Huthwaite did indeed once have a registered dentist. Proving if any earlier Hucknall Huthwaite dentists could have existed is not as easy. Reason for this vagueness is because tooth extractions long remained an unqualified secondary role performed by other professions. Beyond the age of Barber surgeons, this painful necessity sought out a tooled local practicing surgeon, apothecary, druggist or chemist shops.
An agreement signed in year 1790 by Samuel Wilson from Hucknall Huthwaite, reveals former qualified role to become Overseer of a Sutton Workhouse was a twinned business interest as Surgeon and Apothecary. It is very likely therefore, that his skilled trade would include the earliest recognisable Huthwaite dental surgeon.
Explicit titles of Dental Surgeon or Surgeon Dentist were not actually officially recognised until 1879. Few of those who qualified didn't initially register, and it loosely allowed local druggists and chemists to keep practising. Before a 1921 Dentist Act began strictly regulating that profession, Buckland & Parr names an 1881 druggists and chemist shop. This 1895 advert for Ted Buckland shows later Sutton drug store still offers teeth extraction.
Credit is noted in the ad to the late Edwin Buckland. He may reasonably be deduced having formerly partnered Edward Parr, who's own 1889 Huthwaite chemist shop or 1900 drug store potentially continued local services.
Memories voiced by past generations hinted that room had been given for a dentist chair in a Market Street chemist shop. Found firstly identified in 1912 run by Henry Highfield, pharmacy professions then became highly regulated and specialised, so any teething interests would probably end long before his 1932 listing.
All those potential dental practices could have easily catered for urgent public demand at pulling out painful teeth. Their main trade clearly involved a wide range of drugs to potentially aid patients operations, but not in a surgically qualified role to perform advanced work. Unnecessary if majority of working families shared little interest or money for tooth fillings or crowns, blindly unaware that cause could be reduced by oral cleanliness.
Such skills, plus various cleaning aids had widely existed among ancient civilisations. But general UK awareness for oral hygiene appears largely promoted by a company founded by William Addis. The toothbrush eventually won its rightful place in most modern bathrooms, after gradually introducing youngsters to a regime under some threats of otherwise having to see The Huthwaite Dentist.
Alexander's Dentist was how addressing at 17 Main Street is commonly remembered by all those familiar with an upstairs dental surgery. Wallace Alexander is identified in both 1932 and 1941 directories. They certainly wouldn't span the full number of years he practiced in Huthwaite, although there's actually very little known about his life much beyond the walls of his surgery.
This circa 1903 postcard is a far earlier sighting along Main Street. Foreground is sided by Hutton's Market Street corner store, a bakery behind all lastly converted into todays Co-op. Access was gained into a side entrance stairway that in time led to the upper floor surgery established by Mr Alexander. Descriptions are added by my mothers traumatic childhood memory, having been hauled upstairs to have a tooth pulled under her mothers insistence. The premises seemed barely advertised. Everyone just knew where it was.
Scaring children with having to visit the dentist, did not mean his presence was frightening. In fact, known patients all similarly recalled Mr Alexander being a professional gentleman in his work, by showing great consideration and holding respected trust. It was the associated pain which necessitated an occasional private visit that surely added nervous discomfort, before anyone started prodding around just to confirm the troubling tooth prior any operation. It was commonly noticed that a smell of strong spirits claiming to help steady his working hands actually gave sign of higher anxiety, and truth be known, the elders more often shied away, when many still chose to accept the rotting fate until welcoming a new full set of dentures.
Trying to further elaborate knowledge about Wallace Alexander may hopefully jog others memories, or invite correspondence with any family members. Only real way of dating arrival and departure between unknown locations, would afford the registered research offered by the British Dental Association website.
Searching Free Press transcriptions can simply reveal a Mr and Mrs Alexander attending local funerals and many church activities, along with a talented young daughter named Dorothy. But these cannot be identified yet as being actually related, when there's still no certainty if Wallace even ever lived in Huthwaite.
It may be surmised he started business here following the 1921 Dental Act, to fill a registered void left by previously serving Huthwaite Chemists. Leaving the Huthwaite dental surgery could coincide around the 1948 introduction of National Health Services, because memories only claim occasional private treatment, when probably finding biggest custom commonly came through fitting and repairing prized dentures.
Most of us from later generations were familiar with NHS checkups performed since at the nearest dentists in Sutton. Gas was my saviour for having milk teeth removed, apparently needing to make room for adult teeth. I can still conjure that pungent smell mixed among the rubberised mask. Frontal teeth were either wiggled or pulled out by a cotton noose tied to a door handle slammed shut. These were left under the pillow, to be secretively exchanged through the night by a tooth fairy, whom in my day I believe left a sixpence for each. Having mouths then prodded to find an exposed nerve, next recognised the formidable looming sight that introduced a nerve tingling high pitched screeching drill. And even mercury fillings!
Any younger readers should fear not. Treatment has improved over several decades. But keep on brushing.
Written 16 Sep 13 Revised 06 Oct 13 © by Gary Elliott