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The School's Health Clinic - Peter Hinchliffe

When the National Health Service was established, a similar service came into being for Children’s Health, in Exeter this was centered on the School Clinic behind number 1 Southernhay West, and at the top of Trinity Lane. It was a modern brick building beside the City Wall. It is no longer there, demolished as part of the redevelopment of the area.

I suppose that this is where “Nora the Nit Nurse” set out from on her daily search for head lice, in the hair of children’s heads at local schools. I well remember her visits to Heavitree Primary School, where we stood in line awaiting inspection, and sneered at the infected kids!

The service also carried out full physical examinations of all the children, including an eyesight test, as well as a dental examination. A team would arrive at school, complete with screens to make temporary consulting rooms, whilst we kids lined up in vest and pants to await our turn to see the doctor.

The clinic served as a “small casualty unit” and after care service for injuries and operations. If you were injured at school, they sent you on the bus to the clinic. I recall that you walked from the High Street to Cathedral Yard, through the Bishops Palace gardens behind the Cathedral then through the small door in the City Wall. Having arrived at the clinic with whatever ailed you, they always sprayed your throat and nostrils with a mixture in a hand pump. Their motto seemed to be “prevention better than cure”.

I remember having a tooth extracted by the school dentist, it was under general anesthetic, (the only time I have experienced it). I can still smell the rubber of the face mask they used!! When I came round, minus tooth, the Cathedral clock must have been striking the hour, all I could hear was bells.

I don’t know if the School Dentist moved, or whether they had a second surgery, in later years I had some dentistry done at Whipton Barton school.

Is there still a school dental service, or is that one of the reasons for the current problems with teeth.

The service was still going in the 60s it featured in the film “This Sporting Life” starring Richard Harris.

Peter Hinchliffe is a retired City of Exeter police officer.

Lollards TowerLollard's Tower - with the door from the Bishop's Garden.

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