“I’m very happy living here at Southwood”

“I’m very happy living here at Southwood”

One of Pete’s aunts had lived at Southwood Court so he already knew about our Sheltered Homes when a friend suggested it would be an ideal place for him to live.

Pete enjoyed working so much he didn’t retire until he was 68. Having spent almost his entire working life in the motor trade, he was surprised to find that his experience working in a small London print company in the early days of his career made him eligible as a resident.     

“I was made very welcome when I got in touch about moving in after my wife very sadly passed away,” he says. “It was Easter time and I was invited for tea and hot cross buns to meet some of the residents, which was a lovely icebreaker. I’m happy living here and have very good neighbours.” 

He’s determined to remain independent but likes knowing that there is support in the background if it’s ever needed.

A very sociable person, he likes to keep busy and helps other residents with their shopping. He has a vast circle of very supportive friends locally, too, and keeps in touch with many of his former work colleagues.  

If you’ve worked in our sector or have an immediate connection to it and you’re looking for a new retirement home, contact us today to find out more. You’ll need to be over 60 and live independently. 

See what our home managers Kathy and Jeanette have to say about them.

“It’s like a little oasis here at Southwood Court”

“It’s like a little oasis here at Southwood Court”

Jeanette is Home Manager at Southwood Court, one of our sheltered homes offering independent living for those retired from print and the allied trades. She spoke with us about life in the community and the benefits of living in an almshouse.    

What does your role entail? 

The first thing I do each morning is a welfare check on all of our occupied flats, to say hello to the residents and make sure they’re fit and well. Their wellbeing is really important to us, and although we don’t offer medical assistance or personal care like a nursing home would, these check-ins help me keep an eye on their physical and mental health and notice any deterioration. If so, we do help to try and put things in place to hopefully make life easier for them and increase the time they can maintain their independent living. 

I have a really great team on-site and a strong working relationship with Kathy, Home Manager at the charity’s other scheme, Beaverbrook House. We make sure to support one another in our roles and are always on the end of the phone if needed.  

What development works are being done at Southwood? 

Currently, Southwood is on course to complete a major project of upgrades to ensure that the residents have great quality accommodation. Most of the flats have been redecorated and the building has all new windows and doors etc. We have a great team of builders here who have got to know our residents well and understand their needs.  It’s like a little oasis here at Southwood, it’s quite secluded with plenty of trees and the countryside, but still close enough to local amenities and transport. 

What is the community like? 

Most of the residents here have a family connection to print, rather than having worked in the sector themselves. When any new residents join us, I ensure we have a little get together to introduce them to their new community, make them feel welcomed and hopefully transition them smoothly into living at Southwood. 

Before the pandemic, I held a walking club and also attended a training course to become a chair-based exercise instructor, which I hope to start up again soon. We hold frequent events from BBQs to fancy dress parties, quiz afternoons and bingo. We have a yearly Christmas lunch at one of the local hotels, as well as race nights, fundraising events for other charities, breakfast club mornings, and board game afternoons. There is plenty to get involved in if residents wish to do so! 

We know it was tough for residents during lockdown, so we made sure they had plenty of treats including cream teas, easter eggs, flowers, Christmas hampers, and fish and chip suppers, in a bid to ease boredom and lift their spirits.  

What do you see as the benefit to living in an almshouse? 

One of the main benefits is that it helps to combat any feeling of isolation that residents may have encountered outside this environment. It’s a community, and residents have the opportunity to become involved in activities if they want to. us that if there are problems with any aspect of their flats, staff are available to ensure that issues are rectified. 

We’re here to assist, when needed, by signposting to the relevant services such as medical and care, which could be more difficult living alone and outside of a community like Southwood. Residents’ welfare needs are our priority and we want residents to be able to live independently as long as they can.

Read more about almshouses and The Printing Charity’s rich almshouse history.

“I enjoy watching residents feel happy in their new home”

“I enjoy watching residents feel happy in their new home”

Kathy is Home Manager at Beaverbrook House, one of our sheltered homes offering independent living for those retired from print and the allied trades. She spoke with us about her role and the benefits of living in an almshouse.   

What’s involved in being manager at Beaverbrook? 

I’m here to make sure that our residents are safe and well as their wellbeing is our number one priority. They all get a welfare check of a morning at their door to ensure they’re fit and well and just to say hello. Pretty much all of the residents here are ex-printers so they have a lot in common to talk about. Some residents still have contacts with where they worked, and they have a sense of pride in living at Beaverbrook. 

There’s a lot that goes into the maintenance of the homes behind the scenes, which I help to keep on top of. The small team who work with me at Beaverbrook alongside the charity’s head office do a fantastic job to make sure residents have the best space to live in.  

Although we are not a care home, we are here to support our residents if they are facing life’s challenges, so my role naturally involves a lot of counselling, both with residents and their families which can at times involve difficult conversations.  

What sort of social events do you get up to? 

We hold coffee mornings, and have communal group activities like knitting and painting. We’ve worked on a crochet project where we sent essential items to Africa alongside the local hospital. There is something for everyone if they want to get involved, with line dancing and keep fit classes, to piano sing-alongs.  

What is your favourite part of your role? 

I like to hear my residents laugh and don’t like to see them unhappy. I really enjoy hearing their life stories, some of which even their families might not know. I do get quite attached to all my residents and try to be there for them when they need me most. I enjoy watching new residents feel happy in their new home, and when they have spent time away, they are so glad to be back.   

What do you see as the benefit to living in an almshouse? 

Living in an almshouse means you are surrounded by like-minded people, who offer good security and support to each other when needed. It takes away the isolation that can sometimes come from living alone. This leads to positive interactions in a similar age group of people, which again leads to family reassurance that their relatives are living well.  

Read more about almshouses and The Printing Charity’s rich almshouse history. 

“I enjoy every minute of living at Southwood Court”

“I enjoy every minute of living at Southwood Court”

“This is not a place to be missed if you get the opportunity to move in.”

Several of Matthew’s friends recommended Southwood Court to him and his daughter helped him to apply to the charity. His mother and three sisters had worked at Cahill Printers in Dublin so he was eligible through his direct family connection to the print sector.

It was a decision he doesn’t regret and has been a resident since 2018. “This is not a place to be missed if you get the opportunity to move in. It’s been great coming to live here, everything has worked out well. There’s a really nice atmosphere here and everyone gets on. And the staff are brilliant, second to none.”

He feels safe while maintaining his independence and is very happy living in the first-floor apartment he chose. When the weather’s fine, he enjoys the communal garden and conservatory. 

Matthew often joins in with the social activities organised by the staff for residents but says there’s no pressure to do so if he doesn’t want to. 

“It’s lovely to be close to my family, too. My sons and grandchildren are in and out of here all the time. And I still socialise locally, meeting my friends for a pint. It’s all part and parcel of keeping in touch and talking to other people.”

We currently have a number of vacancies at Southwood Court, so if you or anyone you might know is looking to find a place to live independently in their retirement years, contact us to find out more.

The history of our Almshouses

The history of our Almshouses

Almshouses were created as a form of social housing, to help people in need afford a place to live. They are run by charities like ours, who offer support to those in financial need, and often cater for specific communities of people and their families from various trades.

The Printing Charity Almshouses

The very first Almshouse that the charity owned was at Wood Green, and was officially opened on 11th June 1856, although it no longer exists today.

Fast forward to the 1960’s and the next generation of almshouses were being built by the charity. £160,000 was raised and the site in Essex where Southwood Court now resides was purchased. The residences were completed in 1964 and opened by none other than Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.

The homes in Essex were such a success that a similar set was planned for Bletchley, Milton Keynes, now known as Beaverbrook House.

Beaverbrook House and Southwood Court offer self-contained one bedroom apartments for people in their retirement years, with spacious living rooms and fitted kitchens, a laundry room, well maintained communal gardens and off-street parking.

Take a look at our image gallery to see how our almshouses have changed through the years.

75th Anniversary of The Almshouse Association

2021 marks the 75th Anniversary of The Almshouse Association.

The Association traces its roots back to February 1946 when, at a meeting held in the Chapter House of Southwark Cathedral, representatives of London’s almshouses formed a committee to safeguard the interests of almshouse buildings and the welfare of residents.

The Almshouse Association provide support, information and guidance on a broad range of general and specific issues, to over 1600 independent almshouse charities that provide homes for around 35,000 residents across the United Kingdom.

Over the years their services have extended to include guidance manuals, policy documents and model templates, training seminars, interest-free loans and funding, as well as providing a platform for members to advertise resident vacancies, discuss best practices and share knowledge at local meetings and via a members’ forum.

Their primary function is to offer those running almshouses with guidance and vital updates on policies and standards. They also help to raise the profile of almshouses and the benefits to the local community, offering grants and loans to those charities who need help in creating dwellings. The Association has its own Board of Trustees that is responsible for guiding the charity, developing and overseeing the delivery of the strategy and ensuring that the visions of the founder, set 75 years ago, continue to be delivered today. The Association also has Regional Champions that are  based in different areas of the UK with local knowledge that can offer guidance and support to charities in their region.

Throughout 2021, the Association is raising the awareness of almshouses and their importance in society today. Member charities are also busy holding garden parties in celebration of their wonderful almshouses and The Almshouse Association’s 75th Anniversary.

Both are focusing on championing the movement to ensure the continuance of their almshouses for many generations to come.


There are currently vacancies at both of our wonderful homes in Bletchley and Basildon . If you, or someone you know, is retired and has a connection to the industry, and may be interested in finding a new home, get in touch with us today .