John Monckton (also found as Monkton) was born in Cornwall in 1715. He moved to the Gosport area with his family almost immediately after his birth. As a young man he completed a seven-year apprenticeship to an army surgeon / apothecary in 1738. He received his Bishop’s license to practice in the same year. He probably moved to Southampton in c.1740, possibly escorting a group of French prisoners of war who were to be incarcerated in the Wool House. The prisoners, about 800 in number, were kept in appalling conditions in the inadequate facilities of the Wool House, and typhoid and dysentery were rife. Monckton distinguished himself by doing what he could to alleviate their suffering. This was characteristic of a man who soon became known for kindness and fairness in dealing with the poor.
He served on the corporation for over 50 years in a variety of offices, including mayor, sheriff and medical overseer of the poorhouse. He was recognised as the leading surgeon in the town and as such organised the other doctors to inoculate the poor against smallpox free of charge. His contemporary, Dr Speed, however, wrote a poem mocking Monckton's medical abilities:

On the many long-liv'd inhabitants of Southampton

As near the Stygian Lake, Death musing sate,
He, sighing thus, made grievous moan:
That healthy damns S-th-mpto-n has of late
Withheld from me her ev'ry son.

'Sir', says a dreary new-come Ghost, 'good cheer,
Your quota you from thence will draw,
For, N-sh and M-nckt-n practice Physick there'
'Do they, by Gad?' cries Death. 'Huzza!'

(Speed, De Medico)

Monckton died in 1799 and was buried in Holy Rood.


Further reading:
‘John Monckton (1715-1799), Southampton Surgeon’, by Mary South, in Southampton Local History Forum Journal, No. 12, Summer 2007 p32-34. (HS/h)


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