Before the arrival of Health Centres, provided by the NHS, doctors’ practices were stand-alone, usually in the doctors own substantial house.

Winsford was no different, and through the years, members of the Leak family cared for the health and wellbeing of the citizens.

The surgery was in Dingle House which was situated in expansive grounds roughly opposite the TSB on the High Street with the gates off old High Street stretching back across what is now the dual carriageway and beyond.

A brief look at Dingle House, it was a large, detached house consisting of surgery with waiting rooms etc, and a sun parlour.

Upstairs could be found six bedrooms, a sewing room and bathroom. More about the buildings on the grounds in the next instalment. Suffice to say that this large house was very prominent on Winsford old High Street.

Longstanding Winsford residents will recognise the name Dr Leak from later doctors with that name, and will probably have attended at the surgery. But in this three-part series of articles, we will look at the history of this well-known medical family, from the very start.

Back we travel to 1810 when Alexander Leak was the steward to Hester Thrale Piozzi who resided at Brynbella, a stately home in Tremeirchion, North Wales, and still stands.

Winsford Guardian:

Hesther Thrale by Joshua Reynolds

Hester was very good friends with Dr Samuel Johnson whom she called ‘Dictionary Johnson’ he stayed with her and her husband for 17 years and in 1781 her first husband Henry Thrale, a wealthy brewery owner died. At his deathbed was Dr Johnson who later became her business partner, and it was expected that they would marry, he was a widower.

Winsford Guardian:

Dr Samuel Johnson, by Joshua Reynolds

Dr Johnson was recognised for his Dictionary of the English Language, and Hester’s name was linked with the well-known writers, artists and diarists of the period the photo here is of her as painted by Joshua Reynolds as is the painting of Dr Johnson. After the death of her wealthy husband, in 1781, she didn’t marry Samuel Johnson as was expected, but her daughter’s Italian music teacher Gabriel Mario Piozzi,

Alexander Leak married Ann Glover in October 1813 and here the name Piozzi becomes significant to the story. Ann Leak, Alexander Leak’s wife, gave birth to their first son on May 29, 1815, they called him Alexander Piozzi Leak as a tribute to his famous employer’s husband. When Hester Thrale Piozzi died on May 2, 1821 at the age of 81 yrs, she left a will. In that will, she left to Mr Alexander Leak £100 and to his son Alexander Piozzi Leak £100, a considerable sum at the time. Alexander senior pre-deceased her as he died suddenly and unexpectedly on June 23, 1816 at the age of 40.

When Alexander Piozzi Leak was 14 years old, he was indentured as an apprentice to work with Mr James Rankin, surgeon and apothecary in Stoke on Trent. The apprenticeship was for five years in the sum of £105. By the 1840s Alexander Piozzi Leak had qualified as a surgeon and had a surgery at 18 Assembly Row, Mile End Road London. He then moved with his wife Sarah nee Timmis to Dingle House which then was in Over Lane, the old name for the High Street in Winsford. He opened his surgery there with his wife. He was appointed Medical Officer for Winsford District and Northwich Union.

Winsford Guardian:

Dingle House

By 1851 his mother, Ann, a widow since 1816 moved to Over and became the proprietor of several houses, living for a time at Dingle House. On October 5, 1856, Sarah Leak gave birth to their son at Dingle House and named him Hector.

On November 4, 1892, Alexander Piozzi Leak died. He had retired and moved to Swanlow Lane with his wife; she remained there after his death. It is fair to point out that another well known Winsford Medical family were the Okel Family whose surgery was at Over Square, then Four Lane Ends.

Next week we look at Winsford’s doctor Hector Leak, son of Alexander Piozzi Leak.