The keys were handed over early in February, the former hotel known as “Little West” was about to undergo a transformation into a residential home for the elderly. The first privately registered home for the elderly in the county, there were to be many trials and tribulations before residents moved in, the registration authority had no benchmark other than their own homes and therefore sometimes seemed to be making it up with us as they went along, indeed, the fire authority and the registration team were definitely not coordinated and many anxious times were spent in agreeing details of alterations and adaptation to the building. In addition, the planning consent was down to the local council so a third team was also involved.
The reasons why we we had elected to convert a former fifteen-bedroomed hotel into a residential care home is a lengthy story in itself, nearly forty years have passed since those keys were handed over and many details of the exchange have been lost in the mists of time and are not relevant to this tale which took place in February of 1978. The alterations to the building were undertaken by ourselves and with a relatively low budget we saved considerable money by tackling all the major building work which involved enclosing staircases, updating fire precautions, altering bathrooms, removing an unsafe open stairway, and generally upgrading the rooms suitable for the care of the elderly.
The first couple of weeks of the conversion were mostly trial and error, the weather was ridiculously cold and we had no spare funds to fill the oil-tank to provide central heating so we relied upon a couple of paraffin heaters which were used in the rooms in which we currently worked. It snowed on and off during the third week into the alterations and by the Saturday of that week I anxiously kept my eye on a large drift which was building up on the Ogmore Road. By mid afternoon we decided we had to make a dash for home five miles away, it was touch-and-go, the snow by now being whipped up into huge drifts and with a bit of difficulty on Pottery Hill at Ewenny we eventually made it home. That night probably the biggest blizzard in my lifetime occurred and the town of Bridgend was cut-off for days and we were stranded five miles away from our new project at Southerndown for over a week.
Eventually a narrow track was cut through the snow in Southerndown and we were able to return to Little West to assess any damage. Fortunately on this occasion there was very little, some ingress of snow into the roof spaces created a few damp patches on the ceilings, but no frozen pipes or any other incidents.
This major weather event has been documented before on my blog and also on my flickr site so I’ll not repeat myself here but for the last couple of years Derek Brockway, a weather presenter for BBC Wales, has used one of my photos on this day as a background for the forecast on the 18th February as a reminder of one of the worst blizzards in South Wales since 1947. Today though I’m going to show you here a couple of photographs near to our property at Little West, Southerndown, which overlooked the Glamorgan Heritage Coast.
Here we see “Little West” over a week after the blizzard, the snow has slithered from the roof but extensive drifts are still in evidence on the common opposite.
The snow has melted on the road in this photo since a digger has cut a path through the snow, some of the drifts were well over my head; Little West can be seen in the background. This was over a week after the blizzard.
Little West Residential Home for the Elderly was in operation from the summer of 1978 until 1994, a period of sixteen years. After closure we continued to live there converting the building into three flats (mine was on the top floor) until 2005 when it was sold for redevelopment, in all we had worked and lived there for twenty eight years.