A veterinary practice has existed in Hartford since the 1930’s. Today’s modern practice dates from the early 60's when, in 1962, Derek Carter, a 1961 Liverpool graduate came to assist John Twist – formerly of Wilson and Twist.
In those days it was a three-man farm practice that ran a small animal surgery once a week on a Sunday morning. Soon after Gareth Llewellyn, a fellow '61 Liverpool graduate, joined and immediately set out to develop a small animal service. When John Twist left in 1964 the Carter-Llewellyn Partnership was created and two years later another Liverpool vet college friend, Gareth Williams arrived.
The small animal business developed well and in 1968 the status of Small Animal Veterinary Hospital was awarded at Hartford, one of the very first in the North of England. Meanwhile a surgery had been started in Winsford and a neighbouring practice in Weaverham was acquired.
In 1969, Mike Venables, a vet from the adjacent Alsager practice, joined as a partner and the nucleus of the original partnership was complete. A period of expansion followed, fuelled by the revenue from the MAFF Brucellosis and TB eradication schemes of the 1970’s. A farm practice was bought in Middlewich and a new surgery established there. New surgeries were subsequently added in Lymm and Warrington.
When Mike Venables retired from the farm practice in the late 70’s he pioneered the establishment of a small animal centre in Knutsford. The farm business grew further with the addition of work from two old established practitioners. Rodney Summer in South Liverpool and Hugh Ferguson in Warrington. The equine practice really took a leap in its development in 1978 with the arrival of Alex Scott. He eventually left his shared role as a farm vet to inspire the building of 'The Ashbrook Equine Hospital' at Allostock, now a leading equine referral centre with state of the art facilities.
Mark Proctor joined in 1980 and developed the Southern area of the farm practice, culminating in the purchase of a farm practice in Tarporley in 1992. From this the concept of a separate animal health business was born, leading to the establishment of Beeston Animal Health in1994. Morag Adams joined in 1981 and further developed Gareth Llewellyn's original small animal hospital into the modern facility it is today. Morag has since moved to new pastures. Referral services of the highest order are provided via Oakwood Referrals who operate from Hartford.
John Dawson came in 1986 as a farm vet and has been instrumental in expanding the North of the farm practice. In addition he has created our own cattle embryo transfer business Embryonics and organized numerous AI, Ultrasonography and Foot Trimming courses for farmers and other vets. Simon Jones joined the farm side in 1987 and considerably expanded our interests in the meat hygiene sector, and export certification business. Simon also looks after Personnel issues.
Beech House Veterinary Centre was relocated from its old site in Stockton Heath in 1988. This move, along with the modernisation in 2000 was overseen by Liz Crowsley, who became a partner in 1990. Sadly Liz was tragically killed in 2010 and has been a great loss to clients and colleagues alike.
The pig sector of the farm partnership business is a highly specialised area, the nucleus of which was built up by Gareth Williams. That work is continued through Richard Thomas who became a partner in 1997.
New Partners have also joined the group - Ben Pedley a farm partner who joined in 2005. Then followed new Small Animal Partners: Sean Cleary from Beech House and Ian Hopkins from Holly House, who joined in 2006, also Darrell Irwen became a farm Partner in 2008. Charlie Sale and Roger Dixon joined in 2009. Owen Tunney and Bruce Waddell joined in 2010.
Partnership expansion has been in small animal surgeries. Wilmslow (1999), Runcorn (2001), Acorn Veterinary Hospital in West Kirby (2001). Second practices in Northwich and Warrington plus one in Hale were also added in 2004. On the farm side, The County Vet Practice was added in 2008, followed by Deva Vets in 2009. Clarendon Vets and Manchester Veterinary Centre were added in early 2010 increasing the size of the group further.
A new surgery was established in Alsager in 2012 and in 2013 the group took over the running of The Firs Veterinary Surgery in Kelsall from retiring vet Mick Christian. The surgery was later relocated to larger premises on Church Street.
In 2014 the group merged with Manor Court Veterinary Centre in Tarvin and Hampton Veterinary Centre in Malpas. Both these surgeries are ‘mixed’ practices, Manor Court being Small Animal, Farm animal and Avian and Hampton being Small Animal, Large Animal and Equine.
In early 2015 John Dawson left the business to concentrate on the Embryonics Training business.
From being a three man, mainly farm animal practice in 1962, today's Partnership is a 70 vet, multi discipline team working from 24 centres, employing over 300 people. It is wholly owned by the Partners, who are assisted in its daily running by our Partnership Practice Manager Jane Platt.
The Willows Veterinary Group remains an independent vets. The modern trend is for multi-national corporate groups to buy up individual independent vets. We will always remain true to what we entered the veterinary profession for – to care for animals. Our recent mergers have taken place because we want to remain independent – so that we can make decisions based on care rather than have corporate executives making decisions for us. We have a succession strategy that encourages younger vets to become a partner to ensure that the Willows ethos will continue for many years to come.