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Haygarth Plaque

Commemorating the life of Dr John Haygarth, a ceremony was held on Thursday (May 19) to reveal the plaque at the historic 1761 Building, the former Infirmary within the city walls where he once worked and which is now residential.

The event was organised by the 1761 Building RTM Company, with support from the University of Chester, Cheshire West and Chester Council and Chester Civic Trust which all helped to fund the project.

Addresses were given at the ceremony by the Lord Mayor of Chester - Councillor Martyn Delaney, and Professor Helen O'Sullivan, Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University, who also jointly, officially unveiled the plaque.    

John Walker, Chair of the 1761 Building RTM Company, who welcomed guests to the event said: “Residents of the 1761 Building are extremely honoured to be granted the privilege of erecting a blue plaque commemorating the life and work of Dr John Haygarth, first Physician and Surgeon General at Chester Infirmary.

“The award is testimony to the significant and historic contribution towards global medical science which was made by this most distinguished citizen of Chester. It adds great civic pride to the rich heritage of our ancient city.

“I hope it will be a focus for all people, particularly the younger generation and visitors, to learn more about Dr Haygarth, his outstanding achievements, and the important role the 1761 Building played in helping deliver new medical knowledge for the benefit of all humanity.’’

Prof Helen O'Sullivan said: “We are privileged to be part of this opportunity to recognise and celebrate Dr John Haygarth’s ground-breaking work.

“During his three decades in Chester, he became known as one of the best physicians of the time, discovering new ways to prevent the spread of fever and control smallpox. His work still resonates in the 21st Century, in these post-pandemic times, and at the University with the growth of Chester Medical School in particular.

“It is an honour to commemorate his life today and we will continue to honour him through our annual Haygarth Lecture, hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Care and the Department of Public Health at Cheshire West and Chester Council, exploring some of the most pressing current issues within the sector. Our guest speaker this year, Dame Jenny Harries, has been one of the most prominent figures in leading the UK response to COVID-19, so Dr Haygarth’s memory will be brought right up-to-date.”

In his address to guests, the Lord Mayor, Cllr Martyn Delaney, continued in emphasising the impact of Dr Haygarth’s accomplishments: “As we emerge from the worst pandemic that we have known in our living memory, it is a matter of great civic pride that the work of Dr John Haygarth has been the foundation pillar on which the global response to Coronavirus has been based.

“How wonderful that this pioneering work started here, at the former Infirmary, that we are unveiling a very public tribute to him, and how thankful we all should be that due to his brilliance we have been able to gather here today, healthy and well, to pay our respects to a great man of medicine and science.”

Councillor Samantha Dixon, ward member for Chester City and The Garden Quarter, added: “I was delighted to work with the residents of the 1761 Building to help realise their ambition, in partnership with Chester Civic Trust and the University, to recognise one of Chester’s most accomplished historical figures.”

In 1766, Dr Haygarth was appointed physician to Chester Royal Infirmary. In analysing diseases in the city, he proposed the formation of The Smallpox Society, which was set up in Chester in 1778. He proposed that inoculation against the smallpox should be promoted on a large scale, and that it should be accompanied by ‘Rules for Prevention' including isolation and cleanliness. Other major cities soon adopted the Society's methods, as well as the first fever wards in Britain. He practised in Chester until 1796.

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