More people in Kent will know about the William Harvey Hospital, near Ashford, than about the man it was named after. Fewer will be familiar with the two monuments in Folkestone to William Harvey as statues quickly become street furniture and churches are expected to have stained glass windows.

The story though behind these two 19th century monuments to William Harvey, costing upwards of £300,000 at today’s prices, is intriguing. Why two? Why would the medical profession at this time have invested so much in monuments in a place which today can still take two hours to reach from London? Could the statue in particular have been a way to promote the benefits of consulting a qualified doctor?

This blog aims reveal aspects of the story that led to Folkestone having two monuments to William Harvey, and raises the thought that his statue may have been an early form of ‘social influencing’.

Who was William Harvey?

William Harvey was born on 1 April 1578 in The Mercery Hall that was located near the current junction of Church Street and Rendezvous Street in Folkestone. The Mercery was renamed Church Street, and Old Butcher Row became Rendezvous Street (Folkestone Herald,16/9/1922). William went on to become the first person to accurately describe the circulation of blood. He demonstrated that the venous and arterial systems were part of one system through which blood was pumped by the heart. {Fuller information of Harvey’s research can be found on the internet. To my mind his greatest contribution was as a ‘medical scientist’. Through experimentation and dissections he challenged ideas that had been handed down from Greek philosophers some 2,000 years previous. In doing so he enabled a stepped-change to be made in the practice of medicine and surgery.}

Location of house

Lineage of William Harvey

William was the eldest of eight children of Thomas, a Folkestone businessman who ran a local postal service, and his second wife Joan Halke of Hastingleigh (1555-1605), the sister of one of his business partners. (Thomas’s first wife Juliana Jenkin probably died in child birth but their daughter Julian or Gillian, survived.)

Thomas seems to have left Folkestone and joined his sons in London after the death of his wife in 1605.

Thomas’s father / William’s grandfather, was a sheep-farmer from Newington on the Downs above Folkestone.

During the late 16th century Thomas’s postal business expanded considerably as commerce developed and trade between London and the Continent grew. He went on to become Mayor of Folkestone. His wife Joan judging by the memorial in Folkestone’s parish church, St Mary & St Eanswythe, was a well loved mother / wife, and respected member of the local community:

A.D. 1605 Nov. 8th died in the 50th. yeare of her age Joan Wife of Tho. Harvey. Mother of 7 sones & 2 Daughters. A Godly harmles Woman: A chaste loveinge Wife: A Charitable qviet Neighbour: A cõfortable frendly Matron: A provident diligent Hvswyfe: A carefvll tēder-harted Mother. Deere to her Hvsband: Reverensed of her Children: Beloved of her Neighbovrs: Elected of God.

Whose Soule rest in Heaven, her body in this Grave: To her a Happy Advantage: to Hers an Unhappy Loss.”

St Mary & St Eanswythe – Parish Church of Folkstone

William’s Siblings

Sarah, born at Folkestone, 5 May 1580, and died there on the 18 June, 1591.

John, born at Folkestone, 12 Nov 1582, became servant-in-ordinary, or footman, to James I. This position seems to have been more than a low status role. When he ‘retired’ he received a pension of £50 / annum. He also held positions of importance including “Castleman” at Sandgate, in Kent, and the King’s Receiver for Lincolnshire – a position he held jointly with his brother Daniel. He sat in Parliament as the MP for Hythe. He died unmarried on the 20 July, 1645.

Thomas, born at Folkestone, 17 Jan 1584. He became a turkey merchant in St. Laurence Pountney, at the foot of London Bridge.

Daniel, born at Folkestone, 31 May 1587. He was also a turkey merchant in St. Laurence Pountney.

Eliab, born at Folkestone, 26 Feb 1589. He was also a turkey merchant in St. Laurence. He was the most successful of the merchant brothers. He had a very close relationship with William looking after his finances. When William died he left Eliab the coffee pot that they had shared. {Eliab it seems, used his merchant contacts to obtain coffee long before coffee was widely drunk in London. The first coffee shop opened in London in1652. }

Less is known of:

Michael and Matthew both born in 1853 – twins?

Amy born 1596.

Old London Bridge c 1600 – as would have been known to the Harvey bothers

Between them the Harvey brothers and their father accumulated considerable wealth.

Click link for more genealogical information: LINK

Career Plan for William Harvey

Thomas was keen for William, and indeed all his sons, to do well. His plan was for William to became a doctor as this could enable him move in elevated circles – far higher than if he had become a businessman in Folkestone.

At the age of 10 William gained a fee paying place at the Grammar School, Canterbury. Aged 16he was admitted to Gonville & Caius College, Cambridge, to study subjects ancillary to medicine; he was supported by a scholarship from a fund set up by Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury, to enable able boys from Kent to study medicine.

William graduated with a BA from Cambridge in 1599 and enrolled into the University of Padua in Italy to complete his medical training. {Britain did not have a medical school at this time. The first medical school in the UK was founded in 1726 by the University of Edinburgh.} William qualified as a Doctor of Medicine in 1602 but needed to return to Cambridge to get his qualification recognised.

Dr William Harvey

Personal Life

Little is recorded of William’s personal life. A description written by someone who knew him described William as being very short in stature with hair as black as a Raven. In accordance with the fashion of the time he wore a dagger – but was unlike the majority of people of this age, he was regarded as being too willing to draw it on the slightest provocation.

In 1604, two years after qualifying as a doctor, William made a good marriage with Elizabeth Browne who was the daughter of Lancelot Browne who had been physician to both Elizabeth I and the James I. {There is a unit in the William Harvey Hospital, Ashford, named Elizabeth Browne.}

William and Elizabeth had no children but appear to have had a loving relationship. Based on one anecdote it is possible envisage a scene of domestic tranquility.

William described the long relationship that his wife had with her pet parrot that was famed for its talking. The parrot wandered freely about the house calling for its mistress if she was out, and enthusiastically welcomed her when she returned home. It would come to her when she called it – and with beak & claws climb her dress to reach her shoulder. It would sing and talk on request, and spent many hours laying on its mistresses lap softly murmuring its pleasure at being stroked. It was whilst being petted on her lap that it died. {It was subsequently dissected by William, and was found that ‘he’ was really a ‘she’, and had preformed eggs within its body – even though it had not mated. This was helpful to William’s research into reproduction.}

In his Will, William referred to Elizabeth as “my dear deceased loving wife”.

William probably died of a stroke in June 1657. He is interred in the family vault at Hempstead, Essex.

Physician to Royalty

With an endorsement from his father-in-law William was introduced into ‘Royal Circles’, and was able to advance as his father had hoped. In 1618 he was appointed as physician to James I, and later in 1631, as physician to Charles I and his household. The relationship between Charles I and William seems to have been close with Charles supporting and showing great interest in William’s work. Charles allowed him to use deer from the Royal parks for his scientific investigations. On one occasion William facilitated Charles touching a beating human heart. The heart was that of Hugh Montgomery. As a child Hugh was kicked in the chest by a horse. This necessitated replacing ‘lost’ ribs with a metal plate that clearly could be removed. Hugh apparently reported that his heart did not have a sense of touch.

In addition to assisting and showing interest in William’s research, Charles entrusted to him the care of his two sons Charles and James during the Battle of Edgehill (1642). {I provide as an addendum, some snippets of information gleaned during my reading for this blog of some of the experiences of the Harvey family during the English Civil War (1642-1651).}

Charles I touching the heart of Hugh Montgomery

Pioneering Medical Scientist

William Harvey is best known for his ‘discovery’ of how blood circulated the body. Details of this work is better told elsewhere on the internet. Briefly, William drawing on the discoveries of others, and his own observations and experiments, challenged the orthodox views that had been handed down for over 2,000 years from the Greek philosophers. He showed the venous and arterial systems were part of the same system that was used by the heart to pump blood around the body. He also showed that blood was not the direct product of digested food & drink. When he put forward his description many regarded him as being ‘crack-brained’ but he held firm.

William’s investigative work on reproduction also led him to postulate that an egg had a pivotal role in reproduction. Many earlier ideas were based on the idea of the sperm being a seed that was planted and grew in the female. It was though another 200 years before he was proved right with the invention of the microscope.

By bringing science to medicine and challenging dogmas that had underpinned medicine for centuries, William greatly advanced medical and surgical practice. It is for this reason I title him ‘Son of Folkestone & Father of Modern Medicine’, for this blog.

Witch-finder evidence challenged by William Harvey

During the sixteenth and into the seventeenth century, many feared the presence of witches – none greater than James I who wrote a book aiming to prove their existence. This isn’t the place to go into this story but women accused of being witches – often based on no more than spiteful rumour – would be examined for physical signs that could be interpreted as the Devil’s mark – moles, birthmarks or a third nipple.

Charles I was not nearly as superstitious as his father and on at least one occasion called upon William Harvey to ‘review’ the evidence against women accused of being a witch. William’s disposition to seek evidence and his knowledge of anatomy enabled him to challenge the evidence that had been used to ‘prove’ a woman was a witch.

In 1634 Charles I ordered that four women who had been ‘found’ to be witches at the Lancaster Assizes were to be brought to London for examination by William Harvey. William was assisted in this task by a team of seven surgeons and ten midwives. No physical signs of being a witch were found on three of the women, but ‘signs’ were found on the fourth. She was however ‘saved’ by William’s knowledge of anatomy who judged the marks to be natural. One ‘imperfection’ was probably what we would call a skin-tag today. William found that its structure was not hollow and would not have allowed the release of milk or blood – and could not therefore have fed the Devil. All four woman were exonerated and the sceptics vindicated. {The woman though remained in prison as they could not afford to pay for the board & lodgings they received whilst in custody.}

(Despite a more rational / challenging approach being taken to examining the evidence that someone was witch, witch-hunting continued. Although William Harvey may shown body-imperfections were not the mark of the Devil people were still tried by ordeal or coerced into confessing.  In September 1645 four women were found guilty at Faversham of practicing witchcraft; three were hung from a tree near the town pump. In July 1652, 18 people were tried at the Maidstone assizes in Kent. Six were hung, convicted by their confessions. It continued to be illegal to be a witch until 1951.)

The Folkestone Monuments

William Harvey to my mind is deserving of monuments to his life. But why two? Why in Folkestone? Why were they so generously funded by the medical profession? Why in the 1870s? (Even though 1878 was the tricentenary of William’s birth this only provides an ‘excuse’ not a ‘reason’ for wanting to erect a monument 300 years after the ‘event’ in Folkestone.)

A ‘Monumental Argument’ breakouts out in Folkestone

On 6 September 1871 a public meeting was convened at the Town Hall at Folkestone. It was largely attended by representatives of the medical profession and the parish church – St Mary & St Eanswythe. The purpose of the meeting was to consider how best to mark the tricentenary of the birth of William Harvey in 1878.

After hearing of the personal and professional life of William it was agreed that his achievement as “the discover of the circulation of blood”, warranted funds being raised to commemorate his birth and association with Folkestone.

The Rev. Matthew Woodard, Vicar of St Mary & St Eanswythe, proposed a handsome stained glass window with a brass plaque describing Harvey’s discovery – something that he had been championing since 1859. The Rev. Woodard argued that the church was the place for memorials and already contained one to Joan Harvey, William’s mother, and was probably where William had been baptised. Others felt a statue was more appropriate and should be placed on or close to the Leas. The matter went to a vote – 11 for a window and 14 for a statue. (Folkestone Express, Sandgate, Shorncliffe & Hythe Advertiser, 9/9/1871.)

Although Rev Woodard joined the committee charged with raising funds for the statue it was clear that he was unhappy with the decision as he started his own fundraising campaign for a window in the church.

The proposal for a memorial window seems to have been very popular and in a short time £250 of the estimated £500 required, had been collected. (Canterbury Journal, 17/8/1872.) The initiative though was not welcomed by all. Through the press he was accused of using his clerical influence over a “number of worthy ladies to induce them to write begging letters for him to medical men” (George Milner Scholey, Folkestone Express, 25/4/1874). {George Scholey voted for a statue and appears to have been generally hostile towards the church.} Rev. Woodard reported that 15,000 letters were sent to members of the medical profession. (The Past & Present of the Parish Church of Folkestone, Matthew Woodard. 1892.) Click on LINK for eCopy LINK

The building of a memorial hospital gained support

George Scholey was not alone in believing a window in a church was not an appropriate monument. In July 1872, R A Newman, (Captain) RN, wrote to the press saying he would be donating to the statue fund on the understanding that “no portion of that fund be given to Mr Woodard’s fancy window”. (Folkestone Express, 13 July 1872.) Newman wrote again to the press in 1874 criticising the church window – by which time it had been installed – and encouraged the Harvey Memorial Committee to stick to the original plan of a statue, and to discount thoughts of building a convalescence hospital in the name of William Harvey. Although he felt that William Harvey would have preferred this to a window, there was no endowment available to support the running of such a hospital. (Folkestone Express, 20/61874.) {The fact that a hospital was being considered suggests that there could have been concerns about the affordability / appropriateness, and perhaps declining support of a statue as a memorial window had been installed.}

The statue was finally commissioned but the fact the fund only attached 571 donations (compared to 3,000 for the window) suggests it was not enthusiastically supported.

The Harvey/Kempe Window in the Church of St Mary & St Eanswythe

Funds were rapidly raised for the installation of the memorial window in the church with the full amount having been collected by November 1873 – with donations having been received from around 3,000 medical men. Clearly the Rev Woodard’s strategy of encouraging “worthy ladies” to write to representatives of the medical profession was successful. It was reported that the window cost £600. (Illustrated London News, 11/4/1874.) [£1 in 1874 = approx £110 today (Bank of England Inflation Calculator).]

Be careful about what you wish for!

The installation of the window was not without its problems as reported to the Vestry meeting held in November 1873. The meeting heard that the money required for the window had been raised but there would be additional costs. In order not to obscure the full view of the window it was necessary to remove the gallery with the loss of 60 sittings. This was particularly problematic as the church was already being criticised for not being able to accommodate all those who wished to worship in the church during the season. It was therefore proposed to enlarge the south aisle to provide 120 sittings. (Canterbury Journal, 8/11/1873.)

Despite this challenge C E Kempe of London was commissioned to design the window.

Unveiling of the Window

On 9 April 1874 the memorial window in the west end of the church was unveiled to the “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by the united choirs of the town’s churches. (Kentish Gazette,14/4/1874.) The vicar gave a sermon on “The Blood is Life”. Although the vibrancy of the colours of the window were appreciated there was those who found its interpretation difficult – as did I – hopefully the following annotated image of the window will help.

William Harvey Memorial Window

In the centre panel Angels are shown catching the atoning blood in golden chalices – the inclusion of blood linking Harvey with the biblical story. The other panels portray four healing miracles.

1. The ‘Pool of Bethesda’ – the healing of a paralysed man. John 5:2-9

2. The healing of a women who touched the hem of Jesus’s gown’. Luke 8:40-49

3. ‘The Brazen Serpent’ People who looked upon the serpent would be cured of a snake bite. Numbers 21: 6-9

4. The healing of a lame man. Acts 3: 1-4:31

A Latin inscription at the base records the purpose of the window. (Dover Express, 10 April 1874.)

Beneath the window is a dedication plague which is not easy to read. {// marks line breaks on the plaque.}

To the glory of God in the reverence of the Blessed Virgin Mary of St Eanswythe in honour of the most illustrious William Harvey // born in the town of Folkestone in the year if grace mdlxxviii who in the reign of King Charles I, of blessed memory greatly advanced the // science of medicine, they of the same profession inheriting his labours, in gratitude have caused this window to be made, AD mdccclxxiv.

In the afternoon following the unveiling of the window, an organ recital was given by Mr Kennett the church’s organist in aid of a “Harvey Memorial Aisle” for the church. The south aisle was extended and later another aisle was opened in memory of William Harvey. (The Past & Present of the Parish Church of Folkestone, Matthew Woodard. 1892.)

Not unsurprisingly George Scholey a longstanding critic of the window wrote to the paper criticising the window. Although clearly a hostile sceptic of the church, Scholey felt the window was hardly a memorial to William Harvey. Indeed he thought it might later be dedicated to Thomas a’ Beckett. Taking a ‘pop’ at the ladies who wrote “begging letters” on behalf of the Rev Woodard, he felt the preponderance of green in the window was worthy of the state of mind of the “worthy ladies who wrote according to the directions of the vicar.” Scholey was also critical of the vicar who was second on the list of the committee charged with responsibility for commissioning a bronze statute, for undertaking a ‘competitive’ fundraising exercise.(Folkestone Express, Sandgate, Shorncliffe & Hythe Advertiser, 25 April 1874.)

The Statue

It took much longer than expected to raise the money for the statue. I’ve yet to discover actual cost of the statue but was probably in excess of the £1,800 that had been collected, against an original estimate of £2,000 to £3,000. (Folkestone Express,13/8/1881) This suggests the statue could have cost in excess of £250,000 at today’s prices.

Newspaper illustration of the statue of William Harvey

The statue was designed by the sculptor Albert M Brace Joy. It is about 9ft tall, and stands on a pedestal some 12ft high. The features of William Harvey had been copied from a portrait belonging to the Royal College of Physicians.

In his left hand William Harvey is holding a heart, and his right hand rests on his chest – perhaps indicating that he’s feeling his heart beat? His face and posture is somewhat reflective – and in no way boastful. The lace edging of the waistcoat is based on an Italian design contemporaneous with William’s time in Italy.

In the top of the pedestal there is a cavity that contains a scroll bearing the names of the subscribers, and principal movers behind the statute. (Folkestone Express, 6/8/1881).

At the time of the unveiling there was still a shortfall of £172. {I wouldn’t be surprised if Rev Woodard wasn’t blamed for this because of his ‘competing’ fundraising campaign for his ‘fanciful window’.}

Detail of the left hand of William Harvey’s statue

The Unveiling of the Statue

On 6 August 1881, some three years later than planned, the statue of William Harvey was presented to the Mayor of Folkestone by Professor Richard Owen, a physiologist/anatomist. The ceremony was attended by a “numerous company (who had) travelled down from London, (free of charge) in a train specifically laid on by the South-eastern Railway Company. The guests disembarked at Shornecliffe Station where the VIPs were met by carriages that conveyed them to the platform that had been raised around the statue”. (Illustrated London News – 13/8/1881.) The route from the station to Langhorne Gardens where the statue had been placed, was marked with flags and was crowded with spectators – probably not people from the working classes as they weren’t allowed onto the Leas. Many shops closed between 3 & 5pm for the ceremony scheduled for 4pm.

In addition to a number of eulogies Prof. Owen used the opportunity to make the case for vivisection as a means to advance medical science. He followed this up with a publication – “The unveiling of the Harvey statue, at Folkestone, August, 6th, 1881”. {During the 19th century there was a growing view that vivisection was cruel and unnecessary. Legislation was passed in 1876 to try and regulate experiments on live animals – legislation that Prof. Owen clearly did not agree with.}

Newspaper sketch of the unveiling ceremony

A sonnet was written for the occasion:

O Lord of life, be all the glory thine

For that clear light, whose never failing ray

Led on the Heart-explorer on his way

From truth to truth, till at life’s inmost shrine

His hand unveiled the manifold design

Of They creative mind – we would pray

That guided onward by that light divine,

In wilds of rebel thought we ne’er may stray,

Or seek in pride the mountain-path to climb

Of truth, untaught by Thee, the living Guide –

Then, as we leave the narrow realm of time,

And life sinks down in its last eventide,

Of Thine eternal reign the light sublime

Shall rise in bliss, to cheer us at Thy side!

August 6th, 1881. R. C. Jenkins.

After the ceremony upward of 250 guests attended a luncheon / “cold collation” at the Town Hall, before the VIPs were conveyed back to London by a special train that left at 8:30pm. (Witney Express, 11/8/1881.) {Perhaps it should come as no surprise that I’ve not found any reference to the Rev. Woodard in extensive lists of those who attended the unveiling and subsequent luncheon.}

Is there a sub-story behind Folkestone’s monuments to William Harvey?

I must stress the following is speculative. I will though provide the basis for my conclusions for you to form your own opinion.

The Emerging Medical Profession

The Royal College of Physicians was founded in 1518 to regulate medical practice – something very dear to the heart of William Harvey. Its purpose was to licence those qualified to practice and to punish unqualified practitioners or those who engaged in malpractice. Despite the existence of the college charlatans continued to practice.

In 1858 the Medical Act was passed which created the General Medical Council (GMC). Its role was to regulate the profession and enable the public to distinguish between qualified and unqualified practitioners. Initially registration was limited to those who were elected by their peers – a ‘procedure’ that probably prevented women from having their qualifications recognised.

Political Radicals at the time were most unhappy with the public being denied the right to choose who should treat them. There must therefore have been a continuing demand for the services of unregistered practitioners – something that would have presented a challenge to the GMC.

By 1871 when the public meeting was held in Folkestone to discuss how to memorialise William Harvey, the profession was still comparatively new. There was therefore much still to be done to ‘sell the benefits’ of consulting a qualified doctor. Who better could the profession use as an ‘influencer’ than Dr. William Harvey – the discoverer of the circulatory system and who could be ‘used’ to promote the benefits of consulting a doctor trained in scientific methods?

With their champion/influencer chosen where should he be best ‘deployed’ – social media was still some years away!

The Fashionable Resort of Folkestone is Chosen

William Harvey’s association with Folkestone was obvious – but how visible would his monument be if the intention was to raise his profile and what he represented, and to justify the cost?

By the 1860s Folkestone was becoming a fashionable resort offering a range of health promoting amenities. In addition to the accepted value of the sea air, a sea-bath had been established that enabled people to benefit from the restorative health properties of sea water. The Folkestone Bathing Establishment that opened in 1868 offered warm and cold baths, plunge pools, medicated and ‘invalid’ baths as well as other genteel facilities including a large saloon, reading, billiard and refreshment rooms. (Folkestone & Hythe District Heritage Strategy, Seaside Leisure & Tourism, 2018.) By 1870 Folkestone was possibly the most fashionable resort in Kent – attracting a wealthy clientele seeking to improve their health.

As complaints were being expressed in London in 1873, about the church being unable to accommodate all those who wished to attend Sunday Worship, it is clear that many people were coming to Folkestone during the season.

Considering the numbers, wealth and the demographic of the visitors – who probably travelled from London for the benefit of their health – where could be better than The Leas “the well known promenade, which is one of the chief attractions of Folkestone” (Unveiling of the Statue of William Harvey at Folkestone) for the medical profession to place their ‘influencer’?

With the man and the location chosen it was only left for the medical profession to find the money – which they did.

Bequeaths from the Family

As striking as a memorial window and statue maybe their impact is limited. The Harvey family though made bequeaths which memorialised their name and provided on-going benefits. In addition to a number of personal gifts to friends and family, William left £200 (= £22,000) to the Mayor of Folkestone for the benefit of the poor. To the College of Physicians he left his books and money for the completion of his Harveian building.

During his life, in 1656, William gave his patrimonial estate of Burmarsh (in Romney Marsh, Kent) to the Royal College of Physicians. The income from this estate was to be used to fund an annual oration and feast – which continues to today. His aim was to create what we would know today as a ‘networking opportunity’ for members of the college. (Notes to the Harveian Oration of 2008, Royal College of Physicians).

Various members of the Harvey family made bequeaths that led to the setting up of the Harvey Grammar School.

I suspect if William could have had any input into the ‘monumental discussions’ of the 1870’s he may have favoured a hospital. Putting aside the problem of meeting the ongoing revenue costs of a community hospital, would it have raised the profile of the medical profession in the eyes of wealthy visitors to Folkestone? Probably not as hospitals at this time were for the poor as those who could afford a doctor would probably have been treated at home.

Concluding thought

It’s amazing how much yet how little has changed, and how difficult it is to judge the actions of our predecessors by the standards of a different time.

Should Vivisectionists be ‘Celebrated’? At the time of the unveiling of the statue of William Harvey there were those ‘dissatisfied’ with him being celebrated as he had been a vivisectionist. Such was the strength of feeling against the use of vivisection Prof Owen, by making the case for vivisection at the unveiling of the statue, could be said to have also been defending William Harvey.

IMAGE of Prof Owen

Complementary and Conventional Medicine. It is also interesting to consider the motivations that may have been behind the medical profession finding the funds for two significant moments. As early as the 17th century there were ‘radicals’ who were concerned about the monopolistic power of the Royal College of Physicians that deprived people of the right to choose who they consulted concerning a health problem. The establishment of the General Medical Council to register those qualified to practice medicine, and the requirements placed on the Poor Law Guardians to only employ registered doctors as physicians, could have be seen as another attempt to restrict the public’s choice over who to consult on matters of their health. Certainly the public needed to be protected from those who could do harm but it wasn’t really until the end of the 19th century that even those qualified to practice medicine in England significantly drew upon science. The debate continues today between complementary and conventional medicine.


The English Civil War – 1642 – 1651

Although not of any significance in respect of the monuments to William Harvey, he was a trusted associate of Charles I and was with him on many occasions during the English Civil War. The ‘story’ of this war is largely told around the events that led up to the execution of Charles I. This Civil War though was a bloody affair in which, proportionately, more were killed than in WW1, and huge numbers were made homeless – 150 towns were extensively damaged, 10,000 town houses destroyed, 85,000 made homeless (about 2% of the population), 85,000 were killed in combat, with 100,000 indirect deaths. To fund the war taxes were increased by 1,000%. Reference

There are better accounts of the Civil War than I could provide, but the following ‘discoveries’ made during my research into William Harvey reminds us that the war impacted on the daily lives of many, and can destroy significant parts of our cultural heritage.

Close Associate of Charles I. With William being appointed as physician to Charles I in 1631 he was given rooms in Whitehall. Charles clearly had great respect for William and his work. In addition to appointing him as physician to him and his family he entrusted William with the care of his sons Charles and James at the Battle of Edgehill in 1642. The story is that William sheltered with the boys, and a book, in a hedgerow near the battle. When shot landed near them William took the boys further away from the battlefield before returning to help the injured.

William Harvey ‘caring’ for two future Kings at the Battle of Edgehill

William’s Scientific Papers Lost. When Charles raised his Standard at Nottingham in 1642 war was effectively ‘declared’ between the Parliamentarians and the Royalists. Mobs in London took to the streets seeking out Royalists and their property. Not surprisingly they descended on Whitehall where William had lodgings. They destroyed his papers and scientific collection. Although he created another collection, which he left to the Royal College of Physicians, that was also destroyed – in the Great Fire of London.

Retirement. When Charles I surrendered Oxford in 1646 William returned to London. With his apartment in Whitehall no longer available William lodged with his brothers. By virtue of his age, loss of his ‘sponsor’ and no doubt tainted by having been a Royalist, retirement would probably have been William’s only option. He though continued his work through the Royal College of Physician’s to bring scientific rigour to the practice of medicine.

The Civil War cost the Harvey’s a considerable amount of money. Without a base of funders the Parliamentarians established committees to raise funds from active Royalists. Land or property could be confiscated unless payments were made to support their war effort. Daniel and Eliab Harvey were assessed for making of loans of £5,000 and £2,500 respectively. Daniel initially refused to pay. He was imprisoned and an order made to seize and sell his property. He was released on the payment of £400 and an undertaking to pay the balance by instalments.

It is reported that William Harvey was fined £2,000 for his political opinions, under the “Articles of Surrender for London”, when he left Oxford for London. (William Harvey, Kenneth Keele, 1965.)


Various news reports – referenced in the text.

Other sources not always referenced in the text:

“An inquiry into the claims of Dr William Harvey to the discovery of the circulation of the blood.” John Redman Coxe, 1829. (Available on the internet.) {Some writers believe William Harvey claimed too much for himself by claiming he had ‘discovered’ how blood was circulated.}

“King Charles I and William Harvey”. K F Franklin. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. Vo. 54, Issue 2, 1961. (Available on the internet.)

“The unveiling of the Harvey statue, at Folkestone, August, 6th, 1881”. Richard Owen & George Eastes, Royal College of Surgeons of England. (Available on line from the Welcome Library.)

“William Harvey”, D’Arcy Power, FSA, FRCS Eng. 1887

“William Harvey, Englishman”, Kenneth J Franklin. 1961

“William Harvey”, Kenneth D Keele. 1965

“William Harvey and His Contributions”. Frederick G Kilgour. Circulation, Vol. XXIII, Feb. 1961. (Available on the internet.)

Witchfinders – A Seventeenth Century English Tragedy. Malcolm Gaskill. 2005

Geoff Ettridge aka Geoff Rambler. October 2020