William Shipley: Family veterinary dynasty served Great Yarmouth for two centuries

William Shipley, retired Great Yarmouth veterinary surgeon

William Shipley, retired Great Yarmouth veterinary surgeon - Credit: submitted

A tradition of father-and-son involvement over two centuries as veterinary surgeons in Great Yarmouth has ended with the death of William Shipley, aged 83.

For 170 years, a succession of William Shipleys have been veterinary surgeons in the town.

The death of the fifth generation William Shipley has ended a father-and-son professional dynasty dating back to the reign of George IV.

The first William Shipley qualified on May 15, 1823 and started a practice in Yarmouth. Since then, the oldest son in every generation has been given the Christian name, William, and taken up the practice.

The last to bear the name qualified on July 3, 1952. Born in the town, he went to Framlingham College and taught himself biology in order to study at the Royal Veterinary College, London.

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Back in his native town he took up the practice at Bridgefoot, following in the footsteps of his father who had died when William junior was just 15 years old. A remnant of 19th century architectural stonework over the gate to the 'Veterinary Infirmary' still survives at the former practice.

In the early 1950s, Mr Shipley's partners were based at Martham and Caister, mainly looking after horses and cattle. As farmers moved out of large livestock, the practice became more general and smaller animals, including cats and dogs, were treated.

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In the days before mobile phones, when vets were on duty out of hours and at weekends, they had to remain with earshot of the telephone to deal with emergencies. Typically, a six-day week and one weekend off every three weeks was accepted practice.

Mr Shipley, known as Bill, was well regarded by his professional colleagues, said Acle vet Roger Clarke, honorary veterinary officer of the Royal Norfolk Agricultural Association.

A good bridge player and keen gardener, Mr Shipley had played golf when professional duties allowed.

Married for almost 57 years to Elspeth, the daughter of a Yarmouth doctor, the couple had three children Richard and Liza, and eight grandchildren. Following tradition, the eldest son was named William, as was the oldest grandchild.

A funeral service has taken place at St Mary's Church, Southtown Road, Great Yarmouth.

Michael Pollitt

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