Practice History

Our grateful thanks to Dr. Michael Watts for the hard work and dedication in compiling this account of the practice.

The story of the general practice in Thornbury involves the famous Grace family. Dr. Henry Mills Grace (born 1831, Long Ashton) practiced in Downend, Bristol. Among his 9 children were 3 doctors: Dr. Henry Grace (1833-1895), Dr. Alfred Grace (born 1840), Dr. Edward Mills Grace (born 1841), and Dr. William Gilbert Grace (1848-1915). “E.M.” and “W.G.” of course are also known as the Gloucestershire and England cricketers.

Dr Edward Mills Grace entered practice in Thornbury in 1867 from Park House on Thornbury High Street, where he also acted as Coroner and Registrar. Before this, Thornbury was served by several apothecaries and surgeons practicing from their private homes. His son Dr. Edgar Grace (born 1888) qualified at Cambridge and St Bartholomew’s, and started practicing again from Park House in 1909. By 1963, he was still visiting patients.

Subsequent doctors at the practice included Dr Pelps (Dr Edgar Grace’s assistant), and Dr Douglas Henderson who married Cecely Grace, daughter of Edgar. Dr Henderson moved to Thornbury in 1943 having qualified in Belfast. He too initially practiced in Park House, before moving to 65 High Street which was an old brewery pub. Before conversion was completed, patient notes had to be kept behind the bar! Dr Henderson died in 1966, and gave his name to Henderson Ward at Thornbury Hospital in the 1970s (as did Edgar Grace to Grace ward).

Dr. Richard Morris, son of Bristol University Vice-Chancellor entered partnership with Dr. Henderson in 1956.

Dr. Michael Watts joined Dr. Henderson and Dr. Morris in 1964 after qualifying in Bristol in 1961 and after training as a GP at the practice. At that time there was great debate about the future of general practice as to whether to work in large groups in publicly owned buildings or in smaller practices owned by the doctors. Dr Henderson moved to the new Thornbury Health Centre and took a new partner. They worked alongside Drs Prowse, Causten and Whallett in the other partnership, and with whom they shared ancillary staff. Dr. Morris and Watts moved to a new surgery at 36 High Street Thornbury.

Drs. Morris and Watts were one of the first practices in Gloucestershire to employ a nurse, thus rendering 36 High Street too small for requirements. St Mary Street surgery was built in 1986 on the site of the old Thornbury cinema house. Dr. Birch who had been a registrar in the practice became a partner shortly afterwards. A few years later, he moved to Bradley Stoke to form a new practice with some friends in 1989. Dr. Jacqueline Gumb, who had also been a registrar in the practice previously, rejoined the practice the same year. Dr Morris retired in 1990 when Dr Nicholas McCulloch entered practice. Dr. Morris moved to the New Forest in Hampshire and died in 1997. Dr. Mark Harrison joined when Dr. Watts retired in 1997.

Dr. Gumb became a part-time partner in 2009 when Dr. Higgins joined as a part-time salaried GP while also working at Thornbury Health Centre. After a period of absence including a sabbatical in New Zealand, Dr. Gumb retired in 2013 and Dr.  Higgins became a partner with Dr Male in Thornbury. Dr. Angela Kerr, who following in tradition was a registrar with us in 2008, moved from Wotton-Under-Edge to become our new part-time partner working Wednesdays-Fridays.  Dr. Rebecca Williams joined us initially as a salaried GP from Patchway covering Mondays and Tuesdays, and became a part-time partner in 2015.

Dr McCulloch retired in January 2020, and was replaced a year later in April 2021 by Dr Sara Street, who moved from Cardiff and had worked with the practice in a salaried role from April 2020, before joining the partnership covering 7 sessions.

The Covid-19 outbreak in 2020-2021 led to unprecidented medical challenges and the biggest health and social crisis in living memory. This led to temporarily restricted NHS services and a rapid evolution of socially distanced consultations using remote technology where possible to triage patient cases to minimise possible viral spread. Covid-19 vaccination clinics started running in January 2021 as a joint collaberation at Thornbury Health Centre between local practices from the recently formed Severnvale Primary Care Network.

If you have any material to add to the history of the practice, please contact us! Please also see our page on Thornbury Hospital.