Edward Jenner's House stars in BBC2 TV show, Antiques Road Trip

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By Spacy | Friday, February 15, 2013, 11:11

Edward Jenner's House in Berkeley has enjoyed a starring role in the popular BBC2 TV show,Antiques Road Trip.

The programme, which broadcast last week, dropped in on the famous home of the pioneer of vaccination, Edward Jenner, on the final leg of its road trip south from Eccleston in Lancashire to an auction house in Seaton, Devon.

Last Wednesday's epidode saw auctioneers David Harper and Catherine Southon set off from Bath from where, having snapped up a few bargains at The Old Bank Antiques Centre, Catherine did a bit of a U-turn and headed north to Berkeley, and the home of Edward Jenner 

- the physician and scientist who, as the pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, is said to have saved more lives than any other man in history.

Born in Berkeley in 1749, Jenner became the local doctor, whereupon he set about trying to eradicate smallpox - a disease which was then as deadly as cancer is today.

Upon her arrival at Jenner's former home, Catherine was met by the museum's education and engagement manager, Helen Jeffrey.

Having made their acquaintances, Catherine said: "We've all heard of smallpox, but I don't really know very much more about it."

"It starts off as a fever," explained Helen. "Flu-like symptoms. And as the disease progresses, you come out in bumps and pustules all over your body.

"Not only were they on your skin, but they were also on your internal organs, on your retinas and in your ear canal."So, even if you survived smallpox, you were left with horrific scarring on your skin, or deafness and blindness were absolutely rife."

As Catherine recoiled in horror, the narrator went on to explain that in the 18th century, the disease was untreatable and innoculation with the virus that causes smallpox was extremely dangerous.

"So Jenner started experimenting with the much milder cowpox as a possible vaccine," said Helen.

"Folklore stipulated that dairy maids did not catch smallpox and they had beautiful skin - 'Fair dairymaids, why do you have such beautiful skin?'

"And Jenner did actually ask a young lady that, and she said: 'Well, you're an apprentice doctor, you should know I've had cowpox.'"

And so in 1796, Jenner tested this theory by innoculating his gardener's son with pus from the cowpox blisters of a local milkmaid.

Jenner's cowpox experiment showed that the boy and several other patients were immune to the deadlier smallpox disease - and the rest became history.

So, history lesson dispensed with, Catherine turned her attention to a huge cowhorn on display.

"We believe it belonged to Blossom," said Helen, "the cow that provided the first vaccine for Jenner's cowpox vaccination."

"Ah, so that's very significant," exclaimed Catherine.

But the residents of Berkeley have yet more reason to be proud of their most famous son, according to the narrator because, at the end of his garden in his tiny summerhouse, Jenner vaccinated local people for free. His friends named it the 'Temple of Vaccinia', apparently.

Upon entering the summerhouse, Catherine exclaimed: "Thousands upon thousands of lives would have been saved in this room. That's remarkable."

The narrator went on to inform viewers that in 1979 the World Health Organisation announced smallpox had been eradicated from the human population.

"No wonder they call Edward Jenner the father of immunity," he said.

Next stop, Bristol, where Catherine and David snapped up a few more bargains before heading off to Seaton, where their purchases went under the hammer.

To find out who made the biggest profit and emerged victorious - David or Catherine - watch last Wednesday's episode of Antiques Road Trip on the BBC iPlayer.

Speaking of Antiques Road Trip's visit, Helen Jeffrey, education and engagement manager at Edward Jenner's House, said: "We are delighted that Jenner was one of the stars of the latest episodes of the series.

"Catherine was fascinated by Jenner's story and equally enthused to visit Dr Jenner's House.

"The episode showed the gruesome reality of smallpox and recognised Jenner's tireless work that would eventually lead to eradication of the disease."

* You can find out more about Edward Jenner's House by logging on to the museum's website.

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