Our History

Our earliest records indicate that a Mr J Brunskill MRCVS came to Bishops Stortford shortly after qualifying from the Royal Veterinary College in London in 1886 -and moved into 87 Rye Street-the house next door . He practised here and in Puckeridge before his death at a young age in 1901.

The practice was sold to Ramsay Millar who handed the succession on to his two sons just before the second world war; Ramsay and Alistair all lived in the big house in true "Herriot" fashion. Veterinary Practices were often sited on a main road with an attached blacksmiths forge [now our main surgical area] on the outskirts of a town in order to better serve the needs of dray and coach horses.

All the vets who worked here have been Veterinary SURGEONS - a title protected by the first Charter of Royal Assent given to the Royal College  of Veterinary Surgeons in 1844 and only to be used by its Members. There was another Veterinary practice in Stortford at this time at the foot of Windhill next to the Bricklayers Arms but this was run by a Veterinary Practitioner who was restricted in what he could do and prescribe and had been trained in a form of apprenticeship e.g with vets or in the army. These Practitioners were admitted to the supplementary Veterinary Register but this was closed in 1948. Such Practitioners have literally faded away no new admissions to the register being allowed.

The work carried out then would have been very different to now -farm animals mainly and all types of horses and ponies were the mainstay together with a few dogs and fewer cats. Cattle sheep and pigs were driven through the country lanes to the market at Northgate end  for sale each Thursday even into the 1950's. Even newly arrived shunting horses used to marshal the rolling stock from the Railway yard were driven loose again through Stortford into the surgery yard for castration. On one occasion so many were packed in to the first loose box that the top door grill was bent outward as it is to this day.

During the First World War mules from the Remount Core were brought to Rye Street to be branded before being transported to the continent. We still have part of the stable bearing the inverted ‘crows claw’ brand mark, tested there before being used on the mules. They were branded on a foot so that in the event of death of his mount, the cavalryman could cut off and return the foot to his superiors to prove he had not sold the animal !!

In The 1930s &40's Sir Frederick Hobday FRCVS used to regularly visit this and other surgeries around London to carry out his famous Hobday procedure for horses with a paralysed Larynx -the preferred operating site being the cobbled area in the yard. 

Between the wars Mr Millar Sr would keep a saddle fitted with saddle bags containing medicines  by the range in his kitchen overnight in case of a night call. If summoned he would saddle his hunter mare and ride across the fields to the farm this being quicker than by road and car.

When petrol was rationed during WW II the pony and trap were used for visits to eke out the fuel allocation. During refurbishment a message was found on the back of the instrumentcupboard stating " I made this May 1915". The cupboard had been in constant
use in situ for seventy years. At the time of its making a range of dog kennels were fitted in the forge, the fronts of which are still in use today in the overflow kennels in the stables.

 In September 1939 Lionel Wakley joined the practice after graduation and worked originally with the Millars and then Joe Paterson and Henry Mills   who joined him after the war and service in the Sudan with the Sudan Government. Lionel worked in Rye Street continuously for forty two years up to his retirement.

The changes in the Practice reflected the changes in the town & countryside throughout the post war decades up to the present time. Bishops Stortford is no longer the sleepy market town of pre war days, farming livestock have decreased dramatically in this area in the last twenty years. However the
horse activity has dramatically increased but instead of work horses the animals treated are hunters riding horses and ponies.

With Progresive urbanisation the pet animal side has blossomed . In 1985 after extensive refurbishment of the main block the Royal College of Veterinary surgeons granted " Hospital Status" to the practice. At present there are still only in the region of 200 designated Veterinary Hospitals in the whole of Britain.

Our aim is to continue to meet the changing demands of Veterinary work , meeting the highest standards of care achievable at the time -this attitude has been shared by ALL the vets who have worked here right from the latter part of the last century to the present day. Just as the practice has successfully survived all the innovative changes in veterinary medicine and the other political and international upheavals of the last one hundred years

we  are looking forward with confidence  to successfully continuing work in a practice that in 2000 is now in its third century.


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