James Torry Hester (1800–1874)

James Torry Hester was born in Oxford on 3 April 1800 and baptised at All Saints Church on 20 April. He was the son of John Hester, Manciple of All Souls College (born in Oxford in 1765), and his wife Susannah Torry (born in London in 1772).

James studied at St Bartholomew’s Hospital and became LSA and MRCS in 1821. In order to be able to work in Oxford, on 11 June 1821 he was matriculated by the University of Oxford as a privileged person (chirurgus).

On 24 July 1824 at St Mary Magdalen Church, Oxford, James Torry Hester married his first wife, London-born Catherine Esther Law. They settled in Abingdon, Berkshire, where he worked as a surgeon, and their eight children were all born there:

  • Catherine Hester (born in Abingdon and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 25 April 1826)
  • Susanna Hester (born in Abingdon and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 26 February 1828)
  • William Law Hester (born in Abingdon and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 29 May 1829)
  • James Hester I (born in Abingdon on 11 October 1830 and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 13 May 1831; buried there on 17 May 1831)
  • James Hester II (born in Abingdon and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 14 October 1832)
  • George Hester (born in Abingdon and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 24 August 1833; buried there on 4 September 1833)
  • Jefferson Hester (born in Abingdon and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 27 October 1834)
  • Edward Hester (born in Abingdon and baptised at St Helen’s Church on 19 October 1837).

James was in partnership with Thomas West at Abingdon until 7 March 1826, when the partnership was dissolved by mutual consent.

He was medical officer under the Poor Law (with Mr Blundell) to the district of Besselsleigh from 1835 to 1842.

James’s father, John Hester, retired to a fine house near Magdalen Bridge by the 1830s and died there at the age of 69 on 13 September 1835: there is a grey marble tablet dedicated to him on the wall of All Souls Chapel, stating in Latin how he had for the greater part of his life fulfilled the offices of its Steward and Manciple diligently and faithfully. James’s brother, George Parsons Hester, was appointed Town Clerk of Oxford in 1838.

James Torry Hester and his first wife were recorded as living in the High Street, Abingdon at the baptisms of their first seven children between 1824 and 1834, and at Boar Street at the baptism of their last in 1837.

In 1837 he took out a patent for an improvement in the constructing of chairs.

The 1841 census shows James (40), described as a surgeon, with his first wife Catherine (36) and their six children at Waste Court House, Boar Street, Abingdon St Helen’s. Amelia Law (18), presumably a relation of his wife, was staying with them, and they had three servants.

Very soon after the census the family must have moved to Oxford, as the Post Office Directory of 1841 listed James T. Hester as a surgeon at 34 High Street there.

On 1 February 1849 Hester was elected Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary, and a contemporary rhyme went “Dr Hester, good old man, is sure to cure you if he can.” He also held the posts of Consulting Surgeon to the Littlemore and Warneford Asylums, and to the Great Western Provident Association. He had a great number of pupils at the Infirmary, including his son James and his nephew Charles Hester.

By 1851 James (50) was practising at 16 St Aldate’s Street, Oxford where he lived with his wife Catherine (46) and two of his sons: James (18), who was a medical student, and Edward (13), who was a scholar at home. They had three servants: a cook, housemaid, and footman.

In 1852 James was elected a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, and in 1852 he delivered a paper entitled “A New Method of Managing Fractures” at the meeting of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association in Oxford, where he described a hinged bed on which limbs could be slung in various positions.

On 26 March 1857 James’s son Edward Hester (19), who had been a chorister at New College from 1847 to 1849 and bible clerk at All Souls College from 1852 to 1856, was matriculated at the University of Oxford from Wadham College

James’s first wife Catherine Hester died between 1851 and 1858

On 22 September 1858 at Shabbington, James Torry Hester married his second wife, Ellen Morland (daughter of Benjamin Morland of Sheepstead House near Abingdon). They had no children.

By 1861 James Torry Hester (60) and his new wife Ellen (47) were living in St Mary Magdalen parish, Oxford at 36 Beaumont Street, with none of his children at home. They had two female servants.

James Torry Hester resigned as Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary in March 1865. In January 1867 he was declared bankrupt, and was then living at 6 Havelock Road in Hastings.

At the time of the 1871 census James (71) and Esther (57) were living at 6 Havelock Road with their youngest son Edward (33), who had no occupation

James Torry Hester died in Hastings in 1874. His widow, Mrs Ellen Hester, died at St Leonard’s on 8 February 1898.

See also:

Medical Men Home

Stephanie Jenkins

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