Care for the elderly in Northumberland.

Going to the Beach and enjoying fish and chips

By 12th November 2018

Last week our residents, carers and volunteers visited the beach at Tynemouth.

Everyone enjoyed delicious fish and chips at Crusoes restaurant – it’s situated right on the Longsands beach, with a fabulous view.

The weather was warm enough for all our residents to sit outside and enjoy an icecream and the sea air, even though we had to wrap up a little against the wind.

We all had a fantastic time – thank you to the carers and volunteers who accompanied the outing.

Remembrance Stories – Joyce Bisset, Leading Wren at Dover Castle during WW2

By 11th November 2018
On Remembrance Sunday, we continue our stories of residents who lived and worked through World War 2.
Here, resident Joyce Bisset speaks to us about her time as a Leading Wren in Dover Castle, and her husband Robin who survived Dunkirk.
Joyce is 95 years old and has been a resident at Charlotte Straker House since 2017.
As a 21-year-old girl, Joyce and her friend went to the Wren recruiting office and were told that they had a choice of being sent either to “the North or in the South”. Joyce remembered thinking that they might be posted somewhere in Kent, but instead she found herself at Dover, in the tunnels under the Castle.
“It was a bit of a shock. I thought we might be somewhere outside, maybe in a pretty part of Southern England, and instead we were underground in the dark!”
Joyce and her team of Wrens plotted the movement of Royal Navy and foreign shipping in the English Channel.
“It was very busy, and very interesting. We were right under Dover Castle, in the tunnels, and of course, the English Channel was at its narrowest just there, and so we took shifts in plotting all the shipping movements.
Just the ships, not the planes?
No, as the Air Force looked after the plane movements, and we had to concentrate on the shipping. I joined the Wrens after Dunkirk you know, so I wasn’t involved in that, but it was still very frightening sometimes, especially when we were shelled.
Did you still have to work during the bombings?
“Of course! We were sometimes in the tunnels, and sometimes on the surface, and Dover was a big target, so we could hear the awful sound of the bombs dropping. Unfortunately, being so close to the enormous explosions, my hearing was permanently damaged.”
Was it frightening? Were you scared?
“You just got on with it. Of course, it was frightening, but really in the tunnels, it was the safest place, so we just had to get up and do our best. Everyone smoked in those days. I think it helped a bit. And when we got a break, we used to walk down to this little cubby hole in the side of the cliff and smoke a cigarette before going back to work”.
Did you make some good friends?
“There were girls there from all walks of life, and yes, I made some very good friends. I think being there altogether in the middle of things, sort of threw you all together. And we were all in uniform. The Wrens had an extremely smart uniform, and I was proud to wear it. It was a thick navy blue serge material, with a cap and badge. It was nice and warm!”
Did you meet your husband after the war?
“Yes, my husband (Robin Bisset) was in the Royal Engineers and was in France during Dunkirk. I didn’t know him then, but after he managed to get across the Channel during Dunkirk, he was in hospital for three months.”
Was he injured?
“Yes. He was a wonderful musician and told me that he’d played his accordion at the head of the column of Royal Engineers as they walked to the Dunkirk beach. Unfortunately, as he was at the front of the long line of walking soldiers, he was one of the first to drink some water that the enemy had poisoned, and he collapsed and was very ill. His fellow soldiers picked him up on a stretcher and managed to get him on board a ship.
After being carried onto the ships by his fellow soldiers he couldn’t remember anything until he woke up in the hospital based at Tatton Hall, Cheshire. His room looked out across a beautiful lake, his first thoughts were that he had died and gone to heaven! He spent three months in hospital recovering. He was just completely exhausted and demoralised. He was in Egypt you know. And had a terrible time. He was bombed to pieces. It took him a long time to recover from his experiences.”
Joyce’s daughter Sue joins us for our chat.
“After the war” Sue says, “my mum met and married my dad, and she went on to have three daughters. She was always beautifully turned out and loved clothes! Mum was a marvellous home maker and very involved in the local community. She was President of the Women’s Institute in Stocksfield and did a great deal of fundraising for Charlotte Straker Project. After Dad died, she moved to Corbridge and then eventually into Charlotte Straker House.”
After we finished our chat, Joyce is worried about people reading this article. “Who is interested in this story? You mustn’t make out that I did more than anyone else. Other people will have much better stories.”I explain, that she is from a brave generation and the local community, and staff and carers are very interested in what she and her husband did.“I don’t think I was brave. You just had to get on with it. What else could you do? There were people who did far more than me.”
Sue adds, “It’s important that we tell the stories, as they were so brave and went through such a lot in their lives. Please make sure that you say that my Mum has three daughters who are extremely proud of her and love her very much.”

Joyce and Robin on their wedding day.

Joyce and Robin in their uniform.

Joyce is a much loved Charlotte Straker resident!

Centenary Speech by Hugh Dixon MBE

By 4th October 2018

Hugh Dixon speaking at our Centenary Speech.

At our recent Centenary Dinner, Hugh Dixon MBE, former National Trust Curator for the North East, gave a brilliant before-dinner speech.

Hugh spoke about the history of charitable giving, medicine and the family backgrounds of Joseph and Charlotte Straker or “Uncle Joe and Aunt Bunch” as their family used to call them.

 Our Deputy Manager Iwona was especially delighted to hear of Charlotte’s Polish connection.

We’d like to thank Hugh very much for his speech, and the considerable amount of research that he must have done to be able to speak so entertainingly on the foundation of our charity. 
Please click on the link to read a copy of Hugh’s speech – it really is fascinating!

Charlotte Straker Centenary Dinner – text Of Hugh Dixon speech

Our new Men in Sheds group

By 4th October 2018

Today we launched a new “Men in Sheds” group at Charlotte Straker House.

This is designed to be a regular activity for our male residents to give them a chance to meet up, have a chat, learn new skills and share over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Our volunteer Warwick led the first session and was joined by residents Frank and Brian, plus our current Community Respite Care Bed resident Dennis.

Over a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit the group enjoyed chatting about their love of music, singing, education and their previous careers in farming and teaching.

Thank you to our Activities Coordinator for organising and for Warwick for leading the group – it was really rewarding and interesting hearing stories from the residents about their lives and work.

Tynedale Gift Fair at Matfen Hall – 29th and 30th October

By 4th October 2018

The biggest and the best Gift Fair in Tynedale is back for 2018, and this year is again supporting the Charlotte Straker Project.

The Tynedale Gift Fair will be held at Matfen Hall Hotel on:

  • Monday 29th October 2018 3.30pm-8.30pm and
  • Tuesday 30th October 2018 10.00am-3.00pm.

Entry £4 on the door (includes a raffle ticket).

Since 2004, the Tynedale Gift Fair has raised an amazing £42,100 for charities in Tynedale, and over the last two years alone has donated over £6,500 to the Charlotte Straker Project in Corbridge. In 2017, the Gift Fair committee donated over £3,000 which helped us buy 17 special purpose nursing mattresses for our residents.

The accessible Arjo bath

This year they have again decided to support the Charlotte Straker Project, to help fund a state of the art integrated bathroom suite for the nursing, residential and respite patients. This brand new bathroom includes an Arjo bath system, with integral tracking and a bath lift to allow our less able residents to enjoy the pleasure of a comfortable reclining bath.

The numerous stalls include everything needed for an unforgettable festive season including gift ideas, furnishings, candles, clothing, tableware, soaps and jewellery plus delicious Christmas food stalls hosted by local producers who will be on hand to offer samples of their products, which includes cakes, puddings, sausages, chocolate, wines, spirits and smoked fish.

The raffle has some fantastic prizes including designer clothing and jewellery, vouchers for dinner at top local restaurants, bed and breakfast at Matfen Hall, plus personal physio, pilates and riding sessions! For the full list of raffle prizes please click here: Raffle prizes 2018. Raffle tickets can be bought from Charlotte Straker House.

We are over the moon that Caroline and her committee have decided that our charity should benefit again this year.

We wish them all the best for this year, and we will certainly be taking some of our residents to Matfen Hall to do some Christmas Shopping!

Corbridge Food and Drink Festival – please buy a programme to benefit Charlotte Straker!

By 28th September 2018

The Corbridge Food and Drink Festival will be held from Thursday 4th October to Sunday 7th October inclusive.

The 12-page 2018 Corbridge Food & Drink Festival programme is now on sale in our own Charlotte Straker House, Forum Books, The Corbridge Larder, Vintage at the Tower and other outlets around the village at a price of just £1.

Profits from the sale of the Corbridge Food and Drink Festival Programme will be split between ourselves, the Corbridge Youth-Initiative and the Transplant Ward at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle upon Tyne. So please consider buying a programme – or even two or three! 

Organised by a team of Visit Corbridge volunteers and our acclaimed local cafes, restaurants, pubs and shops, this first Corbridge Food & Drink Festival promises to be a great event for residents and visitors alike. It includes:

Speciality Menus / Tastings / Live Music / Discounts / Demonstrations / The Great Corbridge Bake Off – judged by BBC Look North’s Carol Malia / A Taste of Norway / Spanish and Italian Nights / Cupcakes and Cocktails / Hexham Morris Dancers / Brunch Club / Competitions / Bike Smoothie Blender / Great Corbridge Gin Off / Hog Roast / Cocktail Masterclass / Apple Press / And much more!

Our very own Head Cook Debbie, is currently finetuning her entry into the Great Corbridge Bake-Off – we’ll certainly be taking some photos of her final competition creation – watch this space!

Mr P the Therapy Pony visits our residents (and he goes up in the lift!)

By 26th September 2018

Mr P the Therapy Pony from KL PONY Therapy visited our residents today.

He’s an American Minature skewbald gelding and is just 28 inches tall!

Mr P met residents in the lounge, and then went up in the lift (!) to see our residents who stayed in their rooms. Everyone LOVES their visits from Katie’s therapy ponies, and Mr P was perfect. When he visited residents upstairs, he rested his head on their knees to be petted and gave them a little nudge.


Here he is marching along the upstairs corridor to visit his next resident – he’s most definitely in charge!

Mr P the Therapy Pony visited Charlotte Straker House today

Mr P the Therapy Pony from KL PONY Therapy visited our residents today. He's an American Minature skewbald gelding and is just 28 inches tall!Mr P met residents in the lounge, and then went up in the lift (!) to see our residents who stayed in their rooms. Everyone LOVES their visits from Katie's therapy ponies, and Mr P was perfect. When he visited residents upstairs, he rested his head on their knees to be petted and gave them a little nudge. Here he is marching along the upstairs corridor to visit his next resident – he's most definitely in charge!Thank you very much to Mr P and his handler Katie – we can't wait to see them again soon.

Posted by Charlotte Straker House on Thursday, 20 September 2018

Thank you very much to Mr P and his handler Katie – we can’t wait to see them again soon.

The Charlotte Straker Centenary Dinner

By 23rd September 2018

Our Centenary Dinner was held last Thursday evening, to commemorate the culmination of 100 years since Joseph Straker bequeathed Prior House to the community as the Charlotte Straker cottage hospital.

Held at the Corbridge Cricket Club House, the evening included a four course dinner, plus a speech from our Chair of Trustees Berenice Groves, and a very interesting talk from speaker Hugh Dixon, on the history of hospitals from the Middle Ages up to the founding of Charlotte Straker House.

The dinner was organised to thank all those who have help or assisted our charity and we are delighted that so many were able to participate and share in the celebrations

Thank you also to all the Trustees who worked so hard to organise such an enjoyable evening, plus Papaya Bespoke Catering for a delicious dinner, the Corbridge Cricket Club for allowing us to use their venue, JDC Laundry for the table linen and violinists Julia and Jill.

Thank you to our Trustees Bill Cunningham and Richard Dixon for following photos!


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