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The History of the Castle Veterinary Group

The practice came into being with the qualification as a veterinary surgeon of Charles Abraham Parsons, son of a Werrington blacksmith. Until that point “horse doctoring” and treatment of farm livestock was only provided for locally by blacksmiths or patent medicine suppliers. The exact date of his qualifying is not known but is thought to be in the early 1880’s.

Parsons & Vickery

By 1888 he took into partnership another vet, one John Tucker Vickery, a man remembered by some of our older clients as a great lover of cider (or more or less any kind of alcohol!) He drove a pony and jingle, although often he was not so much driving as being transported whilst lying propped up against the rear of the jingle with the shafts pointed towards heaven. The pony fortunately knew its way home from all points of the compass and would always travel at the trot both uphill and down.

Charles Abraham Parsons died in December 1905 and was succeeded in the partnership by his son, Charles Colin Parsons, in November 1906. In April 1916 Charles Colin Parsons accepted a commission in the Army Veterinary Corps (later to become the Royal Army Veterinary Corps) for the duration of the remainder of the First World War. After his return from the war the partnership continued until 1924 when John Tucker Vickery retired. Tales abound of John Vickery being called to attend a sick animal and, after an initial examination, requesting the farmer to bring out any cider or whisky he might have for the benefit of the unfortunate animal. On the farmer’s return John Vickery would pronounce that the animal appeared to have taken a turn for the better and promptly consume the drink saying, “ I think I need this more than ‘e do.”

Parsons & Campbell

In 1934 Charles Robert Parsons joined his father in the practice and after the end of the Second World War they took John David Campbell, known as “Jock”, as a partner. He had qualified at the end of the war and joined the Royal Army Veterinary Corps in 1945 spending some time in the Middle East. The practice by this time was shifting its emphasis from horse work to farm livestock with the blossoming of agriculture and the rise of the tractor. The name of the practice in this era was Parsons & Campbell.

C.C. Parsons continued to work in the practice until the age of 85, when it is thought that he died as a result of pneumonia contracted on a frosty morning whilst attempting to replace a prolapsed uterus in a cow. Further partners joined in the 1950’s (John Mann and Alan Barraclough), and yet more in the 1960’s (David Pearson, Ian Stewart and George Sutherland).

In 1973 Martin Vivian, who had worked in the practice since 1968, became a partner following the retirement of the last remaining Parsons (CRP). By now the practice consisted of 8 vets, 7 of which were partners.

The Castle Veterinary Group

With the retirement of JD Campbell at the end of 1979 the name was changed to Castle Veterinary Group. Tim Bebbington became a partner in 1995 and Helen Howgill, who had joined the practice in 1994, became a partner in 2000. The next partner to join was Mark Tucker, who may well be familiar to those of you from the Tavistock area, and the most recent partner is Claire Waters.

Exeter Street to Pennygillam

The practice premises were originally situated in the old stables adjoining the Parsons family home in Exeter Street in Launceston. Following a major extension in 1976 the practice continued to be based there, but by 1986 it was decided that new premises were needed away from the centre of the town. Over the next ten years almost every available vacant building or green field site was explored until finally, in the spring of 1996, the premises at Pennygillam were purchased. Previously these had been a fork-lift truck depot and conversion began in the autumn and was completed in March 1997. The official opening by “All Creatures Great & Small” actor Robert Hardy took place in April 1997. At the time of the move Small Animal work accounted for only 10%, but today has reached almost 40%. Veterinary surgeon numbers too have increased from 9 to 12 to accommodate the additional Small Animal work.

Castle Veterinary Group Ltd., Bridge Cottage

In April 2003 Nigel Hicks’ practice at Bridge Cottage, Lifton was purchased and it began trading using the same veterinary staff as the Castle Vet Group. Nigel has continued to work with us having begun his career at Parsons and Campbell in 1974 prior to starting his own practice. The successful integration of this business with that of the Castle Vet Group has given us valuable insight into how to practically provide good service to a large number of new clients