Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Ophthalmic surgeon Evan Harries Harries-Jones

Frederick O’Dell
Northampton, United Kingdom

“If Evan Harries Harries-Jones had lived for one more day, he would have completed half-a-century’s service as ophthalmic surgeon to the Northampton General Hospital…”1

Born in 1874 in Rhyl, in the county of Flintshire, Wales, Harries-Jones was proud of being Welsh and was fluent in the Welsh language.2 He commenced his medical education in 1890 at the age of sixteen by becoming an apprentice to Dr. J. Medwyn Hughes3 of Ruthin in Denbighshire, Wales. He studied medicine in Edinburgh and Dublin and received his MD in 1900 from Edinburgh University.1

Figure 1. Ophthalmic department foundation stone. Photo from author’s collection.

Moving to the Birmingham and Midland Eye Hospital, he acquired experience in eye surgery. He held several resident posts there, which helped him develop his clinical judgment in ophthalmic practice. In 1901 he was appointed honorary ophthalmic surgeon to Northampton General Infirmary (the name changed to Northampton General Hospital in 1903).4 As there were no ophthalmology beds at the hospital, he had to build up the eye department from scratch. To avoid confusion with another Northampton Infirmary doctor, A.H. Jones, Evan hyphenated his name to Harries-Jones.

Soon after his appointment in 1901 he presented a paper titled “The treatment of corneal ulcers with hypopyon” and became the next honorary secretary of the local branch of the British Medical Association.5 He greatly expanded the number of inpatient and outpatient ophthalmic cases.3 He soon found that the accommodations provided for the eye department were insufficient for the increasing workload. A grateful patient provided a purpose-built ophthalmic outpatient department, which was opened in 1924 and named the Singlehurst Block in recognition of this benefactor.3

Figure 2. 439 Wellingborough Road, residence of Harries-Jones. Photo from author’s collection.

Another development occurred in 1927 when a Haab magnet was purchased to remove metal splinters from the eye so that patients did not have to be sent to Birmingham on a round trip of about 100 miles.3 A few years later, in 1930, Thomas Singlehurst again provided funds to build a new inpatient ophthalmic department, which was formally opened in 1931 by King George V. It was in those buildings that Harries-Jones did his “fine work.”1,2 He published cases of congenital ocular lesions, paralysis of both internal recti with slight ptosis, the relation of glaucoma to thrombosis of retinal veins, and the advisability of early operative intervention for strabismus convergens.6,7,8,9

Harries-Jones had developed from his youth an interest in Freemasonry and held Freemason membership for all his adult life. He attained high honours, as Provincial Prior of the Order of Knights Templar, and then in 1933 Deputy Grand Master for the province of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. In 1944, he was promoted to Provincial Grand Master for the same province.2,10 During the First World War, he served with the Northamptonshire Medical Volunteer Corps, and in 1917 was made a temporary major.11 He was a founding member of the Oxford Ophthalmological Congress and a member of several other prestigious societies.11-13 His main pastime outside of medicine was reading, especially history, and he held memberships in the Royal Archaeological Institute and the Rotary Club. He died while still in office on 7 June 1951, one day short of fifty years of service to Northampton General Hospital. A colleague, Dr. Waddy, said, “In fifty years of distinguished work he saw the enormous development of his department…”3 Likewise, the British Journal of Opthalmology’s obituary commented: “In his company barriers of age and rank were swept aside, and his laugh resounded with human generosity. All his colleagues will treasure the memory of their association with Harries-Jones.”1


The author would like to thank the Museum and Archive Service at Northampton General Hospital for their help in providing information for this paper.


  1. Obituary: E.H. Harries-Jones. 1951. British Journal of Ophthalmology, 35, no. 8 (1951):508. https://bjo.bmj.com/content/bjophthalmol/35/8/508.full.pdf Accessed 24th February 2021.
  2. Obituary: E.H. Harries-Jones, M.D. British Medical Journal 1 (1951):1516-7. https://www.bmj.com/content/1/4721/1516.1 Accessed 24th February 2021.
  3. Obituary: Dr. J. Medwyn Hughes. British Medical Journal 2, no. 3336 (Dec 6, 2914):1083-1084. https://www.bmj.com/content/2/3336/1083.6 Accessed 16th August 2022.
  4. Waddy, FF. A History of Northampton General Hospital 1743 to 1948. Northampton: Guildhall Press, 1974.
  5. NA. British Medical Journal 2, no. 2125 (1901):829. https://www.bmj.com/content/2/2125/829.2 Accessed 16th August 2022.
  6. Harries-Jones, EH. “Cases of congenital ocular lesions,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 6 (Sect Study Dis Child) (1913):211. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2007060/pdf/procrsmed00876-0219a.pdf Accessed 11th March 2021.
  7. Harries-Jones, EH. “Case of paralysis of both internal recti with slight ptosis,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 6(Sect Study Dis Child) (1913):211-212. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2007060/pdf/procrsmed00876-0219a.pdf Accessed 11th March 2021.
  8. Harries-Jones, EH. “The relation of glaucoma to thrombosis of retinal veins, with notes of cases,” British Medical Journal, 1, no. 2142 (1902): 132-133. https://www.bmj.com/content/1/2142/132 Accessed 11th March 2021.
  9. Harries-Jones, EH. Discussion [Question 1], in: Inglis Pollock, WB. “The advisability of early operation in strabismus convergens,” British Medical Journal, 2, no. 3175 (1921): 734-735. https://www.bmj.com/content/2/3175/727 Accessed 11th March 2021.
  10. Freemasonry in Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. Masonic History of the Province of Northamptonshire and Huntingdonshire. https://www.northants-huntsmasons.org.uk/index.php/about-freemasonary/history Accessed 24th February 2021.
  11. NA. Supplement to the London Gazette, 15 August 1917, 8326. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/30232/supplement/8326/data.pdf Accessed 30th October 2021.
  12. List of Members. Archaeological Journal. 1949. https://archaeologydataservice.ac.uk/archives/view/archjournal/volumes.cfm Accessed 16th August 2022.
  13. List of Past Presidents on Website of Rotary Club. https://www.rotary-ribi.org/clubs/past-presidents.php?ClubID=429 Accessed 16th August 2022.

MR. FREDERICK O’DELL studied Family and Community History with the Open University and holds a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science. He is an Associate Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He has written on library use in the NHS, Dr Gosset’s icterometer, early Northamptonshire neonatal paediatrics, invention of the lithotrite, smallpox vaccination in Northampton, and William Harvey.

Spring 2024



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