Main Site (over 600 pages of information and opinion): www.alternativevet.org
My parents (Evelyn Day and Kenneth Day), who were both practising vets, came to the area in about 1944, having
both undergone their veterinary training at The Royal Veterinary College (RVC), London and having been evacuated to finish
their courses at Pangbourne, during the air raids of WWII. In my mother’s young days, lady vets were very rare indeed.
They first rented a room at Pidnell Farm, near Radcot. They soon moved into Chinham House, first renting it, then
buying it. It had previously been owned by Brasenose College in Oxford (a college founded in 1509 and named after the ancient
brass (brazen) door-knocker hanging above High Table in Brasenose Hall). Chinham House is a Queen Anne (early 1700’s)
dwelling, with period interior and extensions, built into and onto a Norman or mediaeval barn at that time.
The house is three-storey, the top two rooms consisting of wattle and horse-hair plaster, constructed within the
loft. There is a fine Queen Anne staircase and fireplace. The main rooms are high-ceilinged, with period plaster mouldings.
Another unusual feature of the house is the presence of the original solid pine shutters, doors, floors and sash windows,
all of which are of very high quality. The bricks for the extensions were made on site.
barn was mentioned in the history of the Civil War campaign (1645-6) of Faringdon and Radcot (an ancient river-crossing close
by, on the River Thames). At some time during this campaign, Cromwell’s cavalry was described as having been billeted
in Penstones Farm (next door to us) and the horses in the barn next to Penstones Farm (that’s us).
The place has undergone changes, even since the times of Queen Anne. We have a photograph of the frontage, prior
to tarmac on the High Street. It shows that there were two cottages in our kitchen garden. They are not there now but the
windows and fireplaces are still to be seen, in the kitchen garden wall.
In my childhood, this
was the veterinary practice. It was a very rural cattle practice. I spent every minute that I could, going round with my parents
and helping in the very Herriot-like veterinary work. I would help to unpack the medicines orders and stock the shelves. Many
'happy hours' were spent reading product literature and thereby absorbing the ‘trade’. The kitchen was
where I now consult, with a lovely vaulted baker’s oven. The office was where our kitchen now is. The two were then
swapped while I was very young, for space reasons.
The 'small animal' service was initially
offered in a little loft room, in Alms Houses in nearby Faringdon and the ‘operating theatre’ was in the tack-room
of Chinham House’s stable. This had a brick floor, with an old machine bench as an operating table, over which I could
just see when I was small. I used to operate the Tate & Lyle’s Golden Syrup tin ‘anaesthetic machine’.
This was a tin with cotton wool inside, soaked in ether. It was a very safe and controllable method but, of course, much frowned
upon in today’s technological and health-and-safety bound world. The main hazard was that ether was inflammable and
heavier than air, so that one was walking in inflammable vapour. Still, the room was so damp and draughty and the brick floor
so damp, that there was little risk of sparks from static electricity. Eventually, as small animal work increased, a consulting
room-cum-operating room was made in the then office (i.e. where the main consulting room is now) and the office and waiting
room were set up in a new ‘log-cabin’, in the drive.
Business and work expanded, so
assistants were employed. These assistants lived in a house in Faringdon, called Danetree. Eventually, this was ‘converted’,
meaning upstairs became a large flat and downstairs became a veterinary premises with X-Ray machine, operating room, waiting
room, two consulting rooms and a dark room. No walls or doorways were changed. It was left as if a house, in case it was needed
again in that form. There was also a small 'lock-up' (two-room) branch surgery in Shrivenham/Watchfield, by the Golf
While I was at college, my old 1933 Morris 10 and my brother’s old 1936 Daimler
were moved out of the stone garage block at Chinham House and a new waiting room and office were constructed there. The
old tack-room was joined in, and renovated, to form a new consulting room.
This is how the practice
was, when I joined it in 1973, after my studies in Cambridge and my 'year away' in Burnley, Lancashire. We were then
a four-man practice, expanding to five very soon. We had three premises, none of which was purpose-built or purpose-fitted.
We served mainly the Vale of the White Horse and down to the Thames Valley.
My father had built
up an extraordinary reputation in preventive medicine, in 'routine-visiting' of farms and in nutrition work. I naturally
followed this line, having seen it developing in my formative years and seeing the immense wisdom, logic and benefit of it.
My mother was very highly-rated as a small animal vet, after repeated injury took her off the farms. She had a client base
that even included some ‘regulars’ from as far away as London. Very importantly, she also used some homeopathy,
having been introduced to it on the same occasion that I was (i.e. when I was about ten or eleven years old). Her obvious
successes with it were, of course, influential to me. I started using homeopathy from the day I qualified and acupuncture
from about 1980/1981.
In about 1978, my parents left Chinham House and went to Guiting Power,
Gloucestershire. Happily, both my parents were with us and extremely busy, until recently. My mother has recently retired
as a trustee of the Guiting Power Trust and my father, who was helping to run Guiting Manor Farm, for the Trust has sadly
recently died. The book ‘Old Country Vets’ describes some of their life and times, from
a bygone era of veterinary practice.
In 1987, as we were so busy with alternative medicine, we
reconstructed the disused consulting room at Chinham House, making it a dedicated Alternative Medicine premises. It became
the country's first dedicated holistic practice and I formally became a full-time holistic vet. We opened
the consulting room into the garden, by putting in French windows and we created a herb garden, containing examples of some
150 medicinal herbs. The general practice still used the office and consulting facility across the yard, at that time.
In the late eighties, we rebuilt the Faringdon premises, making a purpose-built small animal centre, with flats.
The practice office was moved to that site but my colleagues continued to hold conventional surgeries in the outside waiting
room and consulting room at Stanford in the Vale.
In the early nineties, we bought a surgery and
flat at Wantage, to allow expansion of the natural medicine side at Stanford, which needed the full Stanford site for its
work. This made four practice centres, in all. It also had a thriving 'mobile surgery'.
practice (comprising the main Faringdon premises and the Shrivenham (Watchfield) and Wantage branches) was sold to incumbent
veterinary assistants a few years later. That became 'Danetree Veterinary Surgeons', who now do all of our emergency
and out-of-hours work.
We find ourselves now in a lovely rural property, far from purpose-built
but comfortable. It is admittedly strained at the seams with all our activities but it is both a home and a well-worn work
place. Animals enjoy coming and seem to relax very easily in its homely and non-clinical and non-chemical environment, for
holistic veterinary care.
We run 20 acres of pasture and woodland on an organic basis, in order
that we can rescue and rehabilitate a few horses and give our happy bunch of cattle and other animals a contented and relaxed
lifestyle. We are re-establishing flora and fauna at an exciting rate, each year bringing new surprises. For instance, we
have seen eighteen species of butterfly in the garden in recent years, which has been a source of great joy. We leave areas
to ‘run wild’ for this purpose and intentionally have a relaxed policy to weeds and plant life on the premises.
Unfortunately, we had a fire in our little wooden/thatched barn, in the main yard, a few years ago. This was obviously
tragic but it has presented the opportunity to rebuild and alter use, employing the latest environmental and power-saving
technology. Planning permission was finally given and the planning of the features that will make it self-contained, energy-wise,
are well under way. In 2012, we can add that work is nearly finished on this project.
veterinary work at the Centre continues, providing holistic consultations, with the provision of homeopathy, acupuncture,
herbs, chiropractic etc. to our patients. The premises has also been home to the annual Veterinary Membership Examinations,
for the Faculty of Homeopathy, since their inception. This entails closing the practice for a day each year, for the candidates
to attend the clinical and oral sections of their examination. For the first time, in 2006, this was a two-day event, as numbers
were expanded by the first candidates from Ireland.
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