Somerville Hastings

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Somerville Hastings, FRCS (4 March 1878 – 7 July 1967) was a British surgeon and Labour Party politician.[1]

Family and early life[edit]

The son of the Reverend H G Hastings, he was born in Warminster, Wiltshire.[2] He was educated at Wycliffe College (Gloucestershire), University College (receiving the gold and silver medals for botany) and the Middlesex Hospital, London.[1][2] He qualified as MRCS LRCP in 1902, FRCS in 1904 and MB (London) in 1908.[2]


On 19 October 1911 Hastings married Bessie Tuke (1881/2–1958), daughter of the architect William Tuke, they had two children.[1]

Working life[edit]

Hastings was Member of Parliament (MP) for Reading, in Berkshire, from 1923 to 1924, and from 1929 to 1931. He returned to the House of Commons at the 1945 general election as MP for Barking, holding the seat until his retirement at the 1959 general election.

Thora Silverthorne worked for Hastings as a nanny and went on to be secretary of the Socialist Medical Association.[3]

Hastings was founder President of the Socialist Medical Association (SMA) 1930-51.[4] He served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during the First World War, followed by work as an aural surgeon at the Middlesex Hospital. He was a Member of the London County Council for fourteen years. Edith Summerskill felt that the "idea of a National Health Service germinated in the hospitable atmosphere" of Hastings’ home.[5] He successfully proposed a resolution at the 1934 Labour Party Conference that the party should be committed to the establishment of a State Health Service.[6] He was a member of the Party's Medical Services sub-committee which produced the report A State Health Service which was accepted as the basis for the Party's policy.[7]


Somerville Hastings died at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, Reading, on 7 July 1967, aged 89.[8]


Hastings was the author of:

  • Toadstools at Home 1906
  • Wild Flowers at Home 1906
  • Alpine Plants At Home 1908
  • Summer Flowers Of The High Alps 1910
  • First Aid for the Trenches 1917
  • The Future of Medical Practice in England The Lancet 1928
  • Fabian Tracts no. 241 A National Physiological Minimum January 1934
  • The Future of Medical Practice: A Personal View 1942
  • The Development of the Health Services[9] February 1943 (and many other leaflets and tracts for the Socialist Medical Association)
  • The Family And The Social Services with Peggy Jay February 1965


  1. ^ a b c ODNB article by John Stewart, 'Hastings, Somerville (1878–1967)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 16 Feb 2016
  2. ^ a b c "Obituary: Somerville Hastings Former Labour MP". The Times. 8 July 1967. p. 12. 
  3. ^ "A pledge to remember Oxford's Spanish Civil War volunteers". Oxford Mail. 14 March 2014. Retrieved 1 April 2017. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ Stewart, John (1995). "Socialist Proposals for Health Reform in Inter-War Britain: the Case of Somerville Hastings". Medical History. 39: 338–357. doi:10.1017/s0025727300060105. PMC 1037003Freely accessible. PMID 7643673. Retrieved 14 November 2014. 
  6. ^ "Health Service debate". Labour Party. October 1934. Retrieved 30 June 2018. 
  7. ^ "A State Health Service". Labour Party. October 1934. Retrieved 30 June 2018. 
  8. ^ "Hastings, Somerville (1878 - 1967)". Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online. 11 August 2014. Retrieved 16 Feb 2017. 
  9. ^

External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Edward Cadogan
Member of Parliament for Reading
Succeeded by
Herbert Williams
Preceded by
Herbert Williams
Member of Parliament for Reading
Succeeded by
Alfred Bakewell Howitt
New constituency Member of Parliament for Barking
Succeeded by
Tom Driberg
Political offices
Preceded by
Richard Coppock
Chairman of the London County Council
Succeeded by
Charles Robertson