Civic Society Talk: Famous of Cirencester

Peter Maxwell Davies – renowned composer lived in Ciren.

On Monday 16 May the Civic Society had an illustrated talk ‘Famous of Cirencester’ by Alan Welsford about some of the famous residents of our town. Alan was the last Town Librarian in Bingham Hall, a post he held for many years. He started by naming many of the pupils from the old Grammar School most of whom had been tutored by Revd. Dr Washbourn, the Master of the school, in the early 19thC.

The 3rd Earl Bathurst who became an MP and under William Pitt the Younger had many influential roles in government. He was made President of the Board of Trade, Foreign Secretary, Secretary of State for War and the Colonies and finally Lord President of the Council. The Bathurst name can now be found in many countries around the world

Joseph Howse, fur trader, explorer, and linguistic scholar travelled to Canada with the Hudson Bay Company, where he married a local woman from the Cree tribe, which in those days was taboo, but seems to have been overlooked in his case.

Edward Jenner was a boarder at the Grammar School and is of course known for his world-changing work on immunology by vaccination for  smallpox. Later he also worked as physician to King George IV. Ironically, Cirencester was a staunch centre of anti-vaccine at this time!

Another pupil was Caleb Parry, who not only introduced the merino sheep breed into Great Britain but was instrumental in the understanding of angina and tetanus among other interests as a physician.

Another medical man was Edgar Hope-Simpson was a general practitioner. From his laboratory in Cirencester he showed that shingles was caused by reactivation of the chickenpox virus. The bulk of his interest was in infectious diseases and he research led to a better understanding of influenza.

Alan then moved to the fairer sex and talked about Elizabeth Brown, a British astronomer who specialized in solar observation, especially sunspots and solar eclipses. She was instrumental in founding the British Astronomical Association and was also one of the first women Fellows of the Royal Meteorological Society.

Grace Hadow was a Suffragist and established the Cirencester Women’s Suffrage Society and also became vice-chairman of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes among many other roles.

Penultimately, Alan Welsford spoke of a lesser-known character, Alexander Neckham, was magnetician, poet, theologian, writer and also rose to be Abbot of Cirencester Abbey. Sharing his birthday with King Richard I he possibly retained links with the royal family throughout his life as his mother was thought to be Richard’s wet nurse.

Lastly he spoke about a current member of the Civic Society, Rory Young, a sculptor and stone mason who has designed, carved, painted and installed seven statues of Christian martyrs at St Albans Cathedral along with many other works including the narrative scenes on the arch of the main door at York Minster.

Mike Timbrell, Ciren Civic Society


The Society now takes its summer break, and the next meeting of the society will be ‘The work of the Gloucester Diocesan Advisory Committee and the care of churches in the Diocese of Gloucester’ by Adam Klups on Monday 19 September, held in the Ashcroft Centre, Ashcroft Road with refreshments available from 19.00 and the talk starts at 19.30.

Find out more about Peter Maxwell Davies from a past article by clicking here.

To keep up to date with what´s going on in town, feel free to join our Facebook group by clicking here.

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