Jephson

 

The name of Henry Jephson does not feature in the Annals of Scottish Freemasonry, yet he was a Scottish Freemason by Initiation and went on to be active in the Craft within the Province of Warwickshire, where he resided.

However, he is best known for promoting the use of the mineral spring waters in the town of Leamington Spa. He also advised a healthy diet and exercise. Such was his fame as a doctor that he numbered among his patients Princess Victoria, Florence Nightingale, John Ruskin and George IV. This remarkable man was born in Sutton-in-Ashfield in Nottinghamshire on 4 October 1798. His father was a framesmith, a skilled artisan who made and repaired stocking frames.

Young Henry, on leaving school, served a five year apprenticeship with a local apothecary and in 1818, at the age of 20 years, moved to Leamington Spa and secured a position as an assistant to Charles Chambers, the town's first resident surgeon. He was very well connected with many influential patients on his list and held the title of surgeon extraordinary to the Duke of Clarence, later King William IV.

Jephson then pursued a course of study at St George's Hospital in London and was thereafter admitted as a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries. He was permitted to call himself a Surgeon-Apothecary and re-joined Chambers in 1824.

In this year, he also married Ann Eliza Geldart, the daughter of a Yorkshire clergyman.

Jephson was keen to establish himself as a fully qualified Surgeon/Physician. He therefore enrolled at Glasgow University and completed a four year course, graduating M.D.(Doctor of Medicine) in 1828.

It was during his sojourn in Glasgow that Jephson became a Freemason, being initiated in the Argyle Lodge No 76. (This Lodge was re-numbered 3 times). He must have been impressed by his reception in the Lodge as we shall see that on his return to Leamington Spa, he became very active within the Craft. To return to his medical career after graduating, he settled in Leamington Spa, dissolved his partnership with Chambers and set up in practice on his own account. Within a short space of time, he had a list of patients representing a wide cross section of the military, naval and governing classes of the time. His rise was truly meteoric and he was the busiest doctor in town.

Involved in the social whirl, he regularly entertained 100 or more guests to dances and suppers at his home in York Terrace. His expanding practice required larger premises and in 1832, he had Beech Lawn built, a 20 roomed mansion standing in 3 acres of garden with half a dozen resident staff. He lived here for the rest of his life.

In this new location, his burgeoing practice earned him some £24,000 per annum, in today’s money £1.5m approx. Jephson devoted much of his time and money to good causes. His philanthropy was legendary and he financed many of the town’s projects.

Nor did he forget his patients who were poor and needy. He set aside 2 hours every day to treat them free of charge.

His promotion of the town’s mineral spa waters and his general goodwill towards the town resulted in the creation of Jephson Gardens and a Greek style Temple containing his statue in his honour.

Overwork laid him low. In 1848, he became totally blind. He lived on in comparative quietness, full of honour and deserved esteem. His wife predeceased him in 1874 – leaving him in in 4 years of solitude.

Henry Jephson’s lifetime of selfless service and generosity to his fellow man surely reflects well on his profession as a Freemason. In all that he did, he surely fulfilled his calling as a member of the Craft.

As previously stated, he was initiated in the Argyle Lodge No 76, sometime between 1824/1825. A few years later, in 1830, Thomas Campbell the celebrated Poet, whose statue stands in George Square, Glasgow and who is buried in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, was also initiated in the Lodge.

On Jephson’s return to Leamington, he became a Joining Member of Trinity Lodge No 254 in Coventry. In the same year i.e.1829, he became a Founder Member of Guy’s Lodge No 395, also meeting in Leamington. This Lodge attracted prominent citizens to its membership and to this day is much to the fore in the Province of Warwickshire. The first Master of the Lodge was Nicholas Lee Torre, who went on to become Deputy Provincial Grand Master.

It is later recorded in Trinity Lodge No 254 that “ James Jephson of Leamington a student of medicine and son of the great doctor was initiated.”

On 20 September 1921 Jephson Lodge No 4336 named in honour of the great doctor received its Warrant and, in 1925 Jephson Royal Arch Chapter No 4336 was founded.

On 17 October 1930, the altered extended and refurbished Masonic Hall in Nuneaton, home of the Abbey Lodge No 432 was dedicated by Colonel W F Wyley Provincial Grand Master of Warwickshire. The architect for the project was Bro A H Jephson ARIBA, a relative of Henry Jephson.

Henry Jephson is remembered in Royal Leamington Spa as one of its most prominent citizens and benefactors. His name lives on in Jephson Gardens and the Temple housing his statue, a blue plaque erected by Warwick District Council and a stained glass memorial window in the Parish Church of St James the Great at Old Milverton.

Gardens 

Jephson Gardens

As a Freemason, he is, of course, remembered in the naming of Jephson Lodge No 4336 and Jephson Royal Arch Chapter No 4336.

In both his capacity as a physician and a Freemason, he has truly left his mark.

{ In one source, it is stated that Jephson’s only son, James died in infancy; another source indicates that James was initiated in Trinity Lodge No 254.}

 

Article written by Brother Alistair Henderson, Immediate Past Provincial Grand Master and Past Master of Lodge St. John, Whiteinch, No. 683.

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