Dr Henry Yeld

Dr Henry Yeld served as Medical Officer of Health of Sunderland for eight years.  Before being appointed to this post he had worked for a number of years in private practice in the town and as surgeon to the infirmary.

Yeld was born in 1834.  He studied at Glasgow and St Andrews, graduating as an MD of St Andrews in 1862.  Upon retiring from private practice in 1873, he was appointed Medical Officer of Health of Sunderland.  This position had responsibility for public health in the borough and offered advice to the Corporation on related matters.  His obituary states that he performed his office with both energy and consideration.  He was highly esteemed in the medical profession, making regular contributions to the British Medical Journal, and serving as the second President of the Northern Counties Association of Medical Officers of Health.  Our group found many references to Yeld in the council and committee minutes.  You can see an example of one of these using the link below:

Report by Dr Henry Yeld on a regrettable incident

As well as performing his professional duties, Yeld was closely involved with many charitable and philanthropic schemes in Sunderland.  One scheme that he initiated, and which continued after his death as the Yeld Memorial Treat, was a dinner for the aged poor, held each New Year’s Day, at which over 800 elderly people received a substantial meal.  He also gave regular public lectures intended to encourage the working classes to adopt temperance and sobriety. 

In 1877, Yeld wrote a comprehensive report on the removal of rubbish from Sunderland, based on inspections of the methods used by other large towns.  As a result, in addition to his regular work he took on the administration of the department that dealt with the removal of rubbish from the town, although without any additional financial reward.  His objective seems to have been to move Sunderland away from the midden system that was then in use.  Middens were essentially heaps of waste.

Sadly financial considerations stood in the way of Yeld’s plans, and even moderate improvements to the existing midden system lead to such increased costs that his department went over-budget.  This situation caused him great anxiety and this, together with other matters, resulted in a condition of nervous depression and exhaustion, and in November 1881 he took his own life, leaving a widow and four children.