“We’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of people around the world,” said Gower. “Individual donations are still coming in. It has enabled us to start making plans to shape a real vision for the future.
“The pandemic raised the profile of vaccination. We want to not only refresh the displays and refurbish the house – but develop our educational programme and open up an online international presence.”
The trust has no regular government funding and relies on entry fees. A team of 35 local volunteers maintains and operates the house and garden. A large part of the house is rented as a private flat to provide income. That includes Dr Jenner’s old bedroom.
Crowdfunding saved Jenner’s house from shuttering due to Covid-19 (Credit: Christopher Jones/Alamy)
The success of crowdfunding galvanised the trust to re-think the future of the humble historical attraction. It can now afford to engage consultants and approach large sponsors. Gower says the dream is to take Jenner’s house forward in a more meaningful direction.
“We could do so much with this,” said the history graduate from Berkeley. “The crowdfunding was overwhelming, but we can’t rely on individual donations forever. Now we need to approach big funders.”
Future plans include creating an international centre inspiring development of vaccination theory. That includes an ambitious programme of outreach, archive and scientific get-togethers.
Museum trustee Gabriella Swaffield sees a positive future for the site. “In five years time, it will no doubt be a thriving museum which welcomes visitors from all over the world to tell the important story of the beginnings of vaccination and its pioneering founder Edward Jenner.
Swaffield, a museum manager at the historical Charterhouse in London, applied to be a Trustee of The Jenner Trust, in the height of the pandemic in June 2020. “It seemed like the opportune time to combine my passion for museums and spreading the important message of vaccinology,” she said.
“It deserves more recognition. It’s a fascinating museum with beautiful gardens, which tell such an incredible story which has affected every single person in one way or another over the past few years.”
Once the world started realising how important Jenner’s invention was, the praise began to roll in. Although he never seemed to have profited from the vaccine, perhaps he valued some of the comments more than any riches. Then US president Thomas Jefferson wrote directly to Jenner from America in 1806 saying that “mankind can never forget that you have lived”. Gower and the Berkeley villagers are trying to make sure they maintain a site that ensures that never happens.