Our History

As with all family trees the origins of Torch go back a long way. Charter Veterinary Hospital Group (CVHG) was formed in 2000 when Mullacott Veterinary Hospital and Bridge House Veterinary Hospital merged. The partners at this time were David Buckley, Martin Hume, Adrian Ladds, Rob Lee & Ros Lee.

Mullacott Veterinary Hospital can trace its origins back to the original practice Crawford, Phillips & Pepper based at Bittadon a few miles North of Barnstaple. The practice was split with Bernard Phillips taking the Small animal practice to Braunton. Crawford and Pepper continued with large animal work and shortly after began developing a small animal practice from Marlborough Rd, Ilfracombe and Sticklepath, Barnstaple. The arrival of David Buckley and Adrian Ladds brought about the building of Mullacott Veterinary hospital which was completed in 1985. Martin Humes began his career at Horsepond Vets, South Molton soon after in 1986. An adventure vetting and travelling with wife Alison in New Zealand followed before returning to North Devon shores. Simon Thompson joined the practice in 1994. Norman Bussel’s Practice in Newport was purchased in 1998.

Bridge House Veterinary Hospital was purchased by Rob and Ros Lee in the 1980’s from Messrs Coward, Graves and Kingsbury but can trace its origins back to Castle Street in Barnstaple. Rob and Ros Lee set up a surgery in South Street Braunton. Rob Hawkins joined in 1988 and Nich in 1995.

In 2002 Neil returned home to Devon to join CVHG. Rob Hawkins, Nich Roper and Simon Thompson joined the partnership in early 2003, the same year that St John’s Veterinary Clinic opened.

The practice continued to grow, both through expansion of the services offered and through purchasing of Pettets and Partners bringing branches in Rumsan (Barnstple and Fremington). The Equine team welcomed the arrival of Caroline Blake in March 2003 with Adrian Ladd leaving the partnership in 2005. In 2006 the Fremington Practice closed alongside Sticklepath paving the way for Charter Veterinary Hospital to open in Roundswell.

Mike Blake joined Torbridge Veterinary Hospital (TVH) in 2008, a local practice, based in Bideford owned by John Burnside and Bill Slee. Bill and John purchased Horsepond Veterinary Practice 2009 (another practice with a fine pedigree and formerly own by Ken Blake (Neil and Mikes father) and Ken Wilson.

Neil Blake became a partner of CVHG in 2010 with David Buckley retiring from the partnership to focus on developing VetsWest (a buying group that the owners MVH, BH, Horsepond and Torbridge Veterinary Hospital were instrumental in creating). Dave Tittle also joining in 2012.

The owners recognised the need for increasing the quality and depth of the service it offered to allow it to continue to meet the needs of its clients in an ever-changing world. Both CVHG and TVH both identified this need and had similar aims for a quality service that clients wanted with owners that had a similar vision. After a period of looking at options with TVH, Torch Farm & Equine Vets was born when CVHG purchase the farm and equine departments of TVH in July 2012. Torch would not have become what it has without the drive and vision of Neil Blake and Nich Roper during those early days in the months leading up to Torch opening it doors for the first time.

Mike Blake and Paul Jarvis became Directors at the same time. The decision behind the name Torch came from the coming together of Torbridge Vets and Charter Vets. John Burnside joined Torch for a period before retiring.

Torch Farm & Equine grew steadily and whilst initially the brand was unknown it soon became recognised not just locally but nationally. Torch was able to develop separate Equine and Farm animal teams 24/7, something valued by our clients. Within the vet team we were able to develop the team with special interests in the various farm species. Torch has led the way in a number of areas being amongst the first to have TB Testers and more latterly “ATT” TB Testers , ET in sheep, Surgical dislocated hip replacement in AI and ET in Sheep as well as developing a Vet Tech service.. The equine hospitalisation facilities have also made Torch a great place for our Equine team to work.

Torch remained closely linked to but distinct from CVHG. This allowed sharing of skills, knowledge, staff and equipment whilst meeting the different needs of Farm, Equine and Companion Pets.

In 2019 Torch purchased Farm Animal section of Tamar vets (based in Bude, Holsworthy, Bradworthy and Hartland and the opening of our kiosk at Holsworthy Market as a drive to support our growing client base in the west of the practice. In 2020 our Holsworthy practice was opened. At the end of 2020 the owners of CVHG felt that the future of CVHG was best served by taking a new path. Torch became completely separated from CVHG and Rob Hawkins, Simon Thompson and Dave Tittle ceased to be directors of Torch. New teams needed to be developed especially at Mullacott and within the admin team; and significant building work was undertaken at MVH to provide a new working area for the Torch team. This was completed in autumn 2021.

Following the retirement of Martin Hume at the end of 2020 after 34 years of full clinical practice, Torch Farm and Equine Ltd were delighted to announce that Jennifer Rodliff and Rebecca Cavill became Associate Directors of the equine and farm divisions respectively. Having seen through the Mullacott works to provide separate areas for CVHG and Torch Neil Blake felt it was time to step back from being a Director in 2021.

In the ten years since Torch has been independent, we have welcomed 8 interns (with 2 more soon to join us) 2 residents and 22 Torch babies! As our workforce has grown to accommodate our clients and equine and farming communities we have employed 53 new employees many of which remain with us to this day. Amongst our dairy, beef & sheep clients we have also treated the less common species peacock, emu, Reindeer and horse stuck in horseboxes, well and many other things besides!

Many of our team are local to the South West or have chosen to make it their home and have a deep understanding, respect and knowledge of the area, community and industry.

Torch has developed with the whole team in mind. Our purpose explains why Torch is what it is today. “Torch believes in supporting and enabling the success of our clients through animals receiving the best possible veterinary care. We believe in building trust in what we do and how we do it. The work we do and the team we work with matter to us”

Our values as a business, team and Independent vets remain our fundamental priorities which extend to everything we do.

We thank all who have contributed to our success in the last 10 years and look forward to the next 10 years and beyond,

Mike Blake, Reb Cavill, Paul Jarvis, Jennifer Rodliff and Nich Roper