Portland stone headstone, 1865.
Reason for Listing
The monument to James Barry is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: commemorates James Barry, a.k.a. Margaret Bulkley, a leading military doctor and the first woman to qualify in medicine in this country;
* Group value: with nearby listed monuments within the Grade I registered Kensal Green Cemetery.
James Barry (d.1865) was an army medical officer, and – as a lifelong transvestite – the first woman to qualify in medicine in the United Kingdom. She was born Margaret Bulkley, the daughter of Ann Bulkley of Cork, whose brother was the artist James Barry RA. The date of her birth has been variously placed between 1789 and 1799. A family crisis in 1803 had left the Bulkleys destitute, but an inheritance from her uncle, and the support of his friend General Francisco Miranda, the Venezuelan revolutionary, allowed Margaret to travel to London to continue her education. In 1809, under the sponsorship of the eleventh earl of Buchan, she enrolled at Edinburgh University as a literary and medical student under the name of James Barry, and from this point until her death she passed as male.
She received her MD in 1812 and the following year, after a brief spell as a pupil at St Thomas’s Hospital in London, enlisted in the medical ranks of the British Army. She served in Cape Town, Mauritius, Jamaica, St Helena, the Windward and Leeward Islands, Malta and Corfu, ending her career in Canada as Inspector General of Hospitals. She carried out a caesarean section in Cape Town in 1826, in which both mother and child survived – a feat not performed in Britain until 1833. She may herself have had a child in 1819, possibly by Lord Charles Somerset, the governor of the Cape. She was noted throughout her career for her kindness and concern for the oppressed, but also for her ferocious temper; at Sebastopol in 1855 she met Florence Nightingale, who described her as ‘the most hardened creature I ever met throughout the army’.
Barry retired due to ill health in 1859, and died in London on 25 July 1865, the year that Elizabeth Garrett Anderson received her medical licence. Her long deception enabled her to become one of the most successful and respected military doctors of her time, insisting on rigorous hygiene and adequate living conditions for those in her care long before such demands became commonplace. Her strange appearance, flamboyant dress and flirtatious behaviour frequently gave rise to rumours about her gender and sexuality, but her secret was not finally revealed until after her death.
The Cemetery of All Souls at Kensal Green was the earliest of the large privately-run cemeteries established on the fringes of London to relieve pressure on overcrowded urban churchyards. Its founder George Frederick Carden intended it as an English counterpart to the great Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, which he had visited in 1821. In 1830, with the financial backing of the banker Sir John Dean Paul, Carden established the General Cemetery Company, and two years later an Act of Parliament was obtained to develop a 55-acre site at Kensal Green, then among open fields to the west of the metropolis. An architectural competition was held, but the winning entry – a Gothic scheme by HE Kendall – fell foul of Sir John's classicising tastes, and the surveyor John Griffith of Finsbury was eventually employed both to lay out the grounds and to design the Greek Revival chapels, entrance arch and catacombs, built between 1834 and 1837. A sequence of royal burials, beginning in 1843 with that of Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex, ensured the cemetery’s popularity. It is still administered by the General Cemetery Company, assisted since 1989 by the Friends of Kensal Green.
Simple Portland stone headstone with curved and slightly moulded profile to the top. The leaded inscription reads: ‘Dr James Barry / Inspector General of Hospitals / Died 25 July 1865 / Aged 70 years’.
Source: English Heritage
Listed building text is © Crown Copyright. Reproduced under licence.