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Grove House Open Day – 16 September 2022

On a mid-September day of brilliant blue skies and warming sun, Grove House opened its doors to the public as one of 23 events across Harrogate during this year’s national “Heritage Open Days” festival. As most of the house is currently unoccupied this was a rare opportunity for Springfield Healthcare, its owners, to show off parts of the house, and the grounds, ahead of its imminent conversion and the extension of the site into a major new care village.

Late afternoon, after all the visitors had left

The open-day was hosted by Rachael Dunseath, Head of Marketing at Springfield, supported by Katie Wisniewski in the Digital Marketing team. They welcomed and spoke with visitors in front of displays of historical images and artefacts of the house that they had assembled; they also offered visitors light refreshments and small Springfield souvenirs.

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Rachael and Katie, from Springfield Healthcare

Four free one-hour tours were led by Dr Paul Jennings, a local historian and author, and William (Bill) Thompson, a long-serving former staff member at the house.

The Harrogate Civic Society supported the event, with its chair, Stuart Holland, attending in the morning. Angela Fahy, secretary of the society and chair of its events sub-group, together with Kevin Hales, a society member, helped to greet the visitors and shepherd them into the tour groups.

The grounds opened at 11am. Due to access and safety restrictions, each house-tour was to be limited to 15 participants and was free-ticketed accordingly. However, as the grounds were open freely to all, many more visitors turned up – perhaps 160 in total – and in the end many of those without tickets were also able to join the tours.

The event was a huge success. Reflecting on the day, Rachael said she had so many memories to take away:

“ but if I had to pick just one it was being told about the existence and location of the ‘time capsule’ in the house. I shall look forward to seeing it when we excavate the site. ”

Kevin recalled:

“ the couple who walked up, knowing nothing about the tours but wanting to wander around inside the house. Despite me explaining why this was not possible, and assuring the lady they could join the next tour, she seemed anxious, disappointed, maybe frustrated, and looked sad. An hour later, after the tour, I watched her emerge from the house into the sunshine with a beaming smile on her face, animated: a different woman. I don’t recall if it was Rachael’s and Katie’s hospitality, or Bill’s and Paul’s tour, that did the trick but I’m sure she departed very happy. ”

Let the tour begin! – Paul (centre, facing group) with an attentive audience

Angela was reminded of:

“the visitor, in is 90s, with an American accent, who introduced himself to me with “I am a Buff”; his wife added “My father was a Buff”. I should have asked how the couple met! She remembered bringing her elderly father there for Buff events, and a chair in the hallway near the lift where he would rest before getting in the lift. He pointed to the room that he would book when he came to stay – the bay window on the upper floor, left of the entrance. He said that “the Buffs” were for working class men who didn’t want to be in, or didn’t feel welcome in, the Masonic Lodge. He said that when “the Buffs” bought the building it was already an orphanage, and that as it ceased to be one it was converted to a convalescent home, and then to bring in more money rooms were used as “hotel” rooms for visiting Buffs. The Buffs was/is international but Grove House was “the Grand Lodge”. They were, as they stood outside, absolutely caught up in their memories of her father and their own visits there ”

Another group of visitors learn about Grove House

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