Care for the elderly in Northumberland.

Our residents visit St. Andrews Christmas Tree Festival in Corbridge.

By 5th December 2018

Our residents had a wonderful visit to the St. Andrew’s Christmas Tree Festival on Monday.

Our own Charlotte Straker tree won a Silver Award in the competition. Thank you to the judges!

Our residents, staff and volunteers enjoyed a cup of coffee and a mince pie, and loved looking at all the different types of trees – the creativity was amazing!

Student nurses at Charlotte Straker House.

By 28th November 2018

We have four fantastic student nurses working with the Charlotte Straker team this week and next.

Abbey, Sam, Jess and Angela are studying at the Northumbria University, and are in their first year of a BSc (Hons) in Adult Nursing. They are shadowing our team of RGNs and care assistants, learning best practice in how to care and treat elderly residents.

Iwona has been keeping a close eye on their training and says that they are “doing really well”. I think our residents are also enjoying seeing some new faces.

We’re delighted to be able to provide training to these future nurses – good luck in your studies Abbey, Sam, Jess and Angela!

Charity Christmas Cards for the Charlotte Straker Project

By 21st November 2018

Corbridge Charity Christmas Cards

Packs of five cards £3.50 and single cards £1.20

This year a charity Corbridge Christmas card has been produced, with 10 pence from every card going to ourselves and the Corbridge Youth Initiative.

The beautiful photograph of Corbridge Church was taken by Corbridge resident Ian Wylie.  The cards are available from Skrumshus sweet shop in Corbridge and our office in Charlotte Straker House.

If you’re thinking of buying your Christmas cards soon, please support us by buying a pack – every penny raised for us goes towards essential equipment and resources to help our residents at Charlotte Straker House.

Please support our Crafty Women at the CYI Christmas Fair – 24th Nov ’18

By 17th November 2018

The Corbridge Youth Initiative Christmas Fair,

24th Nov 2018 at Corbridge Parish Hall, 10 am – 2 pm.

Our Crafty Women will have their own stall selling beautiful hand made shawls, cushions, Christmas decorations and homeware. We are raffling a gorgeous mohair shawl in lemon (shown in picture below), hand made by Penny Ely. Raffle tickets are £1 and only available from the Fair.

The Fair will have a raffle, tombola, cake and produce stall, toys and games for children and Santa’s Grotto. Coffees, teas, scones and home made soup available.

Entry is only £1.50 (children free) and includes a Christmas cake raffle ticket.  Please come and support our Crafty Women – all proceeds from their stall go towards the Charlotte Straker Project.

Remembrance Stories – Margaret Furness – Keswick Evacuee

By 14th November 2018

As Remembrance Sunday is coming up, we’ve been asking our residents about their own memories of World War 2.

Margaret Furness was evacuated from the Central High School in Newcastle to Keswick in Cumbria.


Margaret Furness was 11 years old and a pupil at the Central High School for Girls in Newcastle upon Tyne when World War 2 broke out in 1939.

Towards the end of 1939 the school was warned by the Government that evacuation could occur any day, due to the risk of bombing. In early September, three hundred and nineteen Central High girls travelled to Keswick by train, and Margaret was eventually lodged with a single lady, who apparently wasn’t best pleased that she now had to look after an eleven-year-old girl.

“She never showed me any affection at all. I was so miserable and desperate to go home the first week that I was physically sick. She never gave me a cuddle or a kind word.”

Did you stay with her during the whole war?

“Yes. Apart from holidays, when we were sent home with our parents. Which is a bit strange, as the whole point was to remove us from any bombing risk and yet they sent us home after each term!”

Where did you have lessons?

“We took over Keswick School. The Keswick pupils had lessons in the afternoon, and then the Central Girls had them in the morning. I spent a lot of time outside, as she didn’t like me hanging around in the house. I wasn’t allowed to help with any housework or cooking, as she was so houseproud and said I would make a mess. I was expected to be out of the house the whole day, never mind the weather.”

Did you get used to being away from your family?

“Well, I settled down a bit. There was a War on. You had to just get on with it. What was the point of making a fuss? I missed my family terribly, but I coped. At first, my parents visited and stayed over the road at Fletcher’s Hotel. There was petrol rationing on of course though, so they couldn’t come very often. One of our teachers set up a Guides troupe, which I joined, and that really helped, as I really enjoyed the meetings and doing all the badges and things.”

Did the teachers organise activities to keep you busy?

Yes, they were excellent, and we had games of hockey, tennis, rounders and nature rambles in the summer. In the winter, we had knitting sessions in Crossthwaite Parish Room, and I was allowed to knit for the RAF as I was a good knitter. The RAF wool was lovely and soft to handle. The skating and sledging were great, and we revelled in it. I spent as much time as possible outside, and of course I was not allowed a key, but little did she know I could get in through the kitchen window if she was out!”

What happened after the War?

“I did a year in the Sixth Form, and then decided to become a Nurse. I went to Edinburgh for an 18-month nursing course, and after that I joined the Newcastle General Hospital” (We found out that Margaret won Gold Medallist for the year she was a trainee at the General Hospital). In 1955 I became a Theatre Sister and worked for a long time in Hexham Hospital”.

Did you ever go back to Keswick to see the lady you lived with?

“Once. I was working in Carlisle and I went back to Keswick to spend the day with her. Funnily enough, we had a good chat and a pleasant day. I think it was different, as I was grown up. I never saw her again after that though.

The best thing about Keswick was the road home. It was an unhappy time, cut off from my family, shut in by the hills, knowing we were resented. But I learned self-confidence and independence. No use grumbling – there was a war on – and we had to just get on with whatever it might be.”

Margaret’s account of her time as an evacuee has also been featured in “A Safe Haven – Evacuees in Keswick 1939 – 1945” by Brian Wilkinson which can be found on Amazon.

Evacuees walking down the Main Street in Keswick.

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

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