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John Grosvenor (1742–1823)


John Grosvenor was born in 1742, the son of Stephen Grosvenor and Elizabeth Tottie. His father was the sub-treasurer of Christ Church, and his mother was the daughter of the Revd Daniel Tottie of Eccleshall, Staffordshire.

Grosvenor was apprenticed to William Russell, a leading Worcester surgeon, probably with the help of his uncle, Dr John Tottie (1705–1774), who was archdeacon of Worcester as well as a Canon of Christ Church. He then went to London for hospital experience.

In 1768 Grosvenor was invited by his uncle to return in Oxford to become anatomical surgeon at Christ Church as an assistant to the physician Dr John Parsons (1742–1785). As he was not a graduate of the University, he had to be matriculated as a privileged person, and Alumni Oxonienses shows that he was admitted to the University as a “Chirurgus” on 24 February 1768, when he was about 25.

On 13 September 1770 Grosvenor was elected one of the first four surgeons of the Radcliffe Infirmary.

On 26 July 1774 an Elizabeth Grosvenor (probably his mother) was buried at St Ebbe’s Church.

John Grosvenor was described as a surgeon of the University of Oxford when he took on apprentices: Philip Elliot on 16 August 1783 and John Swift on 23 February 1797.

Dr John Parsons died in 1785, and on 17 March 1791 at St Mary Magdalen Church John Grosvenor, who was still a bachelor at nearly 40, married his widow, Ann Parsons (née Hough).

Later that year Grosvenor’s father, Stephen, died at the age of 84 and was buried on 15 December 1791 “from St Aldate’s”.

Grosvenor was one of the first surgeons to use massage for stiff joints.

In 1795, on the death of William Jackson, Grosvenor resigned his office at Christ Church and became the editor of Jackson’s Oxford Journal, a task he reckoned took just an hour a day. The newspaper was printed by Grosvenor & Hall at their Carfax office, and they became the owners after the death of Mary Jones in 1816 (with Hall becoming sole proprietor after the death of Grosvenor).

Grosvenor’s wife Ann died in 1797, and on 14 June 1813 at Caversham he married his second wife Charlotte Marsack, daughter of Charles Marsack of Caversham Park. There were no children of either marriage.

Grosvenor resigned his post as Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary in 1817.

Grosvenor died at his home in St Aldate’s on 30 June 1823 at the age of 80, and was buried at St Ebbe’s Church on 5 July.

The “Will of John Grosvenor, Surgeon of Oxford” (date of probate 13 September 1823) was deposited at the Prerogative Court of Canterbury: ref PROB 11/1675.

Portrait of Grosvenor

His very long obituary in the Gentleman's Magazine begins:

June 30. At Oxford, in his 81st year, John Grosvenor, esq. the celebrated Surgeon of that place. Mr. Grosvenor was the son of Stephen Grosvenor, gent. Sub-Treasurer of Christ Church, in the University of Oxford, by Sarah, daughter of Rev. — — Tottie, Vicar of Eccleshal, and was descended from a long line of ancestors for many years settled at Ongarsheath in the parish of Ashley, Staffordshire, a younger branch of the family of that name which came over with the Conqueror, and of which the elder is ennobled in the person of Earl Grosvenor, of Eaton Hall, Cheshire.

Mr. Grosvenor was educated under Mr. Russell of Worcester, a gentleman of great eminence in his profession; and after walking the hospitals in London, at a very early period of life, obtained the situation of House Surgeon to the Lock Hospital. From this place he moved, in the year 1768, to Oxford, upon the invitation of his uncle Dr. Tottie, Canon of Christ Church (the author of the well-known Sermons, and of the admirable Epitaph on Bishop Hough in Worcester Cathedral), a person then of great influence, and under whose appointment Mr. Stephen Grosvenor had, by accepting an office of no great consideration at Christ Church, endeavoured to retrieve the prodigality of his father and grandfather, by which the estates of the family had been entirely dilapidated. Soon after his settlement at Oxford, Mr. Grosvenor succeeded to the place of Anatomical Surgeon on Dr. Lee's foundation, which recommended him to the friendship of Dr. Parsons, the Reader under that endowment, and the most popular physician ever known in Oxford, between whom and himself the closest intimacy afterwards subsisted, and which introduced him also into full practice at Christ Church. In this situation he distinguished himself by extraordinary skill and knowledge, and occasionally in the absence of the Reader, he lectured to the Students on topics applicable to the dissection of the day. Mr. Grosvenor gradually obtained considerable reputation as a surgeon; and on the death of Sir Charles Nourse, he found himself in complete possession not only of nearly all the business in the University and City, but of that also on every side within 30 miles of Oxford. At one period he might be said almost wholly to have lived on horseback. Though urged frequently, from the confidence reposed in his judgment, to enlarge the sphere of his exertions, he most scrupulously and most honourably acted on the distinction preserved at Oxford between the different branches of the medical profession, between the physicians, surgeons, and apothecaries; and while he never condescended to soil his fingers with the preparations of pharmacy, he constantly refused at the same time to invade the province of the physician. He practised simply as a Surgeon, in the proper and strict sense of the word. In the talents which belong to this profession, he probably never was surpassed. With powers of discrimination, which enabled him in the most difficult cases to form a correct opinion, he united a firmness of mind which disposed him instantly on the exigency to act on it; and in the performing of the necessary operation, while his skill and anatomical knowledge secured the patient from all danger, the softness and delicacy of his touch, the unfailing and almost magical dexterity of his hand, contributed greatly to lessen the pain, and assuage the terrors with which the exhibitions of surgical skill are too often attended.

Obituary continues here


John Grosvenor’s three sisters

  • Elizabeth Grosvenor (born c.1745) died unmarried at the age of 90 at Beaumont Street in Marylebone, London and was buried at St Ebbe’s Church in Oxford on 12 June 1835;
  • Sarah Grosvenor (born c. 1747) died unmarried at the age of 40 and was buried “from St Aldate’s” at St Ebbe’s Church in 1787. A report in Jackson’s Oxford Journal states that she died following a lingering illness.
  • Frances Grosvenor married the City Solicitor William Elias Taunton (1744–1825), at St Ebbe’s Church on 16 September 1771. Taunton became Town Clerk of Oxford in 1794 and was knighted in 1814. He had Grandpont House in St Aldate’s built for his family home.

See also:

  • A. H. T. Robb-Smith, A short history of the Radcliffe Infirmary, pp. 37–38

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