Stoke-on-Trent retirement village comes of age
Berryhill Village was one of the first purpose-built, self-contained retirement villages to open in the country – and it has just celebrated its 21st birthday.
First through the doors of the Stoke-on-Trent development in 1998 were Ada and Stan Yemm, followed soon after by Ruth and Dennis Lowe, Brenda and George Turner, Joyce Clulow, Eileen Dickens and Joyce Brough.
“I thought I was in a hotel,” said Ruth Lowe, who was recently widowed. “One of the reasons we came here was because I couldn’t climb stairs but Dennis made the decision; he loved the place. My mind was made up after I saw one of the flats!
“We even agreed to sell our caravan on Talacre Beach in Wales because we were missing out on everything that was going on at Berryhill.”
Joyce Clulow, 88, watched the progress of the building, thinking how nice it would be to live there. “I had been widowed and was living in a council bungalow but had been burgled twice, which made me feel vulnerable,” said the former school dinner lady.
“The council asked me if I’d like to move into Berryhill. I said I’d try it for 12 months and if I didn’t like it, I’d go back to council accommodation.”
Alongside Joyce Brough, 85, who recalls taking her small grandchildren to see the development being built, Joyce became an ambassador for retirement village living. The ladies were taken around the country to promote what was then a novel approach to accommodation for people of retirement age.
“We also used to meet and greet every new resident as they arrived at Berryhill, providing them with a welcome goodie bag of items they might need on their first day such as tea bags, biscuits and a voucher for a free meal,” Mrs Clulow added.
For some residents, such as 84-year-old Brenda Turner, the decision to move to retirement living was not so easy, and she explained how it took her and her late husband George a little while to get used to their Berryhill flat
She said: “We moved from a three bed house and with the two of us in a one bed flat it seemed very small. But we made friends quickly and felt at home.”
Fellow resident Eileen Dickens, 91, who knew Brenda for over 20 years before they became neighbours at Berryhill, felt the same at first, but today she feels the village gives her the right balance of support and independence.
These early pioneers of retirement village living set the standard for the facilities offered at Berryhill and were active in raising money to open a licensed bar and get extra equipment for the gym.
Former activities coordinator and housekeeping manager Valda Hampton, who worked at Berryhill from the day it opened, remembers the fun that was had there over the years.
She said: “I came for my interview when they were still finishing the building work and I’ve always loved it here, it’s been my second home. I retired last year but I still keep coming back to help out – it’s like having another family.”
Valda joined the residents, their families and friends, and current and former staff, at a party to celebrate Berryhill’s big birthday on the evening of 8 May.