It is 75 years since Henry Vincent Willings, Mark’s grandfather, bought the practice from William Holbrook and the practice has been in Willings family ownership ever since.
Vincent (as he was known) came from Scarborough and qualified from Leeds in 1943. He married Dorothie, also a dentist, in 1944. Dorothie was the 7th child of Ernest Scruton, also a dentist in Leeds Road, Beeston. Vincent and Dorothie had 3 children, and both had long and successful careers in dentistry until they retired in their70s!Their son Eric Willings, Marks father, qualified from Leeds with BchD in 1967 and joined his father Vincent in his Wakefield practice in 1969, the year Mark was born.
Mark qualified from Guys Hospital in 1991 and returned to Wakefield to join his father in 1994. In 1998, Mark and Eric opened the current premises Vincent House, in Horbury. The practice has doubled in size over the last 20 years.
The changes in the dental profession are immense. There was no NHS in 1944 and Vincent Willings worked very long hours to provide a service for the community.
The age of digital technology and the advancement of knowledge and education mean that the dental profession is very different to the one Vincent knew 75 years ago. Indeed across the 4 generations of the family involved in dentistry, we have seen the profession move from a trade learned by apprenticeship – Ernest Scruton was a 1921 man who was “grandfathered” onto the dental register having started work in Harrogate as a plaster boy aged 16 years old – to a career that now demands cradle to grave learning with compulsory elements to update knowledge in order to maintain registration with the GDC.
Marks daughter Harriet graduated in 2016 and is the 5th generation dentist in the family. She is currently working as an associate in Newcastle but intends to return to her native Wakefield to join the family practice in the next few years.
We wonder what dentistry will be like in another five generations, and with the huge changes in the NHS and political spectrum, we can only imagine what may happen to the profession and the practice!