A FAM1LY OF QUAKER DOCTORS

George Fox, a Quaker Merchant and shipowner, settled in Falmouth in 1762 (???). His descendants have played an important part in Cornish life ever since.
George had eight children of whom one, George Croker Fox (1727-1781), was involved in the family business interests: his career is well documented.

A younger son, Joseph (1729 - 1784) became a Physician practising in Falmouth. He married Elizabeth Hingston of Penryn; they had eleven children.
Philanthropy has been an outstanding feature of Quaker life. It is evident that Joseph was no exception. We are told that in 1776 "Joseph Fox, new surgeon, took a small house in Poran Hill for harbouring sick seamen and other poor patients" (1)
At the commencement of the war with France in 1778 Joseph held a part share in two cutters. The other owners armed the vessels, holding letters of marque. Fox disapproved and off-ered to sell his share, but they would not agree. The cutters captured a number of French vessels, but his partners tried to stop him receiving his share, but he insisted and without ln-forming them placed the money in British Funds, a fact which he kept secret. When peace was restored in 1783, he sent one of his sons, Dr Edward Long Fox, to Paris, where he received a letter From Joseph. In this letter he was instructed to reimburse the French proprietors of the ships which had been taken. This proved complicated, and while arrangements were being made Joseph died. An advertisement was then placed in the Gazette in August of that year, saying that the amount of £ 1,470 had been restored. A small sum remained in Edward's hands, for the proprietors had not been found, and in 1818 he took the money, together with the interest which had accrued, to Paris where he placed it in a fund for the invalid merchant seamen of France. (3)
Edward (? - 1835) was one of Joseph's sons to become Doctors. Two, Joseph (1754-1832) and Richard (1764-1841), both practised in Falmouth and the surrounding district.
 

The young Joseph worked first at the London Hospital, and during that time became friends with another doctor, Edward Jenner who was working at St. George's Hospital. The dread desease of the that Century was smallpox, and a number of doctors were trying to discover a cure. Many had realised that dairymaids who had contracted cowpox were immune from the smallpox, and considered that if a method of innoculating cow-pox could be found, this might be the answer. Edward Jenner left Londbn and returned to his home at Berkeley in Gloucester-shire. In 1796 he wrote a paper on the subject after success when innoculatiny a young boy in his village. In 1'798 he wrote a paper on the. subject. His method became generally accepted in the following century.
Joseph Fox informed his cousin, Thomas Fox, (1747 - 1821) about these developments. We are told by Hubert Fox (2) od a letter ca 1798 saying that "Joseph Fox, now Physician at the London Hospital was a friend and fellow worker with the great Dotor Jenner; through this connection Thomas had many of the children in his factory treated" by innocculation against smallpox. Thomas owned woollen cloth mills at Wellington in Somerset.
Joseph left London and returned to his home in Falmouth where he practiced medicine. He was Doctor to a merchant ship's Captain, Christopher Buckingham, and to his wife, Thorazine, who lived in Flushing. He brought all their children into the world, and one of them later wrote that at the age of six he was sent to Trevissome Farm "to be' innoculated for the small-pox". If he is correct this would be 1792. He continues ''the operation was performed by a worthy Quaker, Dr Fox of Falrnouth, and I was for the puncture, which was so suddenly and unexpectedly made that I was saved all the pain of apprehension which is generally greater than that of the wound itself." (4)
In 1798 Captain Yescombe of the Packat Service advertized Wood cottage at Greatwood for sale, a propert which lay near the ferry crossong at Mylor Creek. Joseph purchased the house, living there for many years possibly until his death.
 

After Edward Long Fox returned from France in 1783 he seemes to have remained for a short time in Falrmouth. In 1792 he wa appointed American Consul, but handed this over to Robert Were Fox in 1794. He is reported as having worked at the Bristol infirmary from l784 until 1816.
He had previously gained his Medical Degree at Edinburgh and wrote a paper there in 1784 'Dissaertatio medica voce humana' (5)
At Bristol Edward earned a high reputation. It has been said that his practice was 'enormous' and that he had the 1argest consulting practice in the West of England. (6)
In the l8 th Century Quakers hard shown concern over the treatment normally offered to mental patients, and in York some advanced work was taking place. In 1794 Edward purchased a Private Asylum in Bristol. Five years later he bought an estate of more than 200 acresar Brislington near Bristol, and started to erect an Asylum which was to be an extraordinary conception for that day and age. It has remained an Asylum to this day, with the exception of a few years during the last War and some after it.
In the l8th Century 'society ladies and gentlemen' would amuse themselves with visiting Bedlam to enjoy the antics of the 'lunatics' there. Even well into the 19th Century there is a report of a poor wretch placed in a cage at Radruth Fair for the amusement of the people. In the Asylums treatment generally consisted of punishments; the use of straight-jackets, whips end chains, and the douching of patients in cold water. George III, when his last illness commenced in 1810 was placed in a straight-jacket, and left in it for ten days. It was during this final illness that Edward, by then well known for his modern ideas, was asked to attend the King but declined probably because his own Asylum, which opened in 1806, was demanding all his energies.
Edward planned the design this Asylum with meticulous care. No detail was too small for his attention. The place, which he called Brislington House, was continued after his death in 1835 by his two sons, Francis and Charles, who were both Doctors. They wrote a pamphlet explaining its construction and the methods used. (7)
The house frontage extended to some 500 Feet, and stood on high ground. The building was surrounded by a high wall, with the excep-tion of the central house. "The door of the centre house is the only means of entrance or of exit, and there a porter constantly attends, who keep the keys of the different divisions; so that the patients can never be left by their servants without his cognizance." A wall also divided the house into two, separating the sexes, since problems had existed in Asylums where the sexes were housed together. There was also a segregated section for patients suffering Frau cornmunicable deseases. Each section had a separate staircase.
Extraordinary care was taken over fire precautions. All strair-cases, doors, joists and window frames were made of iron, and the floors were made of a composition of stucco and plaster of Paris. Windows had no bars, but instead painted iron Venetian blinds were installed inside the windows, which also avoided the appearance of a prison.
Each section was divided into three to accommodate persons of different social backgrounds.. Each had two sittingrooms, one for violent patients and the other for convalescent patients, the latter mainly accommodated on the ground floor so that they had access to the garden. These gardens were enclosed by the high wall, but since they were on heigh ground patients could look over the wall, receiving a feeling of space and freedom, yet since the ground sloped to the base of the wall, it was impossible to escape. To make it pcssible to exercise in inclement weather, arcades were built in these gardens.
To cater for persons of great wealth, there were estate houses in the grounds where they could live in the style to which they were accustomed with servants, carriages and horses.
All this. Care and concern for every kind of person, and the new aproach to treatment must have received a great deal of publicity, and it is not surprising that Edward's reputation spread far and wide.
He beleived that insanity was alleviated by the way it was treated and that some patients needed to be removed from circumstances which distressed them. Very often they had taken a great dislike to some person in their home, and were quieter when removed to live with strangers. Environmental circumstances are still considered to be part of the cause of some cases of mental disturbance.
His patients were left free, but under supervision, although attendants were to be unobserved and instructed not to interfere with patients. Living thus, unchecked, many of their various symptoms disappeared, and patlents were seen to help each other, to the benefit of them all.
Physical recreation and exercise was considered important, and patients could garden, help on the farm, play bowls, cricket, football, or play musical instruments and "in the proper season, parties with greyhounds extend their walks round the neighbouring country in search of game." Indoors chess and other games could be played, and there was a billiard room. A Library was avail-able, and should any wish to subscribe to a circulating Library, this was arranged.
The employment of Attendents was undertaken with equal care, and the Agreement of employment which had to be signed read: ''The Drs Fox engage to give a month's wages, or a rnonth's warning; hut any departure from thre above agreement, cruelty, improper language, or other misconduct towards the patients, will warrant dismissal without reference lo the above terms. How generous these terms would have seemed at that time.
Concerned about patients who might be admitted and locked away to suit their families, he insisted that two medical men should, separately, examine a patient and sign a certificate of insanity before they were admitted.
A report of a distressed woman in Camerton, when efforts were being made to f ind her an Asylum shows the process of the day in such cases. Attempts were first made ta get her father to pay towards her keep, and then the local gentry were asked to subscribe. With additional weekly amounts from the parish most of the money was raised. It was then stated that they might "send her to Hindon or to Doctor Fox's at Brislington, who only received fifteen shill-ings when Tyler was sent from Camerton thither.'' It would seem that Dr Fox reduced his charges for the needy poor. (8)
In the early 19th Century sea bathing became very popular and Doctors considered it afficacious for many patients. Edward appears to have felt that his establishment could benefit from such facilities He turned his attention to the Bristol Channel purchasing the Knightstone Rock near the village of Weston.There he build some excellent baths, and it is thought he was responsible for attracting people to come to the village, which was to grow intro the resort of Weston-suoper-Mare. In 1840 an advert-isement announced: "These Baths, which form a prominent feature of Weston, were erected by the late Dr Fox of Brislington andrank as the principal. Every kind of bath will be found here including a 'plunging bath' formed on a shelving rock, with small breakwater. The ladies and gentleman baths are apart each having their dressingroomn and toilette. There is a reading room overlooking the sea, where the terms for bathing will be found and where the London and other papers as well as periodocals, may be seen (6)
Another report states that Dr Fox spent £ 25,000 on the erection of buildings at Knightstone."From the peculiarity of their site, the baths can be supplied with pure sea water at all states of the tide, and are in consequence, open daily, from six in the morning till nine at night, Sundays excepted, when they are open from nine in the morning, and again, exclusively for invalids, after six in the evening." There was an "open and spacious swimming bath, in whicb the sea flows at high tide; dressing rooms are attached." There were "hot and cold shower baths, plunging, warm, dry, hot and vapour baths either medicated with sulphor, lodine, chlorine, or otherwise.'' A cluster of houses nearby provirletl furnished lodgings, with stables and coach-houses. (9)
It is tempting to imagine, that his brother, Joseph, had at at an early stage encouraged the building of the hot and cold water baths wich once stood on the sea wall between the two quays at flushing, There were a number of such establishments in Corn-wall.
In 1827 Palriament was beginning to take notice of the problem of 'pauper lunatics and Asylums'. Lord Shaftesbury, always concerned for the welfare of the poor, served on a sele Comm-ittee, of the, house of Commons, and helped to get two Bills through the house to improve conditions. Francis and Charles Fox say that it was in consequence of their father's evidence before a Committee of the House of Lords, that the custom of holding Divine Service in Asylums commenced. He stated that "although he could not record any marked advnace in religion among his inmates; still, during the service the deranged appearances are suspended, and the patients tranquillized by the display of order and decorum to such a degree, that the chaplain (curate of his parish) has often expressed his astonishment ............" (7)
Edward is also reported to take an interest in the scientific discoveries of the day. He is said to have practised "Mesmers methods of animal magnetism, hypnotism on patients; anticipated the work of Pasteur and Lister, and prophesied the transmission of coded messages round the world." (6) Members of his family at Falmouth were involved in scientific and other developments. His young cousin Robert Were Fox (1787 - 1877) made a name for himself in the field of scientific investigation, and many of the leading scientists of the day were his friends. In 1840 Robert Were Fox became a fellow of the Royal Society.
When Edward died in 1835, Brislington House continued under the supervision of his two sons. Their description of the Asylum ends: "its principal merit is this, that when the lunatic enters these doors, hope is not excluded: returning health of mind, convalescence and complete cure, are not looked upon as hopeless events and useless expectations ... the Almighty has hitherto been pleased to bless thesew labours in very numerous instances." (7

U.M. Redwood
1989)

REFERENCES

1. Old Falmouth. Susan Gay p. 87, 1903
2. Quaker Homespun. Hubert Fox, 1958, p.80
3. 'History of the Commoners' Burke, Article Fox
4. Autobiography of James Silk Buckingham 1934
5. Catalogue of Friends' Books. Smith
6.'Heralds' newspaper. May 1st 1953, Column 'Mendip Lore' including excerpts from Diaries of the Rev. John Skinner (British museum Library)
7. History & Present state of Brislington House. 1836, Francis and Charles Fox
8. Journal of a Somerset Record 1803 - 1854, 1822 Camerton
9. Wherat Visitors Companion 1847

Home Page |  What's New |  Most Wanted |  Surnames |  Photos |  Histories |  Documents |  Cemeteries |  Places |  Dates |  Reports |  Sources