Seven years ago today I moved into my house; two days prior to that my Mum, sister and her family also moved, it was a week of frantic activity as we each assisted with the others move as we commenced a new era.
For the previous twenty eight years we had all lived in a large house in Southerndown. In 1978 we had acquired a closed hotel and converted it for use as a private home for the elderly. We were the first such home in the county and were registered to care for 21 residents. In reality this really wasn’t practical so we down-registered to 14 which was the ideal number without residents sharing rooms. For many years the business ran successfully until a change in government policy which dictated DHSS would no longer pay residents fees directly but via the county councils. This was fine for a while as all original agreements were honoured but as one by one we lost our residents, the council made no hesitation in stating they would not be sponsoring elderly persons at our home, other than those that were mentally infirm. As we lived in very close proximity to our residents we did not feel this was the direction we wanted to go so decided that after seventeen years in business we might be forced to close.
The registration authority had also stated that if we were thinking of selling our property as a going concern they would not re-register under new ownership. This was a bit of a blow as the real value of our property lay with the business we ran there. Our only other option was to turn it back into a private dwelling and live there so in the mid 1990s we wound the business down and then invested a lot of time, effort and energy in removing unnecessary fire precautionary walls and doors to make a comfortable and attractive home.
The house was three storeys with a double storied extension at the rear. I had decided to move into the top floor, my parents were going to have the middle floor and my sister and her family used the ground floor and the extension. In the grounds we also had a small flat over the garages where I formerly lived, but this we rented out latterly for a little income.
It was a good life, excellent views over the Heritage Coast, more than enough room in the grounds and within the house to satisfy our needs and wishes, but there was no doubt we were living beyond our means. I knew that once I reached retirement age I would no longer be able to put in enough money to keep my share equal with the others. In addition, there were very many problems beginning to arise with the age of the house, damp was a major concern as was the heating system – in all about 50K needed to be urgently spent on the house, money we just didn’t have. The amount of time spent on basic upkeep was enormous, it took seven hours every ten days just to cut the lawns. We realised that in the very near future we would need to be considering how we should go about marketing and selling the property.
As part of the ageing process my brother-in-law and myself needed to sort out our wills and requested a valuation of the house to enable our solicitors to assess our worth. A few days after the valuation we were approached by the estate agent who stated he had a buyer if we were interested, although we had expressed no wish to sell at the time of the valuation. To cut a long story of 12 months worth of negotiation short, we decided to accept the offer and began the huge process of downsizing; for months I was packing things away and removing them to temporary storage where they’d stay until after the initial move.
So it was, on the 2nd December 2005, we sadly closed the doors of our home for the last time, made even sadder in the knowledge that it was to be mostly demolished to build new apartments on the footprint of the old building. We had a good life there and it was a shame it was necessary to move, but the relief of that millstone being lifted from around my neck was immense even though we felt desolate over leaving our lovely home.
The photographs I have used to illustrate this tale were taken in 1906, 1952 and the mid 1980s and obviously the complicated history of Little West Residential Home has been kept very brief.