King’s in the family

Dentistry in the DNA

Generations of families have attended King’s College London and/or one of its founding colleges. They share their different experiences, reveal family history and express pride in being part of our alumni community.

Devon-based dental surgeons Drs Elizabeth (Liz) and Clive Pidgeon (both Guy’s, Dentistry, 1985), their son, Dr Charles Pidgeon (Dentistry, 2014) and Charles’ late grandfather, Wilf (Guy’s, Dentistry, 1949) are one such example of the King’s alumni in the family. Here, we tell their story.

Four generations of dentists

Liz’s grandfather William Selley (a pre-1923 dentist) founded the original family practice, whereupon it moved to its current premises in 1960.

Her father Wilf (formally Wilfred Selley) joined his father’s practice after undertaking his dental training at Guy’s during the Second World War and following national service with the Royal Army Dental Corp.

Liz and Clive met while studying at Guy’s Hospital Dental School. They qualified in 1985 before moving to Exeter to join Denmark Road Dental Practice, along with Mike Selley (Guy’s, Dentistry, 1976), Liz’s brother.

Inspired by his parents, Liz and Clive’s son, Charles, studied dentistry at King’s nearly 30 years later, graduating in 2014. Charles then spent two years at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, specialising in maxillofacial and oral surgery.

Filling in the past

There were many stories of the war years during Wilf’s time at Guy’s, but maybe the most memorable story of Liz’s father was the legendary kidnapping of the King’s College mascot Reggie the lion – the result of a long-standing rivalry between Guy’s Hospital and King’s College London, before the two merged.

As told by Liz, Clive and Charles, Wilf’s story goes: ‘There’d been a rugby match between Guy’s and King’s, and the Guy’s students took it upon themselves to steal Reggie. They met on London Bridge to return him, but in the exchange, Reggie fell in the Thames!’ Thankfully, Reggie was eventually rescued and returned home. He has been recovering ever since!

Several years later, students Liz and Clive met while living in intercollegiate halls near Euston. They remember often taking the tube to campus with fellow dental students, and – in Clive’s case – even stopping at London Bridge for a quick haircut from the barbershop on platform 13.

Between lectures, training and exams, Liz and Clive didn’t have much free time. Clive speculates that, during their four years, he and Liz completed a total of a thousand fillings. As for extracurricular activities, Clive captained the squash team, while Liz joined the hockey team and even went on tour around the Netherlands.

About 30 years after his parents graduated, Charles Pidgeon became a proud Dentistry alumnus from King’s: ‘Growing up, I heard stories of King’s reputation from family, and wouldn’t have considered studying anywhere else.’ Charles also has fond memories of his time as a student – from his role as President of the Dental Society to enjoying the spectacular views of the city from Guy’s Tower, where he spent time doing clinical work.

Returning to their roots

After graduating, Clive worked as a house officer (a junior dental officer during the first two years of employment) and Liz got a job in a general practice in Kent.

Liz and Clive later married and moved to Exeter to join the Denmark Road Dental Practice, now called St Leonard’s Dental Practice.

When Wilf retired, Liz and Clive inherited his practice, along with his lists of patients: ‘Some of the people we treated had been patients of my grandfather, my father, me, and now our son Charles,’ Liz tells us.

‘The dentistry was interesting, but it’s also interesting meeting the people that come with the teeth!’ remarked Clive on what he loved most about his work.

The Pidgeon parents have since retired; in 2021, they passed on the practice to Charles, who specialises in restorative dentistry.

The Pidgeon family’s tips for budding dentists to brush up on

  1. Build up a range of skills. Don’t just rely on one thing.
  2. Find a mentor. Try and get into a practice with an experienced dentist who can mentor and support you.
  3. Don’t move from one practice to another too quickly. Take the time you need to build relationships with patients and develop your skills.