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Celebrating 75 years

15th July

Today we celebrated 75 years since Swarthmore began.  Swarthmore opened its doors as a Residential Care Home and is still providing care for up to 40 residents from the age of 65 years.

Residents and staff will celebrate together with an Afternoon Strawberry Tea.  We have entertainment from 'The Turf Tappers' whilst enjoying refreshments.  We have a treat in store with ice creams being served from an 'old fashioned tricycle, a strawberry high tea, celebration cake, pimms, fizz and soft drinks.  The sun is shining what more could we ask for in glorious grounds, but to sit back and enjoy.  

Thank you to Wenzels of Gerrards Cross for donating strawberry tartlets for our high tea.  

How it all began 
1945 - 1950

On the 24th of January 1945, it was recognised by Hampstead & Westminster Quaker joint monthly meeting that there was a need for accommodation and care for elderly friends in the London area, many of whom had been displaced due to the war. On the 27th April 1945, London and Middlesex Quaker joint meetings held their first meeting of an old peoples welfare committee. In June 1945, in conjunction with a similar committee of Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire quarterly meeting, the property known as Diplock Cottage Homes was bought (later to become Bernard Baron homes). It was felt that further accommodation nearer London was needed. On the recommendation of the Old Peoples Welfare Committee approval was given on June 26th 1945, to set up a housing society which, in order to raise funds towards this aim. It was registered in October 1945 under the Industrial and Provident Societies Acts as the Swarthmore Housing Society Ltd.

An appeal for financial support was addressed to all Quaker households in London & Middlesex Quaker joint quarterly meeting and some also in Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire. Several properties were considered, in March 1946, approval was given for the purchase of a house at Gerrards Cross in Buckinghamshire and in July 1946 the committee reported that the premises known as ‘Rathfarnham’ had been purchased. The house was quite near the main high street and station, with a charming garden and outlook. Although in good condition, the house was built in 1925, it was going to require alterations to make it suitable for the proposed 17 occupants. The home had provision of fires in each bedroom so many changes had to be made to make the building safe.

The work required a Ministry of Works building license, and this was not forthcoming until the end of January 1947. An architect was sought for so changes could be made. Meanwhile a gardener/caretaker was employed to look after the property. Alterations to the building would obviously cost money, so Swarthmore acquired a grant from the Lord Mayor’s National Air Raid Distress Fund on the condition that wherever possible, admission would be given to air-raid sufferers. Over 140 written applications had been received, which eventually resulted in 63 completed applications - the selection of 16 potential residents was a problem as there were so many in need at this time! At this stage, it was hoped to open several such homes – but it was decided to give priority to making a success of the house in Gerrards Cross first

In July 1947, the first residents (a married couple) moved in followed by others in the next 2/3 months. By December 1947 there were 14 residents. There were 8 single rooms and 3 double rooms (occupied by couples) and there was 1 double vacant. A special house-warming event was held with 80 guests present.

Sketch plans had been drawn up by the architect to provide for at least 10 more residents due to the demand, they also looked at building an area for residents who may need nursing care. The 3rd official report of Swarthmore Housing Society dated 1948, records the end of the first full year of operation. The average age of a resident was 77 years. The report describes that there were plenty of activities to keep residents occupied. The croquet lawn was the most popular activity. Some residents were keen gardeners, so they had plenty to keep them busy due to the size of the grounds. The activities grew with visiting speakers, and music recitals, a member of the society donated a piano and poetry readings were held.

In March 1952 the building work started on the new extension, and by November the first new resident arrived. An additional 8 rooms on the ground-floor and another 8 upstairs were then available. In all, 26 residents and 3 staff could then be accommodated. By this point, Swarthmore had a nurse, a domestic helper and a cook – which meant that residents could stay when they began to need more care. There was an official opening ceremony of the new wing, which was to be known as the Lidbetter Wing, named after the architect Martin Lidbetter.

It was reported that the residents were getting older and less able to help with jobs around the home as they had been used to doing. This had included keeping their own rooms tidy, attending to their laundry and taking turns to do the washing-up. All of which made life more difficult. The area for consideration for nursing residents was still under discussion, but finances didn’t allow it. On a brighter note, a television set had now been provided.

25 residents living within the home with an average age now of 81 ranging from 70-91. This was a good year for Swarthmore and during the year of 1957, it was decided to consider providing better staff accommodation. In the past, it had only been possible to offer a bed-sitting room to the warden and her assistant and it had long been recognised as being inadequate. It was decided to add another extension to the main building, the lower ground floor to provide a flat for the warden and on the upper floor (ground level), five additional residents rooms.

Plans were proceeding during the year for the new extension. The committee started to raise further funds, which allowed them to instruct an architect shortly after. Meanwhile, a new oil-fired boiler was installed.


The first ever open day was held on September 2nd, when local residents, friends of residents, committee members and members of the Society of Friends were all invited and plans of the new extensions were on view. Just before Christmas, work started….. The waiting list was again distressingly long! In addition, the proportion of older residents was greater which tended to limit some of the possible activities in the home.

The main event of the year was the completion of the second extension. The new wing became known as the Mauger Wing, named after one of the architects Paul Mauger. The new wing was joined up to the original building through the dining room. There was a modern flat for the warden and an additional resident’s room on the lower ground floor and three more residents’ rooms and additional facilities above, opening out onto a long veranda overlooking the garden. The building was completed in November, and new residents were waiting to come in – the number of residents now rose to 31, 23 of whom were Friends, so the Sunday meetings always had very good attendance.

The committee had managed to raise funds of around £11,000.00 towards the cost but they were still short of around £600.00. An appeal was raised through a member who contacted the BBC and an appeal was made to the Home Service. For the first time in this type of broadcast, the BBC allowed a tape-recording to be used so the voices of some of the residents and the warden were heard. A total of £823 was raised from this appeal towards the building fund.

The new wing had welcomed its first new occupants in November the previous year, an official opening ceremony was held in January 1963, in bitterly cold weather.

Life proceeded much as normal during this year, with plenty of activities for the residents, though there were the inevitable changes, both in staff and residents. The average age at this time was now 82 ½ which meant there were less members to take on jobs. However, the activities of the garden committee, combined with good weather, produced record crops from the garden – raspberries, tomatoes, runner-beans, and spinach plus roses for the house.

During 1965, plans had gone ahead during the year for much needed modernisation of the kitchens. The project included a staff sitting room, another bed-sitting room, bath and toilet, additional storage space and garage space (in the area we now use as the office and laundry facility). Whilst work was going on, the opportunity was also taken to install wash-basins in rooms in the oldest part of the house that didn’t have them.

Again, an eventful year, dominated by the remodelling and modernisation of the kitchens and the building of the extra wing containing the flatlet for the assistant warden and the staff sitting room. The kitchens were out of action for three months during which time, the wardens most generously gave up their own kitchen and sitting room which were turned into a temporary kitchen for the whole house. This involved cooking the meals downstairs, carrying the food upstairs to the dining-room and then bringing the washing-up back down again – all those who were able, helped in whatever way they could. There was never a dull moment!

1967 was “the year of the new look”, the report states. Having completed all the building work and modernisation the year before. The warden could then spend time decorating the home and laying new flooring. There was a need to install a lift in 1969, to help the residents and staff. A new fire alarm system was also installed.


Swarthmore celebrated its 25th anniversary – marked by a garden party on 18th July, 1970. During the afternoon, a new summerhouse was opened beside the croquet lawn, paid for with donations from the many friends. Croquet had always been popular at Swarthmore and this now gave somewhere comfortable to sit and watch residents enjoy a game.

You know when people say ‘everything goes wrong at once’ – this was the year! Complete re-wiring was needed. A new boiler was required as the old one had developed a crack. The lift gave problems, the washing-machine needed attention. Then a leak developed in the hot water service boiler and needed replacing. Also new fire regulations were now in force, which required a lot of expenditure to put it right.

For those who can remember 1974 was a year of considerable inflation and as Swarthmore is a non-profit making society, there were no reserves at this time. Most residents were on fixed incomes, so it was a very difficult year for all.

During 1976, everyone watched the staff accommodation block taking shape and it was completed by the end of the year. The kitchen was enlarged and the flat in the garage wing altered to provide a larger lighter sitting room.

The highlight of the year 1977 was the official opening of Burman Lodge on June 18th, Emily Burman, wife of James Burman who had done so much to raise the money for the venture, had the privilege of cutting the tape. The fire precautions had been brought up to standard by the installation of smoke detectors, alarm bells had also been installed in Burman Lodge and the path to the house from the lodge had lights installed to enable staff to reach the house quickly in an emergency.

1978, was an un-troubled year for Swarthmore, but it was a year of necessary structural repairs to the house. Repairs were required to the main chimney, there was a time when the home had to go without any central heating in a cold early spring and later in the year. Leaks appeared in the roof of the Lidbetter wing, these issues caused a certain amount of discomfort. The library started to loan large-print books which was a great joy to all.

1980’s The house was now able to sustain a much more comfortable temperature than it was ten years prior, this was down to the fact that a dedicated chimney for the boiler had been installed.

It was reported that the committee were studying the ‘Registration of Homes Act 1984’ with a view that, as a privately-run home, they are complying with all the requirements and maintain a high standard of care for their residents. Great efforts were made so the home conformed the new standards to the buildings and staffing levels. The new rules meant that the local authority had the responsibility of training care home staff (it was hoped through Bucks CC, but this did not happen) and so Swarthmore approached the local Health Authority, and some training was made available for new staff through Amersham Hospital. It was also arranged for a community nurse to come once a fortnight to train staff in basic skills.

1987 was a difficult one for the home. The warden’s flat was flooded after heavy rain, so a new drainage system and soak-away was installed. It was found that the lift did not conform to new regulations and had to be replaced but after lengthy negotiations with South Bucks District Council, a 100% grant was awarded. After all the changes were made to the home Bucks Social Services Homes Officer commented that Swarthmore was ‘a well presented and comfortable home providing residents with a lot of freedom’.

1990’s 1994 saw an unusually high level of change amongst the residents. ‘The Care in the Community Act’, was implemented during Spring, 1993. This discouraged the elderly from entering residential care until later in life, when they are frailer, which inevitably meant that residents stayed for shorter periods. The committee pursued its concern about the future development of Swarthmore. It seemed that the priority was given to update the existing home so they could focus more adequately for extra care, but also to attract active residents by providing accommodation for semi-independent living in separate buildings in the garden. Funding would no doubt require an appeal. Swarthmore were able to offer accommodation in 4 independent flats, (Burman Lodge), and 19 en-suite rooms in the house, one reserved for respite use, in addition to the balance of ‘standard’ rooms.

In July, 1997 the official opening of the new Garden Wing and 150 donors and friends joined to celebrate, despite the rain. The art, music, literature, exercise and discussion groups continued to flourish and the supporter’s group, to offer outings, visits and support.

The Millennium was creeping upon us and precautions were taken as advised by the government, to cover any emergencies that might arise, but in the event all went very smoothly. The home now had 19 residents in their 90’s – in August, an ‘End of the Nineties’ celebration was organised. This was in addition to ‘Open Day’ on June 26th, a smaller affair than the previous year but blessed with sunshine and a jazz band on the lawn.

2000 …….

Thoughts on the conversion of rooms in the Lidbetter wing to en-suites were desirable but would have high financial implications, and Swarthmore was not able to spend more money at the time. In July, a qualified nurse, joined the staff as Head of Care, and there was a decision to restructure the management team. Residents enjoyed a special tea to celebrate the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday, but Swarthmore was able to boast 2 residents who far exceeded this – 103 and 104.

With the advent of the National Care Standards taking on the oversight of homes from April 2002, dual registration under ‘Residential and Nursing’ would no longer be possible, and Swarthmore felt that Residential was going to be the most appropriate. Life at Swarthmore in 2001 continued very smoothly, residents enjoying a well-run, comfortable home and much loving care.

2002 was known as the year that the National Care Standards were introduced and for many homes, the cost of reaching the standards was prohibitive and resulted in many closures. Swarthmore, having been run as a charity and being in good shape financially, was in a fortunate position.

To date Swarthmore continues to provide Respite, End of Life and Residential care to the elderly. Still an independent home that provides compassionate care. A characterful home in a peaceful dwelling. We have embarked on a refurbishment project. Bedrooms are going through a full makeover. Our communal areas including dining area will be transformed in the coming months. We have placed a permanent gazebo in the garden space where residents can relax in summer months with family and friends. This allows time to enjoy afternoon tea or a picnic. We are currently going through a refurbishment plan to update areas within the home.

Our quiet room has had a full makeover, and can be enjoyed in comfort whilst you relax in and enjoy stunning garden views. Corridors are seeing a makeover with new pictures, blinds and a transition of colours.

We are hoping to embark on the largest project of the home which is our Dining and Activity area. We have bedrooms waiting for occupancy so if you are considering a care home for yourself or a friend/loved one, please give Sally a call on 01753 885663, Option 1. I will be happy to discuss your requirements and help you make your choice. I look forward to speaking to you soon.

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