Edward Jenner Heritage Trail - Location 11
Temple of Vaccinia, Dr Jenner’s House and Garden Museum
This picturesque shelter, The Temple of Vaccinia, was constructed out of branches and roots to a design by Jenner’s friend, the Reverend Robert Ferryman (c1753-1837). Jenner’s house, The Chantry, was set in pretty gardens and at the ‘southern extremity’ was the summerhouse, built in the late 18th century to take advantage of the view to Stinchcombe Hill. Initially as a rustic looking summerhouse, and as Jenner himself said, to give a ‘rural appearance to that part of the garden’.
By 1804 it had been ‘converted into a place of utility’ which Jenner playfully named of The Temple of Vaccinia, because like a ‘faithful priest’ he always hoped to find it full of ‘worshippers’, in this case the local children awaiting inoculation. Here, as his biographer John Baron wrote, ‘wonders were wrought’ as Jenner protected the poor from a lethal disease. Jenner is reputed to have carried out the first ever vaccination in this building in 1796 when he transferred matter from the arm of milkmaid Sarah Nelmes (who had previously contracted cowpox) into that of James Phipps thus demonstrating that cowpox could be transferred from person to person. Subsequently Jenner tried to inoculate Phipps with live smallpox matter and reported that the inoculation would not ‘take’. Later in his life, when the practice of vaccination to prevent smallpox infection was more established, he used the hut to vaccinate members of the parish for free making this hut the world’s first vaccination centre.
The design of the Temple was commissioned from his friend Rev Robert Ferryman, as a summerhouse sometime in the late 1790s. Its thatched roof and frontage of tree bark emulates the picturesque style of the garden. It is built of brick and rubblestone, has part of a brick stack on the west wall and is grade II* listed. Historic England classify it as one of the top ten places in England that tell the story of scientific development.
The Temple can be seen by visiting Dr Jenner’s House Museum and Garden from Sunday to Wednesday between 11.00am to 3.00pm from Easter until the end of September. Unplanned visits are welcomed, but tickets can also be sourced on its web site
The Edward Jenner Heritage Trail fittingly ends in The Chantry, where Jenner spent his last days before his death in 1823. Dr Jenner’s House Museum and Garden provide a lasting memorial to a great man and his everlasting legacy.