“When our older sister Barbara was born in 1953 with Down Syndrome, our parents thought long and hard about her future. Where would she be living when she became an adult?” said Maggie. In the 1950s there were few options for learning disabled people, post education.
“Our parents had two choices for Barbara; either she could be cared for at home, or she could live in an institution. Our parents knew that there had to be another way.”
Maggie’s parents Frank and Adita had begun planning for Barbara’s future whilst she was still a child, because it wouldn’t be easy for this dream to become a reality.
“There was no Government provision at the time to establish a new type of home and, if this home was to be created, it required fundraising. It was the parents’ vision to raise the money for a new style of home: the grounds, the equipment and the training of all of the staff,” said John.
With many generous donations and hard fundraising, the families bought Frocester Manor, a large Georgian house with land in the Gloucestershire countryside. It began initially as home to six young men, steadily growing to over 30 people once a bungalow was built on-site to house young ladies. This was Barbara’s first home after she left school. “It was her happy place,” shared Maggie fondly.
Frocester Manor had everything the residents could need. There was a working pig farm, and a craft shop on-site where many of the residents worked and contributed to. There was an enormous amount of energy poured into it by people such as Frank and Adita.
“In many ways, Frocester Manor, and Hft’s vision, became a blueprint for how homes for learning disabled people could look and it was replicated all over the country. It really was revolutionary. Inclusivity was always at the heart of what Hft stood for. Dad wanted other families to know that, if they couldn’t afford to get their child into a home like this, it wasn’t a barrier – they would find a way,” said John.
Frank was awarded an OBE in the 1990 New Year’s Honours List for his amazing work in building Hft and being an advocate for learning disabled people. “When Barbara was born in the 1950s, she was expected to live to between 21 and 25 years old. She passed away in 2018 aged almost 66 after nearly 50 very happy years with Hft – and as a married woman.” In 2003, Frank had the honour of walking Barbara down the aisle, as she married Roger, who she had been friends with since she was aged six, in 1959.
As Hft celebrates its 60th anniversary, Maggie has some warm messages for everyone. Even though Frocester Manor is no longer an Hft home, John reflected on how important the home was for their sister. “I want to thank all the different key workers and support staff who helped Barbara have a wonderful life over so many years.
They really made life at Frocester Manor, and the Hft homes Barbara subsequently called home, very special for our sister,” John concluded. “It seems fitting to thank and remember all the different family members over the years whose energy and resilience make Hft what it is today. Without them it would not have been possible.”
Leave a legacy which lasts
Leaving a gift to Hft in your Will can help ensure we can keep delivering outstanding services to learning disabled people nationwide for another 60 years. Download our free Gifts in Wills guide below.