You can search the website from the Home Page

                                           Doctors and Surgeons

                                                  The 1700s

De Lawn Pridham was baptised at Ashburton in February 1693, the son of Petri.
Parish records

Likely siblings were:
Anne, bapt 1677
Peter, bapt 1678
John, bapt 1682
Richardus, bapt 1686
De Laune, bapt 1688
All recorded as the son/daughter of Peter or Petri.
Parish records

1705. Peter Pridham, chirurgeon, is named in a lease in connection of a moiety (half) of a close of land called Rowborough.
Ref 872A/PZ/23, Devon Heritage Centre, - accessed 06-03-2024

Delann Pridham of Ashburton married Elizabeth Woodford of the same in April 1719.
Exeter Cathedral marriage records

Ursula, the daughter of Mr Delawn Pridham, was baptised in September 1721. She was buried in November 1723, the daughter of Mrs Elizabeth Pridham, widow.
A Mrs Elizabeth Pridham, widow, had been buried in February.
Parish records

The National Archives hold a will for Delann Pridham of Ashburton, Chirurgeon. It was written in 1721 and is dated 29th August 1723.
In it he states that he is of 'sound mind memory and understanding and now bound on a voyage to the East Indies and the dangers of the seas being manifest have taken consideration thereof and have thought fit and doo publish and declare this my last will and testament...'
He made his wife Elizabeth his sole executrix, 'not doubting but that she will do my dear children justice'.
Ref PROB 11/592/418, National Archives,


May 14th 1741. William the son of William Ley is baptized.
Parish records

1752 A will dated 1750 and written by Francis Mallock of Chelson leaves one guinea (to buy a ring) to her sister Elizabeth, wife of William Ley of Ashburton, surgeon.
Devon Heritage Centre ref 48/13/6/1/3a-b

1757 A feoffment* and bond names William Ley, surgeon.
Devon Heritage Centre, 1757 ref 872A/PZ 2-3
* a deed, recording the sale of land or buildings. - Accessed 13-1-2015

1771 A lease concerning part of Sherrill, Widecombe in the Moor, names William Ley, surgeon.
Devon Heritage Centre ref

Notice for the creditors and legatees of
William Ley, surgeon, deceased, to come forward
London Gazette Issue 12642 26 April 1785, p209


1741 December. William, the son of Mr. Thomas Cooksley, was baptized.

Parish records

William Cooksley married Margaret Sparke 11th May 1766. Both were of the parish

1767 Willm Sparke, the son of Mr. Wm Cooksley and his wife Margaret, was baptised May 18th

1769  Elford Sparke, the son of Mr. Wm Cooksley and his wife Margaret, was baptized July 11th. He was buried on 30th December.

January 31st 1775 Thomas Sparke, the son of Mr. Wm Cooksley and Margaret, was baptized

Parish records

Surgeons listed in the Universal Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture:

William Cooksley

Henry Gervis

William Langworthy Sparke

James Mogridge

William Young

The Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce and Manufacture, late 1700s, vol2, p61

The Tucker family was prominent in the town for 6 generations. Starting from professional roots,
Moses Tozer, surgeon, died 1791 is the first name on the family vault.'
The Making of the Tombstone Survey. Ashburton Churchyard tombstone survey 1973 - 1981

Moses Tozer, surgeon, was buried 8 September 1791

Parish records


A will proved in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury dated February 1796 was written by Doctor John Sibthorp, MD and Regius Professor of Botany in the University of Oxford, Doctor of Physic.


                                                            Nicholas Tripe

1737 Nicholas Tripe of Ashburton, surgeon, is one of the plaintiffs in the case of Martyn v. Martyn.
National Archives Court of Chancery, 1737 ref C 11/2551/30

August 1738 Nicholas Tripe married Mrs. Hester Sowter.
December 11th 1739 John Sowter Tripe, the son of Nicholas, was baptized.
John Sowter Tripe, the son of Nicholas, was buried
February 1739.
Parish register
The fact that John appears to be baptized ten months after he was buried may seem bizarre, but u
ntil the Calendar Act of 1752, the year in England began officially on 25 March (Lady Day), even though there were celebrations in January. John's brief life was thus: baptized December 1739, alive January 1739 (we would say January 1740), buried February 1739 (we would say February 1740).
1752 was the first year in England to officially begin on 1 January.

In February 1748 Nicholas Tripe married Mrs Rebecca Yarde at Kingsteignton.

1752 John, the son of Nicholas and Rebecca, was baptized August 13th
Parish register
In his autobiography the Rev John Swete, born John Tripe, says that his father was Nicholas Tripe and his mother Rebecca Yard.
See John Swete under Famous Ashburtonians

'Mudge, like Bartlet in the north of England, had almost a small training school, as did his fellow Devonian Nicholas Tripe, surgeon of Ashburton, who between the years 1743 and 1783 had at least nine apprentices...*
...Tripe gives a detailed description of a careful dissection, and concludes that the state of the body was due to the pitch and tar-soaked cloths in which it was wrapped and not to any miraculous agency - a conclusion which shows a suitably dispassionately scientific approach..'
A Study of the English apothecary from 1660 - 1760, thesis submitted for Ph.D to the University of London 1979, Juanita Gordon Lloyd Burnby, p363

*The duty for ten apprentices was paid between 1751 and 1783:
John Philips 1751, William Marshall 1754, Thomas Land 1757, Will Cookesley 1758, William Brown 1760, Christopher Scarle (Searle?) 1762, Charles Caines 1769, Servington Savery 1770, James Magridge 1772 and Wm Neyle 1783.
Register of duties paid for Apprentices' Indentures 1710-1811

Mr Tripe is a very ingenious and observing surgeon..

In 1749 a body was discovered in a vault in Staverton, in a remarkable state of preservation. Dr Huxham wished to dissect the corpse, but in the end he was not able to attend, and the dissection was instead performed by Mr. Nicholas Tripe, a surgeon from Ashburton.

Letter from Mr Tripe to Dr Huxham,
Ashburton June 28 1750
'As it does not appear by the register of burials that any person has been deposited in this vault since October 15 1669, it is certain that a body has lain there upwards of fourscore years, yet when the vault was opened about four months ago, it was found as perfect in all its parts, as if but just interr'd. A winding sheet, which was as firm as if but just applied, inclosed it from head to foot; and two coarse linen cloths, dipp'd in a blackish substance like pitch, infolded the winding-sheet. The body thus protected was placed in an oaken coffin, on which, as it was always covered in water, was found a large stone and a log of wood, probably to keep it at the bottom.

Dr Huxham to Dr Stack
Simon Worth Esq., whose corps this is, died at Madrid, and was sent home in the manner described, and so buried...

Mr Tripe to Dr Huxham
July 9 1749, having in the first place remov'd the body, half-cover'd with water and mud, to a convenient part of the churchyard, divested it of its coverings and wash'd off the filth, I made an incision thro' the integuments and muscles of the left buttock...

Extracts of several letters from John Huxham, M D of Plymouth, FRS, and Mr Tripe, surgeon, at Ashburton in Devonshire, concerning a body found in a vault in a church at Staverton in that county, communicated by Thomas Stack MDFRS (January 1st 1753) p253ff.
The book can be read for free at - Accessed 22-5-2014

November 30th 1780 Nicholas Tripe, bachelor, married Grace Palk, by licence.
Parish register

1783 Nicholas Tripe the younger, surgeon, was buried on April 2nd
Parish register

The Golden Lion was possibly built circa 1790 as a private residence for Nicholas Tripe, surgeon. A connection is mentioned by his son, the Rev John Swete.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 2 April 1874 p3 col2 (Written 80 years after the event)

See the section on the Rev John Swete in Famous Ashburtonians.

'In a footnote on page 492 of Polwhele's History of Devonshire, there is a very powerful tribute paid by the author to the memory of Mr Nicholas Tripe: – "On the 12th June 1796,* died Mr Tripe of Ashburton. I have mentioned him as a man of learning and ingenuity. But whilst we speak of his highly cultivated mind, we remember with tears of regret his truly social spirit. It may be justly said that, hospitable to his acquaintance, charitable to all that needed help, his delight was in the happiness of others." '
Devon Notes and Queries, Vol 3, London 1905, p55
* The parish register shows Nicholas Tripe, surgeon, being buried on 19 June 1790.

'Thus alluded to by Polwhele in his "History of Devonshire" - "An excellent naturalist, and an excellent man! He was communicative without vanity; generous without ostentation". '
The Birds of Devon, W S M D'Urban and Rev Murray A Mathew, London, 1892, p lxxxvi

Rebecka, 'wife of Mr Nicholas Tripe, surgeon', was buried in October 1792
Parish records

In her will she left bequests to her three sisters: Mary Booth (?)*, Elizabeth Pidsley** and Jane Yarde. The remainder of her estate went to her son John Swete, whom she named as executor, for the benefit of her granddaughter Elizabeth Swete.
National Archives, PROB 11/1434/34
* Possibly Beeke. Christopher Beeke, vicar of Kingsteignton, married Mrs Mary Yarde in July 1748
**Charles Pidsley of Exeter married Mrs Elizabeth Yarde at Kingsteignton in May 1748
Kingsteignton parish records
NB Mrs. or Mistress, was a courtesy title sometimes used in the this period for both married and unmarried women.

1768 Thos Coryndon Eastabrooke is an apprentice to William Cookesley, surgeon, Ashburton, as is John Henry Bridgman in 1771. These are followed by Joseph Parr in 1774, John Rowe in 1777 and Chichester W. Braton (to William S. Cookesley) in 1791.
Register of duties paid for Apprentices' Indentures 1710-1811

William Sparke Cookesley, surgeon, is mentioned in a release in 1792.

Plymouth and Devon Record Office, Plympton deeds, 20 July 1792 ref 301/4

1782   Edward Fowler Bean, an Ashburton surgeon, entered into some sort of agreement concerning Gulwell Bridge and  'shutes and launders for discharging water from meadow above the bridge to one below it.'    
Document held at Devon Heritage Centre, Ref 
                                                                  The Gervis family

In 1783 Simon Rawling was an apprentice with Henry Gervis, surgeon, as was Richard Bealy and Frederick Spry in 1788.

Register of duties paid for Apprentices' Indentures 1710-1811

Henry Gervis and his wife Elizabeth had several children baptised in Ashburton: Henry in 1782; Louisa (Jervice), 1783; Elizabeth, 1789; Henry and John (Jarvis), 1793; George in 1799; and Frederick Sherland in 1804.

In the 1840s a Robert Lee gave a lecture at St George's Hospital on how diseases could pass into foetuses, asking whether a foetus could contract a disease such as smallpox even though the mother was perfectly healthy. One of the examples which Dr Lee gave concerned Henry Gervis, 'a surgeon of eminence at Ashburton' who had reported to Dr Jenner - presumeably Edward Jenner, famous for his work on innoculation. In 1808 smallpox broke out at Woolson Green, about 3 miles away from Ashburton, and Dr Gervis vaccinated the wife of James Basquell, 'two punctures in each arm'. Mrs Basquell was in the last month of her pregnancy, and subsequently showed symptoms of cow-pox, but nothing more. When the child, a girl*, was born, she had 'many eruptions', giving the appearance of early stage smallpox. 3 days later the symptoms were more distinct, and Dr Gervis called in various physicians from Ashburton, Totnes and the surrounding area to witness the fact. He also 'armed some lancets with virus, and produced the smallpox by inoculating with it.' The child had slight convulsions a few days later, and died shortly afterwards.
London Medical Gazette, vol 1, 1842-43, London, 1843, p883

*A Maria Baskwill, the daughter of James and Mary was baptised privately on the 14th June 1808 at Staverton.
She was buried ('an infant') on the 21st.

Staverton parish records

The Exeter Flying Post reported in 1811 that Henry Gervis of Ashburton had been admitted as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Exeter Flying Post 17 January 1811 p4 col2

Elizabeth, the wife of Mr. Gervis, surgeon, Ashburton, died in London on the 4th June 1821, after a 'short but severe illness'. She was 61.
Exeter Flying Post 14 June 1821 p4 col2

In 1827 Mr. Gervis, surgeon, Ashburton, 'settled in London' over thirteen years, was advertising for an apprentice. He would be, claimed the advertisement, treated as one of the family in every way, and would be able to attend hospitals and lectures.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 24 March 1827 p2,col2

1831 The Devon Heritage Centre has a bill from Henry Gervis, surgeon, to the overseers of the poor of Ilsington parish. The bill, for various treatments and medicines, was not allowed.

Devon Heritage Centre 1831 122 A/PO 4

In 1831 a letter addressed to a Mr. Barnes on the subject of tithes, agricultural labour and wages could be purchased from, amongst others, Mr. Creagh of Ashburton. Written by 'Ashburtonienses', it was a reply to a letter written by Mr. Barnes to Henry Gervis, Portreeve.

Western Times 12 February 1831 p2 col6

1839 When Dr. Soper, Portreeve, was unable to take the chair at a public meeting, Henry Gervis Snr., took his place.
Western Times 1 June 1839 p4 col2

Right and below: The memorial in Ashburton churchyard to Henry Gervis, who died in 1842 aged 82
My own photograph 2018

In the 1841 census 80 year old Henry Gervis (approximate age) is living with 50 year old Henry Gervis and children Elizabeth and Rupecha (?)

1841 census HO107; Piece: 253; Book: 1; Civil Parish: Ashburton, Devon; Enumeration District: 8; Folio: 8; p8.

Henry Snr. died in 1842 and was buried on March 2nd, aged 82
Parish register.

The announcement of his death said that he had been a medical practitioner and surgeon for over 50 years, 'with honour to himself and most extensive benefits and usefulness to the public.' In latter years he had been in the Commission of the Peace, showing uprightness and integrity. He had been an advocate of parliamentary reform.
Western Times 26 February 1842, p3 col2

His will, reference PROB 11/1961/17, can be purchased through the National Archives. - Accessed 13-04-2015

There is a memorial to Rupertia Gervis, wife of Henry Gervis, surgeon, in the old Congregational Chapel (see Churches and memorials)

George married Elizabeth Soper in Ashburton in September 1825, and their son Walter Soper Gervis was baptised in July 1828.
The 1851 census shows George aged 52, his wife Elizabeth and three children including Walter S. Walter is a medical student; his father has various initials as his occupation, some of which appear to be FRCS (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons). He is 'not practising'.

Walter received his certificate to practise in June 1854, at the Apothecaries' Hall.
Western Times 24 June 1854 p5 col3

The entry in the Medical Register of 1867 shows that as well as being Lic. Soc. Apoth. London in 1854, he was also MD Marisch. Coll. Univ. Aberd. and Mem R Coll. Surg. Eng. in the same year.
The Medical Register 1867, p163

George has died by the 1861 census, which shows Walter S. and two sisters living with their widowed mother Elizabeth in West Street. Walter is an MD Aberdeen, and MRCS London.
1851 census HO107; Piece: 1871; Folio: 315; p5.

In 1862 Walter became an Hon Assist. Surgeon with the Rifle Volunteers–see Dave Dycher's research in The rifle volunteers continued–and
was a witness in the 'Ashburton rabbit pie' poisoning case–see the Crime and punishment section of Ashburton in peril.

1873. Dr Gervis, at his own expense, planted shrubs and flowers on land reclaimed when a new sewer was constructed in the town. He also planted an avenue of chestnut trees along the new road parallel with the railway.
Western Times 5 December 1873 p5 col6
In 1886 Walter S Soper married Jane Parnell Stear, and the 1891 census shows the 63 year old doctor living in West Street with his 34 year old wife.

When he died in 1892 the Western Times reported that 'An eminently useful life was brought to a close.' He was 23 when he began his practice in the town, as a partner to the late Dr Bean; later he pursued a solo career, before taking on Dr Fraser as a partner, and followed by Dr Lewis Brown.
Western Times 5 January 1892 p7 col2

The British Medical Journal printed the following obituary: 'Walter Soper Gervis MD Aberd., MRCS Eng. The death of Dr. Walter Soper Gervis, of Ashburton, which occurred on January 3rd, deprives that town of a familiar figiure and an indefatigable worker in all forward movements in the town. As a medical practitioner of about forty years' standing he had formed a large practice which he commenced at the age of 23, as partner with the late Dr.Bean. He obtained his M.D. degree at Marischal College, Aberdeen in 1854, and his MRCS Eng. in the same year. He was a fellow of the Geological Society and a life member of the British Association, the annual meetings of which he generally attended. He was Physician to the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Cottage Hospital, and Medical Officer to the 4th District of the Newton Abbott Union. He took an active part in the local volunteer movement, of which he became Surgeon-Major, and was warmly interested in Freemasonry.'
The British Medical Journal, 23 January 1892, p200

Above: Coat of arms and signature of Walter S Gervis, in a copy of 'The Book of Family Crests' by J P Elven, 11th edition, 1865. This was facing a plate showing the Amery arms, and the signature of John S Amery of Druid.
See also the Sparke and Amery families, under Individual Families
With many thanks to Jeremy Fox
                                                  The 1800s
Above: Leather doctor's bag and contents, 1890-1930
Collection: Wellcome images
Library reference no.: Science Museum A633659 

Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons Attribution only licence CC BY 4.0

Three sons of William Southcott Young, surgeon, Ashburton, attended  Blundell's School in Tiverton - Fitzwilliam, 12, who was there between 1798 and 1801; George, 11, who was there from 1801 to 1804 and Thomas, 13, a pupil from 1808 to 1810. Thomas's entry says that his father is deceased.
James Mogridge, surgeon, also had three sons at the school: James, 12, who was there between 1802 and 1805;  Walter Palk Mogridge, 13, who attended between 1804 and 1806 and Robert, 14, at the school from 1811 to 1812. 

From the Registers of Blundell's School, 1770-1882, orinted and published for the Old Blundellian Club, Blundell's School, Tiverton, Devon. Available through - Accessed 29-2-2016   
For more pupils at the school, see Going Away to School, under Ashburton Schools  


June 1818. William Willcocks, medical man, and his wife Elizabeth have a daughter, Elizabeth Jane, baptized.
Parish register
In April 1812 George Cutcliffe of the parish of Ashburton married Mary Sophia Spilsbury of the parish of Wolborough, Devon, married by licence in Wolborough. John Gribble was one of the witnesses.
Parish records
For more on the connection between these families, see Individual Families, The Gribble Family

1822 Four children of George and Mary Sophia Cutliffe were baptized in November. The three boys and a girl were born between 1813 and 1821, and George is described as a surgeon.
Parish register

A further son, Robert, is baptized in 1824, and a daughter, Elizabeth, in 1830, with the surname Cutcliffe. 
William Henry Cutliffe was baptised in 1832
Ashburton baptisms Devon FHS transcriptions

In 1829 a house in East Street with a garden in Hare's Lane was to be sold by auction at the Golden Lion. The current occupier of the house was Mr. George Cutliffe.
1835 George Cutcliffe, surgeon, was discharged from the Insolvent Debtors' Court.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 26 September 1829 p1 col5
Western Times 5 December 1835 p2 col5

The announcement of his death in July 1840 said that he had a reputation as a skilled practitioner. He was also a 'firm advocate' of political reform.
Western Times 18 July 1840, p3 col1

George Cutcliffe, aged 54, was buried at Ashburton in July 1840
Parish records

When George Cutliffe Jnr. died aged 34 in 1847, his memorial in Moretonhampstead described him as the eldest son of George Cutliffe Esq., surgeon of Ashburton.
Moretonhampstead History Society - Accessed 28-02-2015


1823 Robert Palk Mogridge, Member of the Royal College of Surgoens, made 'Observations on the Fracture of the Patella' in the Transactions of the Associated Apothecaries and  Surgeon-Apothecaries of England and Wales.
Transactions of the Associated Apothecaries and  Surgeon-Apothecaries of England and Wales, vol1, London, 1823, p286

Mary Bovey married Robert Palk Mogridge at Ashburton on 10th July 1828. He was a surgeon; she is described as the daughter of John Bovey of Peartree.
The couple had a son, also called Robert Palk, who was baptized in October 1830
Robert, 'a highly respectable surgeon' died at Ashburton on 20th March 1837. He was 40 years old.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 12 July 1828 p3 col3
Ashburton baptisms 1830-1840 Devon FHS 2006
Western Times 8 April 1837 p3 col1

Shortly afterwards a family house was up for let at Ashburton, that might be of particular interest to surgeons. Three surgeons had practised at the house for a period of 70 consecutive years. The new tenant, who would be helped to retain the current patients, would be expected to pay for bottles, drugs and surgeon's cutlery at valuation. Interested parties were to contact Mr. Bovey at Peartree House or Mr. Berry at Chagford.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 8 April 1837 p1, col4


Edward Fowler Bean became a Mem. R Coll. Surg. Eng in 1828, and a Lic. Soc. Apoth. Lond. at the same date.
The Medical Register 1859, p20

In March 1830 Dr. John Soper wrote to The Lancet about the birth of a child in Ashburton the previous year. The organs of the abdomen were distorted and in places external, and he described a tumour that might have been the bladder. The parents had baptised the child Matthew, but Dr. Soper had stated that he thought the baby was a girl. The Lancet headed the item a 'singular case of monstrosity.'*
The Lancet, vol2, p56

* 'Monstrosities' appears to be a commonly used term in medicine at this period. In an article in the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal M.I.G. St-Hilaire puts forward a classification of anomalies in living creatures, from simple slight anomalies through to complex anomalies. It is this final class, complex anomalies, that can, he says, be termed monstrosities or monsters.
Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal vol 39, 1833 p170
Both the above works
are freely available on Google books

John Soper's own daughter was baptized in June of 1830. His wife is named as Susanah.
Ashburton baptisms 1830-1840 Devon FHS 2006

William Wilcocks, surgeon, and his wife Mary had a son, Joseph Henry, baptized in March 1832

Ashburton Baptisms 1830-1840 Devon FHS 2006

In 1834 premises were for sale in West Street, consisting of a dwelling house with offices attached. A new build, it consisted of kitchen, parlour, drawing room and three bedrooms over three floors, with garrett rooms above. Mr. Hele, surgeon, had been the last occupier.
Western Times 26 April 1834 p1 col2

Mr Hele, described as an 'able surgeon' of Ashburton, wrote in the Lancet in 1839: 'Susan Hynes' child* (of this town), aged two years, in February last fell over the stairs, and fractured the femur. I saw her very quickly after the accident, and thought this a favourable opportunity to try the splintless method, particularly as I lived so near the child that I could watch the case narrowly. She was put to bed with her leg laid on a pillow; the fractured ends of the bone were placed in apposition, and the child soon became more easy and at rest. On the evening of the same day the parents complained that I had not used splints; I therefore applied a small splint to the side of the pillow, but so that it could not in the least interfere with the limb. No one unpleasant symptom occurred; she kept her leg and thigh quite still, and never in the least displaced the bone. In three weeks she was allowed to crawl about the bed, with a bandage around the parts; and thence she began, by degrees, to walk, and she is now able to walk as well as most children of her age, while her limb is as straight as ever.' The Lancet went on to say that Mr Hele believed that 'to splinter up such a little creature was repugnant to his feelings', and that if he was able to contribute to the banishment of splints it would be 'one of the greatest achievements in surgery that has been obtained in modern days.'
The Lancet, 1838-39, ed. by Thomas Wakley, London, 1839, pp406,407
*As yet I have failed to find this family

John Hele and James Forster both passed their examinations for the Royal College of Surgeons in 1840. Former pupils of H. H. Hele of Ashburton, they were currently at Guy's Hospital, London.
Western Times 11 April 1840 p3 col5

December 1842 The Western Times had apparently reported the death of a child, or children, of an impoverished family called Hodge, residing in Ashburton but not of the parish. The implication was that the death(s) had occurred because of a lack of medical supervision.
The following week Henry Hele (Surgeon) wrote to the paper, stating that he had attended the children himself, for free, although the application for a parish medical attendant had not been granted.

Western Times 24 December 1842 p3 col3

Pigot's 1844 directory lists four surgeons in Ashburton:
Edward Bean in West St.,
Henry Herbert Hele in East St.,
Thomas Lyle, also in East St.,
 and John Soper MD in West St.
Pigot and Co.'s Directory of Devonshire 1844, p6

When a rock slide occurred at the Penn Recca Slate Quarry, badly injuring two men named Powell and Bartlett,  Messrs Lyle and Heles, 'surgeons of this town' paid them 'every attention.'
Western Times 2 February 1850 p6 col4

Alfred Butler, of Ashburton, Devon, was admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons in 1848
Thomas Wakley, ed., The Lancet, volII, London 1848, p83

White's Directory of Devonshire shows Edward Fowler Bean in East Street, Hy. Herbert and John Hele in East Street and Thomas Lyle, also in East Street.

History, gazetteer and directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850 p466. Freely available on - Accessed 25-9-2014

Born in 1804, by the 1850s Herbert Henry Hele was apparently fascinated by the new invention of photography. He confessed to devoting most of his time to it. Sadly, no known examples of his work have survived.
Impressed by light, British Photographs from paper negatives 1840-1860, The Metropolitan Museum of New York, 2007, p325


                                                        1861 census of Ashburton

Thomas Lyle,
East Street, General practitioner
Henry B Lyle, son of Thomas, medical student
1861 census RG09, piece no. 1405, folio 26, p1
Edward F Bean, East Street, General practitioner and surgeon.
1861 census RG09, piece no.1405, folio 66, p3

Admitted member of the Royal College of Surgeons, May 23rd, 1865:
Lyle, Henry Bowden, Ashburton, Devon
Medical News, British Medical Journal, June 3rd 1865


                                             'Serious charge against a medical officer.'
In 1868 the Newton Abbot Board of Guardians investigated a complaint of neglect against Dr MacGill of Ashburton. Mr Bickford had made the complaint. Dr MacGill wrote to the Board, stating that Mr Bickford had sent him a note asking him to attend a Mrs Hammond of Bickington, but there was no mention of urgency or seriousness. He had intended to visit her the next day, a Sunday, but in the end did not get there until Monday. She was, he said, in need of no medical assistance, and was 'in reality the least urgent case ever I was called to attend since I have been in practice.'
Mr Bickford and Mr Hammond's accounts were at variance with that of Dr MacGill, and the Board decided that on that matter they would like to hear the doctor's response.
However, there had been other complaints against Dr MacGill, for failing to turn up to perform vaccinations - appointments that he had made himself. Mr J F Harvey said that there were complaints almost every week, and that it reflected badly on the Board. He wanted to dispense with the services of the doctor, but warned that he was 'as slippery as an eel'.
The Board voted unanimously to investigate whether there had been a gross dereliction of duty.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 20 November 1868 p7 col2

By December the Board were selecting a new medical officer for Ashburton.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 18 December 1868, p6 col6


The British Medical Journal published an obituary for C W Smerdon MRCS in 1874. Born in Ashburton in March 1786*, he came from an old Cornish and Devonian family, and was the grandson of the Rev. Thomas Smerdon, rector and master of the Grammar School. Mr Smerdon attended the school, and then trained at Guy's Hospital, becoming a Member of the College of Surgeons in 1812. Later he settled in Clifton. Mr Smerdon was 'devotedly attached to his profession, simple and unpretending in manner, highly honourable in his intercourse with his fellow men, kind and generous....his life was one of unsurppased sincerity and uprightness.'
Ernest Hart, ed., BMJ vol 2, 8 Aug 1874, London, p190
Charles Wright Smerdon was buried at Clifton, St Andrew, Gloucestershire, in June 1874.
Familysearch index
Chas. Wright Smerdon was born March 1784 (not 1786), the son of John and Elizabeth.
Parish records

An inquest in 1870 investigated the death of G. Edgecombe, a saddler, who had died as a result from a fall from a trap whilst returning from Widdecombe Fair. Mr. Pringle, surgeon, an assistant to Walter Gervis, gave evidence.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 23 September 1870 p6 col7

University of Aberdeen. Adams, James, MB, Ashburton, Devon, was promoted to MD in 1875
The Medical Times and Gazette, vol II, 1875, p200

Mr E F Bean had given up being a surgeon and taken up mining by 1875. He was one of the defendants in a case concenring wrongful diversion of the River Dart, for the purpose of working a tin mine at Holne. The defendants had made a leat, and constructed a large building with stamping machinery and a turbine.
Dr Blackall, who owned the manor of Spitchwick, objected to the works and in particular to the diversion of the water. He was awarded damages of 40s.
Western Times 26 July 1875 cols 2,3

The 1881 census of Ashburton includes the details of William J Fraser, Medical Practitioner. A single man aged 27, he was living in Lawrence Lane.

1884 The wife of James Adams M.D., of Alexandra House, Ashburton, gave birth to a son.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 15 February 1884 p5 col3

1885 Dr. Fraser was injured when returning to Ashburton from Widecombe when his horse shied. Dr. Williams sustained a broken leg and a wound to his face.
Western Times 14 February 1885 p3 col1

One afternoon in 1886 Harry Harvey, of the Leusdon Board School, climbed over the playground gate whilst holding his slate pencil. He fell, and the pencil penetrated his right eye socket, going one and a half inches into his head. Dr Fraser removed the pencil at his surgery in Ashburton, and there were hopes that there would be no lasting damage.  
Western Times 28 May 1886 p7 col5

Ewen Carthew Stabb, of Cintra, Ashburton, was registered in 1886. He was LRCP Lond., M., F. 1888., RCS Eng., LSA Lond. 1886.
The Medical Register 1931, p1264

When the funeral of Dr William J Fraser took place at Ashburton in 1890, the Western Times described it as a Masonic funeral, with many of the mourners in masonic clothing. He had been secretary of the Ashburton Lodge. Of the 'beautiful wreaths' which covered the coffin, one was from the Musical Society, of which he was the hon. treasurer.
Western Times 16 June 1890, p2 col6

1891 census of Ashburton:
Walter S Gervis, West Street, M D & General Practitioner
John L Brown, M B & General Practitioner, boarder in the house of Walter S Gervis
John P Lockwood, visitor at Sinclairs, Ashburton, General Practitioner
Richard Ackerley, General Medical Practitioner, Alexandra House

In 1899 an Ashburton doctor was seriously injured when his horse reared as he attempted to mount it to begin his round. Dr Digby White was thrown high into the air and landed on his forehead. He was attended by three doctors including Dr Wilcox of Ashburton. Dr White was about 30 years old and had been practising in the town for several years.
Western Times 15 May 1899, p3 col5

Walter Fitzpatrick, address Lloyd's Bank, Ashburton, was registered in 1894. He was LRCP Edin., LRCS Edin., LFPS Glasg.
The Medical Register 1915, p333

                                                                       The 1900s

Kelly's Directory has the following entries for 1902:
Wilson Ranson FRCS, LRCP. Edin., physician and surgeon in East Street.

George Thomas Albert Staff MRCS Eng., LRCP Irel., physician and surgeon, Welstor.
Kelly's Directory for Devonshire, 1902, p33

The 1900s
'I well remember the first motor car to be owned in Ashburton, in the early 1900s. It belonged to Dr. Willcocks.* I cannot now remember the make but I do remember that instead of a steering wheel it had a long lever that came up from the floor. Dr. Willcocks lived and had his surgery in the large house opposite the Church, now known as No. 32. My sister, some little time ago, reminded me that when we were both rather small she took me by the hand to Dr. Willcocks and when he answered the surgery bell asked, "Please, will you take out a tooth for my brother?" Dr. Willcocks, in his customary gracious and courteous manner replied, "Oh yes, certainly, bring him in. I will take out half a dozen if you like!" Possibly I was far too young to understand, and be scared by the prospect! There were no dentists as such in Ashburton in those days: extractions were undertaken either by a doctor or chemist.'
*In 1901 forty-four year old Ernest Wilcox was living in West Street, near to Sparnham. Born in St Neots, Huntingdonshire, he was a surgeon and general practitioner.
1901 census RG13, piece 2053, folio 21, p8
Reminiscences of Reg Andrews, born 1893 and remembered in his 80s.
Many thanks to Dave Hodge-Brooks and Ernie Smerdon for passing on this account.

The 1911 census shows 40 year old Walter Fitzpatrick, physician and surgeon, living at Hiram Lodge.
1911 census RG14, piece 12727, schedule number 63

In May 1912 an inquest was held at the Cottage Hospital on Ann E Bunston, a domestic servant who worked at Hawson Court. Miss Bunston had often complained of indigestion, and when she consulted a Dr. Williams he said that an immediate operation was necessary.
The operation was performed by Dr. Williams, assisted by Dr. Ellis, but the patient never recovered consciousness.
Miss E Bickford, acting deputy matron, gave evidence, in which she said that she had informed the mother of the death and asked her to make arrangements to remove the body. She thought this was 'the proper  course of action.'
Western Times 10 May 1912 p2 col6

The only person who seems to fit Ann in the death indexes is Annie E Bunstow, aged 23, whose death was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the June quarter of 1912
An Annie Elizabeth Bonstow's birth was registered in the same district in the September quarter of 1888.

Ernest Alfred Ellis, of West Street, Ashburton, was registered in 1903. He was B. Chir. U. Camb., MRCS Eng. and LRCP London.
The Medical Register 1935, p405

Douglas Crawford Clark of Ashburton was registered in 1917. He was LMSSA Lond., MB BS U. Lond. in 1918
The Medical Register 1939, p254

The 1920s

'There were two doctors in the town, one at the top of East Street, and the other better known in West Street, opposite the parish church. Dr Ellis, who was our doctor, was a tall, thin, austere looking man who presided in the surgery in West Street. I learnt from him at a very early age not to judge by appearances. I was taken to visit him one evening by my mother for some minor complaint. We entered by the double doors and walked over the paved courtyard to the entrance. Emerging was a young woman with a baby in a pram and two young children holding her skirts. When we saw the doctor my mother asked him how such an overburdened patient would be able to pay him. "Florence", said Dr. Ellis, "come to my desk". One ledger was open and he showed her a list of names to which he added ours. "You and all the patients here will be receiving a bill from me which you will pay promptly." Bringing over another tome he said, "the patient who has just gone out will find her name here. Those people will not be receiving an account. In the fullness of time, God will repay me." A salutary lesson for a small girl to learn, but one I have never forgotten. After this encounter I watched Dr. Ellis with his elegant wife and young son at church each Sunday and felt that he must have had some special relationship with God. I even wondered if some sign would appear to acknowledge his goodness.'

Many thanks to Hazel Bray for the above account

When Mrs Charlotte Ellis died in May 1927 she left her property in trust for her two sons Henry Augustus Ellis and Ernest Alfred Ellis, the latter a medical practitioner at Ashburton.

Mrs Ellis lived at 41, Grosvenor Place, Bath; formerly she lived at 60, Bryn Road, Swansea.

Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette 13 August 1927 p3 col4


In 1932 Dr. D. C. Clark gave evidence at the inquest on Thomas Lambic Loveridge.
Western Times 7 October 1932 p10 col5

Henry Charles Ashley Harris, of 87, East Street, was registered in 1934. He was an MRCS Eng. and an LRCP London.
Medical Register 1939

Kelly's Directory of Devonshire 1935
Douglas Crawford Clark, M B., B S (London)   East Street

Ernest Alfred Ellis M A, M B    West Street


When Dr James Adams died at the age of 87, the Western Morning News reported that although he had lived in Sussex for fifty years, he was a Devonshire man by birth. Before going to Eastbourne he had practised in Ashburton.
Western Morning News 15 May 1937 p5 col5

The Medical Bibliography shows James Adams as a member of the British Medical Association, a surgeon and the Ashburton and Buckfastleigh Cottage Hospital and an assistant surgeon for the 9th Devon RV amongt other positions. He was a contributor to an article in the Lancet in 1877, 'Case of Hydrophobia, with Remarks'.
Medical Bibliography for 1877

The 1881 census shows 31 year old James Adams as living in East Street. Born in Malborough, Devon, he is a general practitioner.

1881 census RG11, Piece 2161, Folio 23, p2


The 1950s
When I was a child in the early 1960s Dr Mills had a surgery at the top of East Street. You went through the front door and turned right into the waiting room, which I remember had a large rocking horse in it, plus a picture of fighter planes on the wall. The surgery was on the left hand side of the front door.
I had had a pain in my abdomen for some time but had said nothing about it. Eventually it was obvious that something was wrong, and Dr Mills paid a house visit - by this time I had a fever and a high temperature. He said that my appendix had to be removed immediately, and I was admitted into Ashburton Cottage Hospital. Dr Mills performed the operation himself - I was anaesthetized by having a mask put over my face with a cloth over the top of it, and then (if I remember correctly) the anaesthetic was sprinkled over it. I was kept in the hospital for ten days afterwards.
Many thanks tp Robin Bligh for this account.
Alan R H Mills was born in the Hampstead registration district, in the June quarter of 1916. His mother's maiden surname was recorded as Deiters*
*Derters in FreeBMD transcription. When his father, Ernest Halford Mills, married in 1900, his bride's name is variously transcribed as Emily Jane Deiters and Emily Jane Deitus.

Ernest Halford Mills was an undertaker.
1911 census RG14, piece no. 598

In the 1939 register, Alan R H Mills was a medical student at Park Prewett Hospital, Basingstoke.
1939 register
By 1942 Alan Ruskin Halford Mills, MRCS LRCP had become Fig Off* (Emergency) in October.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 10 November 1942, p4872

Alan R Mills and Susan P Mills are on the 1965-66 Register of Electors, living at 87 East Street.
See the Register of Electors 1965-66, under People and Properties

Alan Ruskin Halford Mills MRCS Eng LRCP London, is shown at 87 and 89 East Street in the 1970s.
The Medical Register, part II, 1973, p1909
Medical Directory 1975 vol 2; vol 131, part 2, p1786

Right: 87 and 89 East Street
My own photograph 2018
Dr R G Hall, Medical Officer of Health for Ashburton, died in October 1950. He had taken over the practice of Dr E A Ellis approximately 11 years previously.
South Devon District News 27 October 1950 p7 col3


Richard Bellamy, of Hillcrest, Ashburton, was registered in June 1945. He was MB B.Chir. U. Camb., MRCS Eng. and LRCP London.
The Medical Register 1959, p149