Dorothea Court in Bedford is one of our longest established independent living housing schemes. Helen McKay-Ferguson, Marketing & Communications Officer for Pilgrims’ Friend Society, discovers what makes it such a special place

As Manager Evelyn Bissell describes the splendid surroundings enjoyed by those residing at Dorothea Court, I find it hard not to feel a little (okay, very) envious. Dorothea Court is made up of five converted Victorian houses set across two leafy streets – Park Avenue and St George’s Road. With high ceilings, ornate fireplaces, decorative plasterwork and wood-panelled walls, the houses are characterised by period charm. Each resident has their own flat, equipped with a small kitchen or kitchenette, living room, bedroom and private shower or wet room. There’s also a communal lounge, dining room and large conservatory. Then there’s the beautiful garden, with a large lawn, shady trees and pretty flowerbeds, made by combining the gardens of the original houses.

Dorothea Court was the vision of Pastor Quy, with the first house, number 32 Park Avenue, opening as The Haven in 1968, and further houses subsequently purchased and adapted. All flats are designed for independent living, with assisted living services – for example help with laundry and cleaning – an optional extra for Park Avenue flats. For those who come to live here, no longer having to think about the upkeep of their own property is a big draw.

While, at the time of writing at least, the coronavirus has limited movements, under normal circumstances residents are free to come and go, whether it’s doing their shopping, attending appointments, meeting up with friends for lunch, or strolling around the nearby Bedford Park where an ornamental lake teems with birdlife. The bus stop located close by on Park Avenue makes it easy to take trips into town.

As is the case at all Pilgrims’ Friend Society residential care homes and independent living housing schemes, those living at Dorothea Court enjoy the encouragement that comes from living alongside other Christians. Doris, who lives in one of the flats, says:

It’s not just a place to live. It’s like having your own home and at the same time being part of one big family.

On offer are arts and crafts activities, with those skilled in particular areas, for example watercolour painting or origami, teaching others. One lady, Rita, is a keen baker and loves to make cakes and biscuits for everyone else, including staff. A new exercise class has proved a hit, including chair-based activities and fun with ribbons and parachutes.

To support spiritual well-being, Dorothea Court has a Sunday morning service and Bible study, plus devotions on Tuesday mornings, a Wednesday evening service and a Thursday morning home study group. This is led by Martyn Hallett, who recently joined Dorothea Court in the role of Pastoral Coordinator.

During the coronavirus outbreak, living in a community of believers has been especially precious to everyone, including staff members. “The virus has brought times of fear but as we share and lift each other up in prayer we become ‘strong in the strength which God supplies’,” says Evelyn. “We’re also blessed with the spirit of peace and joy that comes from having hope, knowing that Jesus is our Saviour, and that God our Father is in control.”

Could Dorothea Court be your new home? Find out more

This article appears in the latest issue of The Pilgrims' Magazine