Treasure hunting in Special Collections

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Dr Elizabeth Casson

“Down in the basement of the John Henry Brookes Building lies hidden treasure”, explains Oxford Brookes’ Archivist Eleanor Possart in the first article of a new regular feature.

“Thousands of books, archives and artefacts await discovery in Oxford Brookes’ Special Collections and Archives Reading Room, each with their own story.  

“Working in Special Collections, I find something new almost daily and thought others might like to hear about the treasures that I find - and where better to start than with a piece of gold!

“Kept safe in our Archive Store, we have a gold Gaskell Medal that was awarded to Dr Elizabeth Casson in 1927 for scholarship in clinical psychiatry.  

 

“But who was Elizabeth Casson, and why do we have her medal?

Dr Elizabeth Casson medal

“Elizabeth Casson was born in Denbigh in 1881.  After initially training as a secretary, Elizabeth decided, at the age of 30, to study medicine at Bristol.  Following graduation, she specialised in psychiatry but continued her studies, and in 1926 was the first woman to gain a Doctorate at Bristol.  A year later, she was awarded the Gaskell Medal.

“However, it is in the field of Occupational Therapy that she is most widely remembered.  Her experiences on the wards convinced Dr Casson that “occupation was an integral part of treatment and must be provided."  

“To this end, Dr Casson borrowed £1000 from her brother, the actor and theatre director Sir Lewis Casson, to buy Dorset House in Clifton, Bristol. The first School of Occupational Therapy in the UK opened its doors in 1930.

Working in Special Collections, I find something new almost daily and thought others might like to hear about the treasures that I find - and where better to start than with a piece of gold!

Eleanor Possart, Archivist

“The School moved from Bristol following the outbreak of World War II, and came to Oxford via Bromsgrove, eventually securing its own premises on London Road.  In 1992, the School joined Oxford Brookes University, and thus its rich and interesting history became part of our own.

“The medal was donated by a member of Dr Casson’s family and complements the Dorset House Archive, which records the history of the School.”

For more information about our Special Collections is available on the Oxford Brookes website, please visit www.brookes.ac.uk/library/special-collections/