Thursday, 31 January 2013

Worcestershire's "Institutor of Infirmaries": Isaac Maddox 1743-1759

What would you do if you realized that your local hospital or charity needed to raise funds urgently? The answer in the eighteenth century was call in one of the country’s most gifted preachers and exponents of improved medical care: Isaac Maddox.

Hartlebury Castle where Maddox and his family lived. Maddox restored the Chapel, which is the structure with the largest window. Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

In Worcester Cathedral is a monument to a one of the most important Bishops of Worcester, who helped to found Worcester’s first public infirmary. Isaac Maddox’s story is fascinating. Orphaned, he was possibly brought up his aunt. After time as an apprentice pastry cook he was tutored by a local parish clergyman, and gained an exhibition to Edinburgh University. He spent a short time at Oxford, then gained the well paid job of Clerk of the Closet to Queen Caroline, rose through the ranks of the clergy, and at the University of Cambridge, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity. He then married a wealthy niece of his patron the Bishop of Chichester. He wrote a book “A Vindication of the Government, Doctrine, and worship of the Church of England established in the reign of Queen Elizabeth” in 1733. A copy of this book is kept in the cathedral library. Maddox was made a Bishop in 1736. He was a brilliant and successful preacher of charity sermons, for example in support of the hospitals of Westminster and London. In 1743 he was promoted to the Bishopric of Worcester, where he was  conscientious, and kept an eye on the Cathedral and the Diocesan administration. In 1746 he was made President of the Small Pox Hospital, and pointed out the importance of inoculation against the disease in a successful pamphlet.

The Monument to Bishop Isaac Maddox in Worcester Cathedral.  Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

In 1745 he urged, together with others, the establishment of a Worcester infirmary in Silver Street which would serve the whole county. This proved such a success that a larger hospital on a new site was built in 1770. He not only encouraged others to contribute but also gave a generous regular payment, which his widow continued. Maddox drove home the importance of providing good quality health care, particularly for the poor, including the establishment of local infirmaries, where schools of medicine would facilitate improved standards.

The first page of Maddox's successful book on the Church of England. Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)
Maddox’s good work did not stop there. He preached against the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, and established a special fund to help the poorly paid clergy of the diocese. He was on good terms with the Nonconformist Protestants of the locality. Tragedy struck Maddox’s family when his eldest daughter died aged 11 in 1747 and his son died aged 17 in 1757. They were both buried behind the Quire of the Cathedral. Bishop Maddox died in 1759. Thankfully one daughter, called Mary, survived him.

The title page of Maddox's successful book vindicating the Church of England. Reproduced by permission of the Dean and Chapter of Worcester Cathedral (U.K.)

On Isaac Maddox's monument is a depiction of the Good Samaritan- one of Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Saint Luke. This story of an injured man helped by someone who was completely different from himself exemplifies the Christian values that Maddox put into practice in his ministry. Thanks to the establishment of Worcester infirmary, treatment of diseases would be offered regardless of who the sick were. Maddox's portrait is at Hartlebury Castle, the chapel of which he restored. He is also mentioned in the chaplaincy section of the new medical museum at the Infirmary.  As part of his epitaph states, he was: “A Guardian of the poor, he abounded in private charities and encouraged every public one. Long may the sick and impotent bless the patron and those of this county the institutor of infirmaries!”
To find out more about Bishop Maddox, the history of health care or Hartlebury Castle why not look at these:

The infirmary’s webpage is
The Hurd Library blog is at
William Moore Ede's Worcester Cathedral Its Monuments and their Stories, Worcester 1925
William Henry McMenemey, A History of the Worcester Royal Infirmary, London 1947

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