In 1984, Lady Troup, as a Trustee of the Duchess of Somerset Hospital, saw the need for a home to provide ongoing care for older people. She approached Sir Seton Wills, who then owned the neighbouring Littlecote Estate. He kindly gifted the land and was instrumental in co-ordinating support to raise £335,000 in donations. Grants from the Health Authority and Kennet Housing Association were also given and the newly formed The Brendoncare Foundation was invited to join the project to provide expertise in the delivery of care as well as financial support. Marlborough, Hungerford and all the surrounding villages – Aldbourne, Chilton Foliat, Froxfield, Great Bedwyn, Kintbury, Pewsey, Ramsbury and Shefford Woodlands – helped fund raise and “buy a brick”. A total of £785,000 was raised and the home opened in October 1986.
For the first ten years, the day to day management of the home was the responsibility of the matron and a local management committee, led by Reg Holledge the local County Councillor and Vice Admiral Sir Anthony Troup. The committee also included five local doctors. The first matron was Miss Jenny Denham (later Mrs Long). She was an ex-Princess Mary (RAF) nurse.
According to the minutes of the first AGM of the League of Friends, the matron reported that the home welcomed its first residents, Mrs Buck and Mrs Mackie, on 10th November 1986. By the 2nd week in December, all 42 rooms were occupied and Brendoncare Froxfield was then officially opened in 1987 by HRH the Duchess of Gloucester. The flat on the first floor, which is now two rooms for residents, was for relatives to stay in when they visited.
A bouquet was given to each new resident and much help was needed to overcome the difficult, emotional time of giving up their own home. Most residents met at lunchtime. Many were independent and some still had their own cars but the Friends helped with trips out. There was a well stocked shop staffed by Friends two days a week and matron said there should be as few rules as possible.
At that meeting, Dr Lois Pihlens, Chairman reported 183 Friends. Some of the original Friends are still volunteering – especially the “Flower Ladies”. Many have a reason to be grateful for care at Brendoncare for themselves and their families.
The Friends have always been very active both fundraising and giving of their time to enhance the lives of the residents.
Originally the Friends – led by Cordelia Troup and Susan Ennion – did all the gardening and paid for everything. The garden is now tended by a paid gardener but the Friends still help with plants and garden furniture.
The shop was open two days a week. Now there is a trolley shop taken around the home once a week. This is more a social event than a necessity as relatives and carers ensure each resident has what they need. Originally most residents paid for their purchases. Now all shopping is recorded in a book and settled by the administrator.
Until 1999 there was no-one responsible for activities. The Friends saw an urgent need and funded an Activity Co-ordinator for just four hours a week. After six months, the Foundation took over the responsibility for this but the Friends continue to provide any materials needed.
Gradually the hours for the Activity Co-ordinator increased to 30 hours a week, making an enormous difference to the lives of the residents with a fantastic programme for groups and individuals. Brendoncare Froxfield now has Rebecca Spicer working full time and continuing to inspire the residents and staff with her imaginative ideas.
In the early days, residents were largely independent. Now everyone needs a degree of nursing care. Many are fully dependent on care and Froxfield now caters for dementia and end of life care. Matron morphed into Home Manager; CRB checks were introduced and turned into DBSs. Health and safety and risk assessments feature ever more prominently but the Friends continue to provide friendship and a listening ear, fresh flowers, birthday presents, trolley shop, outings and support for activities.
Given the frailty and age of our residents (we recently celebrated the 100th birthdays of a husband and wife) we, the Friends, continue to help make Brendoncare Froxfield as homely as possible.
By Ann Gibb, volunteer and ‘Friend’ (May 2017)