Dr Martin Lister MD, FRS


(12 April, 1639 - 2 February, 1712) Naturalist and physician

Dr Martin Lister MD, FRS
Dr Martin Lister MD, FRS
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Articles about Martin Lister may be found on Wikipedia and in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography accessible through the Surrey Libraries' website. A much more detailed work is Anna Marie Roos' Web of Nature: Martin Lister (1639-1712), the First Arachnologist. The present piece sets out mainly to examine events which brought him to Epsom towards the end of his life.

A 'Memoir of Martin Lister', in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal Vol. II, 1873, relates that: -
"The time of his departure from York was most probably near the close of the year 1683. The Chancellor's letter to the Convocation of the University of Oxford, recommending him for the degree of Doctor of Medicine, is dated the 5th of March, 1683-4,and states that 'He was lately a practitioner of physic in York, and then in London; a person of exemplary loyalty and of high esteem amongst the most eminent of his profession for his excellent skill and success therein; of singular merit to that University in particular, having enriched their museum and library with presents of valuable books both printed and in manuscript, and of general merit in the literary world by several learned books which he had published'. His diploma bears date the 11th of March, 1683-4. He was admitted a Fellow of the College of Physicians on the 12th of April,1687, and was Censor in 1694. Dr. Lister's London residence was a house situate in Old Palace Yard, Westminster.

Within a year after he had settled in London, Dr. Lister commenced the publication of that work which may be considered as the most important of his labours in natural philosophy- his Historia sive Synopsis Methodica Conchyliorum - published at intervals between the years 1685 and 1691, and formed together a folio volume consisting entirely of copper-plate etchings from designs by the author's daughters Susannah and Anna Lister, of more than a thousand figures of shells. The plates are executed with great fidelity and spirit, and bear testimony to the extraordinary talents and industry of the artists. A second edition was called for in the year 1699...

So large an amount of mental toil could not fail to be accompanied by bodily ailments and discomfort, and for some time Dr. Lister had found that his health was failing. Towards the close of the year 1698, a few months after the Treaty of Ryswick had been concluded, the Earl of Portland was appointed by King William III to be Ambassador Extraordinary to the Court of France. Dr. Lister obtained from Lord Portland permission to join the embassy, not in any official capacity, but to enable him, under diplomatic protection, to sojourn a few months in France for the benefit of his health, amusing himself and following his own pursuits in any way he thought fit. Dr. Lister arrived at Paris on the 1st of January, 1698-9, after a tedious journey, having been attacked by sickness on the road, which detained him five days at Boulogne till his fever abated. He was six months absent from home, and passed nearly the whole of that time in the French metropolis.

Soon after Dr. Lister's return to London he published a small 8vo volume entitled 'A journey to Paris in the year 1698'...

After experiencing the salutary effect of his trip to Paris, and of breathing for six months the dry and pure air of the French metropolis. Dr. Lister discovered, on his return to his own house in Old Palace Yard, that his occasional removal from the close purlieus of Westminster to some more invigorating locality had become a matter of necessity. In 1699 he hired a house at Leatherhead, near the Epsom Downs, ..."
By then Lister's first wife, Anna or Hannah nee Parkinson, was deceased and she had been buried in the old church, dedicated to St Mary, at Clapham with a Memorial Inscription: -
'Hannah Lister, deare wife! died the first of August 1695, and left six children in teares, for a most indulgent mother.'
surmounted by the arms of Lister, Ermine on a fesse cotised, Sab. 3 mullets, Or, impaling, Or, a fesse between 3 greyhounds, Sab. She was the daughter and heir of Thomas Parkinson of Carleton in Craven. The arms given for that family are argent, a fesse between three greyhounds courant sable. Hannah's tablet had been placed on the south wall of the Atkins chancel but that structure fell into decay and was pulled down in 1815 and a small new chapel, dedicated to St. Paul, erected on its site - into which the old monuments were removed.

Dr Lister's Charity. By a Deed dated 3 September 1695, in memory of his wife Hannah, Martin Lister gave to the parish of Clapham for ever, £5 per annum, as a rentcharge upon his house in Leadenhall [otherwise Lendal, later London] Street in York, then in the possession of Dr. Ashenden, for the following purposes: -
'£2 to the minister for a commemoration sermon the Sunday following the 1st day of August, on which day she died; the other £3 for two blue cloth gowns for two old women of the said parish, and every other year the said £3 to be laid out in bread in equal portions to the poor for five Sundays, two before and three after the day of her death, the disposition thereof to be made by the minister and churchwardens of the said parish of Clapham'.
It may be inferred that the Listers had maintained a suburban house in that parish.

Dr. Lister was married to his second wife at the church of Saint Stephen, Walbrook, London, on 24 October 1698. She is described in the parish register as Jane Cullen of Saint Mildred, Poultry.

Among Lister's papers at the Ashmolean Museum, there is a letter addressed to him from Mr. Charles Proby, dated Montpelier, 2 January 1699 which refers to Helix Pomatia having been found at Asted [Ashtead] near Epsom. These large edible, so called Roman, snails are said to have been introduced by Charles Howard, one of the earls of Arundel, who brought them from Italy for the cure of his countess of consumption. Sir Kenelm Digby likewise patronized the remedy. Elias Ashmole says, the earl scattered them on the hills about Dorking, in Surrey, and between Albury and Horsley, near Guildford. They remain on and about Box Hill to this day.

Also in 1699, the newly married couple took lodgings in 'Mr Mitchell's house' at Leatherhead because, as Martin explained in a letter, he had been ill of a 'feavour and cough' at Michaelmas. Consequently, it had be thought 'best to breake up house in the old Palace yard... and to retire to the present hither for aire'. A letter to Dr Hunter, from Leatherhead 17 November 1700, confirmed that Lister had 'retired into the Downs' for his health - any reply could be sent via London to 'Mr Mitchels'.

Three years after the move to Leatherhead Martin Lister reported that 'he had hired a house by lease for 7 yeares... where I purpos, God willing to end my dayes'. A letter from Tancred Robinson on 6 August 1709 was addressed 'For Dr Lister at his house near the Church in Epsom, Surrey' which places this residence on Church Street. Although H L Lehmann's Residential Copyholds of Epsom mentions some of the lessees in that area Martin Lister's name is not found amongst them. However, as remarked by the author, Dr Anna Marie Roos, one of the properties on Church Street 'designed for fashionable London commuters' had been what is now called Richmond House. This was one of two messuages built on copyhold land 'near the White Hart gate leading to Epsom church', which, on 7 June 1696, was amongst 'all or any of his properties' Joseph Hillman was licensed to let for 60 years. Hillman remained still in occupation of the Richmond House premises until sale, 13 March 1714 [Lehmann 7B3]. The second property, more likely to have been leased to Martin Lister because it remained tenanted to and after 1714, stood to the south, even nearer to the parish church. Rebuilt, it became Parkhurst, now re-named Park Place House [Lehmann 7B3 & 4].

Extract from 1843 Tithe Map
Extract from 1843 Tithe Map

Parkhurst, now re-named Park Place House
Parkhurst, now re-named Park Place House
Image courtesy of Brian Bouchard © 2013

Dr. Lister's died at Epsom on 2 February 1711/12 - 'Age called at length his active mind to rest, Safe from the tart lampoon and stinging jest'.

His will dated 25 July 1704 [Proved 4 February 1712 PROB 11/525/334] named his first wife Hannah Lister, his second wife Jane Lister, his son Alexander Lister, and his daughters Susannah, Dorothy, and Barbara, and Frances Evans. He bequeathed all his books and copper-plates to the Museum of Oxford. His house and land in Lendal Street, York, were left to his wife for life and he made her sole executrix and residuary legatee, small legacies being left to his son Alexander, and to each of his four daughters.

It was directed that his body was, 'without pomp and in a private manner, to be carried in a hearse attended by only one mourning coach to Clapham in Surrey and there be buried' in the grave of his first wife. A marble tablet to the memory of Dr. Martin Lister, originally set beside that to Hannah in the Atkins chancel but also re-sited to St Paul's chapel, Clapham, bore the following inscription:-
'Near this place is buried the body of Martin Lister,Doctor of Physic, a member of the Royal Society, and one of Queen Anne's Physicians. Who departed this life, the second day of February 1711-12.'
Above the inscription was sculptured a shield of the arms of Lister impaling Cullen - Or, a spread eagle proper. Dr. Lister bore the well-known coat of the Yorkshire families of that name - ermine, on a fess sable, three mullets or.

The demise of his widow was not reported until 14 September 1736 - 'Last night the corpse of Mrs Jane Lister [nee Cullen], relict of Dr Martin Lister, who died on Wednesday last [10 September] at Mr Lee near Doctors Commons in the 72nd year of her age, was carried from thence and interred in a decent manner in St Helen's in Bishopsgate Street'. Another source gives her place of death as 'Carter Lane'. Will of Jane Lister, Widow of Saint Gregory, City of London, proved 13 September 1736 - PROB 11/679/108 [The parish of Saint Gregory by Saint Paul had been united with Saint Mary Magdalen Old Fish Street in 1670. The united parish was merged with Saint Martin Ludgate in 1890].

Brian Bouchard
January 2013




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