26 November 2015

Saying Goodbye to The Manor House

As a result of subscribing to Sue Satterthwaite's brilliant book "A Patriotic Endeavour: Aldridge Manor House as a Military Hospital 1915-1919" I was lucky enough to receive an invitation for a  unique opportunity of taking a tour of The Manor House whilst is still remains under the ownership of Walsall Council and therefore belongs to the community. Sue and her protagonist on the book Len Boulton had been given the chance to take people around in order to get a better understanding of what life was like when The Manor House was a hospital. It also invoked an awful lot of memories for the locals!

Today was the day and I went along to the first tour of the morning. It was a enjoyable experience, walking back into a building that has made a significant impact upon my own life, first in its time as the library in the village and secondly as a youth club that just about survives but not for much longer. The Manor House has played a similar role in the lives of a lot of Aldridge people and is well loved because of that. Len and I swapped memories, his from the 1960s and mine mostly from the 1970s. Sue was brilliant in bringing all the threads of her book together and also in being able to impart further information on events detailed in the book for which, there have been further developments. One of those developments is that The Manor House is to get a blue plaque to mark its role as a hospital during World War 1. A tribute to those who brought it all together, the patients and also to Sue and Len for their hard work and dedication on the book project and the implications that arose.

We covered most of the house and the one thing that kept creeping into my mind was although The Manor House is a large building, when you think of the numbers of men that were cared for there at any one time plus all the nurses, VADs and ancillary staff, it must have been a cramped experience. Those people of Aldridge, mainly women, who set up, ran, raised money for and administered the hospital pulled off an incredible feat when one considers just how small a place Aldridge was back then.

Although some of the views the soldiers had from the windows haven't changed so much, for example looking towards the Croft, their view of the High Street has changed vastly. Back then at the top end of Aldridge High Street were cottages, homes and quaint, quirky buildings. It would have been  a decent view and combined with that over the Croft and the fields at the rear, peaceful, particularly compared with what most had endured in France before becoming ill or injured.

Downstairs many of the original features such as fireplaces, cornicing, dado rails are preserved. Upstairs most of this has gone but not all. Everywhere there are examples of boarded up doorways and even a back staircase and remnants of original window surrounds. There is so much there just waiting to brought out to life once again. Every room, every corner speaks of the many roles this building has played throughout its existence with echoes of grand gentle people, servants, soldiers, nurses, doctors, worried relatives, librarians, youth workers, children, noisy rampant young people everywhere.

For me memories of the songs that belted out from the jukebox in the coffee lounge returned full throttle and in my head I could once again hear One Fine Day, Sweet Talking Guy and You're My Best Friend. In what was the old TV lounge I caught glimpses of Charlie's Angels and one room to the back, waiting for what seemed forever, to play table football because the boys always monopolised the tables.

It was poignant to
see the art work of the young people who currently attend the Youth Club and to gaze with envy at the comfortable sofas in the lounge, no springs waiting to twang your bottom but then I do not really envy the young people of Aldridge today for they are losing what we took for granted.

I took a few photographs for posterity, some of which appear here but if you would like to see the whole album then click here. I apologise for the darkness and poor quality of the photographs. It was a very dark and dank morning and I do not use an all singing and dancing camera!

Next weekend Sue and Len will be taking their display about the book and the history of The Manor House as a hospital to The Aldridge Christmas Tree Festival being held at Aldridge Methodist Church on Anchor Road between Friday 4th December and Sunday 6th December, all proceeds in aid of Rosie's Helping Hands and Walsall St Giles Hospice. If you fancy picking up a copy of the book, supporting charity at the same time, enjoying the Christmas Trees (they were fantastic last year) and having a natter with Sue and Len then I urge you to pop in, you will not be disappointed.

I have often commented during the past couple of years that if I win a few million on the lottery I would buy The Manor House and then gift it to the community so that this wonderful, old, historic and well loved building can remain part of our life in Aldridge. Seems that I am not the only one. I'll leave the last words to Sue from an email she sent to me after the tours:

" The tours all went very well and people travelled a long way to see inside the old house. Everyone says that if they win the lottery they will buy it for Aldridge."

2 comments:

  1. Thank you Linda for almost excellent blog Len

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    1. Sorry Linda I meant 'a most' NOT 'almost'. You can see why Sue does all the writing!! Len

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