Dr Jenner’s House & Garden, formerly The Edward Jenner Museum, gives visitors the chance to explore the fascinating world of the famous doctor (1749-1823) in the very setting where he developed the first ever vaccine to protect against smallpox.
Take a peek inside The Chantry, the beautiful home of The Edward Jenner Museum – and find out what lurks in the attic – with SoGlos.com’s photo gallery.
Situated in Berkeley, Gloucestershire just a stone’s throw from the eponymous castle, The Edward Jenner Museum opened to the public in 1985 and has since attracted visitors from every corner of the globe – including members of the SoGlos.com team one bright July afternoon.
From the magnificent Georgian house to the Temple of Vaccinia and vinery found in the gardens, immunology and smallpox exhibitions to an extraordinarily eerie attic – the museum offers an amazing insight into the life and legacy of the man responsible for the eradication of smallpox, Dr Edward Jenner.
Sunday 09 August 2009
From ghosts in the attic to centuries of smallpox victims – the SoGlos.com team was in good company on its enchanting visit to The Edward Jenner Museum in Berkeley.
He may have saved countless millions of lives across the globe, and gone down an undisputed hero in the annals of history, but if Edward Jenner were around today, he’s the sort of person who might well make you feel a bit sick.
As if being the first person to discover that hedgehogs hibernate, birds fly south for the winter, and cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds’ nests were not enough, the fossil-hunter-come-hydrogen-balloonist, of course, gained legendary status as the man who discovered the vaccination for smallpox – one of the greatest medical discoveries in history. Talk about overachiever.
Saying he would make the best Britain’s Got Talent contestants shrivel in comparison might be the understatement of the century, but the significant impact that this rural doctor has had on all of our lives is perhaps easy to overlook today.
As little as 30 years ago before smallpox was completely eradicated, however, the story would have been quite different, as SoGlos.com discovered on a visit to his former residence, now The Edward Jenner Museum – just a hop, skip and jump from Berkeley’s High Street.
Housed in a jaw-dropping grade II listed house, complete with roses creeping up its white walls, the good doctor’s former family residence has been pulling in visitors from far and wide since 1985. Giving away her age somewhat, one of the SoGlos.com team vividly recalled a school trip to the museum two decades ago – celebrating the 260th anniversary of Jenner’s birth in 2009, however, she found much had changed.
Open to members of the public for the first time this summer, the Ghosts in the Attic exhibition proved an undeniable highlight – with the opportunity to climb the creaky stairs up to the eaves of the Georgian house, largely untouched for almost two centuries, akin to literally taking a journey back in time to when smallpox was a very real fact of life.
Hauntingly atmospheric video installations from artist Fiona Kam Meadley helped to tell the tale of what happened to the orphaned Edward Jenner aged eight, when he was locked in a barn for weeks, starved, bled, purged and given smallpox – a barbaric, but accepted medical procedure which went on to influence his later work.
The list of famous smallpox victims from Elizabeth I to George Washington, the iron bedsteads, chamber pots and children’s games set a chilly scene in the attic, with archived cartoons, newspaper cuttings and posters adding a thought-provoking comparison of compulsory vaccination from smallpox to the more contemporary MMR debate – combining to leave a lasting impression.
Outside in the sunshine, The Chantry’s gardens proved a peaceful retreat, and a spot perfect for a picnic – with the site of an archaeological dig, where a Saxon nunnery was found, still visible. The vinery complete with grapes grown from cuttings Jenner brought back from the Hampton Court Palace was plump with fruit, waiting to be picked when ripe. While in a cool glade at the bottom of the garden the thatched Temple of Vaccinia – where Jenner offered free vaccinations to the poor – still stands.
Back inside the museum pinhole photographs line the stairs, the fossilised shoulder bone of a whale sits in the dining room, and oil portraits of the museum’s namesake overlooks fascinating medical implements and the (debated) horns from Blossom – the cow Jenner extracted cow pox from, that he went on to immunise James Phipps against smallpox with in 1796.
The doctor’s study has been staged as it might have been back in his heyday, and upstairs an interactive computer game added a high-tech element to the comprehensive exhibition about modern immunology, which we had to admit went a bit over our head, appealing more to the medically-minded perhaps.
The novelty syringe pens and stick-on warts in the gift shop were reminders of what a popular destination this attraction continues to be for school groups, who clutch worksheets and sit cross-legged to hear about the county’s undoubtedly most influential – and overachieving – resident. But on our visit it was the grown-ups who seemed most engrossed, pleasantly surprised that there’s plenty more to The Edward Jenner Museum than groaning over gory smallpox photographs.
By Michelle Fyrne
Monday 10 August 2009
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