Moving to Claremont Surgery

Forums Memories about Life in Chagford (Themes) Moving to Claremont Surgery

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    Jon Lawrence

    Coming to Chagford in 1966 by Jean Rhodes

    When David and I arrived in Chagford in 1966 our lives changed forever. We came from the anonymity of London and South East England into this small country town (only about 2,500 patients then) where everyone knew everyone else and everything about them. I found this a bit overpowering at first but the interest was well meant and everyone was very kind. First off, I took my wedding shoes to John Arthur Pike in the Square to be mended. “They’m not shoes” he said, handing them back, “they’m slippers”. Gone were the days when the doctor sent out his bills once a year on Lady’s Day and the patients paid them when it was convenient, often ‘in kind’, with a chicken for example. But the NHS hadn’t stopped this practice completely. I remember receiving some wonderful steak from Sam Hill the Drewsteignton butcher one day and David was regularly given cream tea out at Postbridge by Mrs. Bellamy whose husband was one of the last tin miners at Vitifer. A surgery was held once a week both at Postbridge and Drewsteignton.

    We lived in Claremont, the practice house, which we had to buy. It cost £4,000, which was a lot of money then. However we didn’t spend on much else because we were on duty 24 hours a day, with a few hours off once a month on a Sunday and back on duty at 8pm. Surgery was held in two rooms in Claremont and lasted from 8.30am to whenever the last patient arrived and then from 6pm to about 8pm, on weekdays and Saturday mornings. There were no appointments so the waiting room was often full. Private patients came through the front door. There were still 6 Winchester bottles for standard ‘mixtures’ in the Surgery. These had been used in bad winter weather when patients in Postbridge, for example, would be advised to help themselves to whatever they needed. It was also understood that anyone travelling to the outer areas of the practise would take with them the prescribed medicines dispensed by the chemist Harry Rihill. We had acquired a beautiful English setter and a black cat before a patient said to David “You’d better stop collecting animals Doctor and start a family”. So we did, but that’s another story.

    Jean Rhodes

    Jon Lawrence

    David Rhodes sent me a postscript to this post by email a few days later:

    At the start of each winter we left a box containing 9-10 medicaments at the Post Office in Postbridge, duly labelled. If the conditions did not allow us to drive, faced with a foot or more of snow, or if the R.A.F could not help, we could make a telephone diagnosis, suggest treatment, and the patient could report progress. Soon after my arrival in Chagford, a farmer’s wife asked if I was married. When I answered in the negative she said “You’m leaving it a bit late bain’t you?” David Rhodes

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 10 months ago by Jon Lawrence.
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