Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Charity seeking memories of 100-year-old premises

THE owners of a police rehabilitation centre near Goring want to find out more about the history of their building.

THE owners of a police rehabilitation centre near Goring want to find out more about the history of their building.

This year, Flint House celebrates its 100th birthday and its 25th anniversary as a retreat for wounded officers.

The Police Rehabilitation Centre Charity, which bought the premises in 1986, is marking the occasion by publishing a booklet about the building’s past.

The charity has extensive information about its own history, which was recently chronicled in a book called I Remember When, but wants to find out more about Flint House itself using people’s memories and anecdotes.

Marketing manager Kevin Bishop, who is carrying out the research, said: “I’ve always had a fascination with what’s gone before, especially with a building that has got so much history.

“We know a lot about the building but what we lack is the real local flavour from the people who lived or worked there.

“For example, it was used as a school and it would be great if a former pupil could show us how it used to be laid out.

“There’s a fabulous old picture of Flint House being built and perhaps there are relatives of the workmen around. It’s a challenge to reach these people but I’m confident that they’re out there.”

The Grade II listed building, which is off Reading Road about a mile east of Goring, was built as a private residence in 1913.

During the Twenties and Thirties, it was owned by the Whittington family and Goring’s scouts held fetes and jamborees in the 19-acre grounds.

The house served as a convalescent home for Allied soldiers during the Second World War and as a small private school from 1963 to 1966.

The Thames Water Authority then bought it to use as a training centre but abandoned it in 1985.

A year later, the charity moved in and converted it into the rehabilitation centre, which was opened by the Queen Mother in 1988.

Mr Bishop’s interest was sparked after an elderly man who used to work at the house shared some anecdotes with a colleague on a train journey to Goring.

He said: “He told us that Vera Whittington, the wife of the old owner, was the one who allowed wounded servicemen to come and recover here during the war.

“She was very highly thought of and once supposedly flew to Italy to see how some of her former patients were doing. There’s supposed to be a picture of her posing in a Jeep out there with ‘her boys’ — it could be rumour but I thought it was worth looking into.

“The man said the Imperial War Museum had a copy, so I’m looking into that. I think there can’t be any smoke without fire.

“We want more people to come forward if they know anything or have any memorabilia like old photographs or newspaper cuttings. We had an open day last year and about 90 people came. They hadn’t known the centre was here but they’d known previous occupants.”

The charity was founded in 1890 and was originally based in Hove. It moved to Flint House because it needed bigger premises.

Now the centre employs 140 staff and cares for more than 3,500 officers a year.

Following a series of extensions, including the Flint Fold annexe in 2004, it has expanded from 25 bedrooms to 158. Residents stay for up to 12 days and can get intensive treatment for a range of physical and psychological complaints.

Services vary from physiotherapy and exercise regimes to counselling and alternative therapies such as acupuncture and Pilates.

The centre has a gymnasium, a swimming pool and hydrotherapy room as well as a putting green, bowls lawn and woodland walking trails.It serves 29 forces across the South and the Midlands, stretching as far north as Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Most of its funding comes from the 90,000 officers in its catchment area and it does not solicit donations from the public.

Since 2009, the Home Office has provided grants totalling £1.6million, which have been used to improve the disabled access and refurbish the dining room.

Mr Bishop said: “There’s a very distinct public benefit in what we do — we see some seriously injured officers who need to be back at work as soon as possible. I believe that we can play a key part in that and take significant pressure off the National Health Service in doing so. The people in here just want to get back out and do their jobs. They’re not here on holiday — they’re here to get better.”

To celebrate its 25th anniversary at Flint House, the charity is producing a limited edition pin badge and will be holding another open day on September 18.

Anyone with information can call the centre on (01491) 874499 or email enquiries@flinthouse.co.uk

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