Addlestone Institute Opens 1917

Researched by Jenny Mukerji

The Addlestone Institute, at New Haw opened its doors to guests from the veterinary profession on 25 September 1917. It was a purpose-built state-run diagnostic service laboratory which had its origins in 1865 when it was necessary to counter the disastrous epidemic of cattle plague (rinderpest, which had caused the loss of an estimated 400,000 animals). This embryonic work had been carried out in the Royal Veterinary College in Camden Town.

However, their work load increased with the Swine Fever Order of 1893. This instructed the Board of Agriculture to develop its own diagnostic laboratory to control the spread of Swine Fever. Over the years, the laboratory’s responsibilities widened to cover a broad range of scheduled animal diseases and by 1905, it became evident that larger premises were required.

In 1905, Sir Stewart Stockman (1869-1926) was appointed Chief Veterinary Officer and the following year the laboratory transferred to larger premises at Sudbury, North London. Once again the work outgrew the laboratory’s premises and in 1908 Alperton Lodge, a country house in Wembley was bought and adapted for use as a laboratory.

The expansion of the laboratory’s research function led to the need for a new purpose-built premises with improved animal accommodation. Added to this was  the laboratory’s work to produce vaccines, for a number of animal diseases, as a result of the Great War cutting off supplies from the Continent.

A suitable site (Moated Farm Estate, Addlestone) was found and in March 1914, £28,650 of Government funds were made available for the land and buildings. Although the contract was signed in 1914, the hostilities delayed completion of the buildings until 1917. The main building stood on one side of a quadrangle and contained five laboratories. The other three sides were taken up with loose boxes and other animal housing. There was also a special building which was used for the production of swine fever antiserum, which by 1917 was being produced at a rate of 43,000 doses a year.

In 1994 the Institute, then the Central Veterinary Laboratory (CVL), celebrated its centenary and by 2000 the name had changed again to the Veterinary Laboratory  Agency (VLA). Its name is constantly changing and in 2017 the name is Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Sources: 1894-1994 CVL 100 years – Working for Animal Health, New Haw, Weybridge, Surrey, KT15 3NB (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Food, 1994).

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