Staff, volunteers and supporters are commemorating the 35th anniversary of Blythe House Hospice in 2024.

Rev Betty Packham

Reverend Betty Packham, and her life companion, Doris Turck, cared for Stan Blythe in the comfort of their Buxton home during the final months of his life after he was diagnosed with cancer.

Stan left Betty a £1,000 gift in his will, and Betty used this money to establish the hospice in 1989 in memory of Stan.

Back in 2019, when staff at the hospice were celebrating its 30th anniversary, Betty and Doris shared their fond memories of Stan from the time he resided with them at their home. Their words were used in small way during the celebrations in 2019, but were never fully transcribed or published.

Since Betty sadly died in late 2022, and Doris shortly after in early 2023, it has never felt more important to look meticulously through the hospice archives and ensure that we are preserving the charity’s legacy with pride and respect.

We hope you enjoy reading Betty and Doris’ fond recollections of Stan, his family and friends – recorded back in 2019…

Doris Turck

Betty explained: ‘Stan had lost his wife to cancer. He had one daughter, called Ann, and he was a secondary school teacher in Kent’s Bank. All the lads remembered him; if you said to anyone “Do you remember Stan?” They would say: “All we heard about was birds, and if you did something he really didn’t like, he would just grab you by the scruff of the neck and wham! You were outside!” And all these sorts of stories because he did have a temper. He and I had arguments galore! I really loved him as a man.’

Doris said: ‘He had a very little bit of sight, and he often he got letters so I would go up to his room and he’d say: “Read these or translate these for me!” and he was a great chap. He would have the television on, and I would say Stan: “Can you actually see any of this?” I think it was Barnsley football team, and he would peer at this, and I don’t know if he saw very much!

‘He always used to take a group from the wildlife group in Buxton to Chrome Hill because apparently that’s a place if you’re a bird person where you can hear nightingales, and so they would go at certain times of the year with lots of lovely memories. Often when you lose one faculty, like your sight, your hearing becomes more acute; his was absolutely brilliant.’

Betty then explained: ‘Doris sends her friend from Surrey a regular update of the hospice – she wrote back to Doris and she said: “It’s extraordinary after reading your update; seems only yesterday I visited you in Buxton and there was Mr Blythe in the room next door.” She has a personal interest as well as general support for the hospice.

Stan Blythe

‘All Stan’s friends came to feed him, it was lovely. His daughter Ann had Down Syndrome; he taught her a lot; she was very clever. When he died, she came to visit him, and she took his pipe and put it on his forehead as he lay there, and I will always remember that.

‘The most important thing is when he was dying, he was told by the doctor that it was coming, I went to hold his hand and he had his little radio on the side, on his window because he used to wake up in the middle of the night and put it on. This damn radio was shouting out, something about the “birds are singing and I don’t know how to say goodbye.” He was an ornithologist of really good repute, he really knew what he was doing – and this blasted thing came out as he was lying there dying and that sort of thing is just so special, it’s a tremendously emotional thing.’

Doris said of Stan’s funeral: ‘One moment during the prayers when there was stillness, we heard birdsong. It was so right because he was the longest serving president of Buxton Field Club.’

Find out more about the hospice’s history.

Feature image – 137 Manchester Road in Chapel-en-le-Frith where the hospice was founded; taken from the 1992 hospice newsletter

Blythe House Hospice is gearing up to celebrate its 35th anniversary in 2024.

The hospice came from humble beginnings, from its first location at 137 Manchester Road in Chapel-en-le-Frith (a residential home next door to Whitestones Care Home), to the purpose-built building on Eccles Fold where it stands today.

Work on the facility we know today began back in 1998 on the site of a former workhouse.

Trevor Gilman, an experienced project manager and keen historian from Buxton, was employed by the hospice’s board of trustees to keep them informed about the building’s development.

Trevor had spent the 1960s studying engineering and the 1970s studying building construction, culminating in a decision in 1978 to open his own design practice offering a design and management service in both disciplines.

His first major project was for a complete factory for the Dutch Maid Company who had outgrown their premises in Tideswell and acquired land for a new building at Fairfield.

Through this work, Trevor met Ann Gutteridge a Buxton solicitor (a close friend of hospice founder, Reverend Betty Packham), and this was how he came to be involved in the hospice build project.

Trevor explained: ‘It was my job to look after the trustees’ interests, and keep them informed about what was going on, on site. I worked closely with David Close (former volunteer chief executive of the hospice), and would liaise closely with the architect, David Darbyshire in Newcastle, building inspectors and structural engineers.

‘I made sure that everything was going to plan and nothing was in the wrong place; I’d flag up problems and look after the interests of everyone involved. I’d report back to the architect and trustees on a weekly basis to keep them up to date on progress.

‘It was an exciting project – one of the most interesting in a long and varied career. As a result, I still support Blythe House when I can, through the charity shops and making donations from time to time.’

This carousel of photos was taken by Trevor throughout the construction of the hospice building.

If you have any memories or photographs of the hospice throughout the years, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Please email: communications@blythehouse.co.uk.

 

As time goes by so quickly and people move on, it is so important to keep a track of history so that stories and memories from years gone by can be preserved for the interest and enjoyment of others well into the future.

Blythe House is gearing up to commemorate its 35th anniversary in 2024, and as part of celebrations, we are keen to hear from anyone who has fond recollections of it over the years.

The hospice was founded in 1989 by Reverend Betty Packham, after she was bequeathed a £1,000 legacy in the will of Stan Blythe. Betty, and her life companion, Doris Turck cared for Stan in the comfort of their home during the last four months of his life.

David with Betty during hospice construction

We were delighted to welcome Jan Close, wife of David Close OBE, and their eldest daughter, Kate Paine, to the hospice recently, to talk about its earlier history.

David masterminded and project managed the build of the purpose-built hospice facility on Eccles Fold, Chapel-en-le-Frith where Blythe House is still based to this day.

Jan said: ‘David was due to retire from his career in the engineering industry in 1992. He met with Simon Cocksedge, who was then his doctor, and chairman of the committee for the hospice at this point. David told Simon that he was retiring, and he’d be keen to get involved in volunteering to support the hospice. Within 24 hours, Simon approached David and asked him to be chairman of the committee!’

At the time, the hospice was still very small; operating from 137 Manchester Road, a home in Chapel-en-le-Frith that Derbyshire County Council very generously let the committee have rent-free. In January 1995, a plot of land at Eccles Fold was purchased from Derbyshire County Council to build a brand-new hospice.

In February 1997, David hosted a launch event at the Town Hall for an appeal to raise £500,000 for the hospice build; backed by the hospice’s patron at the time, the Duke of Devonshire. David and Jan spent two years ardently seeking grants from trust funds until they reached that total. The remaining £200,000 was raised locally by fundraiser, David Mirtle, and local volunteers.

Jan explained that along with the hospice committee, he managed costings and payments, also health and safety. He liaised with the architects, held site meetings with builders and electricians about proposed plans, and the design and layout of the building.

The building work was completed in June 2000, and the month after saw the last day of hospice services at 137 Manchester Road. In August, the brand-new hospice on Eccles Fold opened its doors to patients for the first time, and it was officially opened in September with a special event attended by local dignitaries. In March 2001, the Duke of Westminster visited Blythe House to celebrate its opening.

David retired from his voluntary position as chief executive in March 2003, passing on the role to Nick Pilling.

If you have any memories or photographs of the humble beginnings of the hospice, to what it is today, we’d be delighted to hear from you. Please email: communications@blythehouse.co.uk.