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Dr Winchester of Eythorne

Dr Duncan of Eythorne resigned as medical officer for the Eythorne District and as one of the Dover Union District Poor Law Medical Officers (for Shepherdswell) in the last week of July 1903. In the case of the Eythorne District position, he was replaced as Medical Officer by Mr G.C. Winchester in August 1903. It seems that Dr Winchester also took over the role held by Dr Duncan as the district poor law officer for Shepherdswell in the Dover Union. There were two applicants for the vacant position, Dr Winchester and Dr Bruce Payne, but Mr Mackenzie of the Dover Union Board of Guardians was of the view that the appointment should be “given to Dr Duncan’s successor”.
It is very likely that Dr Winchester resided at West End House, as had doctors Dixon and Duncan before him. It would appear that his time as a doctor at Eythorne was relatively quiet for Dr Winchester, in terms of major events, but what was reported does give an insight into the people and their lives Eythorne and Tilmanstone.
In March and April 1904, Dr Winchester was involved in an “alleged concealment of birth”. At Wingham petty sessions, Lillian Williams, a single woman was charged on remand with attempting to conceal the birth of her child at Eastry, on or about March 16th. There were suggestions of alteration of a document, after the defendant had signed it, relating to whether the woman had been properly examined and consented to it. “No its obvious to me – the Prosecutor – that the name – Dr Winchester – was put in after the girl had appended the signature. The writing of the name is very much cramped and it has been written with a sharper pencil”. However, that the woman was examined and had consented, was proven and the case was eventually dismissed.
One inquest (reported Friday 3rd June 1904) is of interest because of a reference to Eythorne having a district nurse: “Inquest into the sudden death of a child, Victor James Murray, aged 5 months, the illegitimate child adopted by Mrs Jenner (of Tonbridge). Mr Herbert West was chosen foreman of the Jury. Elizabeth Seymour district nurse living at Eythorne, near Dover said she knew the mother of the deceased child, having attended her on the 22nd December. The mother was a single woman, Jane Murray and she was confined at Nonington when witness attended her with Dr Winchester. A few days after the mother was taken ill and it was found necessary to put the child out to nurse”.
On 23rd 1904, it was reported that there was an accident involving Samuel Hughes, who was a baker located in the “Old Bakery” (now a Grade II listed building, pictured below) at the bottom of Church Hill, Lower Eythorne.“ While getting into a cart at Nonington and removing the reins which had dropped under the horses tail, the animal became restive and kicked the front portion of the cart, at the same time inflicting a severe wound on the leg of the driver Samuel Hughes of Eythorne, a master baker. The injury was attended to by Dr Winchester, there being a cut about 4 inches long and 2 inches deep”.
While returning from Updown House, at about nine o’clock on Friday night (21st October 1904), in his pony and cart, Dr Winchester of Eythorne was run into by a market gardener’s cart.
At this time, the Rice family were the owners of substantial amounts of land and property in the area. They owned, for example Danefield and Dane Court houses in Tilmanstone and Elvington Court in Eythorne. Edward Royd Rice (25th April 1790 – 27 November 1878) was an English politician and first-class cricketer. He was Member of Parliament (MP) for Dover from 1847 to 1857. He married Elizabeth Knight – the daughter of Edward Austen Knight (born Edward Austen) the brother of Jane Austen the author – in 6th October 1818, and together they had 15 children, ten boys and five girls and Dane Court was their main residence, Edward residing there for over 60 years. He is pictured with his wife in later years.
On 11th August 1905, Edward Royd Rice’s 8th child, Charles Augustus Rice (born 20th December 1829) died. Dr Winchester, in the absence of Major Rice’s regular physician, Dr Baylor of Ash, who was abroad, attended the deceased gentleman. It was reported that “After a lengthy and useful life, Major Charles Augustus Rice died at Danefield, Tilmanstone, Friday 11th August, in the early morning. Major Rice has for a period extending over some years been an invalid suffering from partial paralysis and other maladies, in spite of which, however, retained, at the urgent wish of all concerned, his post of churchwarden which he had held for a number of years. On Monday 7th August, Major Rice was taken seriously ill with pneumonia and in spite of unremitting care and attention died about 2.30am. Major Rice has resided at Danefield for over a quarter of a century, previously residing at Eythorne (at Elvington Court ?), where he is well known. He leaves a widow and three daughters”. The funeral took place at Tilmanstone on Tuesday afternoon 18th August 1905. He is buried in at St Andrew’s Tilmanstone.
Two of Edward Royd Rice’s other sons were also sometime residents of Eythorne. One was Edward Bridges Rice (Admiral Sir Edward Bridges Rice, KCB, DL, 30th October 1819 – 30th October 1902, a Royal Navy officer who went on to be Commander-in-Chief, The Nore). On the death of his mother Elizabeth Rice in 1884, Edward Bridges Rice entered into possession of Dane Court but he did not take up residence there for several years. He lived at Elvington Court, “Interesting himself in transforming Dane Court from a charming, friendly, old-fashioned white-washed home into a modernized red-brick building, removing all creepers from the walls and tidying everything up with Naval precision. Fortunately the interior of the house remained untouched”.
The other was Ernest Rice. He was born in Dane Court in 1840 and entered Naval Service as a Navel Cadet, on 10th February 1853, just two weeks before his 13th birthday. He had a successful career and by 1870 he had attained the rank of Commander and then was promoted to Captain in 1878. Ernest Rice lived at Eythorne House approximately from between the time when the previous occupant Baroness Grey De Ruthyn died in 1875 and 1901, when he is stated to be living at “Sibertswold Place on Botolph Street, Sibertswold”. In December, 1920, his home of the last 20 years caught fire and burned to the ground. The Earl of Guilford had bought Eythorne House in 1873 and Ernest Rice would have rented it.
On the 7th September 1905, Ellen Rogers, aged 60, housekeeper of Forge House, Tilmanstone, suddenly fell down and died while she was going upstairs at about 9.00pm. The case was reported to the coroner who ordered Dr Winchester of Eythorne to make a post mortem examination. After hearing the evidence the jury returned a verdict of death from natural causes (reported 15th September 1905).
An inquest was held at Tilmanstone on Wednesday 8th March 1905 by the County Coroner, R. M. Mercer Esq. to enquire into the death of John Edward Elgar, a baby 5 months of age, the son of Mr J. Elgar of Fairholm, Tilmanstone whose death occurred on the night of Monday whilst in bed with its parents. Mr John Elgar, the father of the child, stated that about 11.00 pm on the 6th March (1905) he retired to bed with his wife and the child which was then in good health. It lay on the left side of the bed. It usually woke twice in the night to be fed but on this occasion it did not. On awaking up the next morning at six o’clock they found the child dead. Dr Winchester of Eythorne gave evidence. He had made post mortem by order of the Coroner and in accordance with his evidence that the child had died of suffocation, the jury returned a verdict that the child was accidentally suffocated.
During the night of Tuesday the 4th July 1905, a thief, “supposed to be a woman” entered the coach house at the back of Dr Winchester’s premises and stole a livery coat valued at about £2.00. “Information having been given to the police, it was ascertained that the woman, respectably dressed, had attempted to dispose of the coat to Mr P. H. Fox at Woolwich” (likely Woolwich Green also known as Woolage Green, one of the three hamlets that make up the parish of Womenswold”. P.H Fox may well have been associated with the “Two Sawyers” public house in Woolage Green, long associated with the Fox family (160 years until 1952) but he refused to buy. The woman then proceeded in the direction of Canterbury. Mr Fox will be able to identify the woman.
In December 1905, for reasons unknown, Dr Winchester resigned his positions as Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator for the Eythorne District as well as his position as a Dover Union District Poor law Medical Officers. James Graham MRCP was duly appointed Medical Officer and Public Vaccinator for the Eythorne District.
We do know where Dr Winchester went because on 25th May 1906 it was reported that Dr Winchester was seriously ill with enteric fever in Assam, India, where he had been practising since leaving England in January 1906. It was further reported on 1st June 1906 that “The inhabitants of Eythorne will be glad to hear that the latest reports concerning the health of Dr Winchester, late of Eythorne but now residing in Assam India are more favourable”
From the Assam State Archives, list of passport files, we know Dr Winchester survived the illness as his passport details from 1925 are present in the archive. He is living in Nakchari, Assam and his date of birth is given as 30th August 1867, meaning he was 36 when he started in Eythorne in 1903. The Assam Archives reveal he also had a wife born, 30th August 1869, and one child, a girl named Marcia, born 18th August 1902, both also living in Nakchari. A reference mentions a Dr Winchester chairing a meeting of the Assam branch of the British Medical Association in July 7th 1932 so it would seem that Dr Winchester had a successful career as a doctor in Assam.
Dr Winchester possibly went to Assam because he had family there involved in the tea business. There was a James Winchester, a manager of a British tea plantation in Cachar Assam (for 12 years), who was murdered by Mizo (Tibeto-Burmese) tribal warriors in January 1871 and Mary, his 6 year old illegitimate daughter, by one of his Meitei workers, was abducted. She was eventually rescued by the British Indian Army a year later and ended up with her grandparents in Elgin Scotland. She went on to become a headmistress and died in 1955.
It was reported that Dr William Duncan, “late of West End House, Eythorne”, Dr Winchester’s predecessor and last heard of (June 1904) residing in Guernsey, had died of heart failure March 2nd 1910.

Vince Croud

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