As a young trainee GP, Julia used to drive past the White House and wonder who could possibly afford to live there. Brought up in Middlesbrough, she completed her medical degree in Leeds and did her two six monthly hospital house jobs in Leeds and then Bath. She had already decided as a medical student that she wanted her future career to be in general practice and subsequently became one of the very first doctors to join the newly established GP training scheme resulting in the MRCGP qualification (Member of the Royal College of General Practitioners). Thus in 1976, Julia commenced her two year placement with the Sonning Common General Practice. There was no support network for new doctors in those days, so as a young, single newcomer to the area she took up residence in the Nurses’ Home, Esther Carling House, of Peppard Hospital.
Although closed as a TB hospital, it was still functioning as hospital for those patients of the Sonning Common and Nettlebed practices who needed full time nursing care under the watchful eye of their GP. This arrangement formed the basis of the eventual Peppard Ward of Townlands Hospital in Henley.
It was tough for Julia at the beginning: she was working hard, knew no-one, had no social life and lived in residence with the Matron very much in charge – even though Julia was, of course, a qualified doctor. She felt very isolated until she became friends with a psychiatrist, also residing in Esther Carling House. Julia completed her training in 1979; she continued working in Sonning Common for a couple of years and then worked in Hambleden before she eventually joined the Hart Practice in Henley in 1984.
She and Aidan Bristow were married in 1997; second marriages for both. She has four children, of whom three are doctors, and Aidan has two; between them they have six grandchildren so family get-togethers become quite a party. They also fill the house with pets – Julia has four cats and Aidan has a dog, a second died recently.
They had lived in Kennylands Road in Sonning Common but Julia had never liked the house. A planned move fell through at almost exactly the same time as the White House came on the market. She had remembered it as the white and blue house and describes it as a friendly house.
Built in the 1930s, but never part of the hospital, she thought it would be a marvellous project for Aidan who was, by then, retired. It was in an extremely neglected state with no mains drainage and no heating. In fact, they had to resort to the legal system to install mains drainage. Julia and Aidan lived in a two-bedroomed annexe for the year it took to get all the planning permissions they required to renovate and integrate as one house and then a further nine months for the work to be carried out. She remembers one of the most happy and stress free Christmas’s ‘camping’ in the annexe with all the family and no television.
Now retired, Julia is looking forward to travelling and catching up with old friends. Having worked twelve hour days for many years she loves the freedom of time – to visit her children, one of whom lives in Hong Kong, or even tidying out a kitchen cupboard. More than anything, she is going to enjoy spending more time in her friendly house.