This account by Mrs Holbrook describes the beginnings of the Cheshire Home. It has been reproduced from ‘Look! This is Timsbury’ by kind permission of the Cheshire Home.
Q. How did you first come to be involved with the Cheshire Home?
A. The first I can remember about it was Bert and I were sat at home one night, and a knock came at the door and a lady and gentleman stood at the door. They introduced themselves as Col. and Mrs. Symes and they told us what they’d come for. I asked them and they said that they were turning Greenhill House into a Cheshire Home and they wanted volunteers to come in and mark bed linen and to paint lockers, did I know anyone that would do that? I volunteered straight away and then I went to several more of my friends and about four or five of us used to come down evenings to do this and then she said another thing we want is a man to see to the boilers because they were coal-fired, my husband volunteered and Philip my son. They kept the boilers going so that the pipes wouldn’t burst. I remember them shoveling their way through snow one morning to make a path to get down in there. That’s how it all began.
Q. How many people were employed in those early days?
A. Just a few for a few weeks until they got it going – no residents were here at all then. Four of the early residents were Ruby Lynn, Miss Hacker, Charlie Tucker and Bill Waite. Course, I’d always understood that Cheshire Hopes were for wounded soldiers, 1 think a lot of people thought that. Mrs. Symes had a talk with me and told me what our duties would entail if we came here to work. I was on the nursing staff first. We had a cook and one or two cleaners used to come in but of course it wasn’t as big as it is now. I think there were six bedrooms; one big room had four beds in, divided with curtains to keep them private. People came and made the curtains and put them up voluntary. The dining room was where it is now. Where they do the ironing now used to be the ”quiet room” and the room where the office is now, they used to sit there with the telly. That was very nice because they could look out across the fields and see anybody passing but now they’re up there (in the new block) they can’t see anything. The washing of the linens was done in the old warehouse over where the girls have got their rest room now.
It was a 24-hour service, so many hours on and so many hours off. I used to come in at 7.30 in the morning and go again at 12.00, and then somebody else would come on and stay till perhaps 5.00. The evening people came on after that. It was voluntary at the beginning – we worked six weeks voluntary. They had to start in a very poor way, only buy things that the hospitals didn’t need but the Cheshire Home could use. Bert (my husband) worked in the gardens, and everything that they grew there was brought down here and weighed and they had to pay for it if they used it in the Home. There used to be a bigger greenhouse than the one here now. That fell to pieces and they built a new one.
Q. We were wondering about the house. We know that at had been used for a children’s home. In those early days, did there have to be a great deal of alteration?
A. Yes, some of the rooms up to this floor they had tiny little toilets for the children and little washbasins.
Q. Could people who were untrained manage to do all that was necessary?
A. Well, I did a bit of Red Cross work during the War and I got a certificate and passed an exam for home nursing, so I knew a little bit about it. But of course there were no hoists or anything like that there. It was an awful lot of lifting. Then I had to go to hospital. When I came back my doctor said I wasn’t to lift again so the matron gave me a light job to look after her little flat which was attached to the main building. That was Matron Carter. That was when 1 had been here 2 years.
Q. I suppose there wasn’t any bus for the residents in those very early days?
A. No, the only time the bus came here was to take them into Woolworth’s about a fortnight before Xmas for them to do their shopping. The store was closed and we used to take the residents in so that they could go round without people being there. Then after shopping, the residents were taken into their cafe and given a lovely meal before they came home. A double-deck bus used to come out, and us helpers used to go with them. Before we bad the bus, Bil1 Coombs used to come with his car and take them out. People used to volunteer in the village and bring cars and take people out if they wanted to go.
The Round Table used to come about a month before Christmas, and Barbara would go round and ask each one what they’d like for Christmas and they always got it, the Round Table paid for it. Lovely presents they used to give them, cardigans and pullover, whatever they asked for, they had.
Q. Tell us about the handicrafts the residents used to do.
A. People from different parishes used to come, the Red Cross used to come in and help and Mrs. Edwards used to come to help with the sewing. They did pottery up in the hut and leatherwork – I bought a case to put my pension book in and I’ve still got it.
Q. Were any of the churchgoers able to go to Church?
A. Yes, of course. I pushed a big fellow one day, a Polish man who did good work during the war. I didn’t realize I had two hills to push him up, but I did, I got him up there.
Q. Generally speaking, Mrs. Holbrook, you enjoyed yourself here?
A. Yes, I did. I worked here till I was 75 years old, and I was sorry when my job finished.