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By Diana Bevan


The veterinary practice in Queen Street, Newcastle, was established there in 1813 by Thomas Mayer (1764-1835) and his son, also Thomas, born 1791.

The sons of the younger Thomas also became vets. They were Thomas Walton Mayer and John Smith Mayer.

In 1835, when Thomas Mayer senior died, his grandson Thomas Walton Mayer, newly qualified, joined the family veterinary practice. So continued “Thomas Mayer and Son” of Queen Street.

The Royal Veterinary College in London had been founded in 1791 but there were no regulated standards or independent governing body for veterinary matters. There was disagreement nationally about this and Thomas Mayer and his son became involved.

They personally contacted every vet in the country urging support for a petition to the Privvy Council for a Royal Charter.

A committee was formed and the campaign started. After many setbacks they achieved their objective. In 1844, a “Charter” was granted to the “Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons”, a governing body at last.

Thomas Mayer and Son of Newcastle-under-Lyme had made their mark in the veterinary world.

The elder Thomas Mayer died in 1848 and his two sons then ran the practice in Queen Street, not always amicably it seems.

Both were active in civic life in the Borough of Newcastle, and in particular Thomas Mayer.

He had been elected to serve as a Newcastle Burgess and was a town councillor and magistrate.

He was a founder and committee member of Newcastle Literary and Scientific Institute.

From 1849-50 he was Mayor of Newcastle.

His book “Canine Pathology” was published.

Meanwhile the personal life of Thomas Walton Mayer was very complicated.

His first wife Mary Walters had died in 1841 leaving him with a young daughter. He remarried in 1844, Alice Mayer and they had two sons, one of whom died in 1850.

The 1851 Census indicates that Thomas and his wife were not living in the same household.

Alice Mayer was living in Wolverhampton. Thomas W. Mayer was living in Newcastle with his son and two servants. Sarah Millward, Nursery Governess, had lived with the family for over ten years and in 1848 had borne his child. She had a second son in 1852.

Shortly afterwards, Thomas made the decision to leave Newcastle and the family veterinary practice. He and Sarah Millward set up home together. Early in 1854 he joined the army and became a vet in the Royal Engineers and went immediately to the Crimean War.

In the summer of 1856, he returned to England. Alice, his second wife had been working as a governess in Suffolk and she died there in the August of 1856.

Two months later Thomas married Sarah Millward in London. They were living in Gillingham in Kent in 1861 where the census recorded him as Walter Mayer. A daughter was born at Aldershot in September 1861.

He was promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1867 before retiring from the army in 1871. He then became a college lecturer in veterinary science and also returned to practice for a while.

In later years he went through a difficult time financially. He died in Aldershot in 1887 and was buried in the military cemetery there.

John Smith Mayer had pursued other business interests as well as his veterinary work. He died in 1863.

So ended the veterinary connection of the Mayer family to Newcastle-under-Lyme, except that their houses, stable block and old veterinary surgery are still there in Queen Street.

Recently Newcastle-under-Lyme Civic Society placed one of their blue plaques on the old surgery. It is a reminder of the achievement of ‘Thomas Mayer and Son’ who led the successful campaign leading to the foundation of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in 1844.