Membury to celebrate the life of its famous son

Church service and exhibition will commemorate the life and works of Thomas Wakley

THE life and works of Membury’s most famous son will be celebrated in the village this weekend.

An exhibition and church service, on Sunday (May 20), will mark the 150th anniversary of the death of surgeon, social reformer and parliamentarian Thomas Wakley.

It comes as a new appraisal of his life is published in The Lancet - the esteemed medical journal which he founded – along with the only known photograph of the great man, discovered amongst archive material by Axminster GP Dr David Evans.

It will feature in the latest edition of the Lancet, published yesterday (Wednesday), along with the new article by consultant editor David Sharp, who will address the commemoration service in Membury Church, which starts ay 2.30pm.


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Meanwhile en exhibition detailing Wakley’s life and works – including his time as a coroner and his work as an agitator for the release of the Tolpuddle Martyrs – will take place from 11am to 5.30pm in the village hall.

* Born into a wealthy farming family in Membury in 1795, Thomas Wakley was one of 11 children.

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He studied at grammar schools at Chard and Taunton and in his early teens was apprenticed to a Taunton apothecary.

Later he attended anatomy classes at St Thomas’s Hospital, London.

A surgeon at 22, he set up in practice in Regent Street, and in 1823 he co-founded the now well-known medical weekly The Lancet, primarily to combat the corruption and nepotism that he found in the medical profession. It proved hugely successful.

Wakley was a great social reformer who relished confrontation and his life was littered with court cases. He was coroner for West Middlesex, and, as Member of Parliament for the Finsbury constituency, he took up many causes including that of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.

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