The changing faces of Leckhampton Court
- Credit: Archant
In advance of a special visit by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court next week, we review the history of the hospice, and the support of HRH during his 30 years as Patron
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales will visit Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice on Thursday December 22, celebrating 30 Years as Patron.
Elise Hoadley, Hospice Director at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice said, “It will be a privilege to spend time with our Patron as he meets families, giving patients and their loved ones a special memory they can treasure. This year will be extra special as we mark 30 years of Patronage by His Royal Highness, and we’re immensely looking forward to celebrating this milestone with some of those wonderful volunteers and supporters who have helped us provide care for local people through giving their time, skills and financial support over the past 30 years too.”
The fascinating and varied history of Leckhampton Court, regarded by many as one of the grandest medieval manor houses in Gloucestershire, is detailed in a book ‘Manor House to Hospice’ by Eric Miller, published in 2011. In it HRH adds a Foreword as Patron which notes “The local community has taken Leckhampton Court to its heart, and the army of volunteers and its fundraisers have created a home where medical expertise, practical compassion and a deep sense of peace exist in harmony. Leckhampton is a great asset to Gloucestershire and I am delighted to be its Patron.”
Lady Ryder purchased the ruins of Leckhampton Court – a medieval manor house nestled in the foothills of the Cotswolds Hills on the outskirts of Cheltenham - in 1977 with a vision of building a centre for the continuing cancer care of patients from nearby Cheltenham hospital. Today, the manor house is still home to specialist hospice care given by a team of experts to local people living with conditions like cancer, heart failure, lung disease and neurological conditions.
The manor house was in a terrible state of disrepair; with a tree growing through the open roof of the now Chapel where HRH will meet with invited guests in a special reception next week to celebrate 30 years of being Patron of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice.
Following Lady Ryder’s purchase of the manor house, a huge fundraising and volunteering campaign saw £176,000 raised to rebuild and refurbish the building, and an army of skilled volunteers and craftspeople donated their time and energy in its major rebuild.
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Following this incredible support by the local community, the first patients were received in Goose Bay (the new Day Hospice building) in 1980.
His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales agreed to become Patron of the Hospice in 1986 and first visited the Hospice in 1988, just before Christmas.
The Prince’s pre-Christmas visits have now become a regular tradition, and he meets and speaks personally with patients, families, volunteers, nurses, staff and supporters.
In his 1988 visit, HRH ceremonially presented keys for an urgently needed wheelchair bus which had been subject to a special fundraising appeal that year. The Prince also revealed a plaque in Goose Bay (now the Day Hospice) to commemorate his visit. A nursing auxiliary on a year’s work placement with Leckhampton Court at the time was reported to have said the royal visit was “worth travelling 12,000 miles for.”
That same year it was decided the Day Centre would be moved from the main manor house building to Goose Bay as success meant it had outgrown its space. The volunteering and fundraising support of the local community once again came to the fore to make the vital changes, and the new centre was officially opened by HRH and Lady Ryder on a visit in 1992.
A short speech was given by The Prince of Wales during the ceremony: “May I just offer my heartfelt congratulations to all those who I know spent a great deal of time and effort in making this centre ready to open because I know exactly how hard it is to raise the funds these days to make these sorts of things happen.”
“I do realise just how many people are involved – volunteers particularly – without whom this country would come to a grinding halt quite quickly.”
1990 saw a special 10th Anniversary Service held at Gloucester Cathedral to mark ten years since the opening of Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court. A special anniversary brochure was produced, which included a Foreword especially written by HRH The Prince of Wales, which noted the success of the home “depends not only on the skill and dedication of the medical staff, but also on the many supporters and volunteers working as a team.”
The support of the local community is still as important today, helping the charity in the upkeep of its magnificent building and supporting the provision of its expert compassionate hospice care it has become renowned for. It is through the fundraising and volunteering support of the very community it cares for that the hospice can continue to be there for local families at a time they need help most.
The Prince of Wales is an experienced watercolourist and in 1992 a Royal Art Exhibition took place at Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court which displayed a watercolour painting by HRH. The Prince also donated a limited edition Lithograph painting ‘Wensleydale from Moorcock’ to the hospice for the exhibition.
On one visit, HRH inspired a patient at the hospice to pick up a paint brush and in a following visit in 1988 she presented him with a water colour, which had taken her four months to create. Creative therapy and art remains an important part of the hospice’s offering and during HRH’s visit to the hospice in 2014 The Prince enjoyed time with patients working in the hospice’s new Art Room within its refurbished hospice building.
The modern Day Hospice building was officially opened in June 2014, following donations from local supporters and a grant from the Department of Health. The King’s Fund, of which The Prince is President, supported the hospice on the interior design of the new building, ensuring a healing and tranquil environment was created.
The anticipated Pre-Christmas visit by HRH are regarded as real red letter days by the patients, families, volunteers, nurses and staff and many have commented on the special memories The Prince’s visit has created. Following HRH’s visit in 1992 a residential patient said, “I can tell you it’s one of the best days of my life. He was wonderful.”
A patient in the Day Care Centre added, “We were told it would be a special day, but we had no idea how special.” Another patient mentioned, “It really made by Christmas.”
For more information on Sue Ryder Leckhampton Court Hospice, different ways in which you can support its work and HRH Price Charles’ visit on Thursday December 22 visit the website.