Priory Lodge in the past

The building the practice presently occupies was probably built about 1825 for domestic use, taking its name from a priory which once stood nearby. An engraving shows the Priory thought to stand on a site now occupied by the railway sidings, and already derelict when depicted in about 1780. As an ecclesiastical building, it is extremely unlikely to have had a lodge at its gates, so the present name is fanciful, reflecting the style rather than the use.

Initially providing for farm-animals, the practice was owned by a colourful local character called Paddy Hislop and was then bought by Graham Hunt and John McCaig, working from the rather claustrophobic premises at 1 Bank Street, at the entrance to Tonbridge Market. This would have been an excellent position while the livestock market traded.

Tom van Laun joined the partnership in 1965 and Paul Oliver-Smith replaced John McCaig in 1969. Ten years later, William Swift joined the practice as an assistant, in the same week that the practice moved to the present building, although initially occupying only the East side. The West side of the building was occupied by a medical partnership that became the Dunorlan Medical Group, now further up the Pembury Road.

Simultaneously with the move of premises, individual partners' names were dropped, the plethora of double-barrelled names was far too cumbersome! The practice became known as Priory Lodge Veterinary Group and consisted of four partners, including Peter Koder who had joined in 1980. There were by then two branch surgeries in Tunbridge Wells and Paddock Wood, but in 1987 these were sold in a financial restructuring when Graham Hunt retired and Peter Koder joined the Home Office.

Dirk Brink joined the practice in 1995, just prior to the retirements of Paul Oliver-Smith in 1998 and Tom van Laun in 2004. Ruth Wadsworth joined in 1999. Increasing technical specialisation in the diagnosis and treatment of the different species demanded that we too should concentrate on our strengths and the farm and equine departments were devolved in 2001. Abby Pye joined the practice in 2004 and after several years of further study gained her RCVS certificate in Small Animal Medicine in 2010.

The practice had enlarged into the wing vacated by the doctors' surgery providing improved operating facilities, but it was not until 2006 that major refurbishment allowed the development of the wide range of diagnostic and surgical facilities that enable us to provide the high standard of veterinary care that has become expected of Priory Lodge.

Abby Pye became a partner during the first part of 2017 following the retirement of William Swift. We also upgraded our kennel room with brand new kennels, air-conditioning as well as memory foam mattresses for our patients' comfort. We were fortunate to aquire the part-time services of two experienced vets, Nicola Stouppa-Moss and Allie Woodward, and look forward to continuing to build on our reputation for providing a first class service as one of the few remaining non-corporate practices in the area.