History of 567 Wilmslow Road:
The Oldest Vets in Manchester
567 Wilmslow Road is a site of local veterinary history. We love the fact that we are continuing the legacy of the oldest veterinary surgery in Manchester.
The practice which was originally started here shortly after the Second World War has changed hands many times over the last century. Most recently the business was sold to a corporate chain but it was closed during the covid-19 pandemic, while the building remained owned by a retired vet. We have taken over the site but don't have a connection to the previous tenants. We are incredibly lucky that this lovely building happened to be available to us and we are excited to modernise the premises and keep it going as a veterinary surgery long into the future.
Thank you to the following people who have contributed to our research on the building:
Barry Hargreaves, who owned the practice Hargreaves & Relph / Boundary Vets at the site for many years
Andrew Simpson, local historian with an excellent blog on the history of the area
The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons archive team & the Veterinary History Society
Bruce Vivash Jones, founding member of the British Small Animal Veterinary Association
Do you have any information that we could add to this page? Please get in touch - email@example.com
1890s - 1930s
567 Wilmslow Road is a Victorian semi-detached house, built in approximately 1897. Houses like this were built for the owners and managers of Manchester's busy textile factories and other professionals. There are records of various textile manufacturers living here in the early 20th century.
In 1903 the house is recorded as being called "Brantwood". By 1921, it was 179 Wilmslow Road (the house numbering on the street changed at a later date).
Although we don't have a photograph of the house during this period, photos from the Manchester History Revisited Facebook page give us an idea as to what the area looked like in those times.
Andrew Simpson, a local historian, has delved deeper into the building's past and written an excellent blog post on 567 Wilmslow Road's occupants before it became a veterinary surgery. Click here to read more.
Douglas Ewart Leask started the veterinary practice in the site, which at the time was the first small animal practice in Manchester. He had graduated from the University of Edinburgh in 1937 and owned a practice with A.J. Wright at 38 Cumberland Street in Macclesfield until 1944. This practice then became Wright & Stewart, then later Wright & Morten, which is still a veterinary surgery at the same site at 38 Cumberland Street in Macclesfield. (Coincidentally, this is one of the first practices that Ellie did work experience at as a teenager. The team there were greatly supportive of her aspiration to apply to veterinary school and she returned regularly as a vet student. Ellie and Dan also worked night and weekend shifts at the Vets Now branch there during the covid-19 pandemic.)
Although the veterinary surgery now is made up of the ground and lower ground floors of the building, with the flats above it owned by a separate company, the whole house was originally Dougie Leask's home as well as his workplace. Many vets and veterinary nurses have lived in the flats above the practice over the years. The layout of the building has changed a lot since then, as you can see by the bricked up front doorway today.
Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Register 1948 - Douglas Leask at Wilmslow Road
The London Gazette, 8th September 1944 - notice of the dissolution of Wright & Leask
What was veterinary practice like in the 1940s?
Bruce Vivash Jones, a vet who qualified in 1951, describes seeing practice as a vet student in the 1940s...
"My recollections of cat work in those days was that surgery was essentially only spaying and castration, wound treatment and fracture repair. These were fairly easy to perform but without trained nurses and poor facilities. Most castration was done by simply wrapping the cat in a towel, exposure of the operation site and all over in a few seconds, spaying required anaesthesia but was a smooth procedure, fracture repair was more complex as very few practices had X-ray equipment, requiring careful resetting by manipulation and then application of bandages and plaster.
Anaesthesia was by today’s standards very primitive, a 1lb. and a 2lb. jam jars were required plus a wad of cotton wool soaked in ether in the jar into which the head was slipped and anaesthesia level moderated by either partial withdrawal or insertion of head in jar. It was a most efficient and easy procedure with a trained jam jar operative (usually the vet’s wife). As I recall it worked very well. Some practices did use more sophisticated methods of masks etc., to administer ether but the cost did not justify their widespread use; jam jars were cheap. Then the barbiturates gradually came into use and pentobarbitone and thiopentone took over – these then enabled much more complex surgery (in particular in dogs) and upgraded and allowed advances to be made in small animal practice."
Clearly a lot has changed - we certainly no longer train our spouses to be jam jar operatives!
567 Wilmslow Road in 1959
1970s and 1980s
Roy White bought the practice from Dougie Leask in 1976. Dougie continued to do a little veterinary work for a local dog's home, would pop in to the practice occasionally and was very well liked by the staff. The practice was run as a 1-vet practice until Barry Hargreaves joined in 1978, becoming a partner in 1980.
1990s - 2020
Phillip Relph later joined the practice and it was known as Hargreaves & Relph, then Boundary Veterinary Clinic. Barry Hargreaves retired in the mid 2000s but continued to own the building itself and lease it to the businesses who operated there.
The separate flats on the first and second floors of the premises were sold to another company, while the veterinary surgery continued to operate on the ground floor.
When Phillip retired in 2018, the business was sold to a large chain. However, due to the vet shortage, they struggled to recruit for a permanent vet to run the surgery and closed the practice during the 2020 covid-19 pandemic, transferring clients to another practice and leaving the premises vacant.
Ellie & Daniel Lee, two local veterinary surgeons, have ambitions to open Manchester's first cat-only vets and are searching for a premises when they come across an empty veterinary surgery only a few minutes from their home. They write to the building's owners - the retired vet and veterinary nurse who owned the practice in the past - to enquire about the plans for the building. At the time the owners were considering an offer from a housing developer who wanted to turn the surgery into flats, but would much rather the premises remains as a vets and so Ellie & Daniel are able to carry on this legacy.
The flats above the practice (owned by a seperate company) are also being fully renovated by their owner, with a view to them being used as holiday lets or accommodation for temporary staff at the neighbouring Christie Hospital.
Manchester Cat Clinic is being fully renovated and is due to open in Spring 2023. Watch this space!