Leahurst

Leahurst, to many people who live in the Neston area, is that place on the left as you drive along the Chester High Road towards Chester.

It is probably the biggest single employer in the area, with over 350 staff, not to mention around 280 students.

Its full title is University of Liverpool School of Veterinary Science Leahurst Campus.

Back in 1904, the University of Liverpool was the first to incorporate a veterinary school. Behind this initiative lay the large numbers of heavy horses that worked in the Port of Liverpool, and the large number of cattle in Lancashire, some in town dairies.

The students received lectures from staff in the basic sciences and medical teachers, and from the start there was a close link with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine.

The students benefited from practical experience with two local veterinary practices where thousands of horses were shod each year, and with the stables and abattoirs of the municipal authorities.

From the outset, the Liverpool Veterinary Faculty was innovative in its teaching, and offered a diploma in veterinary hygiene to qualified practitioners.

The first veterinary hospital was opened in 1929 in Pembroke Gardens. Leahurst became in 1941 the first veterinary field station in the country. Professor J.G. Wright was the charismatic leader, and oversaw the development of teaching and research particularly in horses and farm animals, while clinical teaching in small animals developed in Liverpool.

Some of the funds for Leahurst were provided by Bibby’s, who owned Leahurst House and the surrounding land. The male students lived in Leahurst House, and women students lived safely in digs in Willaston and Neston.

From the start, students and staff visited local farms, where they dealt with all clinical problems at all hours of the day and night, as well as receiving cases referred by vets in the north of England, the Midlands and north Wales.

In 1952 the veterinary school became the Veterinary Faculty, and in 1960 it moved into new premises in Brownlow Hill. In 1977 a new small animal hospital was opened in Crown Street, next to the Faculty building.

This meant that clinical work continued to be divided between Small Animals in Liverpool and Farm Animal and Equine at Leahurst.

For some time, undergraduate students lived at Leahurst, with accommodation in Leahurst House supplemented by three new buildings. Now, however, all students live out, in Neston, Willaston and nearby.

In 1991 the new Philip Leverhulme Large Animal Hospital was opened at Leahurst at a cost of £1.4m, and in May 2009 the Princess Royal opened a £1.5m development. In 1996 a more modest Farm Animal Hospital was opened.

In 2007 the new Small Animal Hospital was opened at Leahurst at a cost of £9.6m. Now all the clinicians in the Faculty are together, with associated services such as anaesthesia and pathology.

The Henry Edwards Learning Centre, opened in May 2013, houses the farm animal practice.

Pet-owners in central Liverpool who were used to taking their animals to the University hospital still do so, as the University continues to run a Small Animal Practice, which provides excellent first-opinion experience for the students, not to mention practice in understanding the local accent.

Leahurst has two farms, both on the opposite side of Chester High Road. Wood Park Farm is a dairy farm, with 200 cows, in new premises opened in 2008 at a cost of £1m, and incorporating the Tesco Dairy Centre, offering advice to farmers on cattle health and welfare.

Ness Heath Farm has over 400 ewes and their lambs, Gloucester Old Spot sows and their young and beef suckler cows and young. Students continue to benefit from practical experience on both farms.

In 1980 the tradition of teaching qualified vets was developed with the Diploma in Bovine Reproduction. Large numbers of vets come to Leahurst for Continuing Professional Development courses, which can last from half a day to several days, and create a demand for accommodation in local hotels.

There are over 100 students in each year of the BVSc course, of whom the majority are female. The Faculty initiated the first Bioveterinary course in the UK: about a third of these graduates go on to take a veterinary degree.

For many years Leahurst has had strong links with Chester Zoo, and runs a degree in Veterinary Conservation Medicine, and a Mastership in Veterinary Infection and Disease Control. 2006 saw the opening of the National Centre for Zoonosis Research at Leahurst, initially funded with a grant of £1.7m from the North West Development Agency. The majority of diseases affecting people also affect animals and are called zoonoses.

The Equine Hospital sees over 2,000 referred cases a year, of which a fifth are emergencies, so arrive at any time of the day or night. The equine practice has over 1,400 clients, with 5,300 horses. The Small Animal Hospital sees over 6,000 pets as second-opinion cases each year.

The teaching and clinical work at Leahurst is based on research.

In 2009 the Veterinary School became part of the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences. The school has research groups in avian infectious diseases, gastroenterology, infectious disease ecology, mammalian behaviour and evolution, musculoskeletal systems, pain and anaesthesia, parasitology, proteomics and functional genomics, reproduction and production, and small animal infectious diseases.

To find out more about Leahurst and the Veterinary School go to http://www.liv.ac.uk/veterinary-science/about-us/leahurst-campus/