7th March 2023
For International Women’s Day 2023, we asked families of residents to share the life stories of the wonderful women who live with us at Wentworth Court.
We believe it is very powerful to understand more about our residents’ lives prior to their dementia diagnosis, to recognise their achievements, honour their individuality and not least to stimulate conversation and connection.
Here are some of their stories.
Jenny – as told by husband Ken
Jenny was born in Braintree in Essex in 1942. She and her parents had moved to London where Jenny’s mother had to do the landlady’s laundry to secure their flat while her father was away in the army. She then moved to Wiltshire – as a six-year-old with a now London accent – which had her class peers falling about at Jenny’s rendition of the three times table when it got to 11 x 3 or as Jenny said “eleven frees are firty free”.
Some years after the war, Jenny’s parents moved to Kenya, where her father had the post of Assistant Government Archivist and Jenny eventually went to The Highlands School, several hundred miles away in Uganda.
At the age of 16, Jenny returned to England to study for her ‘A’ levels at Trowbridge Girls Grammar School where she lived for the following two years with her much-loved grandparents before going to University College in London to study French.
At university she met Ken. He remembers looking around the class early on and, in those days of miniskirts, saw her knees! And that was that, as the saying goes! They were married in April 1966.
While living in St. Albans, before coming to Cheltenham, Ken introduced Jenny to gliding and for two years she enjoyed their gliding on Dunstable downs with the London Gliding Club and then after their move to Cheltenham in 1972 continued at Aston Down until the children came along.
Jenny spent 10 years as a teacher including four at the famous Cheltenham Ladies College.
Jenny and Ken bought a house in Swindon Village, then Diana and Andrew came along in 1977 and 1982, but in between Jenny had a miscarriage which affected her very deeply. As a result of this she founded the first Miscarriage Support Group in Cheltenham, produced a leaflet for Cheltenham Hospital to give to women after a miscarriage which was then used as a template for hospitals across the country. Andrew got married in 2007 to Debbie, and Jenny now has two granddaughters, Phoebe,13 and Verity age 10.
Having lost her religious faith in earlier years, in her middle years Jenny became a committed Christian, was fully baptised in her fifties, renewing a strong and steadfast faith that she has retained.
Jenny stopped teaching when the children came and having for some years provided home tuition to some of Cheltenham’s little ‘trouble-makers’. Jenny decided in 1995 once the children were at secondary school to do something else. She applied for a job as a dental receptionist. However, as there were not really the number of hours she needed, the dentist suggested she train as a dental nurse. This she took to like a duck to water and for 12 years she loved the work – especially putting the more frightened patients at their ease.
Jenny loved her holidays, whether travelling by train on the continent, a house exchange in France, pupil exchanges in Russia and France and canal boating. In their 60s, Ken and Jenny visited Canada and America, cruised in the Baltic and did the North Cape cruise up the coast of Norway into the Arctic Circle. Jenny enjoys looking through photos from albums of this time when Ken visits her at Wentworth Court.
Joan – as told by her children Barry and Suzanne
Joan was born in 1930 in Bristol and was evacuated to Clutton in the war. She has two sisters, Eveline and Winifred and a brother John, all still living in Bristol.
Joan lived in Bristol until 1963 moving to Edmonton in North London for a year. A year later, she came to live in Cheltenham, returning to live in Staple Hill in Bristol in 1977.
Joan left school at 14 and trained as a florist but for the last 20 years of her working life she managed an off-licence, which included training in wine!
She had two sons and a daughter, Suzanne plus two granddaughters and three great-granddaughters.
Sadly, one of Joan’s sons, Trevor died in the Philippines in 2019 having lived in Qatar for 40 years. Joan’s other son, Barry now lives in Dorset.
Joan used to make her own and her children’s clothes and was an avid knitter and embroiderer. While in her 50s, she learned to play the organ and owned one until vacating her flat. Joan is, and always has been an avid reader.
Joan has always enjoyed travel and celebrated her 25th wedding anniversary in the Seychelles with husband Eldon, who sadly passed in 2001. Joan also has fond memories of a New York holiday visiting Barry’s brother-in-law who lived there in the 1980s.
Jean – as told by her prompted by her son Tim
Jean was born on in Plumstead, London. At the time her father worked for Standard Telephone and Cable. Her brother John was born four years later.
Jean’s first memory was going to the allotment with her father. She remembers clearly that her mother always insisted she always wore a hat – which she says she hated!
In January 1941, Jean’s father’s firm was evacuated to Ilminster in Somerset. The family were billeted with Mrs Prince and her family in Chard. She remembers that her mother, father, brother and she had to share the same bedroom.
At 16, Jean’s first job was at Standard Telephone and Cable’s drawing office – first working as a tracer and then in the drafting department. At the same time, Jean attended night school and studied maths and technical drawing.
When the war ended in 1945, a lot of young forces men returned to Somerset. Many came to work at the Standard, Telephone and Cables company where Jean worked. Jean recounts that on a work’s outing a young man, called Ken, asked to sit in the seat next to her. Jean said of course you can, and they seemed to ‘hit it off’ straight away. Jean and Ken were engaged six weeks later and married a few months after that.
Jean and Ken continued to live in Chard for a while, until Ken decided he wanted to join the Gloucestershire Police and to move to live near his parents in Dursley in Gloucestershire.
Jean gave birth to her son Tim in 1956 and a second son, Nigel in 1959.
Jean remembers that her husband Ken was moved a lot to different area of Gloucestershire when her boys were young, which meant the whole family moved with him to another area and another police house.
The family moved to a police house up by the racecourse in Cheltenham in 1965. Jean got a part time job at Wards Department Store in the centre of Cheltenham when the boys were in junior school. She began by working in the toy department – much to her boy’s delight! Jean then moved to working in the accounts department for the next few years.
In 1970 Jean’s beloved husband Ken died suddenly from a heart attack and Jean was left to bring up her sons on her own. Jean, and her sons Tim and Nigel, became a very tight and strong team.
Jean was working at GCHQ at the time of Ken’s death; so thankfully she was an established civil servant by then, and with good budgeting, the family were able to live on just her salary. Jean worked for several people over the years and in different departments at GCHQ. The work she did at GCHQ was, of course, confidential so no details of her work has ever been discussed.
Jean never remarried. When both her sons had left home Jean continued working at GCHQ until she was 61 years old. Luckily, she had learnt to play bridge soon after her husband had died at night school. She played bridge three times a week until she was 90 years old.
Jean went on many interesting holidays to America, Canada, and across Europe, with one or two of her friends. Jean also loved the theatre and regularly went to concerts in Birmingham and to see Shakespeare plays in Stratford on Avon. Jean remained well informed of current affairs and loved to discuss world news and politics.
Jean’s greatest regret was when she gave up driving when she was 90 years old, but fortunately life continued with her younger son taking her out frequently for drives around the Cotswolds, to lunch with her other son and his wife and to all family occasions. With support, Jean was able to stay in her own home until she was nearly 95 years old – a home that she had lived in for more than 50 years.
Jean has now been in Wentworth Court for 16 months. Her brother, John, is in his early 90’s and still lives with his wife in Cardiff. Jean has two sons, five grandchildren and welcomed her first grandson in September 2022.
Enid – as told by her daughter Gill
Enid was born in 1940 in Manchester, the youngest of four children to Edna and Walter.
Married for to Barry 62 years, the couple moved to Cheltenham from Manchester in 1972. Enid and Barry met when she was 20 years old and they have travelled a lot over the years. One of Enid’s favourite trips was to was Las Vegas.
Enid is now a now the proud grandmother of five with one great-grandchild.
With ambitions to be a police officer not possible with family life, it was one of Enid’s favourite moments to attend the passing out parades for two of her grandchildren who joined the force. Enid spent her working life in administrative roles, latterly at Cheltenham General Hospital.
Enid always was – and remains a very glamourous lady, who loves having her hair and nails done!