Dr Stretton I presume book cover image

The Stretton Family Background

The three surgeons of the Stretton family, Samuel, Lionel and John Weston Stretton dominated the medical history of Kidderminster from 1856 until the Second World War. They made life-changing improvements to medical conditions in the town and, in the case of Lionel Stretton, have a national reputation for the introduction of "tincture of iodine" into the surgeon's weapons against infection.

Samuel, the founder of the dynasty, came to Kidderminster in 1856 after serving in the Crimean War. He held positions among honorary staff of the infirmary for the rest of his life. He was medical officer for many years at the workhouse and three times President of the Infirmary. He held a strong belief in the improvements for general health and took up the challenge of treating the many conditions presented by the poor by visiting the workhouse daily. He was also responsible for the environmental improvement that came with clean water. New water works in the town were formed as a direct consequence of Samuelʼs observations and lobbying.

John "Lionel" Stretton, the son of Samuel, returned to Kidderminster in 1882 after qualification. He was assistant to his father as medical officer to the workhouse for some years. He was President of the infirmary for 14 successive years from 1924. A man of boundless energy, he is a figure of national importance in surgery for pioneering the introduction of "tincture of iodine" in the UK. He was also responsible for various items of 'aseptic furniture' which would be familiar even to today's surgeons. Following his training at Bart's hospital in London, he worked in Kidderminster for 56 years, undertaking over 40,000 operations and promoting healthcare for working people.

John Weston Stretton was the son of Lionel, and educated at Cambridge University, he served in the First World War. He completed his training as surgeon in 1921, when he returned to Kidderminster. From then until his death he was a member of honorary medical staff at the infirmary. He was responsible for pioneering radium treatment in the town to treat cancer patients. The importance of Johnʼs work transformed the health of the town.

Books about the History of the Stretton Family

Two books have been published in 2012 chronicling the lives of the three Stretton surgeons. The one – “Dr Stretton I presume?” was written by local Kidderminster historian, Nigel Gilbert. The other “Memoirs of the Iodine Surgeon” is an autobiography of Lionel Stretton that was edited and published by his grandson Chris Stretton. Please see below for details to purchase the books.

When both Nigel and Christopher started to research their respective tasks each became amazed by what was revealed. The hundred years of service to the medical needs of the inhabitants of Kidderminster and District provided a microcosm of the social history and social needs created by the industrial revolution and the growth of the National Health Service. In passing it allowed reflection on the impact of Florence Nightingale and changing nursing methods during the period; the design and patenting of a funeral bier to provide careful dignity to those being buried; and the discovery by Lionel of the life saving properties of ‘tincture of iodine’.

In his will, Antony Stretton made provision for the memory of these three surgeons to be honoured. Whilst he was aware of their skills and important contribution to local needs, his general intentions had to be interpreted by his executors to allow the production of the books, the development of the Stretton Archive and Web Site, and the temporary exhibition created at Kidderminster Carpet Museum (see links).

The lives of these three men provide wonderful examples of what can be achieved by determination and commitment. Whilst it may be that had they not done so other men or women may have performed the same tasks, we can see in their lives a continuity of endeavour with immense achievement. It may be that their lives provide role models for others now entering the caring professional particularly as doctors and surgeons. A good doctor is not just a good professional, he is a vital member of a vital community where the talents that he has been given can improve the lot of the members of the community in a way not given to many.

Further Links to Information about the Stretton Family

You will find more information about this family by following the links to ‘The Virtual Tour’ and the ‘JLS Website’.

To purchase copies of these books please email either This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit the John Lionel Stretton website.

memoirs of the iodine surgeon cover page

Registered Address

Strettons of Kidderminster Ltd
Registered address: Tythe House, 20-21 The Tything