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International Women’s Day 2024: Meet our inspirational residents

International Women's Day, 8th March, is a worldwide opportunity for groups and individuals to unify, celebrate and support women's advancement.

Many women who have led inspirational lives both in their careers, family life and local communities are residents of Country Court.

They have witnessed huge changes for women, and the teams at Country Court have been speaking to them about their lives and hearing about their achievements.


Meet Patricia Bowkis (90) at Ferrars Hall

Pat was born in London in 1933. After leaving school she worked as a dressmaker, mainly for manufacturers such as Etams. She also worked in a dress shop in Tottenham doing alterations and bespoke items. The family moved to Huntingdon in the 1970s and lived near the town centre for around 40 years. She did a lot of dressmaking for private clients over the years. She ran a couple of shops in Huntingdon, one called ‘Bows’ selling clothing from wholesalers in London and later another shop specialising in wedding dresses.

Her inspiration for dressmaking came from her father, he worked in the fur trade and with leather goods. Her Dad bought her first sewing machine, a Singer with a foot treadle. Later on, she had electric machines and could make almost anything. Her favourite items to make were children’s bridesmaid’s dresses. She loves making things and being creative and even turned her hand to woodwork.

In later life, she started painting canal ware and pictures of local landmarks to sell at craft shows. When she was 66 years old, she returned to education, studying and gaining an A-level in Art at Huntingdon Regional College. Her daughter Linda said,

“When she reached the age of 66, she decided to go to college to obtain her A level Art which she achieved. I remember being so proud of her. Mum told me that she had wanted to be a dress designer when she was a teenager (she had always designed and made her own clothes) but at the time her parents could not have afforded to put her through college.”


Meet Roz Hoyle (84) at Lyncroft Care Home

Roz was born in Oswestry in 1940. Her mother Irene was a housewife, but later ran a B&B in Torquay. Her father Percy was in the Royal Navy in the submarines for many years.

After leaving school Roz trained as a Norland Nanny, this type of children’s nanny is considered the ‘best of the best’ and often used by royalty and those of high social standing. With an eye-catching uniform, Norland Nannies are highly trained and sought after. Roz went out to Iran in the 1950s as a Norland nanny, where she worked for a high-profile Iranian family. A move her daughter Emma describes as "very brave".

Roz also lived in Norway, Afghanistan and then the UK, where she trained to be a teacher. Roz met her future husband in Tehran, he worked for the foreign office and they got married in 1962. The young family often moved around with his work.

Her first teaching job was at a school in Guildford, Surrey. The family later moved to Vienna, where she taught children of all nationalities at the International School. She has generally taught primary school children, some with special needs, covering all subjects, but she always loved history. In 1982 she moved to Wisbech and became a much-loved teacher at St Augustin's School. Some of the care staff at Lyncroft Care Home where she lives, remember her as their teacher and have fond memories of their school days thanks to Roz.


Meet Hilda Washbrook (106) at Baycroft Flitwick Care Home

Hilda, now 106 years old, started working aged 14 at Fetteresso Castle in Scotland where she was nursery maid to Lord and Lady Scott Duff.

She travelled on the train from London on 3rd Jan 1919, with two trunks and two prams all by herself. She still fondly remembers one of the conductors who took her under his wing and helped her on the journey and the change to a different train at Crewe.

Hilda then had various jobs including in a sweet shop, baker and as a florist in the 1960s called Moyses Stevens. They were florist for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her family. Hilda did the flowers that adorned the Royal Mall for Princess Margaret’s wedding to Antony Armstrong-Jones which took place on 6th May 1960 at Westminster Abbey. The florist is still in business now having opened its doors in 1876.

At the age of 17, she became a nurse working in St. Albans and two years after that became an assistant travelling nurse working with the Countess of Cottenham. She tells her grandchildren this was probably the most fun she had, “a whale of a time and enjoyed it thoroughly”. She was sent to Newport Pagnell; a memorable date as it was 1936 the coronation of George 6th, Edward 8th had abdicated.

Hilda was born in Wimbledon and married George in October 1939. That Christmas George was called up and was away for 6 years. Hilda was also called up and ended up working in a drawing office of a car company, she left the day the war ended. After the war they had two children, Eric and Hilary and in her words, “Had a good life”.

Hilda puts her longevity down to eating what she wants, doing what she wants and always keeping active, whether it be around the house or the garden. “Hilda is quite remarkable” commented Bernie Hoo-Hing, Wellbeing Coordinator at Baycroft Flitwick Care Home. “I love chatting with her about her fascinating life and all the things she’s done over her 106 years”.

 

Country Court remains a family-run business to this day, with the company philosophy “Our family caring for yours” at the heart of every home.







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