One of the first doctors in Belfast to offer their support to the Poor House by providing medical care to the poor for free was Dr Robert Stevenson. Dr Stevenson was called on to set broken legs and treat cancers in the Poor House.
Dr Stevenson was kept busy with work in the Poor House in addition to his private patients. On 9th July 1776 he was called to the Poor House twice. First, to treat Timothy Gilvin, a native of Dublin and a tailor by trade, who had broken his leg. The Belfast Charitable Society purchased a yard of linen and a sheet of pasteboard to bandage the leg. His second visit to the Poor House that day was for one Daniel Gilis who had dislocated his shoulder. Once it was in place Dr Stevenson discharged him. However, the Society gave him 2s 2d to tide him over as he would not have been able to return to work immediately.
Dr Stevenson was also a pioneer in inoculations against small pox. As early as October 1777, with small pox prevalent in Belfast, the Poor House Board requested that the children resident in the house be inoculated and ‘request Dr Stevenson to do the needful in this matter.’ Robert was held in high esteem both in the Poor House and in wider Belfast. When the Belfast Charitable Society were informed of the news that the army intended to take over the Poor House as a barracks due to the disturbances in the run up to the 1798 rebellion it was Dr Stevenson who was approached by the military.
During his time on the Board, he was appointed as an agent to sell plots in Clifton Street Cemetery. When he died in 1808, he had served the Poor House for 26 years, and was himself interred in the Charitable Society’s graveyard. In his will he did not forget about the Poor House and left £1000 to the Society.