Hammersmith Reflections – Award Winning Secret Gardens Open Saturday 9 June

Hammersmith United Charities is thrilled to announce the charity has won two awards at the London Gardens Society Competition for each of its two sheltered housing schemes for older people.  Sycamore House won third place for the large community gardens at the awards ceremony. However, community gardener Jackie Thompson was particularly pleased to receive first prize and the Challenge Cup for John Betts House in the small community gardens category.

You have a once in a year opportunity to visit both secret gardens as part of the Open Garden Squares Weekend on Saturday 9th June between 2pm and 5pm. Tickets at the door £4 or at www.opensquares.org for all gardens across London open at the weekend, children up to 11 go free.

 

Tilly and the Challenge Cup

After several years of second and third places, and facing stiff competition from rival Almshouses, the internal garden courtyard at John Betts House, achieved the accolade under the leadership of Jackie (and trusty helper, Tilly the dog!) “It feels brilliant, because it’s a lot of work. It’s judged on RHS guidelines, with points for immediate colour, points for tidiness and cleanliness, points for proper use of plants in the right place and sustainability,” Jackie said.

Jackie joined the charity in December 2003 and built the garden up with the help from volunteer garden residents.  The secluded garden was used to dump rubble from building work when John Betts House was refurbished in 1998, so digging has proved to be very difficult.

Given the challenge the garden presents, Jackie explained one of the ways to improve it was to plant above soil level. This means the garden is filled with hanging baskets and raised beds, where residents can plant vegetables and fruits in the summer.  The focal piece of the garden is the series of arches which are covered with plants and grasses and which Jackie changes every year.

John Betts House

Of course, the overall appearance of the garden is enhanced by the array of hanging baskets, pots and plants which are created by the residents and adorn the balconies surrounding the main courtyard garden. These balconies were recognised at the London Gardens Society awards, as residents James Geraghty (Sycamore House) and Clodagh Corcoran (John Betts House) won third place in the Balcony and Container displays category at the Almshouses Residents’ Garden Competition.

Clodagh, who has lived at John Betts House for more than four years, explained she loves looking out onto the garden and enjoying the peace it offers.  “I love the garden here. I like looking at the colour, the peace in this garden, you could cut it, it’s so quiet and lovely. There are always tiny birds moving around, very early in the morning picking up insects, its lovely, there’s a whole world out there,” Clodagh said.  “We wouldn’t have a garden if it wasn’t for Jackie, she built it from gravel up. Everybody loves the garden, people who come here, and it had never occurred to them to have a flower pot and she has encouraged them.”

Jackie said she is motivated by the fact she has created something beautiful for the residents to enjoy and residents who have never had an interest in gardening now relish spending time on their balcony displays, including Kate Macdonald who spends every day tending to her red geraniums.  “I like that I have created in both places a very nice place to live, that makes people feel at home, that they feel secure and there’s stimulation in colour and texture and perfume,” Jackie added. “It’s all about creating a home for birds and insects as well, its wildlife. Especially in a city it’s really important…it’s like a little hidden paradise.”

John Betts House Resident Kate

 

John Betts House has added even more to its natural ‘wow’ factor given by the design that conceals its garden completely from garden view.  The garden now contains newly painted benches, a new fountain and swing seat for residents to enjoy, bought with funds from one of the Open Garden Squares event held every year at the gardens.

The London Gardens Society awards come at a very special time for the charity as it celebrates its 400th anniversary in 2018. For this reason, the residents of Sycamore House and John Betts House would like to invite the local community to visit the secret, beautiful and award-winning gardens at the next Open Garden Squares event held on Saturday 9 June 2018 and encourage keen local gardeners to keep in touch in order to be updated on our very own gardeners question time in September.

Amani Hughes

May 2018

Hammersmith United Charities Response to Coronavirus (COVID-19)

In line with Government advice, Hammersmith United Charities has invoked our Business Continuity Plan and implemented a new operating model focussed on keeping the residents of our Almshouses, our team, contractors and partners safe and well during the Coronavirus pandemic. (more…)

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The almshouse movement

So much more than affordable housing

With the average house price in Hammersmith at more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, it is no surprise that many workers are reaching retirement without the safety net of their own property. That’s why almshouses like ours, providing older people an affordable home in the community where they belong, are as vital now as when the movement began hundreds of years ago.

By Victoria Hill, Chief Executive – Hammersmith United Charities

 

The coronavirus has seen an outpouring of appreciation for key workers who leave the safety of their home to work keeping their community safe, fed and well. In the frightening early days of the first lockdown, we stood in the street and clapped for healthcare workers, carers, shop assistants, cleaners and more – all the people who put themselves at risk for the sake of others.

The contribution of key workers is rarely highly valued in monetary terms and these are often the very people who struggle to find an affordable home near their families and vital services as they grow older and become more in need of care themselves.

The average house price in Hammersmith is more than 25 times the salary of a nurse, and so it is no surprise that increasing numbers of workers are reaching retirement without their own property to fall back on. And with the average rental cost of a one-bedroom flat at two and a half times the state pension, it is easy to see how so many older people are also priced out of the private rental market.

With one in four older people in our area now living in poverty, the mission of almshouses like ours is as relevant as it was 400 years ago when Hammersmith United Charities was founded.

The almshouse movement has been around for hundreds of years but the Almshouse Association and the Charity Commission have only recently created a formal definition of what it means to be an almshouse. It describes exactly what we do here at Hammersmith United Charities.

Our charity was founded in 1618 with a gift of £100 to provide housing for the relief of the ‘elderly poor’ of Hammersmith. This gift has been added to and grown by generations of trustees and we now have an endowment and 92 flats on two sites just off the Goldhawk Road. These properties are highly protected and cannot be sold or used for any other purpose. Our residents must be over 60, have lived in Hammersmith for at least five years, be of limited means and in need of sheltered accommodation.

In human terms, our status as an almshouse means that the Charity can provide housing to the people who have often contributed most to our community but feel valued least. We believe that no one should be denied the opportunity to live in a decent home simply because they were never given the opportunity to climb the property ladder. The cost of our flats is regulated by statute to ensure that anyone can live here without causing hardship.

For us, almshouse living is about much more than just affordable housing. We know from research by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing that where we live and our relationships also have a significant impact on our wellbeing. For Hammersmith United Charities, what defines us is our ability to provide a home where people feel safe, in the place where they belong, surrounded by a community who values them for life, not just for lockdown.

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More information:

Over 60 and looking for a new home in Hammersmith? We provide beautiful, welcoming sheltered housing with award-winning communal gardens. Flats available now from £870 per month.

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