History of the Penshurst Practice
West Kent Health Authority appointed us to take over the practice in Penshurst, a village six miles south west of Tonbridge, on 1st January 1998. It too has a history which goes back to the early nineteenth century.
Between 1828 and his death in 1840, Dr William Pickance (born 1773) practised at The Moat in Penshurst Road, about two hundred yards from the village centre. He was helped by a nephew, John Pickance (1800-1849), who also worked in the practice until his death.
The next village doctor was Dr. Baller, who was followed in 1866 by Dr William Farrington (1838-1901) and who also lived at The Moat. He succeeded to his father’s baronetcy in 1888 as the 5th Baron and was thereafter known as ‘Doctor Sir William’. His practice was dominated by travel in all weathers on horseback, trying to avoid roads around Penshurst, all of which had tollgates. He died within a week of retirement in 1901. He had taken into partnership Dr. Louis Edmund Wood (1857-1941) in 1891. Louis Wood quickly became Chairman of Penshurst Parish Council and a member of Sevenoaks Rural District Council in 1895. This was a position he held till his death in 1941. He campaigned for better housing and piped water for the labourers and artisans of Penshurst. The first council houses in England were built in Penshurst in 1900 (The six Pioneer Cottages of Smarts Hill).
In 1902 a reservoir at Smarts Hill gave Penshurst a piped water supply. In the same year an Isolation Cottage Hospital was built near Bough Beech. In 1898 Louis Wood moved from The Moat to Petre’s Field, Fordcombe Road, a house he had built for himself. He developed chronic phlebitis in 1900 and slowly decreased his workload.
His brother, William Charrington Wood, joined as an assistant. William Wood (1870-1955) trained as a surgeon and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. From 1902-1910 he lived at Elliott’s Farm House in Rogues Hill until he moved to The Moat from where he continued practising until 1955. Like many general practitioners in the early twentieth century, he performed operations such tonsillectomies on a patient’s kitchen table using chloroform as an anaesthetic.
As his brother had retired through ill health, he looked after a large and scattered rural practice single-handed, as well as making up and dispensing all the medicines. The Moat originally had a consulting room and dispensary, but latterly the surgery was in a tin shed in the garden. William’s son Louis Arthur Charrington Wood (1911-1998) joined his father as an assistant in 1939. Between 1941and 1946 Louis Wood served in the Royal Army Medical Corps and his father, aged 71, looked after the practice with the help of another retired doctor, Dr. Spon, who lived in the adjacent village of Leigh.
The practice had two branch surgeries, in Leigh and Chiddingstone Causeway Village Hall. In 1955 The Moat was sold after being a doctor’s home and surgery for 125 years. Louis Wood moved to his uncle’s house at Petre’s Field. He retired to Wales in 1970 and published a series of his 818 consecutive obstetric cases from 1946-1970 in the Journal of the Royal College of General Practitioners.
Dr.Louis Wood was succeeded by a husband and wife team of Denzil and Evelyn Law. The practice moved from Petre’s Field to its present location behind Penshurst Village Hall. This was the first time the surgery was not at a doctor’s home. On Denzil Law’s retirement, he was succeeded by Dr. Kevin Blewett who worked as a partner from 1995 until 1996. Dr Evelyn Law retired in 1997 and died two years later.
In 1998 Drs David Goodridge and Jenny Alton became the first Warders Doctors to work at the Penshurst Surgery, which is now fully integrated with the main surgery in Tonbridge. Doctors and staff are shared between both sites.