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Edward Jenner Museum

The Museum is based in Chantry House, Berkeley, where Edward Anthony Jenner (born 17 May 1749 – died 26 January 1823), the pioneer of the smallpox (variola) vaccine lived for thirty eight years between 1785 and his eventual death. The Edward Jenner Museum has a reputation of being haunted and in 2009 whilst taking promotional shots for a ‘Ghosts in the Attic’ exhibition, BBC photographer Chris Sandys caught on camera what some believe to be the apparition of the famous scientist.

Edward Jenner was born in the old rectory in Berkeley on 17 May 1749 and between 1763 and 1770 he was apprenticed to a surgeon named Daniel Ludlow in Chipping Sodbury. He then trained at St Georges Hospital (founded 1733) in London. In 1773 he returned to Berkeley as a General Practitioner and set up a practice.

It had been noted and considered to be Folk wisdom, that milkmaids did not catch smallpox, though they did catch cowpox and Jenner theorised that it was the cowpox that prevented them from catching the deadlier disease.  Whilst based at Chantry House, Jenner innoculated an eight year old boy named James Phipps with scraped puss from cowpox blisters, taken from the hands of a milkmaid named Sarah Nelmes. This was on 14 May 1796. Jenner then attempted to infect the boy with smallpox. After testing it was considered that Phipps had been made immune. This case appeared in his first paper on vaccination and the hide from the cow (Blossom) that Sarah had caught the cowpox from was preserved and displayed at St Georges Hospital to mark the importance of the work. I doubt that this type of experimentation would impress an ethics committee today.

Smallpox may have killed as many as 300-500 million people in the 20th century alone and may have been killing people since 10,000BC. In December 1979 the World Health Organisation announced the eradication of Smallpox and it was the work of people like Edward Jenner that made it possible.

Jenner was influential in the creation of the National Vaccine Establishment and was a member of the Medical and Chirurgical Society (Royal Society of Medicine). He was appointed as Physician Extraordinary to King George IV in 1821.

Following a stroke he died on 26 January 1823 leaving a son and a daughter. Chantry House was passed down through the Jenner family until 1876 when it was sold. In 1885 it was again on the market and was bought by the Church of England as a new vicarage for Berkeley Parish Church. Early in the 1980’s the church sold Chantry House and it was opened as a museum in 1985.

The following article dated 18 May 2009 appears on the Telegraph website.

‘A ghostly image photographed at a museum has prompted speculation that the spirit of the English scientist Edward Jenner could be haunting his former home in Gloucestershire.

A photograph seems to have captured a hazy image of a man sitting on a chair in the attic of the Edward Jenner Museum, in Berkeley.

The picture was taken by BBC photographer Chris Sandys who was gathering images for a story on the museum's new Ghosts in the Attic exhibition.

(Image Copyright Chris Sandys - Cick to enlarge)

Mr Sandys said: "I don't believe in ghosts myself, but this is strange.

"As soon as I'd taken a panoramic photo, I reviewed the image on the camera, and straight away noticed this strange formation of light, shaped like a figure, through the doorway in the next room.

"Without moving I did a few takes to try and work out what had caused it but couldn't see anything. It was so weird."

Jenner was the pioneer of smallpox vaccination and the father of immunology. He was born in Berkeley in 1749 where he spent most of his career as a doctor in the town before he died in 1823.

Sarah Parker, the museum's director, said: "There have always been stories of ghosts at the Edward Jenner Museum.

"We usually take them with a large pinch of salt.

"We are truly flabbergasted by the image.

"You can basically see through a doorway what looks like a figure reclining in a chair, only there is no chair there.

"Who knows whether it is Jenner himself?

"We have graffiti from soldiers previously billeted in the attic rooms from the late 19th century and perhaps this is one of them or even one of Jenner's servants."

I have found references to several strange experiences that have been reported at the Edward Jenner Museum, these include the sound of a dog (complete with the distinct noise of it’s nails on wood) going up the staircase. Apparently an apparition of a man is also said to have been seen going into Jenner’s study.

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