Fantastic Finds: What do a Maternity Hospital, a Lottery, and Daring Prison Escape Have in Common?

What do a Maternity Hospital, a Lottery, and Daring Prison Escape Have in Common? One man: Bartholomew Mosse (1712-1759), the male midwife behind the founding of the Dublin Lying-In Hospital in Ireland.

The Dublin Lying-in Hospital, now known as the Rotunda Hospital, opened on 8th December 1757, taking over from the city’s previous Lying-In Hospital in Fade Street. Developing a clean, functional maternity hospital for Dublin’s poor was a monumental and expensive task, and Mosse knew he had to appeal to the charitable side of Britain and Ireland’s wealthy elite.

What made Mosse’s fundraising strategy unique at the time was his marrying of philanthropy with frivolity. He drew on the wealthy’s love of socialising, pleasure and gambling to generate the money his project needed. As part of his campaign, Mosse turned the proposed site of the new lying-in hospital into a popular pleasure garden, which featured a live orchestra, theatrical performances, dances and a coffeehouse.

But his other fundraising avenue, something known at the time as a ‘Dutch Lottery’, ended up being far less pleasant for Mosse and his associates. Similar to the charitable lotteries of today, participants bought tickets for the chance to support a worthy cause and to win prizes. Mosse’s lotteries raised over £11,000 for the building of the Dublin Lying-In Hospital between 1746 and 1753.

The tickets went as far afield as London and were sold in the city’s coffeehouses. Unfortunately for Mosse, private lotteries were illegal in England and several of the businesses caught selling his tickets were heavily fined and their owners threatened with prison. Mosse’s fifth lottery, in 1753, led to him having to travel to London to answer questions about his finances.

Before he was able to return to Ireland, Mosse was followed, arrested and charged with being £200 in debt. He is thought to have been imprisoned in Beaumaris Castle in Anglesey, Wales. Historical accounts tell us that Mosse managed to escape from the castle through a window shortly afterwards and hid in the Welsh mountains for three weeks before reaching Ireland. Mosse returned to Dublin and vindicated himself by publishing his receipts and the accounts for his lotteries, which cleared him of any wrongdoing.

It will come as no surprise that he abandoned lotteries as a form of fundraising from then on.

The son a Protestant clergyman, Mosse began his career as a trainee surgeon before being inspired to take up midwifery after visiting The Hotel Dieu in Paris, one of Europe’s oldest hospitals. Historians theorise that the large wards of the Hotel Dieu and their capacity to allow the spread of infection from patient to patient, is what led Mosse to insist that the Dublin Lying-In Hospital had smaller wards to contain potential outbreaks.

His personal circumstances too would have had a huge impact on his unorthodox choice of career. His first wife and their son died in childbirth in 1737. He was also affected by the impoverished conditions Dublin’s mothers gave birth in during the 18th century.

Mosse obtained The Licentiate of Midwifery of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in 1742 and opened the first of Dublin’s Lying-In Hospitals in a converted theatre in Fade Street in 1745. The hospital obtained Royal Charter from King George II in 1756 and by 1757 its staff had delivered 4,000 babies.

The newer, larger Lying-In Hospital, now known as The Rotunda, replaced it over a decade later and was designed by Mosse and the architect Richard Cassels to resemble a great country mansion. This style of architecture suited the site’s pleasure gardens, which continued to flourish and generate funds even after the opening of the maternity hospital. Bartholomew Mosse lived to see his hospital established, but died after a long illness only two years later in 1759, aged 47.

Today our Archive holds a relic of his forward-thinking, lucrative but ultimately ill-fated charitable lotteries; we hold two sets of the intricately decorated tickets sold by Mosse for his final lotteries in 1753 and 1754. Both can be studied above and in our reading room by appointment.

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