Meet the women who now live in their old school

Liz Liz Rowl­in­son Rowl­in­son meets res­i­dents with long and happy mem­o­ries of their new homes

The Daily Telegraph - Property - - Front Page -

When Jean Wood looks out of the win­dow of her third-floor apart­ment, she sees the lit­tle green area where, 67 years ago, she used to sit un­der the trees as a pupil of The Fri­ary School in the his­toric town of Lich­field, Stafford­shire.

It was a strict gram­mar school, and the staff and pre­fects kept a close eye on their charges. “How­ever, dur­ing those rare times when they weren’t look­ing we would sneak across the road to get an ice cream from the dairy. I have such happy mem­o­ries of those years,” says the bub­bly 82-year-old, who now lives on the site of her for­mer school.

Wood, who be­came a pri­mary head teacher, has been able to rem­i­nisce with old school­mate Brenda McMinn, who was in the same year at The Fri­ary. By co­in­ci­dence, she too has ended up buy­ing an apart­ment at Chap­ter House, the Pe­ga­sus Life re­tire­ment de­vel­op­ment that opened in June.

“I didn’t know Brenda well as she was much sportier than me – I was more aca­demic – but it’s been lovely to have some­one fa­mil­iar to help me get used to a new way of liv­ing,” says Wood, who has down­sized from a fourbed­room fam­ily home five miles away.

It cer­tainly seems a fun way of liv­ing too. The thought­fully con­ceived de­vel­op­ment is a mix of new and old build­ings, some dat­ing from the 1500s, set around geo­met­ric flower beds and a path­way through wild flow­ers and herba­ceous bor­ders. There’s a court­yard gar­den, an or­angery full of green­house plants, a lounge and kitchen for the own­ers’ use (in­clud­ing an hon­esty bar for the ladies’ Fri­day night G&Ts or wine and canapé evenings). The 38 one and two-bed­room apart­ments start from £285,000.

Both Wood and McMinn love the fact they can step straight out of the de­vel­op­ment into the cen­tre of Lich­field, a lively place with a the­atre, good shop­ping and a host of cul­tural events held by the cathe­dral.

“I used to play lacrosse and ten­nis on the spot where my apart­ment now sits,” says McMinn, who bought a two-bed­room flat around a year ago for £360,000. “I now go to Age Con­cern fit­ness classes with five ladies from Chap­ter House, but I also play bridge and whist. I have met some lovely peo­ple here.”

Twice-mar­ried McMinn worked in a bank most of her life, and when her sec­ond hus­band, a doc­tor, died sud­denly in 2008, she moved into a three-bed­room apart­ment in Sut­ton Cold­field, Birm­ing­ham.

“When one of my two daugh­ters moved back to the UK and set­tled in a vil­lage nearby, it was the right time to move into a de­vel­op­ment that will be suited to me when I am not quite so fit,” says the grand­mother of five 20-some­things.

“The apart­ment is nicely con­fig­ured so the sec­ond bed­room is used as an ex­tra sit­ting room, but it has a sofa bed and can be closed off if needed. I did re­ally want to live in one of the seven apart­ments in the orig­i­nal part of the Fran­cis­can Fri­ary but it doesn’t have a lift, so is not so ideal in the long term.” There are dig­i­tal con­nected health­care units in ev­ery apart­ment (to con­tact ex­ter­nal care firms) and her an­nual ser­vice charges are £3,340.

The avail­abil­ity of ex­tra med­i­cal sup­port was also im­por­tant to David Herne­man, an 89-year-old for whom life has also gone full cir­cle with his choice of re­tire­ment home.

A few months ago, he moved into a two-bed­room prop­erty lo­cated in the place he worked for more than 30 years – the Fry’s Choco­late Fac­tory in Keyn­sham, be­tween Bristol and Bath on the River Avon.

The iconic red brick build­ings of the 1922 fac­tory, which once pro­duced 57,000 tons of choco­late per year in­clud­ing Curly Wurlys and Crunchies, now house The Choco­late Quar­ter, a £60mil­lion de­vel­op­ment of 136 re­tire­ment apart­ments, and Char­ter­house, a 93-bed care home cre­ated by St Mon­ica Trust. Fa­cil­i­ties in­clude an art and pot­tery stu­dio, gas­tropub, health spa, cinema and gar­dens.

Dur­ing the Fifties, Herne­man worked as an an­a­lyt­i­cal chemist at the fac­tory, and now lives with his wife Win­nie, 83, in a prop­erty on the “choco­late-mak­ing” floor where his fa­ther also worked.

“My job was re­ally do­ing qual­ity con­trol,” says Herne­man, who has four chil­dren now in their 50s. “In the lab we did have some fun, and a few ro­mances and mar­riages started there!”

Back then, the Herne­mans lived in a three-bed­room house on the Fry’s es­tate, which was built for the work­ers. “I lived there with my fam­ily un­til Win­nie and I got mar­ried, and then we had a four-bed­room house in Keyn­sham for 35 years,” he says.

With his wife in a wheel­chair due to her mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, mov­ing into the Choco­late Quar­ter, where re­main­ing prop­er­ties cost from £233,500, made sense. Ser­vice charges are £6,900 per year for a two-bed­room apart­ment which in­cludes a concierge and an emer­gency call-but­ton ser­vice.

“It felt made for us,” adds Herne­man. “From our win­dow we can look across the fields to­wards Lans­down and Bath. Eighty years on, I still love that view.”

‘I used to play lacrosse at school on the ex­act spot where my apart­ment now sits’

SWEET RE­TREAT The Choco­late Quar­ter, left, and David Herne­man, who worked and now lives there, right

PRE­CIOUS PRE­CIOUS MEM­O­RIES MEM­O­RIES Jean Wood and Brenda McMinn, who live on the site of their old school

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