Our journey begins, in the words of Confucius, in a moment of sullen habit or casual lust, and we are but a short
way down our uncharted road before we find ourselves in somebody’s waiting room - schoolmaster, employer,
prospective employer, lawyer, dentist, doctor. The waiting time is too long, too short, depending on the degree of
anxiety, fear, excitement, boredom, harboured in the breast of the waiter.
The first Wrington doctor in living memory was Dr Roley, whose home and surgery were in the house at the
bottom of High Street opposite The Plough Inn. Of the dwindling numbers of Wringtonians who remember him,
one recalls him attending his home to remove his tonsils.
Dr Maxwell followed Dr Roley at Yeomans, where he had the roadside outbuildings converted into his surgery.
He died in January 1936, his funeral being the same day as that of King George V who died on the 20th . All
Saints’ choir, then a body of some 12 men, a similar number of trebles and a small ladies’ choir, attending the
King’s service was asked by the family to stay on for the doctor’s funeral.
He was succeeded by Dr Bell (most probably attracted to the area by Blagdon lake) who had his home and
surgery built further along Roper’s Lane, and, although he retired from the practice at the end of the great arctic
winter of 1963, he is well remembered, and remains probably more talked about than anyone who has lived
here. Many retell their own favourite anecdotes.
His waiting room was a small, rectangular room with polished floor and a dozen or so chairs ranged around it.
On the far side from the entrance, a door to ancillary rooms and a second way to his interview room. On the left,
the main door to that room, and in the left hand corner beside it a small wood table. It was on this table that
patients would find their medicines waiting, which would have been dispensed and put there presumably after
lunch, which was at about 2pm, following all the home visits completed in the morning.
There was not a dispensing chemist in the village until Mr & Mrs Edwards came to Gothic Cottage and set up
shop in Silver Street in the late ‘40s. Most of the medicines in those days were in liquid form. When we
progressed to the tablet era, elderly patients hated them and were completely unconvinced about their efficacy.
“All thee hast got to do to be a doctor now is to be able to count up to ten” was a familiar comment, or “What I
do want is a proper b***dy tonic, you”.
The interview room, which provided a superb panorama over the Wrington Vale to the hills, was not well-
insulated from the waiting room, and the doctor’s crisp, military voice, the squelch of the crepe-soled shoes
which he invariably wore kept the waiting patients very quiet. There are apochryphal stories of a man being so
intimidated by the combination of these sounds that he says to himself, “Well, I dunno, p’r’aps I don’t feel too
bad really – no, p’r’aps I don’t need to wait. No, I’ll see how it goes”, and takes his leave !
Certainly, Dr Bell wasn’t ‘one of us’. He was apart from us, but like the shepherd with his sheep, or an officer in
command of men, he was always there for us day and night, 11 months of the year. There were few telephones
then, so for night emergencies there was a small bell pull under an upstairs window. Friday was accepted as a
lighter day, and sometimes, on his Friday rounds, fishing rods could be seen protruding through the sunshine
roof (all his cars had sun-roofs) and there was no Friday evening surgery.