Dr Jenner’s House & Garden
In the little country town of Berkeley in Gloucestershire is a globally important Museum and Science Centre – Dr Jenner’s House & Garden.
Dr Edward Jenner was a compassionate 18th century rural doctor who made vaccination against smallpox safe, and discovered the science of immunology.
Purchase of ‘The Chantry’
The Chantry was the house in which Dr Jenner lived from 1785 until his death in 1823. After his death, the house was purchased by the Church of England and used as The Vicarage for the nearby St Mary’s Church.
In the early 1980s The Jenner Trust launched an appeal to buy the house to set up as a museum to honour Dr Jenner and his achievements. With the encouragement and support of the British Society for Immunology, the World Health Organisation and a substantial donation from Mr Ryoichi Sasakawa of Japan, the stables were also purchased and converted into the Old Cyder House Conference Centre.
At first Jenner’s 1740s house was set up as a museum to retrospectively honour the man and his work, but in 1996, two rooms on the first floor of the house were converted into an exhibition of immunology. The museum had quietly but significantly changed its role.
In 2011, the name of the organisation was changed from The Edward Jenner Museum to 'Dr Jenner’s House and Garden, the Birthplace of Vaccination', to make it clear that this is a landmark building where Jenner lived and worked.
Edward Jenner was an energetic, highly intelligent and curious man, enquiring into all aspects of science. He was extremely observant and noticed many anomalies in the countryside. He proved that birds migrated during the winter – it was previously thought that they went into hibernation. He discovered the parasitic nesting behaviour of fledgling cuckoos and was even canvassing the idea of evolution long before Charles Darwin.
The museum’s collections cover all these aspects of Jenner’s life as well as telling the story of how he proved inoculation with cow pox would protect a person from catching a fatal dose of smallpox.
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It is hard for us in the 21st century to imagine what life was like without immunisation to protect us from many fatal and disabling diseases. In the 18th century smallpox was the most feared and greatest killer of its time. It killed 10% of the population, rising to 20% in towns and cities where infection spread easily. Among children, it accounted for one in three of all deaths. Jenner called it the Speckled Monster.
As a Primary School child, Jenner had his first brush with smallpox. He underwent variolation, which was inoculation with the smallpox virus against natural infection.
At age 14 Edward was apprenticed for 7 years to a surgeon at Chipping Sodbury where he gained most of the experience needed to become a country doctor. In 1770 he went to St. George's Hospital in London
to complete his medical training under the great surgeon and experimentalist, John Hunter.
From the early days of his career, Edward Jenner was intrigued by country-lore which said that people who caught cowpox from their cows could not catch smallpox. He observed this in his local area and started to investigate and experiment using cowpox as a means to prevent catching smallpox.
James Phipps and ‘Blossom’
On 14 May 1796, Jenner tested his hypothesis by inoculating James Phipps, an eight-year-old boy who was the son of his gardener. He scraped pus from cowpox blisters on the hands of Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid who had caught cowpox from a cow called Blossom, and inoculated Phipps in both arms the same day.
This event subsequently produced in Phipps a fever and some uneasiness, but no full-blown infection. Later, he injected Phipps with variolous material (of or relating to smallpox), the routine method of immunization at that time. No disease followed. The boy was later challenged with variolous material and again showed no sign of infection.
Phipps was the 17th case described in Jenner's first paper on vaccination. Jenner published many case studies to ensure the whole world knew what he had discovered. The research finally led to the naming of this groundbreaking process as 'vaccination'. The name of the process was fittingly taken from Jenner's research as the word vacca means 'cow' in Latin.
The humble cow Blossom has gone down in history. Her horns are on display in the museum and her hide now hangs on the wall of the St George's medical school library in Tooting (London
This is no ordinary garden filled with lovely flowers; it is a scientist’s garden filled with unusual plants and herbs and an extraordinary thatched summerhouse called The Temple of Vaccinia.
Jenner used his garden as a laboratory extension, conducting intriguing horticultural experiments, growing exotic tropical fruits in the heated Vinery and providing a free health clinic for locals in the ‘Temple’.
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The Temple of Vaccinia
In a wooded area of the garden can be found this unique Grade II listed 18th century building. Jenner’s friend, Rev Robert Ferryman, built it between 1796 and 1804 as a little summerhouse where Jenner could escape and read uninterrupted.
The little Hermitage-style summerhouse is built of stone with a thatched roof. Large sections of bark from forest trees decorate around the doorway and inside. The interior contains a stone floor and small fireplace.
However, after Jenner’s extensive research in to smallpox vaccination, the longed for retreat was turned into a surgery from which he vaccinated the poor of the district without charge. He knew that in order to rid the world of smallpox he had to make his vaccine available to all. This is how the building got its flamboyant name.
The Temple of Vaccinia is recognized by many as the site of the first public health service; as a testament to its significance a film projection is now in place to encourage visitors to reflect on its significance and unique place in world history.
To the rear of the House is the glasshouse containing the Black Hamburgh grape vines planted by Jenner in 1818. The original plants were obtained as cuttings by Jenner from the Great Vine at Hampton Court Palace
The vinery provides a protected environment for the grapes to grow faster. These vines produce wonderfully sweet dessert grapes and both vine cuttings and grapes are sold seasonally in the Gift Shop.
During later summer months visitors can access the interior of the vinery and see the Victorian 'hot' wall that is still in- situ. This wall was heated by individual fires, an arduous task in the cold winter. In this heated environment, Jenner would also have grown exotic fruits such as pineapples in the raised hot bed in the middle of the vinery.
Some of the beauty of this garden comes from species planted by inhabitants of The Chantry after Jenner’s time. Rev John H.W. Fisher, a Vicar of Berkeley, recalled how the cyclamen that bloom under the trees were introduced.
The central figure was a Mrs. Stackhouse, wife of Canon Stackhouse, a former vicar of Berkeley. “...Towards the end of the 19th century Canon and Mrs. Stackhouse went on holiday to Italy and one of the places they visited was the Vatican. In the Vatican Garden the cyclamen (Cyclamen Neapolitanum) were in bloom. Mrs. Stackhouse loved to bring back a souvenir from any garden she visited, and the habit of a lifetime pressed upon her. Swiftly, she dropped her umbrella, and under the very eyes of the Papal Guard, managed to conceal a cyclamen corm inside it as she retrieved it.”
Some years later an old gentleman called at The Chantry vicarage and asked if he could look inside as he had been a regular visitor there when Canon Stackhouse was vicar. Rev. Fisher asked him if the story of the cyclamen was true. “Indeed it is, the gentleman replied. I called to welcome them home and Mrs Stackhouse was still unpacking. She came downstairs into the drawing room with her sponge bag. What have you got there, I asked. Triumphantly holding it up she answered ‘The Papal Cyclamen’!”
This corm was planted under the plane tree, which Dr. Jenner had planted 100 years before. It has grown and flourished, and can still be seen today.
Plan Your Visit
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- Times on Open Days
12:00 - 17:00 hours. Last admission 16:00 hours
The museum is self-guided but an official guide needs to be booked in advance to see the ‘Ghosts in the Attic’ exhibition on the top floor. Telephone the House to make arrangements.
Adults: around £6.95; Carers and children under 5: Free.
Special concessions available and discounts for National Trust, English Heritage members etc.
- Mobility: There is wheelchair access to the ground floor of the house and garden.
- Sensory: The introductory video that is shown in the dining room at the start of the visit is subtitled. Braille Guide & portable hearing loop available. Assistance dogs only allowed in house and garden
Disabled access toilet and 1 Disabled Parking Space available
There is no lift so no wheelchair access to first floor exhibitions. The Vinery is too narrow for wheelchairs.
- Old Cyder House Toilets & Refreshment Area (bring your own food and drink);
- Gift Shop which during summer also sells plant cuttings from the garden and grapes from the Jenner Vine;
- Picnic Benches in the garden;
- Attic Tours
– Special educational exhibition called ‘Ghosts in the Attic: From smallpox to MMR’. Visitors are welcome to visit the attic but please make arrangements in advance to avoid disappointment. The attic stairs are steep so not suitable for disabled visitors. Web: Jenner Museum/ Facilities
Contact & Further Information
+44 (0)1453 810 631
The Centre is 1½ miles (2.4 km) west from the A38, mid-way between Bristol
. The M5 motorway is 3½ miles (5.6 km) away, and the M4 motorway is 8 miles (12.9 km) away.
- By Car
Travelling northbound on the M5, Exit at Junction 14 and follow signs for Berkeley
and the A38, and then follow the ‘Dr Jenner’s House & Garden’ Brown and White tourist signs.
Travelling southbound on the M5: Exit at Junction 13, follow signs for Berkeley
and the A38, and then follow the tourist signs as above.
'Yes' for visitors to the Museum only.
National Cycle Route 41. Bike stands available in the museum car park.
Google Maps - Dr Edward Jenner's House