Daily Echo Review – Banking on a Healthy Future

April 21st, 2012
Emily Max and Andy

Vet Andy Matthew always knew he’d come back to Dorset to open his own practice – and now he’s given a new lease of life to an old bank building.

As he perched up a ladder for the umpteenth late night in a row, aching from decorating and with bags under his eyes, vet Andy Matthew wondered what on earth he had taken on.
For years he had known this building on Christchurch Road in Boscombe East. For most of its life it was a grand art deco bank which he remembers as a boy. Then he watched as the people and the cash moved out and it turned into a derelict shell.

Two decades later it was his. Money is no longer brought up and down between floors, but today’s cargo is just as precious. For the building has been given a new life as Natterjacks Vet. Andy, who qualified as a vet in 2003, said “I’d been looking around for a premises to start my own business for a couple of years. Then someone mentioned the old bank and something just clicked. I’d worked across the UK and abroad as a locum vet, but wanted to come home to the place I loved when I was a child and where my family was based”
Indeed, the Matthew family have been associated with the area for several generations. Andy’s grandfather lived on Hengistbury Head and worked locally as a teacher, while in 1982 his father and uncle established a firm of solicitors (Matthew and Matthew) in Southbourne which is still going strong 30 years later.
Even the name of the practice come from the rare Natterjack toad which has colonised locally at Southbourne and St Catherine’s Hill. Andy now lives in Southbourne with his partner Emily (also a vet), and his collie Max. “I wanted to be part of the community,” he said “To have my own practice offering an affordable, professional service in a fun environment. As it happened there was a shortage of vets in this particular area.”
It took 15 months for him to completely renovate and transform the 1930s building which was in a total state of disrepair. “I was working 20 hours a day and I lost a stone in weight,” he said.

After many, many sleepless nights and seemingly endless trails and tribulations they finally unlocked the doors and saw their first hairy patients in February.
“We could have had a back street warehouse which would have cost less and would have been far less hassle, but it just wouldn’t have been the same as this grand old building,” he laughed.

One of the biggest problems was the back door to the bank’s vault which was a three tonne monster stubbornly staying down there.
“There was no way we were going to be able to move it,” said Andy. So we had to box it in.” They also had to remove the lift and the narrow, winding staircase beside it.
“The area was used to take cash up and down to the vault, but we really needed a wide staircase for lifting bigger animals up and down.”
When taking out the list they were faced with a huge asbestos problem, and further funds were needed to completely line the new X-ray room with lead. Luckily all the efforts paid off and the practice is enjoying a renovated space with Art Deco features including high ceilings and the original lights in the entrance foyer. There are spanking new consulting rooms, a state-of-the-art theatre, laundry and plenty of room for the poorly animals to recover.
“It’s great to finally see the place full of hair and muddy pawprints rather than plaster and dust and sand,” said Andy.
As well as four-legged, feathered and scaled friends, Natterjacks is looking after the two-legged variety. Andy has found himself buying a lot more coffee and cakes as friends old and new are popping by.
“Some school friends have dropped in who I haven’t seen for 25 years,” he said.
“I recently had 30 nursery-age children from St James Primary in Pokesdown down to see the animals and do some bandaging which was great as that’s where I used to go to school. It’s the first time I’ve been asked what I would do if someone brought a poorly elephant down to the surgery!”

Maria Court – Bournemouth Daily Echo

Bournemouth Daily Echo Article



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