History and Heritage


Retirement operators are breathing new life into historic buildings and revealing fascinating histories, discovers Jane Slade

Dreams of living in an historic manor house surrounding by a rich heritage, can be realised more easily now than ever before, as imaginative house builders revive historic buildings and turn them into retirement idylls.

Grove Place is a fine fusion of ancient and modern. Set within 27 acres bordering the Broadlands Estate on the edge of the New Forest, even Hampshire County Council styles it as a Hampshire Treasure.

The Grade 1 listed manor house dates from 1561 and includes King Charles 1 among its former owners. The glorious façade bristles with Elizabethan chimneystacks and stone mullioned windows while inside, original16th century oak panelling meets some of the finest decorative plasterwork in the country.

LifeCare Residences have redesigned Grove Place as a haven for discerning retirees, creating a range of modern apartments and bungalows, as well as a restaurant, bar, on suite swimming pool, spa, gym and hair salon. As resident Fred Tickle observes: “An Elizabethan building has so much to research and discover - it becomes a hobby in itself”

“Apart from the history of the noblemen and politicians who once owned or leased Grove Place, there are many fascinating stories of events that have happened here in the past.” General Manager, Richard Powell adds: “Everywhere you look Grove Place tells a story - from the ornate ceilings and chimney breasts, to the oak panelled walls - it has such character.”


As with many historic houses, Mount Battenhall near the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire has had several incarnations since beginning life as a large Italianate villa for a wealthy Worcester clothier in the 1860s.

Thirty years later, the scion of a rich brewing family bought it and added a Belvedere tower, Jacobean dining room and music room. It then became a hospital for First World War serviceman and in 1933 an order of nuns snapped it up for just £7,600 and ran it as a Convent school.

It was given a new lease of later life in 2017 by Enterprise Retirement Living which has created a retirement community, adding to its portfolio of three other retirement villages; the Red House in Ripon; Grade-II listed Boughton Hall in Chester and 18-acre Bootham Park in York.

here are baroque and Rococo motifs on the plastered ceiling of the lounge at Mount Battenhall, not to mention stunning stained-glass windows, mosaic tiled flooring, intricately carved friezes and even a chapel with marble floor and semi-precious stones.

“It has been an amazing project to work on,” says Neil Davison, ERL’s Managing Director. “We’re very proud to have given an important piece of history a new lease of life which will benefit many people long into the future. We’ve already welcomed our first occupants and we’re looking forward to seeing it completed and becoming a vibrant community for Worcester.” Of course today’s owners can also enjoy the modern additions of a gym, spa, restaurant, bar, café, and hair and beauty salon.


The Grade-II listed centrepiece at Audley Stanbridge Earls near Romsey in Hampshire dates back to Saxon Royalty, with links to Alfred the Great and Florence Nightingale. The building, minutes from the market town of Romsey in Hampshire, stands within 32 acres of natural woodland, open meadows and ornamental lakes. The site is said to be the original burial place of King Ethelwulf of Wessex. He was king of the Saxons and father of the cake-burning monarch Alfred the Great.

Florence Nightingale’s father, William Nightingale, bought Stanbridge Earls at the end of the 18th century and successive relatives added new wings transforming it into the Tudor Manor house that exists today. Audley Villages is now developing the estate into 155luxury cottages and apartments for the over 60s.

Paul Morgan, Audley’s managing director explains: “Many of our villages are centred around buildings with an extensive history, from the Victorian Gothic mansion of Audley Binswood in Royal Leamington Spa to the Grade II Tudor Manor House at Audley Stanbridge Earls. Our property owners are proud to live in buildings thatare not only beautiful, but part of the nation’s history. Andmany of those building have incredible stories to tell “One example is Audley Cooper’s Hill in Surrey. Th ebasement was home to the Statue of Eros in the war and it’sreported that Elton John was also a notable guest a good fewyears later.”


Even younger properties have great histories to share. Great Alne Park retirement village in Warwickshire was built around Great Alne Hall, constructed less than 100 years ago. The devastating bombing of Coventry in November 1940resulted in several children being evacuated from the city centre and given sanctuary there. In 1941 the site was sold to the Maudslay Motor Company which moved from Coventry during the war to avoid air raids.

Inspired Villages bought the site in 2014. Th e main19th century hall is now the village clubhouse with a bar, restaurant, spa, gym, library, cinema and games room. James Cobb, director of Inspired Villages said: “Many visitors to the onsite restaurant, which is open to the public, have enquired about the site’s heritage which prompted residents and the village team to create a memory wall. It’s been incredibly important to us that we preserve memories of the site for the community and generations to come. Th e memory wall has been great way for locals and residents to share the interesting history with their children and grandchildren and ultimately create new memories of their own too.”


At Elizabethan, Danny House, near Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, owner Richard Burrows recently discovered an historic plunge pool in the grounds which he hopes to renovate for his hardy residents. Danny is steeped in heritage. For a few months in 1918, it was the home of the former Prime Minister David Lloyd George which he shared with his wife and his mistress and where in October, he met with his cabinet to draw up the terms of the Armistice. It’s also home to the second oldest cricket ground in the world.

Danny’s most historic resident is 101-year-old Colin Prickett who has rented an apartment at Danny for 23 years. “He’s the only man alive who has had coffee with Hitler and tea with the Kaiser,” Burrows proudly declares.


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