History of The Whickham Practice

This Practice was founded in the late 1870’s by the first Dr Andrew Smith who graduated in Medicine at Edinburgh University and came to Tyneside where he bought a small run down practice at Hillcrest, a stone terraced house on Fellside Road.  When patient numbers increased he bought Rose Villa in an ideal setting at cross roads to access other local villages in which he subsequently established branch surgeries.  In those days house calls were done on foot or on horseback.

When war broke out in 1914, Dr Smith’s three sons who were also doctors and his assistants went into the Royal Army Medical Corp and he was left to cope single handed.  He decided to buy a motor car to save time on his rounds and was driven on his visits by his daughter Irene.

At the end of the war when the sons returned each one took over part of the Practice.   Andy the eldest son went to Swalwell and moved into Leven House which had consulting room, waiting room and dispensary incorporated into the family residence.  Edward bought Stronsay on Millfield Road and subsequently provided medical care for miners and their families who worked in the colliery at Watergate.  Wilkie went to Burnopfield to practice from a terraced house in the village.

In 1924 old Andrew died at Rose Villa after a heavy day in the practice and just after he had played a major part in the conversion of the Old Rectory to a Cottage Hospital.

Wilkie took over Rose Villa and continued to work until he died in 1950 sitting in a chair at the bedside of a farmer who had influenza.

The young Dr Andrew Smith returned from active service in the Far East and took over Wilkie’s part of the practice and moved into Rose Villia with his family.  He invited Derek Bell a colleague from medical school to join him as a partner following the deaths of Andrew senior and Edward another doctor.  Dr Michael Bell joined the team and took over Sunniside surgery.  He was followed by Dr David Smith a relation of grandfather Andrew, who took on the Swalwell part of the Practice.

The population of Whickham continued to expand and in the 1950s it became obvious that even with an extension to Rose Villa surgery new accommodation was required.  More partners joined over the next few years Dr Anne Ropner, then Dr Graeme Oliver, Dr Malcolm Mace and Dr Malcolm Smith replaced retiring partners.  With some reluctance due to break with the tradition of a surgery being in a doctors home, the partners campaigned to have a purpose built Health Centre next to the Cottage Hospital.  This was opened in 1976.  Dr John McNulty later joined as a partner and the following year Dr Lynne Bloxham was appointed.

The Cottage Hospital was still in use at that time and we had access to beds and acould admit our own patients for treatments.  We also operated a casualty service there until the hospital was closed in 1985.

When Dr Andrew Smith retired Dr Ian Lee took over his list.  More partners were appointed  Dr Martin Duerden and Dr Sarah Hunt.  Dr Stephen Kirk joined in 1995 to replace Dr Duerden who left that year.

By the early 1990s a rapid expansion of practice work and personnel led to facilities in the Health Centre becoming inadequate and larger more up to date premises were required.  Following intense negotiation, the old Cottage Hospital, a grade 2 listed building (which was then operating as a school) was converted into the present surgery.  Extensive building work was carried out.  The centre was named Whickham Cottage Medical Centre in an attempt to retain part of the history.  Whickham Cottage Medical Centre was opened in July 2002.

More retirements allowed the appointment of Dr Andrew Porter, Dr Peter Whitney and Dr Pippa Harris as partners.  Dr John McNulty retired at the end of 2009 and Dr Simon McCann became a partner.  In November 2013 Dr Sarah Hunt retired and Dr Kirsty Jones became a partner.    We are fortunate to have several salaried GPs working with us.

We hope that you have found it interesting to read the history of our well established family practice.  Our reputation is based on years of dedication and hard work by our predecessors and we strive to continue to enhance this.