At home with… Abbey Chase
- Credit: Archant
Every month, we go behind the scenes at one of Surrey’s top care homes. Here, David Kennedy, director at Abbey Chase in Chertsey, talks to us about the site’s rich history and its beautiful riverside setting.
Tell us a bit about the history surrounding Abbey Chase…
Hundreds of years ago, the land belonged to Chertsey Abbey, which was dedicated to St Peter as a Benedictine monastery. Founded by Saint Erkenwald, later Bishop of London, in 666 AD, he became the first abbot. Most of northwest Surrey was granted to the abbey by King Frithuwald of Surrey. Dark Age saints buried here include Saint Beocca, a Catholic saint from Anglo-Saxon England buried here around 870 AD, and ninth century Saint Edor of Chertsey.
It all sounds fascinating; so what happened next?
In the ninth century, the abbey was sacked by the Danes and refounded from Abingdon Abbey by King Edgar of England in 964. Later, in the 11th century, the monks engineered the Abbey River as an offshoot of the River Thames to supply power to the abbey’s watermill. Then, in late medieval times, the abbey became famous as the burial place of King Henry VI (whose body was later transferred to St George’s Chapel, Windsor). Finally, the abbey was dissolved by the commissioners of King Henry VIII in 1537, but the community moved to Bisham.
And how about the building itself; it looks very striking?
Built in the 1920s, the main building was originally a private residence (a five-bedroom bungalow), and our family building business purchased the property along with the stables in 1989. The stables were converted to a riverside terrace of houses and sold on and the ‘bungalow’ then had a complete makeover of the ground floor and a new top floor, resulting in the creation of a 45-bed residential and nursing home.
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So tell us more about the beautifully landscaped grounds...
The grounds were landscaped in the 1920s by the then owner, a Colonel
Claire, and were known as Benham Park. We have tried to retain as many features as possible and have rebuilt the octagonal pond. Unfortunately, a teak bridge over the Abbey River was too far gone to save when we purchased the property in 1989.
There must be some lovely strolls along the river; do you ever take the residents on riverside walks?
Yes, and also their visitors as well.
The river and grounds must attract lots of wildlife too. What can residents hope to see there?
All the usual birds you would see in the average British garden but because of the river we also see kingfishers, grebes, Egyptian geese, mandarin geese, swans, coots, moorhens and herons. Newcomers last year were the red kites, which are slowly but surely making their way here after their introduction into the Oxfordshire areas to the east and west extremities of the Thames Valley.
We heard that you also have an orchard too! Do you use the apples in your cooking?
Yes, we do, and plums and damsons too. Finally, the views from all the rooms must be stunning? Describe the outlook to us…All our rooms have a view of some kind, since we are bounded to the north by the Abbey River and to the other three sides
by paddocks. Š
• Abbey Chase residential and nursing home, Bridge Road, Chertsey KT16 8JW.
For more information, call 01932 568090 or see the website at abbeychase.co.uk