Jeffrey Green

Jeffrey is a historian
based south of London

178 : Two Chinese doctors in London: James Hochee (1828-1896) and Ping Win Lam (1893-1981)

Won Fung ‘a young Chinaman, from Hong Kong’ was reported in the Belfast News-Letter of 16 August 1852 as winning the first prize in the junior division of the botanical class of Professor Balfour, and two days later the Aberdeen Journal indicated he was a student at Edinburgh University. A graduate in medicine in 1855 he is regarded as the first Chinese to study at a British university. But James Hochee at University College London was not known – but he was Anglo-Chinese. His father John Ho Chee (1789-1869) lived most of his life in Surrey, married an English woman, and had two sons: a doctor in London and an army officer. His six daughters married solicitors, land-owners, and sons of doctors. Born in Guangzhou (Canton) he probably worked for the East India Company. He came to England in 1819 and married Charlotte Mole (1805-1882) in Braughing, Hertfordshire on 9 January 1823. Two children were born there with the second christened in Lingfield, Surrey where he moved in 1825. James Hochee was sent to Epsom College, a private boarding school with a reputation for producing doctors. The sponsor was his father’s friend and employer, John Elphinstone whose properties were bequeathed to Hochee in 1854 – four farms and a substantial house near East Grinstead. James qualified M.R.C.S. in 1854, and married the daughter of Lingfield’s curate in 1864. Thirty years later the Medical Directory 1893 (page 196) had his address as Park Gate, East Finchley and noted he was the medical officer at the British National Hospital for Paralysed and Epileptics, and had been the surgeon for the Metropolitan Police’s S Division (which was Finchley).  Dr Hochee had three daughters and a son – John Elphinstone Hochee (1865-1908) – who died, unmarried, in South Africa. As his brother, who served as John Milton in the Madras Native Infantry from 1846 to 1855, had died unmarried in 1883 the surname died out but the family kept Hochee as a forename. John Hochee became a paint manufacturer, and when declared bankrupt in 1857 the Gazette and other publications gave his address in Lingfield. The London Anti-oxide Paint Company had been in New Bridge Street, Blackfriars. The Standard reported he was ‘a Chinese, but trading in England’ and that his partners had fleeced him. Dr Hochee died in December 1896, the funeral service being at Holy Trinity, East Finchley. His widow Emma nee Fry inherited £9337.

Ping Win Lam was one of five brothers born in Hong Kong. His father was Chinese consul in Samoa, convinced that education was essential and his sons studied accountancy, engineering, law, architecture and medicine. Ping – who was to be widely known as Philip William Lamb – started medical studies at Edinburgh University aged seventeen and completed his M.D. in 1917, aged 24. He published two articles in the medical press (‘Care of Intercranial Haemorrage without Symptoms of Compression’ and ‘Rosacea successfully treated by mixed Staphlyloccus Vaccine’ in the Lancet and the British Medical Journal) in 1916 and 1918. As soon as he graduated he worked at the North Evington Hospital (now Royal Infirmary) in Leicester and at the military hospital where he dealt with war wounded.  All medical students ‘walked the wards’ so his patients had been numerous. And Dr Lamb became a senior house surgeon at West Bromwich Hospital. He moved to London and established a practice at 62 East India Dock Road where Chinese sailors had found accommodation when waiting for employment. The new practice was announced in The Times on 26 May 1920. At this time he officially changed his name to Lamb. In 1927 he relocated his surgery to 82 West India Dock Road and remained there until bombed out in 1940. He was then based at 90 West India Dock Road – until 1968. He was active during the Blitz, staying in the district overnight.

He married a Scottish girl in 1939 and their daughter Jane (my informant) was born in the London Hospital. Dr Lamb was well known within the medical profession in east London, among the often very poor Chinese sailors and their families, the growing number of restaurant owners, and elitist people including the Chinese ambassador and his staff (from the 1930s into 1970), scholar Joseph Needham of Cambridge University, and those linked to Toynbee Hall. Having been brought up as a Christian, Dr Lamb was an enthusiastic performer at the church organ. His reputation among Chinese people who appreciated his medical skills, knowledge of the Chinese language and culture, and humanitarian views led them to visit Dr Lamb at his Hampstead Garden Suburb home. He died shortly before his 88th birthday in June 1981. Probate documents indicate his estate was worth £69,012. The old Chinatown of Limehouse had been swept away but numerous families – Chinese, Jewish, etc – recalled him with considerable respect.

There are descendants of the Hochees in Lingfield, Surrey and his widow’s grave near the collegiate church contains a daughter who died from tuberculosis and Lieutenant John Hochee. A pair of cottages were built, a charitable reminder of this family. The Chinese in Britain were not all laundry operators or owners of restaurants.

Thanks to Jane Lamb, Janet Bateson, and Guy Duncan who researched ‘The Lives of John Hochee and John Fullerton Elphinstone’, (private publication, 2003). Dr Hochee’s father is detailed in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.