LYME GREEN SETTLEMENT CIO

HISTORY

During the First World War many men suffered injuries resulting inbreathing difficulties because of gas or infections, such as tuberculosis, caught in the trenches. The government and many charities joined together to set up housing and employment schemes for men who were unable to look after themselves or gain normal employment. One such unit was The Barrowmore Village Settlement, near Chester. Run by the Joint Committee of the British Red Cross and the Order of St John, this settlement provided housing, nursing care and a sheltered workshop.

Group of early SettlersIt was apparent towards the end of WWII that there was a group of injuries which were unknown after WWI. These were the paraplegics, men who had suffered spinal injuries and were now confined to a wheelchair. The men were benefiting from improved medical care but were still only expected to live for about ten years. The original homes and Settlements were not suitable for the paraplegics, as the mobility and medical needs were very different. They would need regular nursing care and accommodation with access for wheelchairs to all areas.

Support

Following the success of the Barrowmore Settlement, the Cheshire Branch of the joint Committee of the British Red Cross and The Order of St John were asked to set up a scheme designed for paraplegics. It had the active support of various government ministries, especially the Ministry of Pensions, and worked closely with the Spinal Unit of Stoke Mandeville Hospital where pioneering work on paraplegia was being carried out.

Dormitory in the HallLyme Green Hall, Macclesfield was purchased in 1945 for conversion to a hospital, which would provide follow-on care for the paraplegics. These men would also need employment and homes for wives and families if they were to live fulfilling lives. Plans were drawn up to provide workshops and bungalows. A separate charity, known as "The Lyme Green Settlement for Paraplegics", was formed in 1946. This new charity had governors nominated by the Cheshire branches of the Order of St John and the British Red Cross Society and would be major beneficiaries of grants from the National Joint Committee and initial funding from the Duke of Gloucester's War Fund.

The Hall was converted during the winter of 1945 and spring of 1946 into a clinic and two hospital wards, each capable of looking after the needs of six men. Workshops were included in the building work initially to provide work in clock and boot repair both having a skilled element and being able to be done from a wheelchair. Recreational facilities with a lounge, games room and a library were also provided.

A matron, sister and a nurse provided nursing care with volunteer help from nurses of the local units of St John Ambulance and British Red Cross. The extensive grounds of the estate were tended by a team of gardeners to help provide produce for use in the hospital and to provide space for the men to get to their wheelchairs.

Workshops

The first group of Settlers, as the men were known, arrived in July 1946. All were unmarried or living away from their families; the hospital became their new home.

WorkshopThe workshops provided work in clock repair, shoe repair and later woodwork. These were trades, which could all be done from wheelchairs. Instructors to teach the men new skills were provided to give assistance where necessary. The hospital and workshops were run very much on the lines of an army hospital with very strict rules for the men. It was a condition of residency that the men had to work in the workshops, receiving board and lodging in exchange. It was classed as occupational therapy but the men had to work really hard to receive the twenty shillings a week incentive bonus. The clock shop not only repaired clocks but also serviced electricity meters, speedometers for police cars and gauges for use on steam machinery. The boot and shoe repair men held contracts with many local authorities such as fire brigades and the RAF and Navy. A huge array of high duality products,from small cupboards and boxes to large pieces of garden furniture,came from the workshops. The men and staff on the Settlement worked hard to ensure the workshops at least broke even most of the time. The workshops also provided a great meeting place for the men to get together, build friendships and swap stories of time spent in the forces.

Off the Settlement the good citizens of Macclesfield gradually became used to the sight of the men shopping and enjoying their leisure in their alien looking wheelchairs. They welcomed the Settlers, and the charms of the Settlers were such that a number of the town's loveliest ladies became wives in the new bungalows, which became available for occupation during 1948, somewhat later than hoped because of shortage of building materials and labour. Married men in the hospital were now able to bring their wives and families to live with them. At times as many as twenty children lived on site.

The Settlement appreciated that the men had minds as well as bodies that were hurt during the war and the men were encouraged to help each other through their problems. The hospital had lounge facilities with a small games room where the men could relax.

Sport

Men from the Settlement gained success in many events such as basketball, archery, table tennis, javelin, bowls, shot putt and snooker, honing their skills on the practice areas provided.

Playing footballA recreational hall was built as funds and materials became available in the mid 1950s. As well as a room with a full sized billiard table there was a large room which was used for a wide variety of purposes.

Settlers regularly won medals at the Stoke Mandeville Games, which was the forerunner of the Para-Olympics. The Settlement provided members for Great Britain teams in table tennis and basketball at the Commonwealth Games in Perth, Western Australia in 1962. This particular event was a logistical nightmare for Caledonian Airways who carried 100men plus wheelchairs and other kit on such a long flight, which included re-fuelling stops and a 24-hour stopover in Colombo, Ceylon.

Not the least of the problems was the toilet accommodation; the ingenuity of the competitors to get round this problem is best left to the imagination.

Perhaps one of the most striking illustrations of the attitude and determination of the men came when Settlers, who were members of the Great Britain team, were invited to visit Nairobi to coach wheelchair bound athletes. Although in a wheelchair they were quite capable of doing things for others. Their coaching skills seemed to work, the Kenyans started winning the trophies, which Lyme Green had come to believe were theirs by right.

Challenges

Clock repairTimes and needs gradually changed. One of the surprises was that the Settlers were proving more resilient than had been expected. Rather than being a short-term exercise the Settlement began to face new challenges. The first major change was the closure of the hospital in 1975. The supply of new recruits was thankfully dwindling, as the world became a somewhat more peaceful place. Improved medical regimes meant the men did not need as much care actually in the hospital. About this time the Matron and Sister who had been at the Settlement since the opening retired. The clinic and office were moved to a vacant bungalow and a resident nurse was employed to look after the medical needs of the Settlers. The hospital was sold in 1976 with the funds providing much needed help for the Trust's finances.

As the original Settlers got older they took the retirement which no one envisaged happening at the opening of the Settlement. The advent of new materials and technology meant that shoes and boots did not need repair. Digital watches and instruments were also less likely to need repair. The workshops were no longer viable and were beginning to be a huge drain on the resources of the Settlement, so they were closed in the 1990s and let out.

The recreational hall built in the mid 1950s became less used as the original men aged and the new younger residents spent their leisure time in different ways. For a time it was hired out for wedding receptions and the like, but time and new safety regulations meant that it too was closed in the 1990s. Without a large and costly refurbishment the Hall was not suitable for letting for events. The workshops and recreational hall were closed during the 1990s. The hall is now rented to a kindergarten.

In the Spring of 2005 a dedicated office was built, which freed up a bungalow for residential use.

Independence

The end of 2005 saw the demise of the Joint Committee as the need for it has been dramatically reduced. The Joint Committee has been a source of help both financially and for advice since the Settlement was formed and without that help the Settlement would not have survived. The Trustees have been very appreciative of that support and acknowledge, with thanks, the contributions made towards street lighting and patio doors for the bungalows as a final grant from the Joint Committee.

Since 1997 The Lyme Green Settlement Trust, as it is now known, has operated successfully without the background funding of the Joint Committee. The Trust celebrates its sixtieth anniversary in the knowledge that it has adapted successfully to the changing circumstances. Who knows what the challenges of the next sixty years will bring? In the past difficult, and sometimes unpopular, decisions have had to be made. No doubt the same will apply to the future but the Trustees are confident that those challenges can be met for the benefit of present and future residents.

Lyme Green Settlement, London Rd, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 0LD.
Registered Charity No. 1155679. View the privacy policy for this site.