The heartbreak behind a village home’s closure

Ivy Coleman and her great great granddaughter Elizabeth Shrubb taken shortly after she was born in May 2012
Ivy Coleman and her great great granddaughter Elizabeth Shrubb taken shortly after she was born in May 2012

When Ivy Coleman learned she would have to become an ’exile’ from her beloved village, she put her feelings into a poem.

The poignant verse, published here, brings home the human story behind the Christian Enterprise Foundation’s, reluctant decision to close the 21-bed Lakenheath Village Home.

Lakenheath Village Home

Lakenheath Village Home

Eriswell-born Ivy sent the poem to the Bury Free Press days after her 89th birthday and shortly before moving to another home in Feltwell. She had only lived in the home for about a year, but she had lived in Lakenheath for 60 years.

Her husband Geoff, who she met at the age of 18, was Lakenheath born, became a parish and district councillor, and, as her poem records, she saw him buried in Lakenheath in 1985.

Her two daughters, Pat Rissen and Pam Shipp live in the village she has now had to leave.

Pat said: “She wanted to stay until the end, but finding places was difficult and the nearest was at Feltwell. It’s been a lot of disruption for her. It’s a bit of a wrench for all of us.

“One of her points in the poem is that when you’re elderly people don’t tell you things — no-one would go and talk to her about it. She may be old but she has a very active mind.”

Richard Radcliffe, a Christian Enterprise Foundation trustee, said: “The most awful part of making the decision [to close] was the impact on the residents.”

He said it was trying to meet the needs of existing residents, working with the county councils to help find new homes for them and making arrangements for things like transport.

Mr Radcliffe said: “We’ve looked at all the options available for the charity and, unfortunately, came to the decision that the home was no longer viable.”

The charity has run the home since 1986 and even looked at creating a larger home.

“All the estimates we worked on with our partners were that the home had to be at least 60 bedrooms,” he said. “The county councils are closing all their smaller homes.”

But he added: “The charity will continue. While we haven’t formulated the direction the charity will take, the hope is it will be able to meet the needs of more people.”

The home will close on December 20.

An Exile

My Husband was born in this village

A Lakenheath man was he

And throughout the long years of war,

It was where he wanted to be.

My husband loved this village

He worked hard and did his best.

And when his life was over

In this village I laid him to rest.

I was organist here at St Mary’s

For nigh on forty six years,

I shared many happy wedding day smiles,

And many funeral tears.

But now I’m old and feeble

From this village I must go.

The Village Home is closing,

Why I do not know.

I have to be an exile

Though I don’t want to leave.

The idea makes me anxious,

I can only sit and grieve.

The Village Home is closing.

I’m old so they won’t tell me why.

How I long to stay in this village

But I have to say goodbye.