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28th October 2015

Bringing back memories of meeting Royalty for a 90-year-old client

We love running excursions for our home care clients; the way they talk about the trips before and after tells us how much of a difference they make to their quality of life.  But for one of our clients, Sheila Henshaw, who lives near Tunbridge Wells, our recent trip to Bexhill brought back memories of when she met the future King and Queen 80 years ago.


“It was 1935 and I was 10 years old.  My father had gone to India to work and my mother went with him; in the 1930s you didn’t take children with you when you were posted overseas, so I was sent to live in a home in Bexhill for children whose parents were working abroad.  There were five of us who lived at the home permanently; I was placed there when I was a few months old and stayed until I was 14.


From the spring of 1935 we had watched this exciting new building going up on the seafront.  It stood alone, not with other buildings around it as it has today, and the modernist design created a building that was impressive to look at from all angles.  It created quite a buzz in Bexhill as it was the first modern building in the town.


When it came to the official opening in December, invitations were sent to various organisations, including my children’s home. The lady who ran it knew that I really wanted to meet the ‘King and Queen’, as I thought they were, so she asked me if I would like to go instead of her.  On the day I remember thinking that it was a good little trip out in the car.  When we got to the Pavilion I was put in line to meet the Duke and Duchess of York, who of course became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth 18 months later, following the abdication of Edward VIII.  I was whisked away soon after meeting them, but I always remember the De La Warr Pavilion having a prominent role in Bexhill life – the town was very proud of it as an architectural symbol and as a cultural centre.  It had a theatre and we were taken there for birthday and holiday treats; I particularly remember going to Gilbert & Sullivan evenings.


I left the children’s home when I was 14 and went to the local school, being evacuated with the school when war broke out in 1939.  At 17 I took my final school exams and then went to Brighton art college and building school to study architecture, but as soon as I could I volunteered for the Wrens and was posted to Bletchley Park.  At the end of the war I went back and finished my architectural qualifications and joined the Ministry of Works, where I met my husband, who was also an architect.  We subsequently moved to Tunbridge wells and I hadn’t been back to Bexhill for years.


Unfortunately my husband needed home care from when he retired and so carers from Terrablu became regulars in our lives.  When he passed away earlier this years I retained twice weekly visits as I need help getting in and out of the bath.  When the excursion to the De La Warr was mentioned I told them that I had been there at the official opening.  I enjoy the Terrablu excursions, so of course I booked my place.  On the day, the minibus was full of people looking forward to their trip to Bexhill.


As an architect, and having not seen the building for a few years, I was a bit shocked as they have altered the proportions and its impact is reduced as it no longer stands alone.  But the trip did bring back memories for me of Gilbert & Sullivan evenings – and meeting the future King and Queen of England at the official opening.”


To find out more about how we can help you or your relative enjoy independent living

in the Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge areas,

call 01892 529429 or request a callback.