Royal Humane Society. Recognising Bravery.

Royal Humane Society

Instituted 1774 and Incorporated by Royal Charter in 1959

Patron:  Her Majesty the Queen

President:  HRH Princess Alexandra, the Hon Lady Ogilvy KG GCVO

Registered Charity Number 231469

50/51 Temple Chambers
3/7 Temple Avenue
London EC4Y 0HP
Telephone : 020 7936 2942
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Notable Dates


Origins at Chapter Coffee House, St Paul's Churchyard, London. The founders, Dr William Hawes (1736-1808) and Dr Thomas Cogan (1736-1818), each invite 16 friends to form the "Humane Society for the recovery of persons apparently drowned." Among them is the playwright, Oliver Goldsmith.

12 July

First award made to Thomas Vincent, a waterman, for saving a child who'd fallen through a trapdoor into a drain leading into the Thames.


Silver medal introduced.


The Society known as the "Humane Society"


Bible given to everyone restored


King George III becomes first patron


Society known as "Royal Humane Society"


Electricity used in restoration procedures


Land in Hyde Park given by George III to the Society. An old farmhouse on the site is used to give medical treatment to the rescued.


Alexander I, Tsar of all the Russias, is awarded a gold medal for saving the life of a drowning peasant. He is the first foreigner to win the award.


Fothergillian Gold Medal essay prize instituted. To be awarded for the best proposal for "the prevention of shipwreck and the preservation of lives of shipwrecked mariners".


British and Foreign Bible Society make an annual gift of 50 Bibles to be given to people saved from committing suicide.


The Receiving House, where first aid could be given, is built in Hyde Park, close to the Serpentine. Architect: J.B. Bunning. Foundation Stone laid by the first Duke of Wellington.


Introduction of Bronze Medal


Grace Darling and her father, William, are presented with specially struck gold medals for their rescue of shipwrecked sailors and passengers off the coast of Northumberland.


Queen Victoria authorises all the Society's medals to be worn on the right breast.


Stanhope Gold Medal instituted. Captain Matthew Webb is the first holder.


"In Memoriam" awards are introduced. Medals were awarded for a time, but from 1938 they became Testimonials on Vellum.


“Stories of the Royal Humane Society” by Frank Mundell published by the Sunday Schools Union.


Receiving House in Hyde Park is damaged by enemy action.


Receiving House is demolished.


Society is incorporated by Royal Charter.


Eligibility for the Stanhope Gold Medal is extended to the Humane Societies of Australasia (founded 1874), New South Wales (1877), Canada (1894), New Zealand (1898), and Liverpool (1939).


The Society's 200th anniversary is celebrated at St Paul's Cathedral. HM the Queen attends the reception afterwards at Haberdashers' Hall.

HRH Princess Alexandra becomes President


Dame Mary Donaldson, a Committee member since 1968, becomes Lord Mayor of London.


Approximately 1,336 silver medals and 11,230 bronze medals awarded since 1774


The Police Medal is introduced for the bravest police officer of the year. The first winner is PC Wayne Martin of Bedfordshire Police who pulled an injured woman from a burning car.

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