Peter's family was of Huguenot descent (French Protestants who emigrated to England in the mid-16th century to escape persecution). Many of the family were doctors and Peter is credited with the invention of the obstetric forceps. These were kept as a lucrative secret, as was the custom of the time. He was much in demand by the aristocracy because of his success with difficult midwifery cases and became Court physician-his tomb lists the Kings and Queens he attended. He had studied at Cambridge from the age of 14 and then at Heidelberg in Germany and Padua in Italy, Europe's leading medical school of the day. He didn't get on well with the Royal College of Physicians because of his flamboyant dress and his advanced ideas about the training of midwives, and he was eventually dismissed, retiring to Woodham Mortimer Hall. He joined the Baptist movement, being baptised as an adult in 1648, and kept Saturday as the Sabbath in the manner adopted today by the Seventh Day Adventists. In his retirement he wrote many letters and essays on religious and political subjects. His eldest son, Hugh also had a brilliant medical career, succeeding his father as Court Physician, and he was one of the few brave doctors who remained in London to attend the sick of the Great Plague of 1665. He is best remembered for arriving an hour too late for the birth of James-‘The Old Pretender'. This incident gave rise to the warming pan scandal because he refuted claims that an unknown live baby had been smuggled in to replace the dead child.
In 1843 four pairs of forceps were discovered hidden beneath a trapdoor in an attic room of the Hall-it is likely these had been secreted there by Peter's widow. Also included were coins from the reign of King Charles II and a packet labelled "my husband's last tooth"
Peter's tomb was restored by the Royal College of Surgeons and the forceps are now in the museum of The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. The tomb is ornate but gruesomely decorated-on one side are details of his life and on the other are verses which he composed especially for this purpose. It stands between the church and the gate leading to his former home. Peter's surviving son, (by his second wife) Hope Chamberlen inherited the Hall and sold it about 1715.
St Margaret Churchyard
Plot: East of Church
Created by: geoffrey gillon
Record added: Jun 19, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 38512835