Legendary doctor whose vision received royal approval

Dr Jerrard's flexible bed

Dr Jerrard's flexible or 'revolvable' bed - Credit: Honiton Museum

Most people would have heard of Dr John Henry Frederick Jerrard, who left his estate to Honiton for a hospital, but little is known about his grandfather Dr John Clapcott Jerrard, who was a legend in his lifetime.

John Clapcott Jerrard was born in Charmouth in 1793 and married the heiress Mary Frost in 1820. In addition to practising medicine from his High Street  premises, John contributed to the political life of Honiton. He was one of the gentlemen chosen to be part of  the reception committee when Princess Victoria and her mother visited the Golden Lion Inn in 1833. Victoria presented herself at the window several times during the hour-long stay. The East Devon Volunteer Cavalry escorted the Royal party to Axminster, then returned to attend a dinner at the King’s Arms.

John was elected ale tester at  Honiton Court Leet in 1841 and became an alderman in 1847 when the town became a municipal borough. He was mayor four times in the years 1852, 1859, 1861 and 1863.  At a magistrates’ meeting in the Golden Lion Inn in 1847 he was sworn in as a special constable and he was a founder member of the Honiton Cricket Club. 

The doctor was always held in high esteem by the community. A silver inkstand was presented to him by Sir Edmund Prideaux for professional services to his family. The people of Honiton presented two silver salvers for his outstanding work during a cholera epidemic. 

Dr Jerrard invented a revolvable invalid bed and he was invited to an audience with the King at St James’ Palace. The Exeter Flying Post reported: “His Majesty’s medical attendants were present, all of whom were much gratified, and expressed their approbation of its obvious utility to invalids under a variety of circumstances. After careful viewing a model of the bed, the uses of which were pointed out by Dr Jerrard, his Majesty was pleased to express his approbation of the invention in the highest terms of commendation.”

No patent has been found and there seems to be no evidence that the bed was ever produced for sale. The Society of Arts awarded Dr Jerrard a  silver medal for his invention and it can be seen on display in the museum.

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