Exploring Southwark and discovering its history
The building now home to an attractive looking bar at 325 Camberwell New Road called The Old Dispensary did indeed used to be a dispensary, for dispensing medicines that is. It was founded in 1862 to provide medical care for those whose earnings were under a certain level. Organised more like an insurance scheme than a system of free healthcare, its members paid in small monthly sums.
The following comes from Ye Parish of Camberwell by W H Blanch, published in 1877.
"The Camberwell Provident Dispensary, of which R. A. Gray, Esq., J. P., is president, was established in 1862 for the purpose of assisting the poor within a radius of one and three quarters miles of St. Giles's Church, and at the same time encouraging habits of forethought and independence. The members, whose earnings must not exceed 30 shillings per week, pay small sums, from 2d. to 8d., monthly, and receive during illness medical attendance and medicine. There are more than 6,000 members, and as much as £600 in monthly pence was received by the dispensary during 1873, whilst about 7,000 visits are annually made to the poor at their own homes, and about 14,000 consultations are held annually at the dispensary.
During 1873, 156 married women were attended in their confinement, and about 320 operations performed by the dentist, Mr. Thomson, of Denmark Hill. "