Gate of Virtue, Caius College, 1892
Wilson went up to Cambridge in 1891 to study Natural Sciences, gaining his degree in 1895. He went on to study medicine. His rooms were above the Gate of Virtue. The master noted that the nick name ‘Ginger’ was constantly trumpeted from below his windows!
Wilson’s room at Caius College, undated
Wilson’s room was full of things he collected on his walks around Cambridge - natural history specimens, rocks, feathers, birds being dissected or stuffed, drawings and sketches, - fellow students called it a ‘ regular museum’.
Cambridge Backs, Easter 1993
Wilson enjoyed sketching his fellow students – here we see Ada and Longun reading. He was a typical undergraduate, being in the thick of high spirited pranks, rowing for the College, but he was also respected by his peers for his loyalty and moral values.
Sparrowhawk shot at Madingley, Cambridge, 1895
It was common to sketch animals and birds when they were dead but Wilson became less and less satisfied with this method, and whilst at Cambridge started to experiment with sketching birds and plants when they were still alive.
Early Purple Orchid, Madingley Woods, Cambridge, 1895
Wilson enjoyed long rambles out in the meadows and woods around Cambridge sketching live wildlife. He was also a keen fisherman, and using his naturalist’s instincts, even caught a famed trout that had eluded many.
Garden Warblers Nest, Granchester, Cambridge, May 20th 1895
Another example of one of Wilson’s sketches from nature, showing the benefits of painting a nest in situ, rather than taking it back to College to draw. This was executed in Wilson’s extra year at Cambridge.
Wilson at Cambridge, 1894
Wilson passed his exams with flying colours and wanted to go on to St George’s Hospital, London. He wrote to his father ‘ what I am anxious to get on to is the practical part of Med. and Surgery.’ But he was persuaded to stay at College for another year for more study.
23 Delamere Terrace, West London, September 1896
Wilson started his ‘real work’ (as he put it) at St George’s Hospital, London, in October 1895. He lodged in Delamere Terrace. Near Paddington. As a country person who loved the outdoors, this kind of environment made him feel very claustrophobic.
Self Portrait, about 1895
Wilson thought deeply about spiritual things, and tending the sick gave him more opportunity for reflection. His father influenced his scientific mind but he discussed ‘the teaching power of sickness’ with his mother.
Small red ant, Delamere Terrace, London, September 7th 1896
Wilson spent long hours studying anatomy, physiology, and surgery, but he found time to play football for the hospital and also to row. But he still found time to sketch - no plant or animal or insect was too small to capture his interest.
Caterpillar in Regents Park, on the path, August 31st 1896
Wilson would walk to his studies at St Georges, then at Hyde Park Corner, often taking detours through the parks, drawing wildlife along the way. He would walk too to his patients in the Battersea slums.
Collared Pratincole, Zoological Gardens, London September 3rd 1896
When he had time, Wilson loved going to the Zoo, to sketch and paint the animals and birds. He struck up a friendship with the director who was later to be instrumental in Wilson’s going to Antarctica.
Tulip, February 1898
A garden flower possibly from a market stall – not a common subject as Wilson usually painted wild flowers - but this red tulip clearly interested him. He was working long hours, writing one day ‘ I was at the hospital from 9am to midnight, one accident after another’.
Epping Forest, May 1896
Wilson found the heat of a London spring stifling, and left the city whenever he could. He said London left him feeling like a "soda-water bottle in an oven". This may be why the flower is captioned by the place rather than its name!
Fly, London September 1896
Wilson moved to Battersea in 1896, based in the Caius Mission with the Warden and his wife. Here he did his midwifery practice spending long hours with little sleep with patients in the slums. He also ran youth work, and taught a Bible class.
Oriana Wilson, ne Souper, 1910
Wilson met Oriana Souper at the Caius Mission. She was a guest of the Warden’s wife. Wilson was so smitten he secretly stole down the stairs one night to hear her sing! She later took a post as matron at St James’ School, Cheltenham, marrying Wilson in 1901.
The General Hospital, Cheltenham, about 1890
Hard work and long hours took their toll. In March 1898 Wilson was diagnosed with TB, usually a killer in those days. He finally qualified as a medical Doctor in 1899, taking his first job in Cheltenham Hospital the following year.
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