Sir Wilfred Thomason Grenfell, KCMG

28 February 1865 – 9 October 1940

The son of Algernon Grenfell and Jane Hutchinson, he was born in Parkgate, where his father was headmaster of Mostyn House School.

Following his education at the school and at Marlborough College, he moved to London to study medicine at the London Hospital Medical College. In 1892 he was sent by The Royal National Mission To Deep Sea Fishermen to Newfoundland, to improve the plight of coastal inhabitants and fishermen.

Two doctors and two nurses were recruited in 1893 and cottage hospitals were opened along the coast. Schools, an orphanage, and social work were developed. The area served eventually included the coasts of Labrador as well as Newfoundland. In all there were six hospitals, four hospital ships, seven nursing stations, two orphanages, two large schools, 14 industrial centres, and a cooperative lumber mill.

He developed Grenfell Cloth, a woven Egyptian cotton material, made by Walter Haythornthwaite. The cloth is a close-woven cotton twill material (600 threads per inch) used to make outdoor clothing, to protect the wearer from wet and cold.

On a mercy dash to a very sick patient, he encountered his near demise on an ice floe. He was travelling on a sled pulled by eight dogs, when he took a short cut across a bay of salt-water ice. The ice began to break up and, with the sled sinking, he and the dogs managed to reach an ice floe 10ft by 12ft. To keep warm in the freezing night, he was forced to kill three of his dogs, and wrapped their skins around himself. The following morning he was spotted by local fishermen and rescued. A memorial to the dogs is in the Mostyn House School Chapel.

He was knighted in 1927 in recognition of his medical, educational and social work.

He is commemorated on a bronze plaque installed by the Parkgate Society on Mostyn House. A picture can be seen here.

Old Neston