Our History


For many years before and after the first World War Mr Sewell MRCVS had a veterinary practice in London Road, Uckfield, with branches in Heathfield, Horam, Lewes and Eastbourne.

He had a great deal of competition from unqualified `quacks’ in the area. Mr Goldsmith of Alexandra Road was a famous local `quack’ always to be found in The Alma Arms when not on a visit. (Ken Grainger bought the Veterinary House at Framfield from the Simmonds family one of whom had been the Framfield `quack’.)


During the second World War Mr Turnbull MRCVS from Lewes succeeded in buying up almost every veterinary practice in East Sussex as much of the area along the coast was evacuated and business was much reduced. After the War he put Mr Needham MRCVS in as manager of the Uckfield practice with Heathfield becoming a branch of the Uckfield practice.

Needham & Setterfield

In about 1950 Mr Needham bought the Uckfield/Heathfield practice from Mr Turnbull and moved from London Road to the enormous Fairfield House to raise his status. At that time Fairfield House had four major rooms downstairs with eight bedrooms and two bathrooms.

The 1948 Veterinary Surgeons Act effectively sealed the fate of the old `quacks’ – Simmonds and Goldsmith were both dead and Mr Dier (Basil Dier’s uncle) from Mayfield then stopped work. From that time on only fully qualified veterinary surgeons could practice.

Mr Needham had over-extended himself after buying both the Practice and Fairfield House on big mortgages and, in spite of having a salaried partner in Mr Setterfield at Heathfield, in 1953 the Uckfield practice was put up for sale.


In October 1953 Desmond Gunner bought the Uckfield practice and Mr Setterfield the Heathfield end of the business. The clients were arbitrarily split on a territorial basis between the two now separate practices so that Uckfield got Buxted and Halland, and Heathfield got Cross-in-Hand, Waldron and Chiddingly.

Gunner & Clarke

Peter Clarke had been at college with Desmond Gunner and, after working as an assistant for a year, bought a half-share in the partnership. When Desmond and Peter took over in 1953 the Uckfield end of the Practice had been sorely neglected by Mr Needham who was often away rifle shooting – and breaking his leg in the process – and there was not really enough work to justify two veterinary surgeons. A lot of golf was played at that time!

Gunner, Clarke & Grainger

However,by 1958 there was more than enough work for two and Ken Grainger joined the Practice. Ken had been at college with Desmond and Peter at Liverpool in the same 1946 academic intake and he eventually purchased a third share.

Clarke, Grainger & Howe

With his many other time-consuming interests Desmond was finding it increasingly difficult to devote enough time to work, and he eventually retired in 1968. Christine Howe replaced him and it became a very busy three person practice.

Clarke, Grainger, Howe & Starnes

In 1980 there was enough work to make two new contracts available. Andrew Starnes and Donald McLean were taken on as assistants with Andrew subsequently becoming a partner.

Howe, Starnes & Gatward

Ken Grainger died in January 1984, and a replacement was needed. Lloyd Gatward had seen practice in Uckfield as a student and despite this agreed to join the team, becoming a full partner on Peter Clarke’s retirement in 1993.

Howe, Starnes, Gatward & Blowey

March 1995 marked the arrival of Stephen Blowey who had worked for many years for a neighbouring practice in Crowborough and was looking for a move with a view to a partnership. There was some concern whether the Practice would support another partner but after high-level talks it was decided to take the gamble. Such was Steve’s popularity that many of his former clients made the move as well and the Practice went from strength to strength.

By the late 1990s the farm work had declined and the pet animal side of the Practice had increased to such an extent that new facilities were needed at Fairfield House. In 2000 the single storey office was demolished to make way for an extra operating theatre, new post-mortem room and more office space.

Kirsty Turrell and Andrew Wood

In the tradition of the practice we have always sought, where possible, to recruit staff from the more outstanding students that we have helped to train. Andrew is another “local” that we recruited in 2002 and in 2005 he was asked to join the partnership. Kirsty joined us in 1995, having “seen practice” with Steve Blowey from when she was sixteen. She has worked for the practice ever since despite getting married and having two children to bring up. Kirsty joined the partnership in 2010.

Rose Colville and Matthew Clark are both old students and locals and have been assistants at the practice for several years.

Our newest recruits are George Burton and Emily Rainbow who joined us in 2014.  George and Emily  are again “locals” who had excelled as students during their time with us.

In September 2014 Lloyd Gatward decided to retire after 30 years working at the Practice.

Starnes, Blowey, Wood & Turrell

Fresh challenges

In 2003, farm animal work accounted for less than 30% of our business but, as this diminished, other avenues opened up and we dealt with a greater variety of species than ever before. This included many more `small furries’, i.e. rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets etc, cage birds, and more exotic beasts such as snakes and lizards. Along with this came other work such as Drusillas Zoo and Bentley Wildfowl. In the last few years alpacas and llamas have become very fashionable, and that has opened up fresh challenges and taken us even further afield.
Ironically in the last few years the farm work has had a renaissance and we are being asked to travel further and further afield as many practices in the South East shed their large animal business to concentrate on the small animal work.

Traditional values

Despite all these changes and the increasing bureaucracy facing veterinary practice these days, the Practice continues to thrive and strives to provide the same high quality of care and value for money that has become traditional to us. This is in no small way helped by the professionalism and loyalty of their entire staff.

The Practice now has over 20 full and part time members of staff. The longest serving of whom, Mrs Joan Mason, was employed in 1965 by Gunner and Clarke.