Charles Wingfield (1786/7–1846) and his wife Hannah (1788–1870)
The Wingfield Convalescent Home was built in memory of Charles Wingfield by his widow, Hannah. Many people in Headington still refer to the Nuffield Orthopaedic Centre (built in the 18-acre grounds of the old convalescent home and originally known as the Wingfield Hospital) as “The Wingfield”.
Charles Wingfield (1786/7–1846) was Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary. His father was the Revd John Wingfield of St Chad, Shrewsbury
Hannah Brancker (1788–1870) of Liverpool became Charles’s wife. Her father, Peter Whitfield Brancker Esq, had been Mayor of Liverpool in 1801/2 and in 1832 was living at Wood Street, Liverpool. Her mother was Hannah Aspinwell
Left: Portrait of Charles Wingfield in 1839 by D. Bridges
After studying at Eton and St John’s College, Cambridge Charles’s father John Wingfield (born 1755) had been ordained a deacon at Hereford in 1777, but moved back to his native Shropshire in 1779. He married Martha Gardiner, the daughter of Charles Gardiner, and was curate of Bishop’s Castle when their eldest son, Charles, was born in about 1786.
Charles Wingfield did not go to university, but instead was trained as a house surgeon at St Bartholomew’s Hospital. (His brother Edward John, however, who was sixteen years his junior and destined to follow his father into the Church, was sent to Christ Church, Oxford in 1820 at the age of 18.)
Wingfield served as assistant surgeon at the General Hospital in Calcutta, and then worked as a surgeon in Liverpool, where he must have met his wife, Hannah Brancker. He first came to Oxford as an assistant to the well-known local Oxford doctor William Tuckwell, and on 24 May 1816 at the age of about thirty Wingfield was matriculated as a “privilegiatus” of the University of Oxford (a necessary requirement then for anyone who “traded” in any way with the University).
In 1817 the post of surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary in Oxford became vacant and there was a contested election between D’Arville and Wingfield. Two of the doctors at the Infirmary, Edward Hitchings and William Cleoburey, were very much against Wingfield’s candidature, because if he were to be elected, “one half of the surgical department of this institution will be in the hands of one firm”; but Tuckwell campaigned vigorously for Wingfield, publishing a leaflet arguing that it was no detriment to have on the staff of the Infirmary the assistant of one of its surgeons. It was a very close election on 10 December 1817 (Wingfield won by 71 votes to 70) and Jackson’s Oxford Journal reported that a number of subscriptions entitling donors to vote were made on the day of the election.
On Thursday 22 September 1819 at St Peter’s Church in Liverpool, Charles Wingfield married Hannah Brancker, and the marriage was announced both in Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 25 September and the Liverpool Mercury of 1 October. The Oxford paper described Charles as being a surgeon of St Thomas, Liverpool (which must surely have been wrong), while the Liverpool paper described him as being of Oxford.
Wingfield became one of the leading surgeons in Oxford and took an active part in the early days of the Providential and Medical and Surgical Association. He remained Surgeon to the Radcliffe Infirmary for the rest of his life. He was elected FRCS in January 1844.
Initially the Wingfields lived in a house opposite St John’s College, where their only daughter, Mary, was born: she was baptised at St Mary Magdalen Church on 29 April 1821.
They then moved to Kettell Hall in Broad Street (left). Mary died here at the age of 4½ and was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church on 15 September 1825.
The Revd Edward John Wingfield, Charles’s younger brother, died at Kettell Hall on 4 February 1830 when he was only 28 and was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church two days later.
Dr Charles Wingfield himself died of cholera at the age of 59, and was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church on 10 May 1846. The report of his death in Jackson’s Oxford Journal for 16 May 1846 (p. 3) reads:
On Monday last, at his house in the Broad-street, after two days’ illness, Charles Wingfield, Esq. an eminent surgeon of this city, aged 59.
Mrs Hannah Wingfield remained for another 24 years as a widow in Kettell Hall. At the time of the 1851 census she was 61 and lived in some style with her unmarried sister, Ann J. Brancker: they are both described as fundholders and were waited on by a footman, cook, housemaid, and a general servant.
Hannah Wingfield’s friend, the Revd John Rigaud, campaigned in the 1860s for a fever ward to be built in the grounds of the Radcliffe Infirmary, and she took an interest in the project. But Rigaud lost interest in this idea when it was proposed that members of the University should be allowed to pay for beds in the fever ward and so he transferred the money to another of his projects, a convalescent home in the “pure air of Headington”. Mrs Wingfield gave £2,500 which provided half the price of purchasing from Magdalen College an 18-acre site on the corner of Old Road and Windmill Road, the building and equipping expenses, and some money to endow it.
Unfortunately the project made such slow progress that Mrs Wingfield did not live to see it come to fruition. She died on 20 January 1870 at the age of 81 and was buried at St Mary Magdalen Church six days later. The foundation stone of the Wingfield Convalescent Home was laid a year later, on Whit Monday 1871.
At the opening ceremony, a year later on Whit Monday 1872, Jackson’s Oxford Journal of 25 May 1872 reported that the Revd John Rigaud said in his speech that:
… When it was his privilege to confer with Mrs. Wingfield on the plan, she had placed at his disposal so munificent a sum that he at first hesitated about having it entrusted to him. To this she added in life and by her will; and he referred to it because she said that it was not really a gift of her money; for the fact was that Mrs. Wingfield was aware that her husband, before his death, very many years ago, was desirous of seeing such a Home as this established for the benefit of the sick, and that he had intended to leave means for this purpose by his will, but the will was never executed. Mrs Wingfield then, being desirous of aiding such an object, had been putting up money, year after year, for this purpose. It showed not only her simplicity, if proof were wanting, and generosity, but how a thoughtful medical man looked forward in advance of his age more than twenty years ago to such an institution being established, as supplementary to the work of the Infirmary.
Archdeacon Clerke (who had known Mrs Wingfield well when he was Vicar of St Mary Magdalen) opened the home (left) with these words: “We open this Home for the restoration of the sick to health, in the hope of God’s blessing upon it, and in memory of Hannah Wingfield, its chief benefactor….”