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Cockermouth Post Article May 2013 – Physicians William Woodville and John Walker

Town councillors are busy trying to decide on a name for the new housing development on Sullart Street, and are looking to Cockermouth’s past history for inspiration. That particular area was part of the workhouse gardens, but I can understand there might be some reluctance to live at such an address. One name mentioned was that of William Woodville. I was disappointed to read that none of our town councillors seemed to have heard of him. I’m sure there will be many people in the town saying they haven’t heard of him either (unless you’ve been to some of our past exhibitions, of course!), but type his name into a Google search and all will be revealed. The little booklet produced for Cockermouth’s Georgian Fair also has information about William, along with an example of one of his many botanical drawings. Like his contemporary, Dr John Walker, (also born in Cockermouth) he attended the Free Grammar School (where the present Saints’ Rooms stands) in the 18th century. They both moved on from Cockermouth to make their mark in the field of smallpox and vaccination, following Jenner’s pioneering work; John became known as the ‘apostle of vaccination’, travelling all around Europe with his colleague Dr Joseph Marshall (a Workington lad), vaccinating people until the day he died. William was appointed Physician at the London Smallpox Hospital, wrote a history of smallpox and its treatment, and found time to produce a collection of exquisite botanical drawings, drawn from flowers and herbs in his physic garden in the grounds of the Smallpox Hospital. These are just two men of many who made their mark on the national and international stages – and they came from Cockermouth! We should celebrate the fact.

Gloria Edwards

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