From rent strikes to bingo: My mum and Charlton House Stables

Rent strike
Rent strikers withholding their pounds at Charlton House stables

There’s a lot of history in Charlton House’s old stables block – some of it more recent than you think. We’re grateful to DIANA CORDWELL for sharing some memories…

Back in the early 1970s when I was an eager, young cub reporter, I was sent off to a rent strike protest at Greenwich Council’s rent offices at The Stables, Hornfair Road, Charlton.

With notebook and pen in hand and a cameraman in tow, I pitched up at the demo to be confronted by no less than my own mother Joyce and a gaggle of her neighbours brandishing placards saying”stand your ground, withhold your pound!” So there I was in the embarrassing situation of getting quotes from my own mother about her and her fellow demonstrators going on rent strike. Not to mention back at the office having to explain why one of the demonstrators in the photos sent up by the photographer had the same surname as me!

This was the start of my mum’s rather long relationship with the Press (45 plus years at the current count) and her constant appearances in various local newspapers under one guise or the other.

Following the rent strike, she popped up again in a feature on Greenwich borough’s much loved lollipop men and women (she did the school crossing patrol at Invicta Road, Blackheath Standard) and then on countless occasions over the decades in bowls match finals, women’s darts finals (we both played for the White Swan pub, Charlton Village) and several encounters with herself and a string of different mayors at various clubs she attended throughout the borough!

Joyce
Joyce – in the middle – ran the school crossing patrol near Invicta School

I remember another occasion when the Kentish Independent‘s editor Charlie King (who was known for imbibing a pint or two himself) decided we’d run a new weekly feature called Pub Spot. Off I went to the Richard I in Royal Hill, Greenwich – known affectionately as “The Tolly House” – and there she was again sitting with a group of in-laws and every ready with a smile for the camera and a quote for the Press.

With going on holiday also being up there with my mum’s favourite activities, it was only a matter of time before she popped up again in stories on Greenwich Council’s own hotel down on the Kent coast (remember that?), her TGWU trades union hotel in Eastbourne and a Mercury “Twirlies” trip to Fuengirola, Spain! It got to the point where a news editor short of a story would bellow across the newsroom to me: “Di, what’s your mum up to today?”

Today, some 50 years on, my dear old mum – now 92 – has found herself back at the Charlton Stables. But this time she’s inside and not out on the pavement.

For The Stables, no longer rent offices, is the home of the wonderful Greenwich Carers Centre and its outstanding, dedicated staff. Supported by the council and various charities, this little gem nestling by the side of Charlton House offers support,activities, events and holidays for carers and those they care for. They also run a brilliant cafe with a beautiful garden where the welcome is always warm.

Mum Joyce attends Wednesdays and Thursdays, gets picked up and taken home in the Stables minibus, plays bingo and does art workshop and then enjoys a tasty home-cooked meal and cuppa with her friends. I popped along myself a couple of weeks ago for the carers Chinese New Year celebration lunch – just one of the many events on offer in their excellent ‘Shine’ activity programme.

This place is so special that one wonders how it has managed to stay afloat in such a remarkable way in the face of callous Government cuts that have hit all the sectors that this brilliant oasis in Charlton depends on for its survival.

Stables entertainment
Stables entertainment, 2019-style

What excellent news it was then to hear from Stu – the chief executive of the Greenwich Carers Centre – that despite the odds, all is looking good for the next few years. “Late last year, we submitted a funding application that, if successful, would fund a significant part of our services for the next three years,” he said.

“I am delighted to be able to tell you that our bid was successful! We have now finally turned the corner and will be launching our new model at the beginning of April.”

The thriving Charlton House Stables today

Stu adds that the cafe is to get a facelift and a new cosy snug with TV is in the pipeline.

Plans for services for carers include an information and advice telephone support line, community engagement service linking up with heath/social care professionals, dinner and entertainment evenings, hobby and activity groups and day trips and excursions.

With so much planned, Press interest in The Stables will no doubt be high over the next few months. Joyce, of course, is ready!


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