Our history

Over 80 years of vetting in Cumbria

Our History

  • The roots of the Paragon Veterinary Group stretch back to 1938 when a practice was established on Townhead Road, Dalston by John Cubby who qualified from Liverpool University in 1935. Initially the main workload was farm animals and horses, and many of those original farming families are still clients today. Over the years the practice has expanded to work with small animals, exotic species and birds and it has dealt with public health services as well

Practice Building in 1992

Consulting Room 1992

  • In 1994 David Black bought the practice from Roy Sutherland and changed its name to the Caldew Veterinary Group to identify more directly with the area, and in the same year moved to the premises at Carlisle House. This imposing building was originally built as a Vicarage, and had also been used as a Children's Home and a Masonic Lodge before being extensively refurbished and reborn as the Caldew Veterinary Centre.

Work begins on Carlisle House

Carlisle House opens in 1994

  • In 1997 the adjoining property, Crake Corner, which was originally the stable and coaching block for Carlisle House, was purchased. This allowed us to extend and improve animal care facilities, particularly for the treatment of farm animals and horses.
  • In 1999 Caldew Veterinary Group formed a link with Paul May and Associates of Penrith, and bought Townhead Farm at Newbiggin, Stainton near Penrith. Development continued there throughout 2000, with a view to opening a facility there to complement the Veterinary Surgery in Dalston.

Townhead Farm, Newbiggin 2000

The Yard at Townhead Farm 2000

  • Then in 2000, a further link was formed, with Paragon ET of Hexham, a specialist animal breeding company.  Paragon ET was set up in 1993 by Will Christie and Stuart Mullan (now retired) as a specialist cattle embryo transfer practice serving the north of England, Scotland & Northern Ireland.  In its early days, the business operated out of a building at Will Christie’s home, then moved to larger premises at Hexham Auction Mart in 1997, which gave them room and scope to take on, develop & apply the new technologies of OPU/IVP & embryo sexing, and also to offer on farm bull semen collection & processing.
  • The merger with Caldew Veterinary Group & Paul May & Associates in 2001 meant sheep ET & AI could be added to the list of advanced breeding services offered by the Group, along with ram semen collection & processing.
  • In April 2001 the separate groups were cemented with a merger to form the Paragon Veterinary Group
  • Since then Townhead Farm has been extensively redeveloped into a fully equipped small animal centre.  It now has a purpose built facility to cater for horses and farm animals plus large animal operating theatres, examination areas, hospitalisation facilities and accommodation.  The facilities at Newbiggin are also used for advanced breeding technologies. 
  • On 1st October 2002, we incorporated the original partnership, to become a limited company.  Officially we are now Paragonvet Ltd., trading as "Paragon Veterinary Group".
  • The Paragon story doesn't stop there.  In 2006 we opened a Veterinary Surgery on London Road in Carlisle.  This branch also offered clipping and grooming services for pets with a trained groomer working four days a week.
  • In 2005, we were instrumental in setting up XLVets, of which David was the first Chairman, and then Managing Director
  • Between 2005 and 2007, we assisted Karl Collins and his team in establishing Old Stone Vets in Alston, and this practice is now running independently.
  • In July 2007, we formed a joint venture in Aspatria, with Tom Henderson – this traded as Beacon Veterinary Group, and was a “stand-alone” mixed veterinary practice with three vets and three members of support staff
  • In 2009, work commenced on a purpose built ophthalmology operating suite at Newbiggin which by summer 2010 was fully operational
  • In 2010, Beacon moved into a purpose converted facility on the outskirts of Aspatria
  • In 2010, work commenced on an extension to Carlisle House, to provide additional consulting rooms, an improved reception and waiting area, a new meeting room and new offices – phase one of this was completed by summer 2011.
  • In June 2012, Paragon purchased the Ovaflo Embryo Transfer Company, based in Aberdeen, which further increased our geographical coverage into the North of Scotland
  • In 2012, as part of the business exploitation plan of a Technology Strategy Board (TSB) funded project, a new company was established called Activf-ET, of which Paragon is a shareholder
  • In November 2012, the ophthalmology team left Paragon and set up as an independent business, trading as Veterinary Vision.
  • By early 2013, the Advanced Breeding Unit had moved from Hexham to Newbiggin, where specialist facilities (including an IVP laboratory and specialist Ovum PickUP (OPU) room) were developed to support the sector as well as the Activf-ET activities
  • In 2014 a second Innovate UK (the new name for the TSB) project was funded, again in the field of OPU/IVP and this time looking at the genomic evaluation of embryos.
  • From 2014 we undertook a Growth Accelerator Programme, which involved a Business Mentor, Tony March, working with us to completely review and restructure the business.  The reason for this was to allow individuals to work to their strengths, to allow a choice of work-life balance, to create a platform to bring talent through the company, and to build a succession strategy.
  • At the completion of the Growth Accelerator Project, Tony March was invited to join the Board as non-executive Chairman.
  • At the XLVets AGM in June 2017 and after 11 years on the Board, David decided not to restand for election and therefore retired from the Board of XLVets
  • In late 2017 Beacon was sold to CVS and the London Road surgery closed
  • The building of phase two of the Carlisle House development commenced in the autumn of 2017 and through 2018 – this is a state-of-the-art small animal hospital, with surgical, medical, imaging and kennelling as well as additional large animal treatment space
  • In 2018 there was a refinement of the management structure creating a smaller and more decisive Management Board and developing “lead” roles throughout the organisation.
  • In 2018, Paragon joined forces with other independent practices in the UK, Ireland, New Zealand and elsewhere as founder members of VetSalus, a company with a vision to be global leaders in production animal veterinary services, including consultancy, training, research and development, innovation and procurement. It intends to engage much more closely with animal health and welfare strategy globally, and integrate into the food chain, with a strapline of "Wholesome Food from Healthy Animals"
  • In early 2019 the new small animal hospital became fully functional and it has created a fantastic animal care and working environment incorporating the latest designs, including a large open preparation area, two theatres, scrub areas, diagnostic suites, a dental procedures area and a laboratory.
  • As part of the new development we also now have a refurbished small procedures area for smaller farm animals to be treated.
  • Also in 2019 we opened a brand new facility based at Oak Tree Animals' Charity at Wetheral, where we undertake small animal consultations every day
  • Tony March retired as Chairman and was replaced by Michael Pratt - during challenging times in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic.
  • In 2020, Crake Corner, the annexe to Carlisle House was converted into 4 student flats to enable us to better provide teaching for veterinary students, particularly for Surrey University as we became part of the teaching partnership of the Vet School.
  • Throughout 2020, Paragon started working more closely with Ben Dustan of Tarn Farm Vets, based at Shap.  This relationship continued to develop with the businesses becoming further aligned throughout 2021 and into 2022 with the vision to culminate in a full merger in forthcoming months.