William Cleoburey (1793–1853)

William Cleobury was born in Abingdon in 1793. He was the son of the Revd John Cleoburey and his wife Margaretta. He and his brothers were baptised as follows:

  • John Cleoburey (born 20 July 1791, baptised at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on 14 October 1791)
  • William Cleoburey (baptised at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on 17 August 1793)
  • Christopher Cleoburey (baptised at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on 29 September 1794)
  • Thomas Mortimer Cleoburey (baptised at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon on 31 March 1800).

On 24  August 1800, when William was only seven years old, his father died at the age of 51. Three years later he was sent to Abingdon School, where he remained until 1814.

His brothers John and Christopher Cleoburey also attended Abingdon School and then went up to the University of Oxford: John to Brasenose College in 1809 at the age of 17, and Christopher to Pembroke College in 1811 at the age of 16. They both followed their father into the Church, with John ending up as Vicar of Piddington, and Christopher as Rector of Lydiard Millicent in Wiltshire and a Fellow of Pembroke College.

W. H. Richardson (1835–1909), writing on Old Abingdonians, asserts that William Cleoburey studied at University College, Oxford. This seems extremely unlikely, however: William does not appear in Alumni Oxonienses as an undergraduate, but only as a privileged person: he was matriculated by the University as a “chirurgus” or surgeon on 16 June 1814 at the age of 22.

On 14 November 1820 at All Saints Church in Oxford, William Cleoburey married Mary Ann Jones: he was aged 27, and she was 44. The marriage was announced in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 18 November 1820:

On Tuesday last was married, at All Saints’ Church, by the Rev. Christ. Cleoburey, William Cleoburey, Esq. surgeon, to Mary Ann, daughter of Mrs. Jones, of the High-street.

Mary Ann Jones was the daughter of William Jones and niece of Miss Mary Jones, Lady of the Manor of Heddington

Cleoburey’s practice was originally in a house that stood on the site of the present Museum of Oxford. Hence in Pigot’s Directory for 1823/4 and again in 1830 he is listed as a Surgeon in St Aldate’s.

In 1822 Cleoburey was elected Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary. He specialized in ophthalmology, and was the first Radcliffe surgeon to be qualified a Member of the Royal College of Surgeons. He was later elected Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He published two books:

  • A full account of the system of friction, as adopted and pursued with the greatest success in cases of contracted joints and lameness, from various causes, by the late eminent surgeon John Grosvenor, Esq. of Oxford. With observations on those cases to which it is most applicable (1825)
  • A review of the different operations performed by the eyes (1826).

A notice in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 7 October 1826 announced Cleobury’s intention to set up: “The Oxfordshire, Berks, Bucks, and General Ophthalmic Institution”, to be supported by annual subscriptions and voluntary contributions:

In consequence of the great increase of Ophthalmic Diseases in this and the adjoining Counties, and from the utter inability of the Poor to procure applications and medicines, Mr Cleoburey has resolved, with the assistance of the humane, to endeavour to establish an Ophthalmic or Eye Institution…. Mr Cleoburey feels it is his duty to represent to the public that not a week elapses without his being consulted for some object irrecoverably blind, whose sight might have been restored by earlier application. Mr. C. has, for the last 10 years, gratuitously provided such applications, &c. as were necessary…. It is Mr. C’s intention to give his professional services gratuitously, and, until the Institution is organized, to conduct the business at his private residence.

By 1835 Cleoburey had moved from St Aldate’s, and Robson’s Commercial Directory of 1839 shows that his practice was then at 22 St John Street. The 1841 shows Cleoburey living there with his wife and mother Margaretta, and two servants. His mother died in Oxford at the age of 84 on 19  November 1841, aged 84.

In January 1844 Cleoburey was elected FRCS.

Cleoburey’s wife Mary Ann died at the age of 70 on 25 January 1847 and four days later was buried at her family’s parish church of All Saints, Oxford.

The 1851 census shows Cleoburey (58) living alone with three servants in St John’s Street, although he did have a visitor staying on census night: Charlotte Coster (26), the wife of a mechanic.

By 1852 Cleoburey was Consulting Surgeon at the Warneford Lunatic Asylum in Headington.

William Cleoburey remained Surgeon at the Radcliffe Infirmary until his death at the age of 60 on 7 February 1853. He was buried at All Saints Church beside his wife.

The following inscription in St Helen's Church in Abingdon to the Cleoburey family includes William, even though he was not buried in the family vault:

In the vault beneath are deposited the mortal remains of the Rev. JOHN CLEOBUREY AM Vicar of this Parish and of Medmenham in the diocese of Lincoln. He was born at Great Marlow in the County of Bucks, graduated at St John’s College Cambridge, and after a few days’ illness departed this life on the 24th day of August 1800 aged 51 years and in the 25th year of his incumbency. He studied to show himself approved unto God. A workman that need not be ashamed.

The same vault also contains the body of MARGARETTA his wife who died at Oxford the 19th day of November 1841 in the 85th year of her age. The character of this excellent woman may be best described in the comprehensive language of scripture — “She was a widow indeed.” In dutiful affection of their honoured Father and Mother this monument is erected to their memory by their four sons John, William, Christopher, and Thomas Mortimer Cleoburey.

CHRISTOPHER MA 43 years Fellow of Pembroke College Oxford and Rector of Lydiard Millicent, Wilts, at which he died Oct. 29[?] 1863 aged 69

JOHN MA of Brasenose College, 31 years incumbent of Piddington, Oxfordshire. Died at Oxford May 25th AD 1853. Aged 61. Lies in the vault beneath.

WILLIAM FRCS 28 [?25] years surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary. Died at Oxford February 7 AD 1853. Aged 60. And was buried in the church of All Saints in that City, by his wife MARY ANNE who died January 25th 1847 aged 70 years.

PHILIPPA MARGARETTA wife of the late John Cleoburey MA died at Little Coxwell, Berks, 27 September 1861, aged 71 years.

The “Will of William Cleoburey, Surgeon of Oxford” (date of probate 4 March 1853) was deposited at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: ref PROB 11/2168.

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