VHS Logo and heading VHS History image

History of the VHS

1962    The inaugural Meeting of the Veterinary History Society was set up by Sherwin Hall and Jack Barber-Lomax and was held at the Wellcome Historical Medical Library on October 31st. An address was given by the Librarian. Hall donated a Minute Book and an Attendance Register: 25 would-be members signed, and a further 25 supporters sent apologies. Officers and two Committee members were elected. The aim of the Society was said to be the promotion of the history of veterinary science, creating an interest by communicating our experiences and researches.

1963    The first Committee Meeting was held in March at the RCVS, Belgrave Square. Membership fee was set at 10/6 pa.. A formal Constitution was discussed, but did not materialise.
            The first General (Ordinary) Meeting was held at the same venue in October. Papers were presented on bibliography, the RAVC and John Gamgee; 26 members attended, and visitors included three of the Gamgee family.

1964    The first Annual General Meeting was in April at the Wellcome Library, where many subsequent meetings were held. Hereafter the committee met occasionally to discuss persons and subjects for the following season; there were two or three Meetings each year, one being the AGM.

1965    The first Society Meeting outside London was at the Museum of Rural Life, University of Reading. This proved popular, and so it became the norm to meet once each year away from London. The Society has since visited veterinary schools, towns and cities all over the UK.

1971    The structure of the Committee had developed and consisted of the Chairman, Secretary/Treasurer and six/seven other members. The Chairman was tacitly expected to serve for 2-4 years, but the other posts had no time limit: several individuals served successfully in posts for many years.
            The subscription this year was reduced from 10/6 to 50p.

1973    Veterinary History, the Bulletin of the VHS, was launched after some months of preparation. It consisted of 30 pages of A4 hand-typed roneo-duplicated pages stapled together, and contained several high quality papers from prominent members of the profession. An issue was produced twice yearly and sent to members. Annual subscriptions were increased to £2 to cover the production costs. The Office of Editor was added to the Committee.

1979    Veterinary History, New Series appeared in the summer. Membership had grown to 100 and the cost of production had risen; Roche Products Ltd assisted financially for five years. The New Series was A5 in size, the stiff paper cover being improved with a copy of Gervase Markham’s horse (reversed) from his Masterpiece (1610). The cover’s colours are changed with each new volume (4 issues).

1981    Annual subscriptions were raised to £6, with reductions to £4 for students and the retired.

1982    A contribution of £206, raised from individual members, was made towards the plaque marking William Moorcroft’s practice premises in Oxford Street, London.

1984    After a Meeting at Mayer House, a donation of £250 was made to the Staffordshire Historic Buildings Trust towards the restoration of the house, previously occupied by Thomas Mayer and his son, Thomas Walton Mayer, who promoted our Royal Charter of 1844.

1987    The Silver Anniversary of the foundation of the VHS was marked by a celebratory luncheon, when forty members and guests gathered for the Meeting at the Wellcome Institute of the History of Medicine.

1991    Annual subscriptions were raised to £10, reduced to £6 for students.

1992    Sherwin Hall had been in the post of Secretary/Treasurer for 26 of the Society’s 30 years.  The two posts were now separated, SH remaining as Secretary and membership being linked to treasurership from now on.

1994    Annual subscriptions were raised to £15, with reductions to £10 for students.

1995    Sherwin Hall and Norman Comben were made Honorary Members, marking their long and active services to the Society.
1999    The Bulletin Veterinary History had grown to contain over 100 pages and became a square-back publication. It was now referred to as the Journal.

2002     Plans for the proposed Animals in War Memorial in London had been shown to the Society; a donation of £250 was made to the Fund.
            The Society visited the Suffolk Punch stables at Hollesbay Bay Stud Farm, Woodbridge and £100 was donated to the Trust.

2003    Upon the opening of the Linda Warden Museum, the first veterinary museum, in the new Eclipse Building at Hawkshead, £5,000 was given towards the costs of display cabinets. [The Museum room has since been closed, and the cabinets are now positioned around the building and their displays changed regularly.]
            Subscriptions were raised to £25 with reductions for students.

2005    Sherwin Hall was made Honorary Life President of the Society at the AGM, in recognition of his long and valued service.

2006    A Newsletter was produced on A4 sheets twice yearly, between issues of the Journal; its purpose was to keep members informed and maintain interest in the Society, and to encourage feed-back for the committee.
            An experimental website was begun by Sherwin Hall, which was developed professionally two years later.

2007    The Granville Penn Press was set up by Bruce V Jones in association with the VHS, and preparation of the first volume concerning a Victorian veterinary student begun.
            An Index of all articles and authors published in Veterinary History was printed and a copy sent to all members. Since then it is up-dated electronically at the publication of each new edition.

2008    A small party of VHS members visited the Copenhagen Veterinary School in April spending three days in the capital, the Society’s first overseas visit.
            The RCVS archives at Belgravia House were inspected by a small group of members to identify, name, describe and number each item for the purpose of completing a catalogue; from this the RVCS Charitable Trust printed, with many illustrations, The RCVS Collections in 2012.

2010    A Victorian Veterinary Student’s Diary by Dick Lane was published, the first imprint of the Granville Penn Press.           
            Miss Mary Brancker became the first British veterinary practitioner to take part in the Oral History Project (Newcastle University), her reminiscences now being stored in the British Library.

2011    Planning for the 2014 Congress of the World Association of the History of Veterinary Medicine to be hosted by the VHS in London was begun.

2012    Twentieth-Century Veterinary Lives, by Bruce V Jones, Granville  Penn Press, was published.

2013    On October 31st, exactly 50 years after the first meeting of the Society, a two-day 50th Anniversary Meeting was held in London. We were again welcomed on both days by Wellcome, and dined at the Farmers Club, where the Society had met many times in the past.

A fuller history of the Society will be found in V.17  No.3  p.303 of the Journal.

J M   January 2014