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16th November 2006: Medical Services In Fairford by June Lewis-Jones

June Lewis-Jones gave an informative and entertaining talk on medical practices in the town from the Middle Ages to the 20th Century. Medical men mentioned during the talk included:

  • Thomas Fayreford who treated people throughout the West Country in the 16th Century including at least one Fairford resident
  • Mr Ducket a licensed surgeon in the town in the mid-18th Century
  • and the Iles, Cornwall and Bloxsome dynasties of doctors serving the town in the 19th and 20 centuries
Hospital Foundation

Laying the foundation stone of Fairford Hospital 1887

Fairford Workhouse

Fairford Workhouse

Also covered were the Retreat lunatic asylum, the Pest House at Burdocks, Fairford Workhouse, Fairford Cottage Hospital and the fundraising efforts of the Carnival for the hospital. The talk was illustrated by pictures from June’s own collection.

Pictures courtesy of June Lewis-Jones


21st September 2006: Victorian Fairford by Chris Hobson

On 21st September Chris Hobson gave a talk on Victorian Fairford using a PowerPoint presentation.

He talked about five research tools that he had used to discover the history of Fairford:

  • the national census
  • trade directories
  • the Times Digital Archive
  • the National Burial Register
  • the Internet
Chris Hobson

Using these sources he then briefly covered four topics: population, transport (coaches and railways), medical and the asylum, shops and services. He then showed an example of what can be found on the Internet by illustrating the career of Alfred Sandling Cowley whose life can be traced from Fairford to South Africa and then to Australia where he became a prominent politician.

Chris then outlined a project that he has been working on that aims to record every resident of Fairford during the 19th Century starting with basic information from the sources mentioned above. When the database is more complete the aim would be to make it available to researchers either via the FHS website or on a PC in the planned Heritage Room of the Community Centre. If anyone would like to assist in finding information to make this project more complete, please contact Chris on Fairford 711768.


11th May 2006: Second AGM and Yells Brothers

In the business part of the meeting Keith Cottam welcomed the members and outlined the programme for the evening. As an addenda to the Chairman’s report, John Read spoke about the progress of the Fairford Community Play project, for which FHS has obtained a substantial grant. It will be produced in collaboration with Fairford’s schools and FADS over 4 or 5 nights in October 2007 in St Mary’s Church. The LHI grant has also enabled FHS to buy equipment and set up the FHS website www.fairfordhistory.org.uk and Suzanne Jones of TGN Ltd, who designed the website, demonstrated the contents so far. The business part of the meeting was then concluded, all committee members being re-elected en bloc.

Peter Yells

Peter Yells then gave a talk about the family firm of Yells Brothers which was established in 1858 and was involved in the building trade for 120 years. The firm’s first jobs were mainly linked to agriculture there being many large farms in the area e.g Arkells, Cole and Iles. They carried out of lot of work for Dr A C King Turner at The Retreat, one job being to replace all the locks with special asylum locks at a total cost of £14 which must have been expensive in those days. Another big job was the building of Burdocks, Mr Yells could oversee this from his house as he lived at Vane House in Horcott Road at the time.

When Peter’s father took over more building work was undertaken, houses were constructed on the Burford Road at Lechlade, London Road in Cirencester, Palmer Hall in Fairford (1936), and houses at Blunsdon. The firm often used the designs of Sidney Pile, the architect. Yells employed upwards of 50 men at one time, and during the Second World War some men were able to keep their jobs as it was a reserved occupation but could be called away at short notice to help repairs required by the bombing of London. After the War much of the work involved modernising cottages as grants were then available. Yells converted the Old Farmor’s School into the town library and a youth leader’s flat on the first floor. The firm ceased trading in 1978 due to the general decline in the building market at that time.

Mr Yells brought along many items including company ledgers, day books, customised stationery, and pictures that had been stored in his attic for many year. It was a very interesting insight into another slice of Fairford local history.


February 9th, 2006: In Sickness and in Health

a talk by James Turtle, Outreach and Education Officer from the Gloucester Record Office.

James entertained and horrified about 60 members of the Society with information about the plague, remedies and recipes, smallpox and the development of the medical profession. In 1638 all the members of two families in North Nibley died within 1 week and 1 month of each other, their bodies were buried in their back gardens.

In 1714 a universal remedy was ‘snail water’ which was made of snails, earthworms, a ‘few herbs’ mixed with white wine and water. Scrofula was reputed to be cured by the touch of a reigning monarch (this came to an end an end with the death of Queen Anne.

James also explained the development of the medical profession using Dr John Hitchman of Fairford as an example. He was apprenticed to Dr Charles Cornwall for 5 years to learn his profession. He then went to London and gained some qualifications (MRCS, LSA) but in 1858 legislation was passed that doctors had to follow a proper course for a degree and be licensed by the General Medical Council. Dr Hitchman and many other doctors of the time had to apply to the University of St Andrews, provided testimonials and certificates and were then were awarded a degree.

In the 1850s small pox vaccination became compulsory and District Vaccinators were appointed. The Anti-Vaccination League was very strong in Gloucester and in the 1887 the board passed a resolution than no prosecutions of people not having their children vaccinated should take place. However in 1895 there was a smallpox outbreak and 434 people died in Gloucester and the resolution was quickly reversed.

The vote of thanks was given by Colin Watkins.


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