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Biographical entry Davenport, Cecil John (1863 - 1926)

MRCS May 5th 1887; FRCS June 13th 1889; LRCP Lond 1887.

Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
4 September 1926
General surgeon


Born in Adelaide, South Australia, in 1863, the son of Robert Davenport, of Adelaide, and his wife, Dorothea Fulford, daughter of John Fulford, of London; he was the grandson of George Davenport, of Oxford.

He was educated at St Bartholomew's Hospital, where he was House Surgeon. After taking the Fellowship he went to China as a medical missionary of the London Missionary Society. He established a medical mission in Chungking, and after some years of pioneer work there was moved to Wuchang. Here he carried on the medical work till the time of the Boxer Rising, when he was invalided home. In 1905 he received the appointment of Medical Superintendent of the Chinese Hospital, Shantung Road, Shanghai, and held this post for the rest of his life. Originally this was a mission hospital, but, under the control of local committees, in 1905 the hospital was in straits from lack of a qualified staff. Under Davenport's superintendence it rose to a high standard of efficiency, many thousands of poor Chinese being treated yearly in the wards and out-patient departments, and many doctors and nurses being trained. The hospital was founded in 1846 by Dr William Lockhart and is under the London Missionary Society, from whose missionaries its staff is derived. In 1925, owing to local disturbances, the hospital went through a revolutionary period, many of the Chinese staff and patients deserting. Davenport's report for 1925 gives an interesting account of the work done during this troublous crisis, and contains also curious details, furnished by Dr Agnes Towers, of 'women opium suicides'. During 1926 the hospital, which with the help of Davenport and others had continued to hold its own against all odds, received a vast accession of fortune under the terms of the will of Henry Lester, merchant, and an old resident in Shanghai. This magnificent gift was in the form of £350,000 in money and land. With these funds it was proposed to reconstruct the hospital on modern lines, to build a convalescent home, and to form an endowment fund. Davenport's retirement had been planned to take effect in 1927, but he was now urged to stay in China to help and advise in the rebuilding of the hospital and the founding of its medical school. He was therefore fain to stay and take up administrative duties so heavy that he had with regret to give up much of his surgical work. Doubtless he overstrained his capacities, for he died quite suddenly in the midst of his labours on Sept 4th, 1926.

He had no wish for personal advancement or distinction, but as a President of the China Medical Missionary Association and the recipient of a decoration from the Chinese Government, he was shown some formal recognition. Davenport's life was given up entirely to the forwarding of his work; his keenness, upright character, and kindliness endeared him to the many of all nationalities with whom he was brought into contact. The chaotic state of the China he loved, and the events of the few years prior to September, 1926, were causes of much anxiety and grief to him, but his efforts to improve the conditions of medical work in that country were maintained to the end.

In 1890 he married Miss A Miles, at one time 'Sister Martha' of St Bartholomew's Hospital. She was one of the first fully trained British nurses to go to China, and was from the beginning one of her husband's chief helpers. The children of the marriage were two daughters and a son, Robert Cecil Davenport, FRCS, ophthalmic surgeon.

The Royal College of Surgeons of England