Memories of fleeting goodbye kisses, games of marbles in the hall, and DIY projects, came flooding back when Nantmawr couple June and Bill Braddick, and daughter Ruth, visited Derwen College’s Dame Agnes Hunt Village in Gobowen.
Derwen College welcomed June, Bill and Ruth to view Bungalow number 6 – one of the homes at the Dame Agnes Hunt Village which was built in 1952 to provide independent housing to people with disabilities. The bungalow, named ‘Tintagel’ is one of 28 which was built in memory of the pioneering founder of Derwen College and was part of her vision for a more independent life for those with disability.
As former Derwen trainees, June’s parents Peggy and Bob Parry were eligible to live in one of the modern bungalows set in a quadrant around a centre lawn and officially opened by The Duchess of Kent. June’s mother Peggy had a paralysed leg due to childhood polio and trained as a toymaker and seamstress at what was then called ‘Derwen Cripples Training College’. June’s father Bob lost his leg as a young boy after complications resulting from being kicked by a pit pony when working down Gatewen Colliery, near Wrexham. He trained as a shoemaker at Derwen.
The pair met at Derwen College but didn’t fall in love until they met again at a specialist training facility in London. They married, and by many twists and turns of fate – including war, work and a daughter – came to live back in Gobowen. Bob began working at Derwen as a maintenance painter while Peggy was offered a job in the surgical appliance department.
During her mother’s latter years, June spent many hours talking to her mother and compiling a book around her life at Derwen. The book, called Entwined Lives, follows the varied paths which cross back and forth, but always seem to return to Derwen.
In the book Peggy says:
“Thank you to dear Dame Agnes Hunt who was in a way like a guardian angel, not only to me, but to many others in similar circumstances.”
Peggy and Bob have now passed away, but for daughter June and her husband Bill the modest bungalow is filled with memories. The pair remember sneaking goodnight kisses in the porch when June lived with her parents in the bungalow. They also joined June’s parents to live in the bungalow for nine months when they were first married and waiting to move into their first home together. Bill remembers putting up shelves in the larder at ‘Tintagel’ and helping to level the back lawn by hand.
The couple even held their wedding reception at Derwen College’s Concert Hall (which sadly burnt down in January 1982)
The Braddick story now moves to the third generation, which is still entwined with Derwen. Peggy’s granddaughter Ruth works as a teacher at Derwen @Walford in Baschurch.
Ruth has fond memories of playing marbles in the hallway of Bungalow number 6 with her younger brother David, sheltering under the old tree in rain, playing around the workshops in amongst the roses and playing pooh sticks with David on the bridge. She started work as a teacher at Derwen in 1997. She now works at the college’s Baschurch satellite site – in the same village where Dame Agnes created a revolutionary open-air hospital back in 1900.
The hall where Ruth and David played is now carpeted, and No 6 is currently home to three young men who are Derwen College students. It has recently had a new kitchen and bathroom fitted, yet the layout is the same as June, Bill and Ruth remember. The family visit was an emotional experience.
June says: “Derwen has been a significant part of our family history. Talking to my mother about her memories was fascinating, with so many stories of resilience, co-incidence and happiness. Like Agnes Hunt, disability never held her back, and she always said that through her life she was happy.”
“Visiting the bungalows brought back so many fond memories. I am looking forward to meeting the young men who now live in Number 6, to talk to them about how the village is bringing them independence. I hope the bungalow brings them as many happy memories as it has for our family.”
Derwen College Charity is raising funds to modernise the bungalows to become a bespoke housing complex for people with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). After 70 years, the needs of students have changed and the homes are in need of modernisation to make them as life-changing as they were back in the 1950s.
The bungalows provide the opportunity for independence and are a stepping stone for students to achieve independent living.
The charity is asking for families with links to the bungalows to share their stories of how Dame Agnes Hunt Village shaped their lives. It also hopes that people will back the appeal by making donations or organising fundraising events.
For more information about the appeal and to read stories of other families who have lived in the bungalows over the years visit www.agneshuntappeal.co.uk