Dr Ridgway Lloyd - a scholar of the Abbey

In one of series of articles celebrating the contribution of early members of the Society, Jane Kelsall looks at the significant contribution by Dr Ridgway Lloyd to the study of the Abbey, until death took him at a tragically early age.

Ridgway Robert Syers Christian Codnor Lloyd was born in Devonport to a West country doctor, Francis Lloyd and his wife, Margaret. Francis Lloyd later took holy orders. His son studied medicine at Guy’s Hospital where he became MRCS and LSA,  entitling him to become a surgeon and to dispense medicines.

He bought a practice in St Albans, joining Dr John Lipscombe, sometime mayor of St Albans. At the time there was a small private dispensary on Holywell Hill and Dr Lloyd’s presence enabled a long-cherished dream to open a small hospital in 1870 with two in-patient wards, with himself as house surgeon. He wrote several papers over the years for the Lancet on diphtheria, hernia operations and dislocations.

Lloyd joins the Society

It seems that in his childhood Lloyd had formed a great interest in church history, for within six months of his arrival in St Albans he joined our Society (then the St Albans Architectural and Archaeological Society). He soon contributed scholarly papers, starting with a study of old church bells and their inscriptions.

Appointed secretary to the Society, he often hosted committee meetings at his house (see Fig. 1) where he advised the purchase of several books which still form the foundation to the present library. He transformed the running of the Society and talent-spotted Revd Henry Fowler, whose close study of the boundary wall of the Abbey produced the precious Fowler Map now hanging on the east wall of the north transept. See the November 2019 newsletter for an article about Fowler (1).

A noted scholar of the Abbey

In his research Lloyd studied the matchless Abbey chronicles and then compared the facts with the building itself. His scholarship was widely applauded for thoroughness, accuracy and reliability. This cannot have been easy as the Medieval Latin of the chronicles is not the same as Latin taught in schools, or indeed, medical Latin.

But it was not only the scholarship that is impressive. His writing style is lucid and easy to read. In his 1871 paper on ‘Some Account of the Hermits Roger and Sigar, and of the Prioress Christina’, his knowledge of Christina (of Markyate) is accurate, though one hundred years before C.H. Talbot’s significant discovery and restoration in 1968 of her contemporary biography.

He became such an expert on the Abbey’s history that Sir George Gilbert Scott consulted him on historical matters, especially on the discovery of the shrine fragments of St Alban and St Amphibalus in 1872. (see Fig. 2) Lord Aldenham, who paid for the restoration of the High Altar Screen, referred to him on the choice of the saints to be replaced there.

When Scott uncovered the painted wooden ceiling in the choir, Lloyd’s exhaustive study of the heraldry was published by the Society in 1876. His paper in the journal, Antiquary, in December 1880, ‘A medieval Pilgrimage to the shrine of St Alban’, is an engrossing tour of the Abbey with the author bringing to the reader’s attention what they would have seen in 1521. Not only do we see the architecture, the altars and the fittings, he explains the rituals of the Benedictine monks. And his book, An Account of The Altars, Monuments and Tombs existing in 1428, a translation from the chronicles, will make the reader sad to understand what has been lost since the Dissolution.

Early death in typhoid epidemic of 1884

Lloyd died of typhoid at the early age of 41 in 1884 (2). William Budd, an English country doctor, had identified in 1838 the fact that the infection of some diseases was by contagion, and typhoid and cholera were thus caused by drinking water infected with contaminated sewage. Alas it was impossible in 1884 for the provision of safe clean water in every home. Ridgway Lloyd, the doctor and scholar who so loved St Albans Abbey, left a wife, Catherine and a nine-year-old son. He lies in the north churchyard of the Abbey.

(1) To get your own printed copies of the Society’s newsletters, simply join the Society – it’s easy to do and excellent value. You can see the original article in the August 2019 newsletter by clicking here.

(2) You can read more about the 1884 typhoid epidemic in St Albans in Tony Cooper’s article.