Recently me, Claire, Patty and Kathy (2 of our volunteers) went to visit Hampton Manor with former residents Pauline, Caroline, Pam and Michelle. They also brought along Grania and Annmarie, who support them in their new homes.
Me and Kathy outside Hampton Manor
Kathy and I were really excited to be at Hampton Manor and I was wondering, is it wrong to be so excited about a place that was once a care home/institute for ladies with a Learning Disability? We are now a year through the project and I have been able to visualise Middlefield as we have been to the Warwickshire Archives and saw the records of the residents there and the map and layout of Middlefield. Even though, when I went to Downing Close on Peer Visits I wasn’t aware that these homes were built on the former site of Middlefield, going back again to retrace the footsteps of Middlefield from the Cricket club to Downing Close I was able to reflect on Middlefield and picture/imagine where the building has been. Another thing that helped me visualise Middlefield was seeing the foundation stone when we went to Knowle.
Back to Hampton Manor I was so excited to be there because although I had seen pictures of the building and looked on the hotel’s website, I still couldn’t fully visualise what the building and grounds looked like. I was excited about the architecture too as I find the history of the building really interesting, what with it being the former estate of Sir Robert Peel and the history of the care home/institute. The hotel has an album of photos from when the owners started to renovate the old care home after buying it in 2008. It was really interesting to see how much it changed and it helped me understand why it closed down, it was obvious how much repair the Manor needed, and the hotel have done a wonderful job saving the building so the history can continue for future generations and hopefully be known as the home that it once was for the ladies as well as it being the family home of the Peel family.
Looking through the photo album at some of the residents’ old rooms, as they were when the Hill Family bought Hampton Manor
When we arrived at Hampton Manor we were greeted and welcomed into the Parlour where Claire, Kathy and I waited for the others to arrive. We were offered tea and coffee and also had chocolate cookies. I learned that this large room was what the residents used to know as the ‘Green Room’, one of the main day rooms.
The ‘Green Room’, what the Parlour used to be
The Parlour, as it is now
Jason came to introduce himself, he is the Accounts Manager. Kathy and I had a talk to him about the project and the ladies that lived in Hampton Manor. We were also interested to learn a bit more about the history of Hampton Manor as it was owned by the Peel family. Jason told us that they had also owned Drayton Manor which is now Drayton Manor theme park, but the manor house is no longer there as Sir Robert Peel other son Robert had it demolished. It was his other son Fredrick who lived at Hampton Manor. It’s interesting because maybe if it was the other way round the ladies former home would now be Drayton Manor theme park or maybe not have even happened.
Jason explained that there were a few rooms we wouldn’t be able to see as there were events on but he kindly showed us around the rest of the hotel. It was so lovely to see the ladies’ faces and their reactions in being back in there old home, they said it felt strange but good to be back and remembered certain parts of the building. Pauline was telling us a story about seeing a ghost on the stairs and the ghost following her into the toilet! Pauline also remembered the fireplace in one of the bathrooms when we were looking around a bedroom.
Caroline remembered her bedroom and excitedly asked Claire and I to look out the window as you could see the clock tower, Caroline remembered that you could see bats coming out of the tower. The room that was Caroline room has been named as the Robert Peel room, all rooms have names.
We had a look at Peel’s restaurant, I asked Caroline if she remembered this room and she said that it was there dining room, we then moved on to the tasting room. This seemed to be the favourite part of the tour, there was a window in the tasting room where you could see the kitchen staff preparing food. One of the kitchen staff came out and kindly showed us what they were making which were strawberry tart pastry cases. I don’t think anyone wanted to move and wanted to carry on watching, Pauline was hoping to taste them once they were made! Caroline was also recalling a memory while we were in what is now the tasting room, that in that room we were in she remembered Mary Crouch and the catering for her 21st birthday.
We then continued the tour into Butler’s Lodge and I think Grania who was a staff member at Hampton Manor and now Dassett Road, said that it was John Wood’s private flat when he was at the manor, it has 4 bedrooms separate from the main building.
The old kitchen - it doesn’t look like this now!
As we were walking around the building being guided by Jason, I noticed that we were walking past the wine cellar. I asked Pauline if this was something new but she remembered a cellar with wine in it and was talking to myself and Patty about the cellar and I think Pauline said that she sometimes went down there herself.
After the tour Jason very kindly gave all the ladies a book each of Hampton Manor so that they can look back on what they saw and also show anyone that they want where they used to live and what it looks like now. They said that they were looking forward to sharing this with their family members.
Reflecting on the visit I think this has been the highlight of the project so far this year, just in terms of seeing the Ladies happy and excitedly telling their stories and remembering certain parts of the manor, they all seemed relaxed, comfortable and it was lovely to share the experience with them. If the weather was nicer maybe we could have gone into the garden, but we can always go back another time.
Kathy being led around Hampton Manor by Michelle and Pauline
Thank you to Jason and all the staff at Hampton Manor for your kindness, for the refreshments and for allowing us as part of our project and for the ladies to come back and look around Hampton Manor.
We look forward to visiting again in the future.