John Edwards was first mentioned as a Newmarket medic in 1772, when he would have been about 24 years of age. It’s not yet known where he was born or served his apprenticeship.
The 1772 reference to him (see image on the right) is from an Oxford Newspaper – perhaps he was from Oxford? Interestingly, he was advertising a cure for Ague: ‘Edward’s AGUE Tincture. Is a certain and infallible Cure for the AGUE, when the Bark and all other Medicines have been used without Effect.’ (for full details see the references below). The advert mentions that he sold his ‘Cure’ from numerous outlets across southern and central England, but in it he describes himself as ‘Mr. Edwards, Surgeon, at Newmarket’. He was still advertising this remedy in 1776, in the same newspaper. He also wrote an interesting account about it published in the Ipswich Journal, also in 1776 (see the references below). Ague was a word for fever, often used in the context of malaria (which was present in 18th Century England – especially in marshy areas like the Fens, near Newmarket). Bark refers to willow bark, which was used at that time to treat fever, since it contained substances related to aspirin. It’s a pity we don’t know what was in his tincture. If it was effective against malaria perhaps it contained quinine, which was in use at that time.
[Note: back then it was common to keep the ingredients of such ‘cures’ secret. Mr Hawes of Cavendish was a surgeon ‘long distinguished for his skill in consumptive complaints [meaning TB – consumption being the old word for TB]’. In 1803, a couple of years after Mr Hawes died, his relatives placed a notice in the newspaper regarding who was ‘in possession of his manuscripts, prescriptions, and method of treatment’, since ‘many weakly and consumptive persons’ were approaching them wanting to know. From a Newmarket medical history point of view it’s interesting that Mr Hawes was the maternal grandfather of Newmarket’s Robert James Peck. However, Robert was only a child when his grandfather died, so he was not the one who inherited the secrets, but might have been given them later? Richard Hawes himself had acquired these ‘secret remedies’ from a Dr Thomas of Lavenham in 1772 – see the references below or the page on the Pecks for more details, including some images.]
Aside from being described as a surgeon, John Edwards was also referred to as an apothecary (as would be expected from the above advert), and in the 1791 Trade Directory as a man-midwife too (see an image of this on the Faint Traces page) – a true all round generalist, as most surgeons in those days were (but not always so obviously evidenced – see The history of medical treatments, training, qualifications and regulation). It’s interesting that unlike his Newmarket contemporaries William Sandiver 2 and Thomas Searancke 2, John Edwards does not appear in the Medical Registers of 1779 and 1783, but inclusion in those was not compulsory. In Bailey’s directory of 1784, which lists amongst others ‘gentlemen of the law and physic’ he’s listed as a surgeon and apothecary.
In 1788 John Edwards appears listed as the surgeon heading up All Saints’ parish, alongside William Sandiver 2 the surgeon for St Mary’s parish, in a statement declaring Newmarket free from smallpox (see image on the left – the first paragraph is transcribed in the references below if you find it difficult to read).
In addition he’s recorded as having apprentices in 1779 and 1790, Walter Norton and Thomas Sharpe respectively (see the page on Walter Norton for an image of his apprenticeship tax record). He thus heads up the Edwards-Norton-Taylor-Kendall-Thomas-Bullen practice chain in Newmarket that ran until the 1830s. He had a medical son, also called John Edwards, who would have been his apprentice as well, but who sadly died at the age of just 24 in 1796 – buried at All Saints. His son must have only just finished training, and was probably working alongside Walter Norton, John Edwards senior having died a few years earlier. The son was described at his death as ‘Mr. John Edwards, surgeon and apothecary, of Newmarket’ in the press, and as dying after a long illness. It’s not likely therefore that his time in practice was very long at all.
John Edwards the elder had died in 1793, also relatively young at the age of 45. The newspaper report of his death mentions that he died whilst visiting a patient in Burwell. It’s interesting to see him covering a village several miles away like that, as the Newmarket practices do even to this day (even though Burwell has its own surgery now, and had its own medics in the 19th century at least as well – I have not yet identified an 18th century Burwell medic, although like John Edwards, the Newmarket based little known William Cooke was also involved with Burwell, interestingly in 1797, the year after John Edwards junior’s death – see the Faint traces page).
No doubt John Edwards would have travelled to Burwell by horse, and an interesting notice appeared in The Newcastle Courant newspaper in 1776 regarding the theft of two of his horses and some tack (again see the references below – where there’s also a reference to him insuring his rather large sounding stables in 1785). Quite why this notice appeared in such a distant newspaper is not known, but it contains a rather detailed description of his horses. It’s a pity we don’t have more detail about John Edwards himself. It would be strange if, in over 200 years’ time, as much detail were known about our cars but so little about ourselves!
Aside from John the son, baptised at St Mary’s church in Newmarket in 1773, John and Martha Edwards had a daughter Elizabeth baptised at All Saints in 1783; it’s not known what became of her. Martha appears to have lived on until 1797, when she was buried at All Saints at 49 years of age – that would have made her exactly the same age as her husband when they were alive.
Image 1: Jackson’s Oxford Journal. Saturday Sept 19 1772: 4 (cropped); image © The British Library Board, all rights reserved, reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk. [Note: clicking here leads to the specific page on their website, but requires logging in to it.]
Image 2: The Ipswich Journal. Saturday Jun 14 1788: 3 (cropped); image © The British Library Board, all rights reserved, reproduced with kind permission of The British Newspaper Archive, www.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk. [Note: clicking here leads to the specific page on their website, but requires logging in to it, and click here for a transcript of the first paragraph in the references below.]
Note: see comments regarding images and copyright © etc. on the Usage &c. page as well.
1772, 19th September: ‘Edward’s AGUE Tincture. Is a certain and infallible Cure for the AGUE, when the Bark and all other Medicines have been used without Effect. One small Bottle is enough for one Person, Price Two Shillings. Sold by W. Jackson, and Co. at Oxford; Mr. Raikes, at Gloucester; Mess. Pearson and Aris, at Birmingham; Mess. Fletcher and Co. at Cambridge; Mr. Chase, at Norwich; Mr. Perry, at the Star, facing the King’s Arms Tavern, in Cornhill, London; Mr. Leake, Bookseller at Bath; Mr. Ca-dell, at Bristol; and Mr. Gamidge, at Worcester. N.B. Letters Post Paid, directed to Mr. Edwards, Sur-geon, at Newmarket, will be duly answered.’ Reference: Jackson’s Oxford Journal. Saturday Sept 19 1772: 4. [Note: see image above.], [Note also, a similar advert with a slightly different list of outlets was still appearing in the same paper in 1776. Reference: Jackson’s Oxford Journal. Saturday May 25 1776: 4.]
1772, 24th November: ‘CAVENDISH, Nov.24, 1772, Consumptive Disorders, the Asthma, Jaundice, and obstinate Agues. THE late Doctor THOMAS of Lavenham, hav-ing in his last illness communicated to me his se-cret Remedies and Method of curing the above Diseases, I have thought it necessary in this public Manner to ac-quaint the Patients of the said Doctor Thomas & others, that they may be supply’d with the same Medicines by me that were used by him with such remarkable Success. RICHARD HAWES.’ Reference: The Ipswich Journal. Saturday Dec 05 1772: 3. [Note: see the page on The Pecks for an image of this.]
1773, 1st January: John son of John and Martha Edwards baptised, St Mary’s church, Newmarket. Reference: J552/9, microfilm of Newmarket St Mary’s parish register, (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1776, 11th May: ‘EDWARDS’s AGUE TINCTURE. / MEDICINES offered to the Public, have in ge-neral so many virtues ascribed to them, and some of those diametrically opposite to each other, that I am sorry I have reason to say, most of them seem calculated to be of advantage to the proprietor, rather than be of public utility; this added to the ignorance of a great many people, into whose hands they must inevitably fall, hath brought many valuable medicines into disrepute, and is the reason I deferred publishing this Tincture, till numberless solicitations I have at length been prevailed on, and have accordingly ap-pointed Messrs. Fletcher and Hodson, of Cambridge, my sole agents for publishing and vending the same. / This Tincture is the most efficacious of any hitherto discovered, hath very often effected a cure, when bark and every other medicine have been used without success; and hath this singular advantage, neither taste or smell. One bottle is generally sufficient for a cure. Price 2s. / I forbear giving a number of certificates of cures, which too often impose on the public; every vender will be able to refer any person desirous of information, to people in their respective neighbourhoods, and I have no other with, than that the credit of this medicine should either rise or fall according to its real value. JOHN EDWARDS. / This Tincture is sold wholesale by Fletcher and Hodson in Cambridge, by whom country dealers may be supplied, with good allowance: It may also be had of J. Shave, Ipswich; Crouse and Chase, Norwich; Eaton, Yarmouth; Whittingham, Lynn; Keymer, Colchester; Gray, Chelmsford; and the circulators of this and the Cambridge papers. Reference: The Ipswich Journal. Saturday May 11 1776: 4. [Note: oddly he doesn’t mention Newmarket in this, but it must be the same John Edwards.]
1776, 15th November: ‘STOLEN, out of the stable of J. Edwards, Surgeon, at Newmarket, in the night of the 15th inst. a strong black Gelding, about fifteen hands high, six years old, his mane has been short, but now just long enough to comb on one side, a white spot on the near shoulder the size of a shilling, near foot before black, the off foot white in the heel, and two white feet behind; rather thick winded, and has a cough upon him; and within the week before he was stolen, rubbed the hair off the hip on the near side, coming out of the stable door, about three inches long, and one and an half wide; has never been nicked, and his tail hath not been cut lately: his heels are cut out very close,. and not very neatly; is rather subject to the grease, and has now some small cracks and scurf in his heels; is between the hack and cart breed, rather more of the latter; the mark in the shoulder was occasioned by his collar, in being carted when three years old. Likewise, a strong bay Gelding, rising four, about fourteen hands two inches high, black thick mane and tail, off foot behind white; his fore feet has each of them a tread, which is nearly wore out with shoeing; rather light carcased. Also two saddles, the maker’s name Buckle, Newmarket: and two bridles; one a plated-jointed Weymouth bit bridle; the other a Pelham bit, high in the mouth, with bent cheeks, & only one rein. Any person discovering the offender or offenders, shall, upon conviction, receive Five Guineas reward from the aforesaid JOHN EDWARDS.’ Reference: The Newcastle Courant. Saturday Dec 7 1776: 1.
1779, 18th August: Tax paid regarding Walter Norton’s apprenticeship to Jno Edwards of Newmarket, surgeon. Reference: Online image of apprenticeship tax records held at The National Archives, ancestry.co.uk (accessed 25th July 2015). [Note: see the page on Walter Norton for an image also.], [Note also, Wallis and Wallis below date this as 23rd September with (7/£80) in brackets, apparently obtaining similar information from an alternative source of which I am not aware. Suffolk Medical Biographies also below follows Wallis and Wallis, interpreting the bracketed comment as referring to a 7 year apprenticeship.]
1783, 27th November: Elizabeth daughter of John and Martha Edwards baptised, All Saints’, Newmarket. Reference: Microfiche of Newmarket All Saints’ parish register (fiche 3), (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1784: ‘Edwards, John, Surgeon and Apothecary’, under Newmarket, Cambridgeshire. Reference: Bailey’s British directory; or, merchant’s and trader’s useful companion, for the year 1784, in four volumes. Containing accurate lists of the bankers, merchants, manufacturers, gentlemen of the law and physic and principal traders in the metropolis, and different towns in Great Britain. Volume the fourth. The eastern directory. Price three shillings. Containing and accurate list of the names and places of abode of the bankers, merchants, gentlemen of the law and physic, manufacturers, and respectable traders in every principal in Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Sussex, Surry [sic], and Warwickshire. Compiled with the greatest care and accuracy. The first edition. London: Printed by W. Bailey, and Co.; 1784, pg 872. [Note: there is not a separate section for Newmarket, Suffolk.]
1785, 12th April: An entry in an insurance policy register records ‘John Edwards of Newmarket in Suffolk Surgeon’ insuring his ‘Ten stalled stable… near his dwelling house at Newmarket’, described as ‘Stone Brick Timber & tiled’ and the ‘Utensils & Stock therein’. Reference: Royal and Sun Alliance Insurance Group records, CLC/B/192/F/001/MS11936/328/503419 (London Metropolitan Archives, London). [Note: thanks to Rachel Wood for drawing my attention to the existence of this record.]
1788, 9th June: John Edwards listed as the surgeon heading up All Saints’ parish alongside William Sandiver as the surgeon heading up St Mary’s parish declaring with others listed underneath, ‘Whereas a Report has been propagated, that the SMALL-POX is in Newmarket: We, the Churchwardens, Overseers, and other principle Inhabitants of St. Mary’s and All Saints parishes, in Newmarket aforesaid, do certify, that no persons have got the Small-Pox in either of the said parishes.’ Reference: The Ipswich Journal. Saturday Jun 14 1788: 3. [Note: see image above.]
1790, 9th October: Tax paid regarding Thos. Sharpe’s apprenticeship to Jno Edwards of Newmarket, surgeon. Reference: Online image of apprenticeship tax records held at The National Archives, ancestry.co.uk (accessed 25th July 2015). [Note: Wallis and Wallis below date this as 5th May 1791 with (U/£105) in brackets and the comment <Until 21>, apparently obtaining similar information from an alternative source of which I am not aware. Suffolk Medical Biographies also below follows Wallis and Wallis, interpreting the additional comments as referring to the apprenticeship ending when Thomas Sharpe became aged 21.]
1791: John Edwards, Surgeon, Apothecary and Man-midwife, Newmarket, Cambridgeshire (listed under ‘Physic.’). Reference: The Universal British Directory of Trade, Commerce, and Manufacture. London: Printed for the patentees, at the British Directory Office, Ave Maria-Lane; and sold by Champante and Whitrow, Jewery-Street, Aldgate; 1791. [Note: see the Faint traces page for an image of this.]
1793, 10th January: ‘Thursday last died at Burwell, in Cam-bridgeshire, where he went to visit a patient, Mr. John Edwards, surgeon and apothecary, of Newmarket.’ Reference: The Bury and Norwich Post. Wednesday Jan 16 1793: 2.
1793, 21st January: John Edwards buried, aged 45, All Saints’, Newmarket. Reference: Microfiche of Newmarket All Saints’ parish register (fiche 4), (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1796, 24th March: John the son of John and Martha Edwards buried, aged 24, All Saints’, Newmarket. Reference: Microfiche of Newmarket All Saints’ parish register (fiche 4), (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1796, 25th March: Under Monthly Obituary ‘Mr. John Edwards, surgeon and apothecary, at Newmarket’. Reference: The European Magazine and London Review 1796; vol 29 Jan to Jun, in April, pg 286. London: J Sewell, Cornhill; 1796.
1796, 25th March: Under ‘Died.’ ‘Friday, after a long illness, Mr. John Edwards, surgeon and apothecary, of Newmarket.’ Reference: Ipswich journal. Saturday Mar 26th 1796: 4.
1797, 27th October: Martha Edwards widow buried, aged 49, All Saints’, Newmarket. Reference: Microfiche of Newmarket All Saints’ parish register (fiche 4), (Suffolk County Record Office, Bury St Edmunds).
1801, 22nd February: ‘Sunday se’nnight died, after a long and painful illness, Mr. Hawes, surgeon, of Cavendish.- A gentleman long distinguished for his skill in consumptive complaints.’ Reference: The Bury and Norwich Post. Wednesday Mar 4th 1801: 2. [Note: the interesting use of the word se’nnight i.e. seven-night, meaning week, i.e. ‘a week ago last Sunday’ – hence I’ve dated this 22nd February from Wednesday 4th March.]
1803, May: ‘To the PUBLIC. APPLICATIONS having been frequently made to the Family of the late Mr. HAWES, Surgeon, of CAVENDISH, in Suffolk, by many Weakly and Consumptive Persons, not knowing his successor; Mr. J. HAWES, his Son, and one of his Executors, takes this opportunity of informing the Friends of his late Father, and the Public in general, that his relation, Mr. BECK, Surgeon, of NEEDHAM-MARKET, Is the only person in possession of his Manuscripts, Prescriptions, and Method of Treatment, to whom in future, to prevent trouble and disappointment, they are requested to apply. Cavendish, May 16th, 1803.’ Reference: The Bury and Norwich Post. Wednesday May 18th 1803: 3. [Note: see the page on The Pecks for an image of this.]
Cockayne EE, Stow NJG. An 18th Century Physician’s Handbook. Woolpit, Suffolk: Suffolk Medical History Society, by Mac Slaytor Press; 2012. (mentions on page 121 that Thomas Sydenham 1624-1689 ‘helped to popularise the use of quinine in the treatment of malaria’, so it might well have been a component in John Edward’s 1770s ague remedy.)
Suffolk Medical Biographies. Profile for Edwards, John. http://www.suffolkmedicalbiographies.co.uk/Profile.asp?Key=194 (originally accessed pre October 2013). [Note: see comments regarding this website on the Francis Greene page.]
The Medical Register for the year 1779. London: Printed for J. Murray, No 32, Fleet Street; 1779.
The Medical Register for the year 1783. London: Printed for Joseph Johnson, No 72, St. Paul’s church-yard; 1783.
Wallis PJ, Wallis RV. Eighteeth century medics. [2nd ed.]. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Project for Historical Biobibliography; 1988.
Note: For published material referenced on this website see the ‘Acknowledgements for resources of published material’ section on the ‘Usage &c.’ page. The sources used for original unpublished documents are noted after each individual reference. Any census records are referenced directly to The National Archives, since images of these are so ubiquitous on microfilm and as digital images that they almost function like published works. Census records are covered by the ‘Open Government Licence’ as should be other such public records (see the ‘Copyright and related issues’ section on the ‘Usage &c.’ page for which references constitute public records, and any other copyright issues more generally such as fair dealing/use etc.).