Norwich woman reflects as grandmother’s historic nursing home to be redeveloped
- Credit: Archant
It was once a historic nursing home but for a Norwich family, the hallways and gardens of Austhorpe House provided the backdrop for many family occasions.
Sue Leeming has kept cuttings, photographs, paintings and documents of Austhorpe House, in Forncett St Peter, which her grandmother opened in 1958.
In September, the Victorian building was sold and there are now plans for it to be developed into three new homes.
Joyce Mary Vince was its owner for over two decades opening the home on her 51st birthday in 1958.
Mrs Vince trained as a nurse at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and Whitlingham Hospital becoming a matron, and had dreamed of opening her own home.
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Ms Leeming, of Portesfield Road, Norwich, said: “Grandma loved nursing and helping others, an astute business woman too she revelled in being so busy using all her vast skills gained as a nurse then matron in Norwich. The patients adored my grandma.”
The home was the setting of many special family occasions, with her parents hosting their wedding receptions in the grounds on April 3 1961 and was the birthplace of Ms Leeming’s two brothers Hugh and Andrew.
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There was also sadness, when the family’s golden Labrador Judy was hit by a car and died. The family buried her by the pond in the grounds.
In the 1970s and nearing 70, Mrs Vince offered her daughter the opportunity to take on the home, but with three children aged 10 and under, the couple declined and the business was sold.
Mrs Vince retired to Cromer until her death in 1989 at the age of 82.
In 2007, Ms Leeming contacted the home to share her family history ahead of its impending 50th anniversary.
She said: “They knew nothing of its history. They were thrilled to learn the history and so a fete was organised for the day.
“Looking back it would have been wonderful had my brothers and I inherited it, but in today’s world it would have been very stressful keeping up with all the regulations.
“It’s being demolished now as the upkeep was just too much, it’s a very old building now and it had failed all the necessary health and safety tests and time had taken its toll on the building.
Ms Leeming said she was able to have one final tour of the building before the country went into lockdown in March.
She said: “It was soulless now, the life had gone and it was looking so old and worn out, seeing the room again where my brothers were born it was cold, empty and desolate.
The gardens all overgrown, the walled garden a mess and the summer house where we played as children and had photos taken as babies, it was too much and I cried.
I know mum and grandma too would be so upset if they were still here, but sadly time never stands still.”
She said it would be wonderful if the road could be named Austhorpe Close or Joyce Mary Road.
The hairdresser said; “It would be a fitting tribute to my dear grandma who achieved her dream.
“I will miss Austhorpe House but I’ve said my final goodbyes and just pleased I’ve got all the knowledge, photos, memories & documents of its history. It’s a wonderful part of my family history.”