder), and between 1876 and 1877 he was in the Football XI.

Dr J H Gilbertson (from Lawson Thompson scrapbook)

After leaving the school James trained at St Bartholomew’s, London and became a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons and a Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians. He also joined the 1st Hertfordshire Volunteer Battalion, Bedford Regiment, where he became an Honorable Major.

However, from the London Gazette we know that James returned to live and work in Hitchin. Around 1906 he was living at The Limes because he was a subscriber to a magazine that year where he had to give his address; and in 1912 he was elected Vice-Chairman of the newly constituted East Herts Division of the Association relating to Scientific and Clinical Medicine. He was also Worshipful Brother Dr James Henry Gilbertson, first Senior Warden of Royston Masonic Lodge, from which he rose, by 1927, to be Past Assistant Grand Sojourner in the Supreme Grand Chapter of England.

He and his son Herbert Marshall Gilbertson ran a Medical Practice together with Robert Harvey-Williams under the name J H & Marshall Gilbertson and Harvey-Williams, which James and Marshall Gilbertson dissolved amicably in 1930 in order to set up on their own at 20 and 85 Bancroft (now Wilkinsons and Sandwidges respectively, or thereabouts). James was now seventy years old. The Preston website tells us that Marshall Gilbertson’s dispenser, Miss Marjorie Cropper, died in July that year after a riding accident in Preston. When help was summoned, “Dr Gilbertson did the 4 mile journey from Hitchin to Preston in seven minutes”. It’s not clear whether this was James or Marshall Gilbertson, but it was remarkable, whoever it was.

James’s address in 1930 was 103 Walsworth Road, so he had returned to the very family home he’d left when he was thirteen to go to Repton School, back in 1873.

He died on 22nd February, 1938.

Zena Grant