Godalming people step back in time to the 1960s

5 April 2017

Hydon Hill resident with a volunteer coordinator Godalming people are being invited to take a trip down memory lane to find out the fascinating history of disability and care in their area.

Leonard Cheshire Disability’s Hydon Hill care home and day centre is going to be shining a spotlight on the way the lives of disabled people in Godalming have changed — since the service’s beginnings in the 1960s to the present day. 

The centre will be holding regular heritage workshops, exploring old photographs, films and journals, as well as running creative sessions where people can share their memories using art, music and poetry.

Hydon Hill hopes people in the community who either met the charity’s founder, Group Captain Leonard Cheshire, or who have been involved in the site will come forward to share their memories too.

Barbara Fitzpatrick, 60, from Haslemere has been using the day service and respite services at Hydon Hill since September 2016.

She said:

‘Hydon Hill has become part of my life, to me it’s like heaven and I am really interested to find out how it all began, the history of this wonderful place and what amazing people made it as good as it is now.’

As part of this project, the charity will also be recording the stories of other people involved in Hydon Hill in the past and present, to help preserve the history of disability in Godalming.

The peak into the past will culminate in a display about the history of Hydon Hill and a screening of films from the charity’s archive, held at the Wilfrid Noyce Centre in Godalming on Friday 4 August.

Leonard Cheshire’s involvement in the Godalming site dates back to 1962, when owner Mr J A Billmeir CBE gave the land and buildings to Leonard Cheshire and Sue Ryder’s Ryder Cheshire Foundation.

What is now Hydon Hill was first known as Raphael Godalming, a sister service to Raphael in Dehra Dun, India.

The buildings continued to evolve through the next decade, at one point being a training ground for staff and then housing for disabled couples before eventually becoming Hydon Hill, the much-loved residential care home and day centre it is today.

Someone who has been involved with Hydon Hill since very early on in its history is former head of the management committee, Maggie van Koetsveld. She has been supporting Leonard Cheshire Disability, and Hydon Hill in particular, for 50 years.

She said:

‘In 1968 at a funeral in Germany I met and talked to a charming man who told me about a charity he had set up to care for disabled people who had no other support.

‘This man was none other than Leonard Cheshire; such was his charisma that before I knew it I had agreed to join the volunteer committee at a new service at Hydon Hill, Clock Barn Lane near Godalming.

‘The chalets housed disabled people from in and around Surrey. Caring was a good deal more haphazard than today.

‘We had to wheel each of our residents from their chalets to the dining hall, wearing cycle ponchos if it was wet!’

The buildings were originally chalets to accommodate a Barking school evacuated during second world war then housed post-war refugees from Europe. They were then derelict until 1956 when they were used as temporary accommodation for refugees from the Hungarian revolution.

Maggie said she was pleased to be involved in Hydon Hill’s history project, especially as it occurs in 2017, 100 years since Leonard Cheshire’s birth.

‘My memories are diverse and satisfying and I am keen to share the fond recollections of the people who lived, worked and volunteered at Hydon Hill.’

The look into Hydon Hill’s past has been made possible through Leonard Cheshire Disability’s archive project ‘Rewind’, an exciting initiative supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, which gives people the chance to learn more about the charity’s history and disability in years gone by, through films, photographs and journals.

If you were involved in Hydon Hill or the site in the past, met Leonard Cheshire or worked in the charity shop, the team would love to hear from you.

If you would like to get involved please email Louise Wright or call 01797 367 041.

Media enquires

For further information, images and interview requests please email Claire Farrell or call 020 3242 0204.