Sir Cecil Wakeley – Famous Surgeon

A long standing Rainham family, the Wakeley’s have produced numerous well-known people over the years including cricketer Richard Mansfield Wakeley, local preacher Thomas Stanley Wakeley, national rose grower William Wakeley and more recently international fashion designer Amanda Wakeley. Sir Cecil Wakeley also became very well-known and respected in the medical profession as a top class surgeon.

Born into a large family on 5th May 1892 at Meresborough House in Rainham, Sir Cecil had a quiet country life as a child, an early interest in horse riding and he owned his own pony. In 1904 he attended King’s School Rochester but his education was interrupted in 1906 when he contracted pneumonia but he survived after being seriously ill. He then continued his education at Dulwich College after his family moved to the area in 1907. After he left school in 1910 he entered King’s College Hospital in London with whom he maintained a life-long connection and qualified as a surgeon.

He joined the Royal Navy in 1915 as a surgeon lieutenant, serving aboard the hospital ship Garth Castle at Scapa Flow where the only major naval conflict of the First World War took place. When the First World War finished he maintained his links with the navy. Firstly, he became a consultant then Rear–Admiral Surgeon at the Royal Naval hospital at Haslar near Portsmouth.

Sir Cecil Wakeley – Famous Surgeon

Photo of Sir Cecil Wakeley – Famous Surgeon

His career had numerous successes starting with his acceptance at King’s College Hospital to work as a surgeon in 1922 followed by promotion to senior surgeon. He then became consultant to the Belgrave Hospital for Children, the Royal Masonic and the Maida Vale Hospital for Nervous Diseases. He later became member of the Council of King’s College and then he served as president from 1949 to 1954. He also became President of the Association of Physiotherapy, the Hunterian Society, the Medical Society of London and the Royal Life Saving Society. He also served as an examiner for the Primary and Final Fellowship exams as well as for medical degrees at various universities in the UK and overseas.

In other areas Sir Cecil became a Hunterian orator, Hunterian professor and an Erasmus Wilson, Bradshaw and Thomas Vicary Lecturer. He became Chairman of the Trustees of the Hunterian Collection and received the College’s Gold Medal for his services. He also received various honours including the Order of the Nile in 1936, he was made Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1941. He also became Knight of the Order of the British Empire and received the Legion of Merit from the USA in 1946. He also received the Chevalier de la legion d’honneur from France in 1950 and he was awarded with a baronet in recognition of his work in the medical profession in 1952. Finally, he became an honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh.

Colleagues considered Sir Cecil to be very positive with a very clear mind, a very affable and cheerful individual with great powers of observation. He never forgot a face and liked to give encouragement and advice to those around him. He was also a very efficient surgeon who carried out operations very quickly and meticulously.

Throughout his life Sir Cecil remained a devout churchman who became President of the Bible League and followed in the footsteps of his father Percy Wakeley who preached at Providence Chapel in Orchard Street and his grandfather Thomas Stanley Wakeley who became an ardent and well-known Rainham churchman and Baptist preacher during the second half of the 19th century.

Sir Cecil presided over the Lord’s Day Observance Society and became the author of various medical textbooks and edited Rose and Carless. He also edited theBritish Journal of Surgery and he founded the Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. He also edited the Medical press and circular.

In 1925 Sir Cecil married Elizabeth Muriel Nicholson-Smith in Lewisham and they had three sons. John and Richard entered the medical profession while William got involved in the farming business ‘Wakeley Brothers’ in Rainham and he still lives in Hartlip. Sir Cecil’s granddaughter Amanda, daughter of his son John, became a famous fashion designer from the 1990s onwards and was awarded an OBE for her contribution to fashion in 2010.

In 1975 Sir Cecil celebrated his golden wedding anniversary with his wife. At retirement age he maintained connections with the medical world and he also got involved in local activities such as opening village fetes. He eventually died in Chatham on June 5th 1979 aged 87 after a long and highly successful life.


Photo of Amanda Wakeley, daughter of his son John, became a famous fashion designer from the 1990s onwards and was awarded an OBE for her contribution to fashion in 2010

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