Following the launch of a ‘history hunt’ in April to help uncover the long and eventful timeline of its striking central building, Foxholes Care Home, near Hitchin, has been overwhelmed with information sent in by the public.
While the 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.
Foxholes launched the appeal for information in the hope of finally completing the timeline puzzle, so it can create a book on the history of Foxholes and a special ‘wall of memory’ in the entrance of the home that tells everyone’s story.
With the help of the Hitchin community, the residential care home has 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 the 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 at Foxholes on 5th July 1948, five days before the NHS was founded, and that his mother, Helen Stewart Cotton, now resides at the home.
North Hertfordshire Museum also contacted Foxholes to reveal that they have a collection of Roman objects on display that were excavated from the kitchen garden by the Lucas family. The artifacts include knives, jewellery, pottery, and cutlery.
Neil Gandecha, Estate Manager at Foxholes, said: “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, and have pulled together a timeline of key dates. However, we still need to fill in some of the missing pieces.”
Neil continued: “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 the public 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 old photographs and 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).