Highfield Dental was built Circa 1937. The majority of the land around the surgery was owned by St Thomas Hospital.
Mr. Wilson was the first dentist and started this practice. It was built as a dental practice with accommodation.
In the early 1950s, the practice was purchased by Geoffrey Stedham (Geoff) who lived here with his family. Geoff was a trained dental technician and had been in the Dental Corps of the army during WWII. After the war, he joined the Royal Dental Hospital to train as a dentist. At this time, Highfield Dental was as a one surgery practice with a dental laboratory at the back.
Geoff went on to buy the dental practice at 29 Station Road (No.29), working both here and at Highfield Dental. He later established a clinic to treat employees at the Morphy Richards factory (established in 1936). He was well-known and got on well with his patients.
Geoff was also a part-time demonstrator at the Royal Dental Hospital.
Geoff was joined by Mr. Tony Kershaw (Tony) in 1955, who was also from the Royal Army; first as an assistant/associate and later as a partner. This was around the time when the second surgery in the front room on the ground floor at Highfield Dental was put in.
Mr. Don Blackman (Don), from the Royal Dental Hospital, joined the practice as an associate in 1961, making partner within three years.
By this point, Highfield Dental had three surgeries: Tony downstairs, Don and Geoff upstairs. Outside, Highfield was surrounded by fields, homes were built later, going for £3,000 each!
Mr. David Kennedy (David) was a patient of Highfield in the early fifties, usually seeing Geoff. He remembers having deciduous teeth extracted under general anaesthetic in what later became his own surgery. When David qualified from the Royal London he worked for a few months at the Tower Hamlets School Dental Service until Geoff offered him a job. From the summer of 1969, David worked at both No. 29 and the clinic at Morphy Richards (then an electrical appliances factory in St Mary Cray, where the Nugent Centre is now).
Geoff passed away in March 1974 at the age of 54, while at a Masonic Ladies Night, after which No. 29 was sold off.
Tony Kershaw, David Kennedy and Don Blackman went into partnership at this time, buying Highfield Dental. When David joined Highfield Dental, Tony had the downstairs surgery; Don, the upstairs front room, and David, the surgery over the garage.
There were electric storage radiators and a solid fuel boiler in the kitchen. The reception was an ordinary desk facing the wall opposite the bottom of the stairs, with one receptionist. Central heating and double glazing were installed in the late 70s / early 80s. In the early 1980s the doorway from the hall to the waiting room was removed, creating an open space with a reception area for two receptionists.
At this point in time, Tony moved into the upstairs surgery and a new surgery was created at the rear upstairs, which Don later moved into. Tony’s old surgery downstairs was converted into a staff sitting room. Tony went down to working four days a week and an associate was hired to cover one day each week.
The first associate was Brett Sinson who was from St Lucia, another ex-Royal Army Dental man. He stayed for a year or two before moving to his own practice in Oxfordshire. He was replaced with Lynne Doggett.
Tony was gradually working less and retired around the age of 58. Mr. Simon Ho (Simon) came on as a full-time associate when Tony retired, and Lynne Doggett left around this time too. The air conditioning was installed shortly after that.
Up to this point, the practice had been almost entirely NHS. In 1992 the Government cut NHS fees and it was decided that Highfield Dental would go private. At Highfield Dental, the dentists went about the conversion process by sending letters to every patient household explaining what Highfield was doing, the reasons behind the decision and giving a few examples of basic fees. Inevitably some patients left, but the majority of patients stayed on.
The reception was relocated by knocking a larger opening into the front room and dividing that into the reception area and small staff room.
When Don retired in 1997, Simon and David went into partnership and employed Mr. Martin Turner (Martin) as an associate. Martin became a partner within a couple of years.
The three surgeries were all refurbished.
Mr. Salil Patel (Salil) replaced Martin, when Martin decided to relocate up North to be near his wife’s family. Salil has over 15 years with experience at practices in Bayswater, Brixton, Clapham and the like.
In 2006, Highfield’s dental partners were David, Simon and Salil.
In 2008 David retired. In preparation for his own retirement, Simon too stepped down from partner to become an associate.
Salil now solely owns Highfield. Around 2010 the practice became digital and stopped using paper notes.
In January 2021 the reception was moved back to the hallway where it started off all those years ago in the 1950s. A new surgery was installed on the ground floor in February 21, together with a sloping path cutting across the front of the garden to assist patients with walking difficulties.
Over the years, Highfield has had a wonderfully loyal and highly trained team, and equally lovely patients, some of whom are now third and fourth generation patients. We have many conversations with our patients, reminiscing about the old days, as well as topics covering sports and holidays to current events and sometimes even dentistry!
This brings the practice to the present day in 2021….watch this space
Don Blackman, David Kennedy and Salil Patel