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John Kelly (1726–1772)


John Kelly was baptised on 13 May 1726 at St Maurice Church in Winchester. He was the son of George Kelly, a Winchester doctor, and his wife Sarah.

Kelly was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Christ Church on 26 February 1742/3 when he was 16. He obtained his BA in 1747 and his MA in 1749.

In 1752 Kelly gained his B.Med., and in 1756 his D.Med. He was appointed Regius Professor of Medicine in 1759, and remained in the post until his death in August 1772.

On 9 January 1758 Kelly married his first wife, Mary Sophia Seidel (alias De Smeth), at St Cross Church, Oxford (now Balliol Historic Collections Centre). She appears to have been the daughter of George Seidel, a Prussian from Halberstadt, who had been created Doctor of Divinity on 10 May 1742 and who was buried in St Cross Church on 24 October. Her brothers were Conrad George Seidel (buried at St Cross on 2 February 1733/4) and John Seidel (matriculated from the Queen’s College on 10 May 1739, aged 14, and buried at St Cross on 10 February 1746/7).

Kelly and Mary had three children:

  • Maria Sophia (baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 10 November 1758)
  • George Desmeth (baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 12 June 1760)
  • John (baptised at St Aldate’s Church on 22 July 1761, buried at Ewelme four days later).

On 6 April 1768, when Kelly married his second wife, Susanna Pyle, at St Thomas’s Church in Winchester, he is still described as being of St Aldate’s, Oxford.

The Regius Professor of Oxford was also “Master of Ewelme”. This was a sinecure designed to augment the low salary of the professorship: there were 13 elderly men in the almshouse at Ewelme (which is 25 miles away from Oxford), and other people ran the house. Kelly, however, may have taken his duties more seriously than other regius professors, given that he had his infant son buried there.

In 1770 Kelly was appointed one of the first four Physicians of the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford, but although patients were put under his care he never served the Infirmary, because he was then practising for the most part in Bristol.

Kelly died in 1772 and was buried in Ewelme Church (in St John the Baptist Chapel on the south side of the chancel) on 26 August. He is described in the register as “Regius Professor of Physick, Univ. of Oxford and Master of Ewelme Hospital”.

The “Will of John Kelly, Regius Professor of Physic in the University of Oxford, Doctor of Physic” (date of probate 26 November 1772) was deposited at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: ref PROB 11/982.

Kelly’s widow, Susannah, was buried at Ewelme Church in the same grave as her husband on 9 November 1806.


Kelly’s children

George Desmeth Kelly (b.1760) was only 12 at the time of his father’s death. When he matriculated at the University of Oxford from Christ Church on 24 May 1780, just before his twentieth birthday, he was described as the son of John Kelly, a doctor of St Aldate’s. He went into the church, and was appointed Vicar of Darrington (1791), Vicar of Featherstone (1798), Prebendary of York (1801), Vicar of Silkston (1803), and Vicar of Wirksworth and Rector of Kirk Ireton (from 1815 to his death on 17 October 1823).

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