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Feltwell Doctors by AJO

The first surgeon and Apothecary I have been able to trace was:

William Henry Roberts

He was born in Hackney in 1788 and arrived in Feltwell before 1814.  On 27th October 1814 he married Jane Willett, a Feltwell girl, in St Mary's Church.  They set up their first home at No. 11 High Street, which they rented from Thomas Jacobs, victualler.  Some of their children were born there.

On 20th May 1818 'Henry' purchased "The Old House" (No. 9 Lodge Road).   Up to this time the property had been a farmhouse.  Since then, except for a short period noted below, it has continued as the residence of the village doctor.

When Henry retired (1836?) he moved into Roseneath, Bell Street.

At sometime between 1851 and 1861 he appears to have moved to Hockwold-cum-Wilton because (i) he was living at Feltwell Oak as a 'visitor' at the 1861 census (his wife, Jane, was still alive and presumably living at their home) and (ii) the last window of St James Church, Wilton, was filled with glass in his memory.

On 20/4/1836 The Old House was purchased by the new doctor.   An interesting footnote.

George Archer

He was born in 1811 at Barton Mills, Suffolk during the reign of George III.  He died 7th February 1904 at the ripe old age of 93 and is buried at Feltwell.

On 21/4/1846 he was paid 1 for looking after Almhouse tenants for a year.  In 1952 he was paid 7-10/- (shillings) (5 years Bill) by Moundeford Charity Trustees.   He was also a farmer and on the 18/8/1879 he was appointed a Commissioner of the Feltwell Second Drainage District.

When he retired, after 55 years as the village doctor, he continued to live at The Old House.  The practice was taken over by his son:

Ernest George Archer

Ernest was born in Feltwell and was baptised in St Mary's Church on 17th March 1848.

In 1888 Ernest George returned to Feltwell and presumably then took over the practice.   He and his wife set up home in Hill House and because his father continued to live in The Old House, he had his surgery at Hill House for several years.

When the first Parish Council in Feltwell was inaugurated (to replace Vestry meetings) Ernest George was listed amongst the members.  He served as a Councillor for 21 years.

On 27th July 1910 The Old House became his and then, if not earlier, he moved into this property which had by then become (by almost 100 years) the traditional 'Doctors'.

He and my grandfather, Alfred George Symonds, placed their orders for one of the new fangled 'cars'.  The doctor's car arrived a week before my grandfather's otherwise my grandfather would have been the first owner of a motor car in Feltwell.

Presumably Ernest George Archer did not trust himself to drive his new car because he employed his gardener, Arthur 'Cricket' Gathercole, to chauffer him on his rounds etc.

Ernest George died 2nd November 1915 and was buried in Feltwell.  The story of his death was recorded in a local newspaper as follows, "Having been called out to one of the six houses on Wilton Road (2nd Nov 1915) the steering rod of his bicycle snapped and, unable to control the machine, especially in the dark, he fell heavily and though picked up by a neighbour and driven home conscious he soon after became unconscious and never really recovered.  He had fallen from his bicycle near the Old Brandon Road/Wilton Road Junction". (Now the site of the village surgery.)  His wife Harriot Constance died 30 years later at Barnham Cross Common, Thetford, on 4th January 1945, aged 89 and was buried in St Nicholas Churchyard with her husband.

During the combined tenure of the Archers, church registers show that 2826 births (at least baptisms) and 2312 burials occurred in Feltwell.

Mrs Archer did not sell The Old House until 1926 and during the 10 years from 1916 she let the property to the undermentioned doctors.

Robert Barsham Debenham

who was here just over five years 1916-1921.  He became a Parish Councillor on 14th February 1916 and served in that capacity until he left in April/May 1921.

The next Doctor who stayed but a short time was:

Charles William Cassell.

Although he arrived in May 1921 and left in July the following year he was co-opted on to the Parish Council to work out Debenham's term of office.

James Robert Logan McArthur

arrived in July 1922 and served as Parish Councillor from 30th April 1923 resigning his office 17th September 1923, two months after his successor had taken over the practice.

Philip Morgan Neighbour

was the next doctor, arriving in July 1923.  Although he was the village doctor for only 18 months, he made a little sliver of Feltwell history in that in 1924 when King George V opened the Wembley Exhibition, the King's voice was heard for the first time on the wireless.  Using the wireless set of Bert Palmer (the sub-postmaster) and Neighbour's amplifiers these two made it possible for a large number of Feltwell people, gathered at the junction of St Mary's Street (then Church Street) and The Beck, to hear His Majesty's broadcast.

The next doctor was

Philip Hugh Rawson

and he lasted only 9 months; from January to October 1925.

On 10th July 1926 Mrs Archer conveyed The Old House to the new doctor.

Ernest Edward Francis

(described as Physician and Surgeon). He had served for a number of years in India - probably in the Army.  On his arrival in Feltwell he was surprised to find that Rev. A. H. Phillips, whom he had known in India, was Rector of Feltwell.

Francis retired 13th September 1935 and on 1st October 1935 a partnership agreement was drawn up between: -

    1. Edward Vincent Beaumont, Bachelor of Medicine of Brandon
    2. Ernest Edward Francis'
    and 3. the new doctor

Henry Gerald Frederick Cubitt  Physician and Surgeon of Poplar, London.

Unfortunately, he too was to have a short term in the village as he died on 27th March 1937

His personal representatives assigned his share of the medical practice to his successor

John James Dykes Naismith, of Maltby, Yorks.

on 1st July 1937 who, on the same day, entered into a Partnership Agreement with the said Dr Beaumont.  Naismith purchased The Old house on 5th August 1937.

The partnership with Beaumont was dissolved by Deed dated 30/12/1942 and on 31st March 1943 the property was conveyed to:

Alexander Lamont MacDonald  of Bracondale, Norwich.

He was to rend to the sick for the next 15 years until he died on 2nd July 1958.   A tree was planted in his memory on the smaller of the two greens on St Nicholas Hill.

On 16th October 1958 The Old House was conveyed to:

John Burgess.

John served not only Feltwell and the surrounding villages for 19 years as a conscientious General Practitioner but also took part in several organisations in the village.  He was a Methodist and often preached in the Methodist Church.

He was a member of the Feltwell (Historical and Archaeological) Society, as was his wife Pat.  They joined shortly after I founded the Society in October 1966 and are still (1980) members although they no longer live in the village.  John is still one of the trustees of the Moundeford Charity having been appointed in August 1969. (He still is today, 1999)

For about 4 years in the mid 1970s John had a partner - Dr Daniel Germaine (1/8/1969-1/9/1973).

On 31/8/1977 John went into semi-retirement and sold the practice.  He took over as Medical Officer on the Stanford battle Area from Dr Sixsmith.  The new doctor was:

Ian Gardner Nisbet.  (Contributed by Dr Nisbet in June 1999)

Born on the Wirral in 1945 and educated at Birkenhead School and the London Hospital, Ian had spent seven years in a group practice in Crawley, Sussex before he took over the practice at the Old House from John Burgess in September, 1977. He purchased the property and carried out extensive modernisation and redecoration.  In the early 1980s he built on a larger waiting room with accommodation for a practice nurse and a receptionist.   Eventually, this proved too small and, with his wife Deannie, he designed and had built a new surgery on the allotments at Wilton Road.  This surgery was opened by Mrs Gillian Shepherd in November 1991 and now houses three doctors, 20 staff, physiotherapy, dietician, chiropody, counsellors etc.  The move to the new surgery ended 177 years of almost continuous medical practice at the Old House.

Partners: Ian practised single-handedly until 1982, when he took an assistant, Dr Margaret Lamont who left later that year to be replaced by Dr David Walker who, unfortunately, died in April 1983.

In October 1983 Ian took a partner, Dr Mary Wilson (born 6/22) and that partnership was dissolved in April 1989.  Later that year Ian was joined by Dr Alastair MacLean as a partner. He died in January 1997.

In May 1997 Ian took a half-time partner, Dr Mike Hughes, who was also educated at Birkenhead School.  As well as being a doctor Mike is also a vicar and looks after the parish of Little Downham Near Ely, Cambs.

In August 1997 another half-time partner, Dr Giselle Sagar joined the team.  She had been in a practice in Wiltshire and came to Norfolk because her husband was transferred to Norfolk with the RAF.

Ian retired at the end of September, 2005 together with his wife Deannie who was Practice Manager.

Dr Michael Pullen

Joined in November 2005. Trained at the London Hospital Medical College in the 1980s and has been a GP in East Bergholt since 1994. Mrs Sharon Wilson joins as Practice Manger from a Surgery in Stirling.

Other Doctors

My friend Eric Barker Secker, who before his marriage lived with his parents at No. 25 Short Beck, reminded me that in 1934, Dr Humphrey of Brandon, who used to go shooting  with Captain H. F. H. Hardy of Denton's Lodge, used to have a surgery in the house of Dick Collins, No. 5 The Beck.

In 1934 Eric broke his leg and it was set and put in plaster by Dr E. E. Francis.


From Stephen Wordsworth in August 2006

My link with Feltwell is some way back.  William Henry Roberts, my great great great grandfather, was surgeon in the village in the early 18th century; indeed, A J Orange's article on 'Feltwell Doctors' on your site says he is the first one known.  I can probably go back one further.  William Henry Roberts's father, Howland Roberts (born 1764) , is recorded as being a surgeon in Ticehurst, Sussex in 1785 (Ticehurst was the family home); and in Old Bond Street in 1787.  Howland married a girl from Rotherhithe, Elizabeth Maynard, and their first son, William Henry Roberts, was born in Hackney in 1788.  But their seven subsequent children were all baptised at Feltwell St Mary over the period 1790 - 1804, and I assume that Howland was supporting his family by continuing his profession in Feltwell during this time.

I have no idea why Howland Roberts moved to Feltwell.  He was the youngest of ten children, seven of whom were boys, so he had to earn his keep somehow; and one of his older brothers was also a surgeon.  But as far as I know there was no previous Norfolk connection.  Nor do I know where or when he died. His son, William Henry Roberts, married (as AJO records) a local Feltwell girl, Jane Willett.  Their seven children were all born in Feltwell.  Their second child, Lucy Jane Roberts, married Matthew Parrington, then the curate of Feltwell in 1847, after which he resigned the curacy and moved away.  My mother, Ruth, was born Ruth Parrington, being Matthew's great granddaughter.  Top

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