The Caesarea Association
When summers flowers have faded
And autumn shades fall
These years shall be although the last
The loveliest of all
When I was asked to give an address to the Rotary Club de la Manche following their generous donation in that year, I realised that ,having only just joined the committee some eighteen months previously, I had little or no knowledge of the history of the Association.
As part of my work as Honorary Treasurer was to seek funding over the years ahead I decided to research the Minute Book and correspondence and extract information that I could include in my presentation.
As a result, a fascinating story began to evolve.
Initially it appears that in 1970 a group of ladies led by Betty Le Brocq, wife of the Chief of Police, Henry Le Brocq, formed a discussion group to see if it were possible to house on a permanent basis those persons who lived in hotels during the winter months and then had to find alternative accommodation during the summer tourist season. In addition ,it was felt that there must be other persons of equal moderate means who wished to have assisted accommodation. The initial meeting was held at the Links Hotel in Grouville presided over by Senator Ralph Vibert.
An approach was made to become a member of a rather delightfully named Distressed Gentlefolk Aid Association which operated in England, but for various reasons, not least the name, this fell through. It was decided to advertise in the JEP to establish what call there was for this type of accommodation, and a meeting was held in 1973 at the Grand Hotel where a positive response was forthcoming. The association was called the Caesarea Association, with Mrs Bolitho as Patroness, Betty Le Brocq Chairman, Mrs Hobson Secretary, Mr Littler Jones Treasurer, and with an annual subscription of £1.
As a result of that meeting, money was pledged and offers of furniture made, plus confirmation from people that they would be interested to be offered permanent assisted accommodation. The sticking point was that, whilst this was excellent, there were no suitable premises. It would appear the Beachcombers Hotel was considered but, for various reasons ,was found unsuitable. The search went on for many months, even to the extent of asking IDC if they would be prepared to release sites where they might have allowed a building to be constructed. This the IDC declined, but it is worthy to note that they did suggest sites and were most helpful in assisting the Association. In November of 1973, following appeals for assistance ,the Association had raised £18,677 ,as it was vital that the Association had some money available to purchase a property.
The erection of our building did not come to fruition but it was interesting to note that Mr Meek, the Treasurer at the time, explored the possibility of a Guildway type construction found to be most popular in Canada. It was decided that the Association needed to raise £120,000 ,a not insignificant sum in 1973, in order to achieve their aim. This amount was later reduced to a more conservative figure.
At this time, the Committee was enlarged and Nan Bailhache, (the wife of Jurat Lee Bailhache and mother of former Bailiff Sir Philip Bailhache) became Vice Chairman. An additional Vice Chairman was Mrs Hewatt Jaboor. Mrs Gail Crill , (later Lady Gail Crill), wife of former Bailiff Sir Peter Crill , (whose mother was later a resident when Windsor House was purchased ) joined the Committee. Finally ,Mr Meek became Treasurer. Advocate Bisson was kind enough to offer free Advice as and when the property could be found, but this did not include the legal advice needed to allow a property purchase to be concluded successfully, as he made a clear comment that this would be unprofessional.
When hopes were beginning to fade, Graham Pile, who was a Trustee of St Swithuns Trust, informed the Association that Windsor House was available and would it be interested. The short answer was YES and it was purchased for the sum of £35,000 plus £750 on contents. There was a lot of work needed before the Home could be opened and that is, by any stretch of the imagination, an understatement.
Gordon Young was the architect and it was intended to have nine rooms available which would each be furnished by the resident in order to make it a Home from Home. Meals would be provided by staff and a Matron would be in residence.
It appears the charge was £22 per week, but the residents were asked to loan £2000, written off at 10% per annum. If death occurred or they left during the ten year period ,then this would be amortized and they would be repaid the £2000, less £200 per year or part of the year of occupation. The total cost of the project was £50,000, which was achieved by way of a bridging loan of £10,000 @ 5% per annum, plus a grant from Sir Billy Butlin of £5,000 with an offer to give a further sum of £1,000 for every £9,000 raised. This and the Fund built up from the work carried out by the Committee found the money needed.
The Committee was, to say the least, very ‘Hands On’ in those days. When Windsor House was about to open it was indeed ‘all hands to the pump’. I noted that Mrs Gail Crill was scrubbing floors, and later on when Mrs Cannon, the very popular long-standing Matron died, Betty Le Brocq actually moved in and took over the duties until a new Matron could be found in 1984- Mrs Colville-Smith, who was, in fact, Betty le Brocq’s sister. There were some lovely traditions at that time. For example, each Christmas a small party would be held and a Christmas Dinner, to which for many years the Dean of Jersey would bring a small choir to sing carols, but It appears that when Dean Goss retired, the choir did too!
In 1986, Louise Williams joined the Committee and was, in time, to be Chairman, but more of this later. In 1989, Norma Parkinson was employed and is still with us as head of Home. In 1991, Jenny Bailhache (daughter-in-law of the first Vice Chairman) joined the Committee as Secretary. A Voluntary Helpers Group also started, and it is noted with some amusement by the author that later they were invited to join the Association, provided they paid the annual subscription to allow them a vote at the AGM ! You get nothing for free in the Caesarea Association!
In 1992 all this changed as, whilst Windsor House had run successfully, the Association was fortunate enough to be left a substantial property in Midvale Road owned by Colonel and Mrs Ridout. The Will granted ownership on the death of the last survivor as there was no issue from the marriage. Despite my investigations , I cannot see how it was that the Association was awarded this wonderful gift – except for the knowledge of the close friendship between Mrs Ridout and Betty Le Brocq, to whom we owe a great deal of thanks.This bequest meant the Association now had two properties and the Committee faced yet another challenge:- (a) Could it successfully run two Homes ? (b) Should they sell one? (c) Should they sell both and buy a more suitable property? There was a split in the Committee, as it was established by a Committee Member, Mr Michel, a builder by profession that, whilst the property now known as Ridout House was sound, there was a lot of work needed to alter it to a Retirement Home. Having regard to all the work that was required to bring Windsor House up to standard, the Committee was, in part ,loath to enter this minefield again.
From the Minutes, it is noted that, despite this lack of enthusiasm, the Committee, under the Chairmanship of the redoubtable Betty Le Brocq, seized the challenge and decided to retain Ridout House and sell Windsor House. Fortunately, the Will not only gifted the property but there was a residual balance of money which was available to put towards the alterations. Without this, I suggest it would have been very difficult to have taken such a bold step, bearing in mind they could not remove the sitting residents, who were happily enjoying life at Windsor House, until such time as they could take up residence in their new Home.
It appears the cost of the work was in the region of £500,000 and Windsor House was sold to Age Concern in 1993. The work on Ridout House was carried out by Charles Le Quesne and all the costings were watched over by the Treasurer at that time, Harry Hall, who by my perusal of papers, appears not to have been an easy man to fool! He had a constant battle with various firms but, through his perseverance , I am sure the Association saved a considerable amount of money. Louise Williams was elected Chairman and held that position for some twelve years. During this time Ridout House remained full and indeed had a waiting list. During her term of office, according to the Minutes, all ran very smoothly and, apart from the usual problems of staffing and ever-increasing bureaucracy, nothing of a significant nature appears to have taken place.
With the retirement of Louise in 2003, Jeremy Johnson took over as Chairman and remains in that post today, having previously been a member of the Committee. I took over as Treasurer on the retirement of Ken Mathews, having been invited to join only a few months earlier by fellow Jurat Sally Le Brocq, who had been on the Committee since the days of Windsor House, neither of us knowing at that time of Ken’s intended retirement. Having written this, it should be recorded he held his post for many years and well deserved his retirement. Fiona Christensen retired after a long spell as Secretary and was replaced by Clive Spears who had now joined the Committee. Recently ,we have been joined by Peter Mallett who is assisting me with the intention of taking over my role at some future date.
What of the present and indeed the future of the Caesarea Association? On the formation of the new Committee, one of the first duties was to consider our overall financial situation. Over the years it had been the view of the Committee of the day that, whilst the Home was full and income was sufficient to meet expenditure, the fees should be kept to an absolute minimum. Whilst this is a laudable attitude, it does bring about a situation of little or no reserve for future spending. Coupled with this and unknown at the time would be the ever increasing requirements of Health and Social Services and indeed of Health and Safety, which has brought about a dramatic increase in day to day expenses.
As a result of a very successful and sustained fund raising over the years to date, the Home has been totally refurbished both from a structural and décor point of view. We are grateful to all those organisations, and indeed to all individuals, who helped us, and of greater importance continue to help us, as rather like the famous Forth Bridge we never seem to get to the end ! Without this wonderful support none of this would have been possible.
It would be amiss if I did not mention all our staff working with Norma Parkinson. They are a wonderful dedicated team and are held in great affection by our residents.
The Committee seeks to provide our residents with a ‘Home from Home in the heart of town’ coupled with security, companionship and friendship which, to the elderly, is so very important.