A Family Business

It might seem strange, these days, to describe medicine as a "family business", but in Victorian times, passing the practice from father to son was frequently the way medicine was done, much as you will see in many other businesses to this day.

Because Lionel left us his biography and we have the supporting information from his father's and his son's careers and photograph albums, we can follow this family connection from father to son down the generations. We can set Lionel's and the whole Stretton family achievements in a background of a stable, supportive and successful family in Worcestershire.

Even before Lionel's career, Samuel Stretton had married the daughter of the well-respected Leicester surgeon, William Birch. When he started work at 27, Church street in 1882, it was his sister who “came to keep house for me”. Later in his life, from 1904 to 1915, he was supported by his daughter, Rosa (Daisy) who qualified as a pharmacist and managed the dispensary until she married and moved away.

Relationship with his Father

Lionel’s relationship with his father was extremely close. At a number of critical points in both their lives, they came to each other’s rescue, as when Samuel rushed to his sick son in London and when Lionel made the career changing decision to give up his London career and return to Kidderminster. Samuel’s death in 1920 seems to have been one of the only occasions when Lionel struggled to find a point in working and continuing his career.

It also seems that Lionel inherited his lifetime's dedication to improving the lot of the poor and to improving hospital and nursing conditions from his father.

Samuel Stretton, Lionel's father

Lionel's Apprenticeship

Until the creation of the General Medical Council in 1858, the system of educating new doctors and surgeons was largely determined by the Society of Apothecaries and the Royal College of Surgeons. Students typically began their practice as apprentices to local physicians. Even after 1858, the development of a set syllabus and the growth of the major teaching schools, mainly in London, was gradual.

Even though Lionel's apprenticeship was at the latter end of that scheme, it was not untypical. He was able to start his qualifications as a surgeon in 1877 by passing the preliminary examination at the Royal College of Surgeons in Birmingham in March 1877.

Lionel told a number of anecdotes about apprenticeship which you can find in the anecdotes section of the site, but it is telling that he considered that it was the main thing that allowed him to compete with the “University Men” at Bart’s because of the practical experience it gave him.

Although this method of training might seem anachronistic today, Lionel attributed a lot of his success to the training it gave him and remained a supporter of the system throughout his life.

"Under the system of apprenticeship, by the time a young man had finished his apprenticeship, he was able to open abscesses, extract teeth, perform other minor operations, and use a thermometer and a stethoscope with more or less accuracy. He had intimate acquaintance with all minor ailments and a more superficial one with more serious complaints. He had also learned how to deal with patients, using tact and discrimination."

Read More About Lionel's Life

John Weston Stretton, Lionel's Son

Medical Continuity - Lionel's Son, John Weston Stretton

The family connection that was passed on from Lionel to John Weston Stretton was evidence of changing times. The work of a doctor in the 1920s and 1930s had changed out of all recognition. John Weston Stretton was the most qualified of the "three generations of Strettons". Unlike his father and grandfather before him, he specialised in surgery. The many advances that had occurred during the lifetime of his two predecessors made it much more difficult to pursue a career in general practice, hospital finance and administration and in surgery in the same way as his predecessors had done. Management of local health services was becoming a specialisation in its own right. This development would only have grown even if healthcare had continued as before. But the founding of the National Health Service after the Second World War changed the whole way in which medicine was practised throughout Britain to such an extent that it is now impossible to imagine any medical practice being run as a family business in the way the Stretton family had done.