By Rowland Glen
Stedham House Dental Practice began in about 1886. (We have traced it in the local rate books to this date). Surbiton was not much older. We have seen an artist’s impression of Surbiton in 1850 which shows the recently built railway with a pile of planks, for passengers to alight running through the green fields of Maddin’s Dairy Farm. The first few houses are just being built in Ewell Road, and it was in one of these that a dentist named Mellersh set up practice. Presumably he was following his patients as it was then fashionable to move ‘to the country’. We believe that he moved back to London in 1905.
The Practice was taken over by two young dentists, Donovan and Lacey and the waiting room was furnished by Liberty of London. We still have the original furniture in use today. Donovan was a very charismatic dentist and eventually set up a branch practice in Portland Place W1 where, we believe, he looked after the Royal Household and was Queen Alexandra’s dentist, which earned him a C.V.O. Meanwhile at Surbiton, Lacey engaged the services of another young dentist, J.W. Mayer in 1912. He had won the Guys Gold Medal in his final year as a student, his prize being a dental operating chair! Almost immediately he departed to fight in the Great War. He was a lieutenant in the 182nd Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery, and as a forward observer he was awarded the M.C. for a daring piece of work between the lines, directing his artillery on to German Divisions, which were manoeuvring. Obviously spotters doing this kind of work were not very popular with the other side, so it was very dangerous.
On his return to Stedham, he and Lacey took on a Mr Henderson and then Mr Screech, (wry smiles permitted!). When Mr Screech left, Mr Karl Morris, whose son practiced in Esher, joined Mayer and Henderson. We are in possession of a description of what the Practice was like in the 1920s, written by Mrs G.M. Neal, who was a dental nurse at Stedham House from 1927. She recounts how the little waiting room was used as a disrobing room by ladies who needed to remove their corset stays before receiving general anaesthetics for extractions. In those days dentists frequently gave their own anaesthetics and apparently the dental nurse held the mask while the dentist took the teeth out! It was not necessary to employ the services of a doctor, let alone an anaesthetist.
The years rolled on and Tony Rand joined Stedham, eventually replacing Donovan at Portland Place. Mr Rand was another interesting character, a gifted amateur actor in the local group Genesta base in the Surbiton Assembly Rooms. He also built a 6 ton yacht in his back garden at Oxshott. It had 3 miles of mahogany planking in the hull, with a screw and a nail every 6 inches. Sadly he died just before it was due to be launched.
David Stileman who trained at Guys, and became the registrar to Professor Fenn, one of the greats of Prosthetics (dentures), joined Stedham in 1950 after a spell as the dentist on the cruiser Liverpool. Mr Morris died rather young and was replaced by Michael Sole, who trained at the Royal Dental Hospital, the first break with Guys. At this time Tony Rand was still running the London Practice. Jack Mayer, who had put off his retirement for some time because of the ill health of Morris, now took the opportunity to leave; he was 73. Rowland Glen joined Stedham in 1958, 18 months before Jack Mayer left. His first surgery was the aforementioned little waiting room on the 1st floor which was a little crowded as you can imagine. There followed a long period of peaceful endeavour for 33 years, during which Roly Glen re-established the connection with London in Cavendish Square. On the retirement of Messrs Stileman and Sole, Andrew Tomalin and Stuart White, who both trained at University College, joined Roly Glen to form the new partnership. Andrew had demonstrated conservative technique to the students at U.C.H.
There are of course many stories told of past events. One or two are possibly worth a mention. On one occasion Michael Sole’s surgery ceiling, which had absorbed a great deal of water from a leaking pipe, collapsed on him and an unfortunate patient undergoing treatment. The sight that greeted the Partner’s eyes when they peered nervously round the surgery door can hardly be imagined!
The labour troubles which occurred during the Heath Government, were the cause of another adventure. Because of the electricians strike, electricity on which we very much depend, was in short supply. We decided that as things might get worse, we had better get a generator. We didn’t know much about these things and were a bit surprised when it was off loaded on the pavement and found to weigh 720lbs. However with the aid of a neighbour, we managed, an inch at a time, to install it in the garden shed. We then discovered that we needed change-over switches in order to connect it to the house supply. Alas such thing were virtually unobtainable. The only place, we were told, where we might still get them was the biggest electrical warehousing England, in Bermondsey, but it was strictly trade. Roly Glen’s patients were cancelled and he was dispatched, dressed as a foremen electrician. In spite of a bit of a rumpus at the trade counter, he made off with the switches, chased by two other electricians, who only wanted to tell him he had left 50p change behind!! Thanks to Michael Sole’s expertise, our generator was up and running by 11pm on the Sunday night. The Electrical Powermen were back at work on the Monday morning! Such is life. No doubt there will be more fun in the future.
In fond memory of Rowland Glen 1933 to 2013