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Yorkleigh History

The History of Yorkleigh | Before Works Commenced | The Flats | Work Begins
The Finished Basement & Flats | Work Continues | The Finished Surgery


About 1829 in Uley Gloucestershire a second child, a son, was born to George and Athalia Workman and christened Henry. Soon after his birth the family moved to the developing town of Cheltenham which was expanding following the discovery of mineral waters and the visit of George III. They settled in 244 High Street where in the 1851 census Henry is recorded as a coal merchant still living with his parents at the age of 22. By the end of the year he had married Mary Ann Birt of Gloucester and in the 1861 census was living with his wife and 3 children and a servant at 2 Townsend Place (?Street today). His coal merchant business must have been very profitable as the first of the Yorkleigh deeds records negotiations with William Nash Skillicorne who was developing his Bayshill Estate. Yorkleigh must have been built soon after 1870 as indicated in the deeds by a builder William Williams so that in the 1881 census Henry Workman is in residence with his wife and younger children plus a servant. He continued as a coal merchant until his death in June 1884 and at probate his estate was valued at £10,667 16s. 5d.

His widow Mary Ann continued to live at Yorkleigh until 1899 when she sold to Rev. J Lewitt a retired Baptist Minister & his wife Mary but two years later the ownership passed to his wife alone. He was by then over 80 and in 1909 he died followed in 1912 by his widow.

The estate passed to executors

They sold to Charles Ernest Champney in 1913. I am unable to find details of him or his business as the census for that period is not released. He was then aged 60 and only occupied Yorkleigh for 7 years as he died in 1920.

The estate passed to his widow Margeurita Lucy and was managed by her and trustees until 1933 when she died in the February of that year.

In 1934 her executors sold Yorkleigh to Dr C P Donnison thus beginning the house’s association with the medical profession but only as a domestic residence. The entry in the phone book of 1938 shows that he was a physician working from 11 Imperial Square which was still used by consultants in the 1970’s until the arrival of the Nuffield Hospital. Yorkleigh was entered in his wife’s name.

They remained at St Georges Road until 1953 when he must have retired and moved to 15 Charlton Park Gate having sold Yorkleigh to Dr E F Keating who qualified in Eire in 1939.

Edmund Keating had set up practice at Belroyd 96 St Georges Road. The earliest phone book record is in 1948 and by the 1954 edition he had moved over to 93 where I understand the surgery occupied the side wing and possibly the front room, now the office. Patients have told of the waiting area and office being in the wing and the doctor consulted in the front room. The rest of the house must have remained private.

Being Irish he attracted many of his countrymen and their families to the practice and many or their descendants are still with the practice today. He loved the horses and the racing and was not slow offering hospitality to selected countrymen at the end of a consultation. It is said that he returned to Eire following an incident regarding driving and alcohol. However he returned to Cheltenham regularly in March for the races as reported by his old patients.

In 1961 Yorkleigh was sold to Dr Cyril Ridley who had been in the town from at least 1958 when he is recorded in the phone book for that year at an address in Oakley Road. The books for 1959 & 1960 also record that address but in 1961 he is also entered at 93 St Georges Road which corresponds to the purchase from Dr Keating. He was a Cambridge man having qualified in 1955 and was listed in the latest searchable Medical Directory 1959 in Dorset, he must have moved to Cheltenham before its publication.

At the same time as Cyril Ridley’s move in 1961, Dr Terence McCaffry is listed at 93 St Georges Road under the same telephone number as Dr Ridley suggesting that he was taken on at that time. Terence was educated at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington and qualified earlier than his partner in 1947. In the 1959 Directory 12 years after qualification he is working in London but the speciality is not known. He did have an interest in ENT.

His qualifications MRCS, LRCP were final exams taken in the new year of one’s last undergraduate year and if there was a failure one knew that a lot of hard work was needed before the hospital finals. They enabled young doctors to start work and, as Terence probably did, not bother with finals. This system was still in operation in the mid 1960’s in London, is it still used?

I believe that when the two doctors took over Yorkleigh they extended the surgery into the whole of the ground floor. I know that Terence and his family lived in the upper floor as a flat, a remnant of which is seen in the photos of 1988 showing the boxed in stair. The phone records show that he remained there until 1968 when he moved to Greenhills Road where the entry is in his wife Anne’s name.

It was at this time that the telephone number changed from 53830 to 59049 which was likely to have been when the 1st floor flat was converted into surgeries creating more space for a third doctor. They decided to become trainers and join the embryonic GP training scheme, Dr Ridley being the appointed trainer.

Young doctors wishing to enter general practice today have a well planned training scheme giving required hospital specialities and time in general practice but in the mid 1960’s individuals had to find their own hospital training and finish with a year as a trainee GP.

Dr Muriel Mary Sutcliffe MB BS MRCOG was appointed as their first trainee. Muriel was born in July 1901 so was not the usual trainee having emigrated to Australia. (I have found a passenger list for a Miss Muriel Sutclife age 25 travelling to Sydney on 17th December 1926 which could be her). Whilst there she worked as an industrial chemist and at some stage retrained in medicine returning to the UK after the 1939-45 war to work for the local health authority in Derbyshire specialising in women’s health. It was after her retirement when most people would put their feet up that she took the trainee post. Her first entry in the telephone book was 1968

After her trainee year she was taken on as a partner and other trainees followed until 1971 when Cyril Ridley became ill and in the November died of Hodgkin’s Disease at the age of 48.
This gave Terence a problem in that the partnership had also been running a branch surgery in Prestbury. I recently spoke to a patient who was born and lived on the Prestbury side of town and he remembers, having been born in 1949, attending in the front room of a house in Glebe Road, Prestbury. I was unaware of this branch so at some stage the branch was moved to a part of the building recently vacated by HSBC in Prestbury High Street. It must have been necessary to close that branch due to the reduced partnership as the practice also held branch surgeries in a health centre in Newton Road and there would have been insufficient cover for two branches.

Terence needed a new partner and following an interview I was offered a partnership which commenced in April 1972. I had qualified in 1967, worked in various hospital posts in Edinburgh before a trainee year in Newquay under the system outlined above. The agreement was that I should do equal out of hours duty of two week nights and alternate weekends with him whilst Muriel Sutcliffe would cover Wednesdays and Saturday mornings . Surgery ran from 9am to 10.45am following which we would meet and sign repeat scripts and allocate visits which were usually completed by lunch which allowed a break at home until evening surgery at 5pm until 6.45pm. The surgery closed at 7pm and the phone was switched to the home of the duty doctor where our wives acted as receptionist and took calls. There were no mobile phones and we had to wait until returning home to receive further messages. I do not know how Muriel managed, perhaps she had an answer machine.

Terence had two sessions as Clinical Assistant in ENT attending out patients and he was keen that I should gain some outside income and introduced me to the new young Eye Consultant Tim Hart and as a result I commenced two sessions per week in the outpatient department which continued until seven years after retiring from Yorkleigh. Terence also held the position of Police Surgeon which he shared with a single handed GP Dr A P Curtin so that the police would share the calls alternately. Muriel and I were only involved if Terence was away.

By 1973 Terence had moved out of town to Upper Coberley and it was whilst returning from a police call in November that he ran under the tail of an unlit stationary lorry not far from home and was killed instantly. The police called Muriel who contacted me and we managed to get through the morning surgery somehow. I was asked to go to identify the body as the police did not wish to involve Anne or Muriel because of the extensive injuries.

Later that day I was taken on one side by the main receptionist, we only had two, and told to take control as Muriel would be retiring and I had my whole career and family to consider. I therefore became senior partner and to begin with took on the bulk of Terence’s duties which meant an extra night and each weekend, Muriel taking the remaining night. Eventually we managed to employ a locum whilst advertising and interviewing for a partner. We wanted to find someone to fill the age gap and bring experience and stability to the practice which had lost two senior doctors. We were very pleased to appoint Lt.Col G W Peacock who wished to leave army administration and return to patient contact. Bob, as he was known, joined us in July 1974 and so began 20 years partnership.

Muriel, who had planned retirement after I had settled in waited for Bob to do so and about 1976 she retired and was replaced by Simon McMinn who had been on a short service commission in the RAF. Muriel could not hang up her stethoscope as she continued to locum for our holidays and study leave so that many patients did not realise that she had retired.

There was within the building scope for further development as there were four rooms upstairs, two used as surgeries, one as a nurses room and one spare which could be used by a fourth partner but to do this we needed to increase our list. Peter Curtin, the other police surgeon, was single handed and was due to retire having set up practice in Church Road, St Marks. He qualified in 1939 MRCS LRCP, the conjoint degree as explained above, joined the naval reserves as a Surgeon Lieutenant and saw service in the far east where we are told by some of his patients that he was a prisoner of war. Upon returning to UK he was promoted to Lt. Commander before returning to study and obtain his MBBS in 1948.

We negotiated a loose partnership for a year in which he continued in his own practice so that on his retirement we inherited his list and were able to appoint Dr Paul Kettle in 1979. I had met Paul on a previous occasion whilst he was a psychiatric SHO at the large Victorian hospital, Coney Hill, in Gloucester. I had requested a consultant’s visit as a patient’s psychosis had deteriorated and a compulsory Admission was needed. Whilst we were signing the papers our patient ran out and was last seen running down the road with Paul in hot pursuit.

Once Paul had settled in Muriel felt that she should finally hang up her stethoscope and retire from being our permanent locum so we needed to appoint a replacement. Dr Felicity Sloan was already working in local authority clinics and joined us but because we only had 4 consulting rooms she had to Box & Cox until we bought the building and undertook a programme of redevelopment. Not long after moving into her new room in the basement Felicity had to leave for domestic reasons. We replaced her with Joanna Kinder who stayed a short time so her place was taken by Jackie Gumb who had just finished her traineeship in Thornbury. She did not settle with us and after a short stay accepted a post at her old training practice. We then had the task of advertising again following which Isobel McKenzie was appointed in ????.

At the end of June 1994 Bob Peacock retired and we gave him a grand send off on the MV Conway Castle leisure cruiser from Upton upon Severn to Tewkesbury and return. Unfortunately he only enjoyed 18 months of retirement suffering a fatal coronary at home.

Bob was replaced in 1995 by Andrew Green and we settled down to stabilise the practice but further changes were to come. In ???? Paul Kettle announced that he wished to apply for a single handed post on Hoy in the Orkney Islands. We agreed that he should go ahead, which he did, and was accepted, so once again we celebrated on the Conway Castle to send him on his way and wish him success in his new venture.

His replacement was Adrienne MCKellar, another Scottish graduate bringing the total to three but this was to reduce to two as I decided to retire upon reaching 60 early in 2002 one month short of 30 years at Yorkleigh.


In 1972, when I arrived the surgery was staffed by 2 receptionists. Mrs Peters worked from 08.30 to 15.00 and did everything except run the morning surgery which was done by Mrs Fletcher who left at 11.00 and returned at 15.00 to run the evening session until we closed at 19.00. During the morning Mrs Peters took calls, prescriptions, visits and all other messages through a PABX telephone exchange. With Mrs Fletcher’s help between directing the patients they had everything ready for us to deal with by the end of morning surgery.

Gradually the workload increased and we gradually took on more staff all working in the main office. The first person to work behind the scenes was our typist Pam Parker who initially occupied the spare room upstairs and then after the appointment of Paul Kettle worked from the small room at the front of the upper landing. Eventually she had to share with our first practice manager, Ian Campbell, who managed the redevelopment in 1988. Prior to his appointment I had been introduced to Dr Dowler of Churchdown who ran a business known as Practice Administration Services and we asked him to look after the business side. He did this until his retirement having seen us through the period with Peter Curtin and the arrival of Paul Kettle. Ian was followed for a short period by Sylvia South and then Terry Allen who guided us through many changes commencing with Bob Peacock’s retirement. He was still in post when I retired.

At the time of the redevelopment of the surgery computerisation in General Practice was in its infancy and was not suitable for clinical use but became a management tool requiring a further increase in office staff so that today pen and paper are almost redundant.


In 1972 there were no nurses employed by the practice. All nursing was provided by the Health Authority in the form of a visiting District Nurse and later a Midwife. The District Nurse would be attached to a group of practices and collect details of visits daily. The Midwife worked from the maternity unit at St Paul’s Hospital and it was a later development that she attended the surgery for antenatal clinics.

In the late 1960’s there was a change in the management of the Health Visiting. Previously the HV nurses worked an area and had to liase with all the surgeries so that when they changed to being attached to an individual practice there was at 93 St Georges Road a degree of resistance and our first HV, Dorothy Bullough, experienced a lack of cooperation from Terence McCaffry until he began to appreciate her place in the team. I think that by 1972 he had accepted the change and had delegated the running of the Wednesday afternoon baby clinic to their trainee who had left by the time of my arrival so guess who got the job! The clinic finished by 15.30 and I joined Muriel and Dorothy for tea which was served in my room accompanied by GingerNut biscuits, which were Muriel’s favourite.
When Dorothy retired as health visitor she joined us as our first practice nurse and worked until her final retirement and illness which lead to her eventual death. She was followed as HV by Joan Heron who was helped by a number of collegues as our workload required 2 health visitors. Joan replaced Dorothy as our practice nurse and saw the gradual increase in work leading to the development of a nursing team.

There are too many that have passed through as staff, employed or attached to mention but all have contributed in some way or another to make Yorkleigh the surgery that it is.

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