100 years ago today

28th May 2021

On 28th May 1921, King George V and Queen Mary visited Whiteley Village for its official opening, and today we commemorated that special day in our charity’s history with a visit from the Lord-Lieutenant of Surrey, Mr Michael More-Molyneux and his wife.

Like the King and Queen did a century ago, the Lord-Lieutenant and his wife toured the village meeting villagers, staff and volunteers. One of the highlights was a double tree planting ceremony – again just as the royal couple did outside Whiteley’s village church, St Mark’s to commemorate their visit. Sadly, neither of those trees survived, so we invited our VIP guests to plant some new ones in almost the same spot, both of which are Swiss Pines – the same species as the first ones, and hopefully longer lasting!

Rachel Hill, Chief Executive of The Whiteley Homes Trust said: “We were all delighted to welcome the Lord-Lieutenant and his wife to Whiteley for this commemorative event, especially given the incredibly tough year our villagers and staff have had.

“I am hugely proud of the work our charity does for the poor and vulnerable and we have an amazing success story which we shared with the Lord-Lieutenant today. Thanks to our founder William Whiteley, for over a hundred years our charity has been housing and caring for older people on low incomes in this beautiful place. But one of our most incredible recent successes is how we’ve kept our residents and staff safe during the pandemic.

“Despite having over 400 older people in our Village, we have proportionally had one of the lowest rates of Covid infection of any community in the UK – including only two cases in our care homes and no deaths. Also, supported by our on-site vaccination clinics we now have one of the highest vaccination rates amongst staff and residents of any health, housing and care provider too.

“In an ironic parallel with a century ago, those witnessing the first royal visit would have also recently experienced a terrible global pandemic. After such dark times, I can just imagine how excited they would have felt about having something special to celebrate – just as we are today.”

Whiteley Village actually opened in 1917, and over the years the population grew and many of the buildings seen today were constructed – including the Village church, hall and hospital (later Whiteley House nursing home). Trustees were concerned however that time was passing and there had still been no official opening. The Bishop of London made some hopeful enquiries to see if a member of the royal family might do the honours but was informed this was unlikely.

So we can imagine their surprise when a letter later arrived from the Palace announcing that no less than the King and Queen would be visiting on Saturday, 28th May – just four weeks’ time! The Trustees quickly got to work to prepare a plan, labourers were hired to spruce up the Village and of course Whiteley’s of Bayswater – our founder’s flagship store, was commissioned to do the catering.

Hundreds turned out to see the King and Queen and photos of that special day can be seen, along with many other fascinating Whiteley artefacts in our Village Museum, which we hope will be fully open again for visits later in the summer, after Covid restrictions have been further relaxed.

Please see below a selection of photos from today’s event and from the royal visit 100 years ago, reproduced courtesy of Mrs Sheila Geary.  

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