Richard Davy

Richard Davy was born in Chulmleigh in 1838. His father was John Croote Davy (1806-1868) who was for many years the surgeon in that town. His mother died when he was 6.

He trained at Guy’s Hospital, London, and Edinburgh gaining FRCS in 1868. He was a consultant surgeon at the Westminster Hospital, specialising in orthopaedics, until 1893 when he retired to Devon.

He was opposed to the idea of routine use of antiseptics in surgery that Professor Lister was promoting in Edinburgh.

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Davy designed this horse-drawn ambulance, which has a "sling" on elastic suspenders to carry the patient. In 1883 he described how he accompanied a young lad (whose hip he had amputated) 15 miles to his home, stopping half way through the two and a half hour journey for sandwiches and a glass of port. On his way home, Davy himself "dozed off luxuriously".

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He married Edith Cutcliffe in 1889 –he was 50 and she was 25. Her father was from Witheridge and had been an actuary in London. Davy had three daughters, the youngest of whom, Agnes, married Reginald, the younger brother of Dr Herbert Rowse Bastard of Bow, in 1923.

In 1888 he gave a talk at the Board School Room in Bow, on the subject of 'Sanitation'

He inherited his home, Burstone House, on the edge of Zeal Monachorum, from his grandfather John Sweet, then demolished it and built “a substantial mansion” (now known as Burstone Manor) on the site in 1891.


He gradually became blind towards the end of his life and died aged 81 in 1920, leaving almost £28,000.   

Zeal Monachorum had a reputation as being the village with the worst water supplies in Devon. Its contaminated wells were blamed for the Cholera outbreak of 1866. Some villagers had to walk a mile to collect water. As part of the celebrations of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, the village decided to construct a new water supply. Richard Davy donated £300 towards this project. A well 50 feet deep was dug, connected to a 15,000 gallon reservoir connected to stand pipes in the village. This was opened the following year.