Saturday, September 24, 2011
The rather good-looking house at the bottom of Green Lane (now two houses) was built by the Stony Stratford architect, Edwin Swinfen Harris. (Harris was very active in the area in the late Victorian period and deserves a separate article when I get round to writing it.)
The railway company had built a house and surgery for the company doctor/surgeon in 1844 as one of six villas beside the canal. For various reasons - not least the relative isolation of The Firs - the LNWR decided to build a new house and surgery at this location. In the fashion of the day the house was named after trees. (The remaining four villas were named The Firs, Yew Tree House, The Hawthorns and The Limes, and the large houses beside the tennis courts were called The Beeches and Yiewsley.)
The house was first occupied by Dr. Harvey and when I was a boy by the husband and wife team of Doctors Eric and Marjorie Fildes. Dr. Eric Fildes was our "family doctor" as they were called in those days. In fact, being a family doctor and thus looking after all generations of the family was part of the effectiveness of diagnosis in those days largely free of medical technology. When Dr. Fildes came to visit me as a boy in the 1940s when I contracted one or another of the prevalent illnesses (yes Doctors did make house calls) he would park his black car outside the door, come upstairs to my bedroom, place a thermometer under my tongue and, while that was registering, place a cold stethoscope on my chest. Having made his diagnosis he would give my mother some instructions and scribble out a prescription. And that was basically it. After a few days I recovered with more bed rest and regular spoonfuls of medicine.
The Elms was a little more isolated than it is today. There were grounds extending to Moon Street of more than one acre surrounding the house. The surgery entrance was on the right. This door led to a waiting room where people sat until called into the surgery, a smaller room at the back. There may have been another room behind this for more detailed patient examination, but I never saw it.