You are in [Themes] [Medicine in Hungerford] [The Start of Organised Medicine]

The start of formal training of doctors:

The first records of any sort of formal training of doctors in this country date from the mid- to late- 1600's. For example, the Hospital of St. Bartholomew in London began to arrange teaching of medicine in 1660. It was more than a century later, however, that the study of the Art and Science of Medicine became generally accepted, and even then it was confined very largely to the large cities.

The profession of medicine as we now know it has only existed since the nineteenth century. Before that time, society was served by a variety of healers, usually described as physicians, surgeons and apothecaries.


In the 17th and 18th centuries, the physicians were a small and elite group of learned men, educated in the few universities. They practised in towns among the rich and influential, did not perform surgery or dispense drugs, and did not associate with the craftsmen and tradesmen who ministered to the medical needs of poorer and rural people.


Surgeons were craftsmen who were trained by apprenticeship, whilst apothecaries were tradesmen, who originally dispensed and sold drugs but who, in response to need, gradually took on the role of medical practitioner. Many of these apothecaries tended to travel from town to town to tout their skills and potions. Some of the "remedies" of the day had their basis in herbal concoctions, and to a large extent the doctors had to cope with illness by using themselves as the principal therapeutic agent: they treated their patients with relief and peace of mind - the real meaning of the word placebo (Latin - I will please). One must remember that many of our modern medications have their basis in herbal products – and it would be wrong to consider that these early apothecaries treatments lacked effect. On the contrary, good apothecaries would have been able to provide significant help for many ailments.


Apothecaries were so well established that during the period of "token" coinage in the 1650's and 1660's, Apothecaries and Barber Surgeons feature prominently amongst the "trades" who minted tokens.

Photo Gallery:


Charnham Close, formerly The Union Workhouse

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john sherwood memorial
john sherwood memorial

Memorial to John Sherwood in St. Lawrence's Church

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john sherwood memorial john sherwood memorial
vaccination with cowpox
vaccination with cowpox

Vaccination with Cowpox – an early cartoon Published by the Anti-Vaccine Society

vaccination wit...
vaccination with cowpox vaccination with cowpox
1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell(a)
1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell(a)

Mr Cundell's advertisement for inoculation, in the Marlborough Journal, 1771

1771 Marlboroug...
1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell(a) 1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell(a)
1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell
1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell

Mr Cundell's advertisement for inoculation, in the Marlborough Journal, 1771

1771 Marlboroug...
1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell 1771 Marlborough Journal - Cundell

- Memorial to John Sherwood in St. Lawrence's Church

- Charnham Close, formerly The Union Workhouse

- Vaccination with Cowpox – an early cartoon Published by the Anti-Vaccine Society

- Marlborough Journal 16th Nov 1771

- Mr Cundell's advertisement for inoculation, 1771

The early doctors in Hungerford, c1570-1810:

We know only little about the early doctors in Hungerford, but gradually a framework is being built up which at least shows us that even in this quiet country village, there were apothecaries and surgeons here from these early times.

JOHN CAPILEERIS (c.1570-1624):

It is unclear whether this man, a French Physician, was ever a resident in Hungerford, although his burial is recorded in 1624. The number and style of the burials at the end of 1624 suggest that this was a time of the plague locally, and it is possible that he was simply passing through the town, maybe en route to London or Bath.

THOMAS LOVELACKE (c.1570-1638):

Information on this 17th century surgeon comes from his will, part of which reads: "All my instruments of what sort soever they be which do in any way belong unto Chirurgerie als Surgery and which now in the dwelling house of my brother Roger Lovelacke In Hungerford in my lodging chamber there." Roger Lovelacke's wife was known by the irresistible name of Obedience!

WILLIAM STANTON (c.1625-c.1690):

The 1648 Manorial Records show that William Stanton, apothecary, was admitted by the Hocktide Court in 1648. He was married in 1652 to Hanna Marshall, and they had one child baptised in Hungerford, a daughter Joan, in 1653. He is listed as a commoner in 1680, and in the QRR of 1676 for land on the west side of the High Street (now 7 & 8 High Street). In the Hocktide Court book for 1682, however, he (and another) are reported as "householders within this borough but not freesuitors, and have refused to pay the duty on this day called a headpenny according to custom. Therefore they have forfeited the right of common and fishing." (His wife Hanna was baptised 1625, d/o Henry Marshall.)


James Pearson was born 1639, and was probably the James Pearson who graduated B.A. from the University of Oxford in 1659. He was engaged as tutor to the family of Bulstrode Whitelocke of Chilton Lodge in about the year 1665, at the age of 26 years. He seems to have dealt with family illnesses, and became a valued friend of the family. It is unlikely that he practised medicine in any general sense, and indeed may have taken, up the study of it only while in Whitelocke's employ. The Whitelocke family seem to have believed a lot in what today would be called alternative medicine, or, more accurately, since Whitelocke also invited some of the most eminent and enlightened physicians of his day to Chilton Lodge, "complementary medicine". Pearson would then carry out their instructions, and presumably acquired considerable skills this way. He was buried in Hungerford church in 1692, where a memorial stone was raised to him - Jacobus Pearson, Medicus.

GEORGE CLEMPSON (c.1625-c.1685):

George Clempson is described as "apothecary" in a deed which he signed in 1677. He paid quit rent for a house on the east side of the High Street (QRR 1676), and he witnessed a local person's will in 1685, but he left no will of his own (or if he did, it is not extant). His name appears in a list of commoners in 1680, the house which he occupied was later demolished to make room for the G.W.R. bridge. He was admitted by the Hocktide Court in 1672 as Mr. Clempson, paying an admission fee of 5s, which entitled him to follow his trade or calling in the town. Like many other apothecaries and physicians of the day, it seems that he came to the town from outside. He died pre 1690. He was almost certainly the father of Thomas Clempson, mentioned below.


A barber-surgeon who treated an injured soldier in 1688. His son was Robert Patient, Constable in 1705. The family moved away from Hungerford in the 1720s. (This information kindly emailed Mar 2011 by Derek Patience, also offering transcriptions of Duchy of Lancaster Rentals & Surveys).

JOHN SHERWOOD (1666-1730):

Information on this "Physick" comes from a memorial in the south isle of St. Lawrence's church. He was born at Gilbornes in the parish of Sutton Courtney, Berkshire, on 28th July 1666. His wife Elizabeth, daughter of Nicholas Pottinger of Reading was born on 9th February 1669. They had at least two children, because the memorial describes John Sherwood (born 1701, died 13th March 1754 aged 53 years), and their youngest son Thomas (born July 1705, and died 28th December 1708 aged three years). The son John (born 1701) became an apothecary (see below). John Sherwood died in Hungerford on 25th May 1730, at the age of 63 years, and his wife lived a further two years, dying 30th April 1732 at the same age of 63 years. John Sherwood's memorial describes him as "Batchelor in Physick".

THOMAS CLEMPSON (c.1675-1724):

Thomas Clempson was almost certainly the son of George Clempson, the local apothecary mentioned above. Thomas followed George after an interval (possibly during his minority) as freesuitor by right of the same property occupied previously by his father. Parish records describe Thomas Clempson as an apothecary. His wife was called Mary, and they had six children: Mary (1700); Thomas (1701); Elizabeth (1704); John (1709); Martha (1713); and Francis (1715). He was buried on 13th April 1724.

MRS CLEMPSON (c1725/6):

The Hungerford Overseers of the Poor Accounts for 1725/26 include the following entries for "Mrs Clempson", who, one may suspect, is the widow of Thomas Clempson above:

Pd Mrs Clempson for Bleeding Sarah Doller twice 00 01 00
Pd Mrs Clempson for Physic for Sarah Doller 00 04 00

MR HUNT (c1725/26):

The same Hungerford Overseers of the Poor Accounts for 1725/26 include the following entry:

Pd Mr Hunt Chirurgeon for cureing Tho: Holmes 02 08 00

JOHN SHERWOOD (1701-1754):

John Sherwood was the son of John Sherwood, Physick, and is described as apothecary.

It is interesting to note that the trend for sons to follow fathers in the profession of medicine is already becoming established in Hungerford.

RICHARD BLAKE (1739-1770):

Richard Blake died at the tender age of 31 years, on 3rd February 1770; there is a memorial in the church. No occupation is given on the memorial, but his will, (dated 1st February 1770) which is very brief, leaving everything to his wife Mary, describes him as surgeon. There is no record of his baptism in Hungerford.

The 1792 edition of the Universal British Directory mentions two "surgeons" in Hungerford, Edward Duke and William Lucas.

EDWARD DUKE (1731-c.1810):

Edward Duke was born at Hungerford on 12th September 1731, the son of George Duke of Andover. He married Fanny (Francis) Field (daughter of John and Anne Field. Through her mother Fanny was the granddaughter of Edward Hanson of Hungerford, from whom she inherited lands.

The baptism register shows that Edward and Fanny had nine children: Sarah (4.9.1772); George (13.2.1774); Jane (31.3.1775); Mary (15.11.1776); Edward (24.9.1779); Lucy (15.6.1781); Fanny (20.9.1782); Susanna (26.8.1784); and Robert (28.10.1786). Several died at a young age, others moved away from Hungerford, including the only surviving son, also named Edward, who inherited the family property. One who remained was Sarah, who continued to occupy the family house until her death, upon which it was sold.

WILLIAM GEORGE LUCAS (c.1750-c.1810):

The 1792 Universal British Directory refers to William Lucas, surgeon. There is as yet no further information on him, although it is possible that he was related to William (a butler in Hungerford) and Mary Ann Lucas, who had a son William George, born 19.1.1864.

Curing cancer with toads (1768):

Around this time, Rev. Gilbert White of Selbourne, was writing copious letters about his observation and researches into natural history, wildlife, and medicine. One of his letters, dated 27th July 1768, mentions a lady near Hungerford attempting to cure cancer with toads! To read more about this interesting and unusual topic, click here. It should be pointed out that we cannot be absolutely sure that the letter refers to Hungerford, Berkshire.

JOSEPH CUNDELL (c.1750-c.1810):

We know lots about Joseph Cundell, Apothecary and Surgeon, and his family.

Joseph Cundell was born in 1748, the only child of William and Sarah (nee Bathe). Willam Cundell was born about 1705, and in all probablitity he was the eldest son of William Cundell abd Barbara nee Green of Southwark, London, brewer (from Cundell Family History Book). In 1747 William was living at Sweedland Court, Little Tower Hill, Minories, and was known to be a collector of Customs in the Port of London in 1763.

Joseph Cundell was born in 1748, and in 1762 he was apprenticed to Edward Withers, Apothecary, of Newbury. On William Cundell's death in 1766, he left half his estate (including a brewhouse in Shoe Lane, St Andrews, Holborn, in trust with Edward Withers senior, Apothecary of Newbury, and Edward Withers junior, Surgeon of Newbury, to hold for the education of Joseph until he became of age. William Cundell's widow Sarah died in Hungerford 4 Feb 1803, and is buried at St Lawrence Church.

It is probable that Joseph's apprenticeship to Edward Withers, Apothecary of Newbury was because Joseph's aunt Jane had married John Marshall of Newbury wherre they lived. Joseph's cousin Jane, daughter of John Cundell by his first wife, also lived in Newbury, having married a Mr Long.

Joseph Cundell married Jane Hillier (entered in the Register as Hiller) by licence 16 Oct 1769, and they had eight children, all baptised at Hungerford: 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.

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: "Mr. Cundell, Surgeon at Hungerford, Berks, at the particular Request of many Friends, is induced to open Balsom-House for the Reception of Patients who intend to be inoculated; and flatters himself, that, from the very great success he has hitherto met with (having never lost a Patient out of the Numbers that have been under his Care), and his particular attention from what Subject and Constitution he takes the variolous Infection, he need no other Recommendation.

All who please to put themselves under his care, may depend on the best attendance. His terms are Three Guineas and an Half; Servants Two Guineas and an Half; The Money to be paid on admission. All Necessaries found, Wine and Linen excepted.

N.B. Balsom is a large commodious House, pleasantly situated, where, for the greater satisfaction of his patients, Mr. Cundell constantly resides."

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).

 The burials register goes on to show that Joseph Cundell "from Inkpen" died 24 Aug 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.

See also: Cundell Family

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 around Hungerford.

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.

A "female quack", 1795:

Despite the support of several well qualified doctors in the town, it seems that even as late as 1795 use was still being made of unqualified "quacks".

The Reading Mercury of 20th April 1795 includes "On Thursday night, a little girl between three and four years of age, daughgter of Wm Coxhead of Hungerford, was much burnt, owing to her cloathes taking fire accidentally. The assistance of a female quack, was improvidentially called in who applied bacon, cut in slices, to the wounds. The child languished under the piercing agonies of its saline particles until Sunday evening when she died."

See also:

Medicine in Hungerford:

- The Early Days - from the 13th century

- The Start of Organised Medicine - from 1550 to c1830

- 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

- Local Hospitals (including more distant ones used by Hungerford residents)