Updated 26 Nov 2011

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Photo 186


Photo taken 1910?

Photo taken 2003.

Sir Frederick Treves.

From a Boy's Book
'Don't worry about genius and don't worry about not being clever. Trust rather to hard work, perseverance, and determination. The best motto for a long march is "Don't grumble. Plug on."
You hold your future in your own hands. Never waver in this belief. Don't swagger. The boy who swaggers - like the man who swaggers - has little else that he can do. He is a cheap-Jack crying his own paltry wares. It is the empty tin that rattles most. Be honest. Be loyal. Be kind. Remember that the hardest thing to acquire is the faculty of being unselfish. As a quality it is one of the finest attributes of manliness.
'Love the sea, the ringing beach and the open downs.
'Keep clean, body and mind'

Sir Frederick Treves, Bart, KCVO, CB, Sergeant in Ordinary to HM the King. Surgeon in Ordinary to HRH Prince of Wales, written at 6 Wimpole Street, Cavendish Square, London on 2 September 1903, on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Boy's Own Paper

Wirksworth, Sir Frederick Treves House

From an unused postcard. The house is on Coldwell Street, Wirksworth. between numbers 19 and 23. Today it is called just "Treves House", and has lost its ivy and garden wall. A high-resolution scan shows an "A T Green, Dental Surgeon" worked at this house when the photo was taken.

Sir Frederick Treves 1853-1923 was born in Dorset and died in Switzerland. He was Surgeon Royal, and operated on King Edward VII and the "Elephant Man". He wrote "Highways and Byways of Dorset". The full and fascinating story of Sir Frederick is told in an article by Peter Seddon.

Pat Craft writes
Treves House is in Coldwell Street, the street on which the Station stands. Turn right at the Red Lion as if you were going to the Station, pass the Red Lion, the Vaults and May's tea shop and Treve's House is the next but one house i.e. next to Ian's hairdresser's on the corner with North End.

Peter Seddon writes:
Hi John,
What a marvellous site you have put together, which has helped with my Peel connections no end.
I came across the photo of Treves House and you say 'the connection to Frederick Treves is unknown.'
Well, before he became a 'famous surgeon' etc. Treves practised in Wirksworth from that property. He arrived when aged 24 in 1878, having bought a share in the practice of Dr. William Milligan of Wirksworth. Treves was young, go-ahead, and with his own ideas, and some of his methods caused consternation in the town. After a series of controversies he and his wife Anne (Mason) left Wirksworth in 1879 after barely a year there. Treves went on to great things and the property at 21 Coldwell Street was named in his honour. The full story is told in my article in the June 2002 issue of 'Derbyshire Life and Countryside.'
Hope this helps.

Just two snippets of possible interest I came across:
1) Treves's first daughter, Enid Margery Treves, was born in Wirksworth in 1878.
2) In his book of semi autobiographical short stories - 'The Elephant Man and Other Reminiscences' - there is one set in 'a small northern town with its own cottage hospital' - about a doctor who had just got married etc etc - although Wirksworth is not mentioned by name, the story evidently refers to Treves's time there. In fact, many of the stories are about 'a young medical man who had started practice in a humble country town'....all drawing on his Wirksworth experience.
Peter Seddon.

Noreen Reeves writes:
Dear Mr Palmer,
During my research into the Ogdon family of Wirksworth, I have been using your great website nearly every day !! It has been an enormous help to me, especially as I can get more up to date with the 1901 Census results. Keep up the good work!! I notice that you have :

Photo 186 - Treves House, Coldwell Street , Wirksworth.

As you request any relevant info regarding this photo, I wondered whether the following details might be of interest to you?

wife of William Wesley MARSDEN
died 1930 Jan 5 [77]
Treves House
Will - probate London 1930 Feb 25 - to the said
William Wesley MARSDEN, retired tin man
John William W MARSDEN, accountant
J ONIONS manager
Effects - £588 7s 6d

widower of above
died 1932 Nov22[79]
Treves House
Will - probate London 1933 Jun 1 - to the said
John Edward TATLOW, engineer
John William WESLEY, accountant
Alice Ann Marsden, spinster
Effects - £4,583 11s 11d

CENSUS 1901 - Market Place, Wirksworth
William Wesley MARSDEN 47 ironmonger
Catherine MARSDEN wife 48
Alice Ann MARSDEN dau 23
Ann Maria MARSDEN dau 22
Daniel Roper MARSDEN son 19 ironmonger's assist
Mary JOHNSON step dau 23
Harry JOHNSON step son 21 grocer's assist
Kate JOHNSON step dau 20
Evelyn JOHNSON step dau 18
You have two photos of this family 's hardware stall on your site.
[Yes, these are 017 and 018]
Another bit of info might interest you :

CENSUS 1901 St John St Wirksworth
Eliza OGDON wid 44 boarding house keeper
Edward PALMER boarder 16 domestic postman Bury St Edmunds

Any relation to you??
[Regret no, my PALMERs come from Northants]

The 2003 photo was taken for me by my researcher in Wirksworth, Kate Henderson. She also provided me with the details regarding the wills. The census details are from you.

Best wishes,
Noreen Reeves [Mrs]

Photo taken: 1910?
Size: Postcard       
Source: Internet

Click on photo for enlargement (on CD only)

Have any more information about this photo?
Please e-mail the author on:

    from an article "Derbyshire's Historic Celebrities" by Peter Seddon. Appearing in Derbyshire Life and Countryside magazine for June 2002

    In the centre of Wirksworth, at 21 Coldwell Street, an unpretentious building occupied by a firm of Chartered Civil Engineers bears the name "Treves House" in gold lettering on the fanlight above its entrance. The property does not feature on the official Wirksworth trail and, superficially, there seems little reason why it should. Yet it is named after a man of astonishing talent and behind the name is a remarkable story in which Wirksworth itself played a significant part.

    Let us go back to London 100 years ago. In June 1902, just days in advance of his planned coronation, King Edward VII fell gravely ill with acute appendicitis. Amidst much panic and confusion, as all the crowned heads of Europe were about to travel, the ceremony was cancelled. But one man stayed admirably calm under the most extreme pressure. He was Royal Surgeon Sir Frederick Treves (1853-1923), whose risky but successful operation saved the monarch's life, enabled the coronation to proceed two months later and secured a lasting celebrity status which made him the very toast of a nation. That alone ensured that, at the time of his death in December 1923, Sir Frederick Treves' memory was eulogised in verse by the Dorset poet Thomas Hardy.

    Yet being a surgeon to royalty was only a small part of his fame, for he was a man who was a pioneering physician, intrepid traveller, prolific author, and, most famously in popular history, the guardian angel of the tragically deformed "Elephant Man" Joseph Carey 'John' Merrick, so sensitively portrayed by Derbyshire-born actor John Hurt in the award-winning 1980 film. The part of Treves was admirably played by Sir John Hopkins, but it covered only a fraction of the surgeon's life. His early Wirksworth days remained on the cutting-room floor!

    Treves was not a Derbyshire man by birth. That honour goes to another beautiful county, Dorset, where he was born in Dorchester on 15th April 1853, the youngest son of a well-upholsterer. Young "Freddie" passed his early schooldays there without showing any signs of his future brilliance but, after attending University College, London, he became a medical student at the East End's London Hospital in 1871. Four years later he qualified as a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons before taking a post as resident Medical Officer at The Royal National Hospital for Scrofula in Margate. That somewhat unglamourous sounding post evidently didn't satisfy all Treves' aspirations and, after marrying Dorchester girl Anne Mason in 1877, he decided to chance his arm at general practice, buying a share later that year in the practice of Dr William Milligan of Wirksworth.

    Treves took the place of a Dr Webb, himself a remarkably talented man whose drive and vision were largely responsible for the opening of Wirksworth's innovatory Cottage Hospital, originally situated at Babington House, now a handsome private residence. Wirksworth's Parish Magazine said that "the hospital is intended for the reception of the labouring classes and small tradesmen" and this essentially new concept weighed heavily in Treves' decision to move to Wirksworth, being ever a compassionate and progressive turn of mind.

    How different Wirksworth was from the turbulence and urban squalor of London's East end - but how it suited the 24 year old Treves and his young bride, embarking on married life and a new venture from their home in Coldwell Street. Between tending patients in Wirksworth and the farms and villages for miles around Treves cultivated a strict personal regime, making it a general rule to be in bed each night by 10 o'clock in order to be up reading or writing by five or six each morning. Such an assiduous routine not only increased his ever-growing published medical output but enabled him to achieve the coveted status of Fellow of the Royal College of surgeons during his time in Derbyshire.

    Regrettably, besides that impressive goal, his stay in Wirksworth also embraced tragedy and an unsettling degree of business unrest and professional jealousy. After he had been in practice only two weeks he opted to give a young local woman with anaemia a blood transfusion, then a revolutionary technique, despite the opposition of other medical opinion in Wirksworth. The patient died and Treves wrote up this failed case in The Lancet, the profession's foremost journal. When he followed this up by penning another somewhat controversial piece after a man's death at the local quarry from a blow to the head, his partners began to murmur about what they perceived as a habit of washing Wirksworth's dirty medical linen in the most public place possible. Undoubtedly jealousies began to fester and when Treves amazed his older and supposedly "more experienced" colleagues by passing his FRCS exams at the first go in 1879 at the age of only 25 he was condemned as an "upstart". A classic case of "him with his fancy southern ways" perhaps, and when a Wirksworth lady of high social standing insisted that the handsome "Freddie", not the local stalwart Milligan, must deliver her baby it was the final straw. In fact, Milligan refused to let Treves be present at the birth and not surprisingly there was a bust-up. Disillusioned by such petty jealousies, the man destined for much greater things left Wirksworth early in 1879 after barely a year and a half in the town.

    It was surely Derbyshire's loss and the nation's gain for, as well as his somewhat romanticised link with the "Elephant Man" in the 1880s, Treves went on to a brilliant career. Writing over 200 medical papers, several standard surgical textbooks and, later in his life, wandering the world and having half a dozen or so highly entertaining books of his travel memoirs published was almost a mere sideline for a man who evidently used every second of his life to the full.

    After leaving Wirksworth he took private consulting rooms in Harley Street, rising to the pinnacle of his profession, and after the death of Queen Victoria in 1901, being accorded the ultimate honour of the post of surgeon to King Edward VII. Having saved the King's life by performing the then revolutionary and highly dangerous appendectomy Treves duly received a baronetcy and a grace and favour residence in Richmond Park to add to his earlier knighthood. He chose that moment to retire from medical life and to dedicate himself to travel and writing. He returned to live in Dorchester in 1905 and in 1918, suffering ill health, moved to Geneva in Switzerland where he passed away on 22nd December 1923, aged 70.

    It was a supreme irony that the most eminent surgeon of his age succumbed to the very condition in which he was an acknowledged expert - an infected appendix.

    His ashes were buried in the cemetery at Dorchester and many fine tributes were given to the pioneer whose influence within his profession has an established place in medical history. Yet his profile in Wirksworth is very much more modest, the only outward sign of his time there being the long-forgotten name on his former home. That in itself is a fitting if somewhat oblique tribute not only to Treves the man but also to the part a modest Derbyshire market town played in the development of his memorable career.

    So next time you should pass through Wirksworth, find a moment to cast a knowing eye over "Treves House" and spare a thought too for Joseph Merrick "The Elephant Man". Both men were blessed with unusual strength of character in their different ways - something which Derbyshire folk will surely acknowledge with a knowing nod of recognition.

Compiled, formatted, hyperlinked, encoded, and copyright © 2007, John Palmer, All Rights Reserved.