JOSEPH CUNDELL: (c.1750-c.1810) We know lots about Joseph Cundell, Apothecary and Surgeon, and his family. We know, amongst much else, that he was responsible for the care of the paupers in the Workhouse (in Charnham Street).
The late 18th century was still a time of smallpox – and the only way to try to prevent it was to inoculate people with small
doses of the pox from people who recovered from the illness – so-called "variolation" or "inoculation". Variolation had started in Turkey as early as 1716, and had become fairly standard
practice across Europe by the late 18th century. It was, however, a very hazardous procedure, as many people developed the illness itself as a result of the attempted prevention.
There is a wonderful extract from the Marlborough Journal of November 1771, which sheds a little light on the way medicine was practiced
in the 1770s (see panel on right).
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Balsom House was probably Balsdon House – the large moated manor house at Balsdon which was demolished c.1820. It may be cynical
to note that the commodious house may have been for the greater satisfaction of Joseph Cundell rather than for his patients! To put his inoculation fee of "Three Guineas and an Half" into perspective, it should be noted that at this time a teacher might have earned 10 shillings per week.
The hazardous procedure of variolation was revolutionised by the hugely important discovery by Dr Edward Jenner (a country surgeon in
Berkeley, Gloucestershire), who found that he could use inoculations from people who had cowpox (a much lesser illness than smallpox) to successfully prevent smallpox. His initial experiments with
the technique of "vaccination" took place in 1796, and he published his successful results in 1798. This was a turning point in the prevention of this widespread illness.
There is some evidence that Edward Jenner and Joseph Cundell were personal friends – and certainly we know of the very early use
of vaccination in Hungerford by Joseph Cundell, when he vaccinated the paupers in the Workhouse in 1799. There is no doubt that his action reduced enormously the incidence of smallpox in Hungerford.
In 1794 there had been a smallpox outbreak in Hungerford. There were 23 deaths between 31 July (when a soldier called Thomas Kindler
died in the Pest House), and 26 October (when the parish clerk Richard Shepherd died). The Vestry Book records that the smallpox had been
brought into the town by a regiment from Ireland.
Following this outbreak, Joseph Cundell introduced first innoculation (about 1,000 people of all ages were innoculated, "not above 2 or
3 of which number died". By 1799 Cundell had introduced vaccination (with cowpox).
Joseph Cundell married Jane Hiller by licence in 1769, and they had eight children: William (14.9.1770); Mary (28.2.1772); George Bathe
(12.11.1773); John (23.6.1775); Joseph (6.6.1777); Barbara (18.6.1779); James (15.4.1783); and Sarah (3.2.1786). An entry in the 1792 edition of the Universal British Directory shows Joseph Condell
(sic!), who was presumably the same man.
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burials register goes on to show that Joseph Cundell "from Inkpen" died in 1813, aged 67 years, and that Jane Cundell "from Froxfield" died in 1825 aged 74 years. If these are the
same couple, they were born in 1746 and 1751 respectively. It is possible that Jane went on to live in the Somerset Hospital after Joseph's death, but this needs to be checked.
MATTHEW LODER SMITH: (c.1745-c.1833) Matthew Loder Smith was born (? in Hungerford) around the
year 1745. We know, largely from various deeds relating to 25 High Street, that he was the third son of Sam Smith, grandson of Matthew Loder, of Stroud, Lacock, Wiltshire. In his will dated
31.5.1762, Matthew Loder left his manor in Hungerford to Sam Smith, husband of his daughter Frances, to go after Sam's death to Sam's son Loder Smith. In 1771, a document records that Sam
Smith renounced his right to this in favour of his own son, Matthew Loder Smith, Surgeon in Hungerford. His family were clearly land owners of some order, and there are records of extensive estates
The first definite record in Hungerford is the 1781 Commoners List, when the name of Matthew Smith appears as occupant of the "house late Gleeds", which is now
Faringdon House, 128 High Street, the house he was to occupy probably until his death around 1832. There are consistent records in both the Quit Rent Rolls, and Enclosure Award map.
In 1792, the Universal British Directory records Matthew Loder Smith as "surgeon" in the town, and a document dated October
1798 records that a John Hunt Watts paid 5/- to Matthew Loder Smith, Surgeon, to rent 25 High Street.
Further investigation of 25 High Street shows that he let it to John Pearce in 1811, and later sold it to John Watts, Esq., of Ham, in
1818 for £5450, including eight cottages in Browns Yard.
It is possible that John Pearce was related to the Pearce's into which Thomas Major later married. His wife's name was Lucy.
Although he owned much property in and around Hungerford, he continued to live at 128 High Street. It is interesting to note that this
property continued to be associated with the health care in Hungerford for a long time after his death.
Medicine in Hungerford:
- The Early Days
>The Start of Organised Medicine
- The 19th Century and Medical Nepotism
- The Early 1900s
- District Nursing
- The First World War
- Between the Wars
- The Second World War
- The Coming of the N.H.S.
- The 1950s
- The Healthcare Team
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