The History of Foxholes – Part I 05/05/20
Following the launch of our ‘History Hunt’ in April to help uncover the long and eventful timeline of our striking central building at Foxholes Care Home in Hertfordshire, we’ve been overwhelmed with information sent in by the public!
While our 163-year-old building is known to have been a former maternity ward, Catholic boarding house, and care home, tying down its colourful history to fill the gaps has been quite the challenge, with a few blanks left scattered across its timeline.
We launched the appeal for information in the hope of finally completing the timeline puzzle, so we can create a book on the history of our home, and a special ‘wall of memory’ in the entrance of the home that tells everyone’s story.
With the help of the Hitchin community, we’ve managed the fill in the key dates of the below timeline:
1857 – The imposing building started life as a Manor House for Quaker William John Lucas and his family. There is a road named Lucas Lane after the family, just north of the care home.
1939 to 1951 – The building was converted into a maternity ward, serving the people of Hitchin and the surrounding area.
1960s – The building was used as a Catholic boarding house for boys who attended the nearby St Michael’s College, before entering priesthood. During this time, the boarding house was also used as a home for retired priests, who would often help educate the children.
1987 – The building became a nursing home for the general public.
2010 – The old nursing home was demolished following significant investment to transform the building into a luxury residential care home.
2012 – Foxholes Care Home, as it stands proudly today, opens its doors.
As well as helping to fill in the timeline, local residents have also been sharing their personal stories and memories connected to the building. One local resident, Gordan Woods, shared that he was born at Foxholes in 1944 when it was a maternity ward, and that an unexploded bomb caused plaster from the ceiling to fall near to where he was sleeping when it landed nearby.
Another local resident, Bob Sibley, sent in a photo of his boarding mates from when he attended St Michael’s College. He remembered the grounds back then having a football pitch, bullock stables and an apple orchard. He described playing football in knee-high grass and avoiding the cow pats as quite the challenge!
Bernie Cotton shared that he was born here on 5th July 1948, five days before the NHS was founded. He has another connection to the home now too, as his mother, Helen Stewart Cotton, now resides with us at our care home in Hertfordshire!
North Hertfordshire Museum also contacted us to reveal that they have a collection of Roman objects on display that were excavated from the kitchen garden by the Lucas family. The artefacts include knives, jewellery, pottery, and cutlery.
Overall, the responses we’ve received since launching the appeal for information have been astonishing. So many people from the Hitchin area have got in touch to share their stories, and we’ve even had information sent in from as far afield as Switzerland and California! From this, we’ve managed to paint a clearer picture of how the building has been used over the past 163 years. However, we still need to fill in some of the missing pieces.
We’re still not entirely sure when the building was first used as a Catholic boarding house and when it closed, so any more information you may have that would help us complete the timeline would be very much appreciated!
Also, please do keep sending in your connections to Foxholes. It can be an image of you, a relative or a friend in the building, or a story on your connection with it. We’ve received everything from old photographs to birth certificates, which has been really helpful in pulling the pieces together. So please keep them coming!
People can email their stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, or post them online via Facebook (@foxholescare), or Instagram (@foxholescarehome). Stay tuned to our blog as we update you on our journey of discovery.
In a further chapter to our history, we have just opened nine new assisted-living apartment suites at our care home in Hertfordshire, offering fully fitted, state-of-the-art independent living quarters available to lease for couples and individuals. For anyone wanting to find out more or have a virtual tour, please call us on 01462 410767.