The Houses on the Hill
As one climbs up the long and gradual rise of Scalford Road towards the village of that name, we once used to see and know quite well, on the right hand side an old dwelling which was used in recent times as the very popular care home known widely as Catherine Dalley House. Recently, and sadly for many, the home which was owned and operated under the auspices of the Leicestershire County Council from its headquarters in Syston, has finally closed its doors. The new owners, developers McCarthy and Stone, propose to re-open on the site, a rejuvenated and altogether enlarged state-of-the-art facility as yet another new care home for the town and area. Why or how, was this warm and friendly nursing home given the title of ‘Catherine Dalley.’?
An easy way to understand the practice of leasing hunting lodges or hunting boxes as they were often known, could perhaps be compared today with the renting of the large houses in Wimbledon during the much awaited tennis weeks at the world famous courts each summer, when large rents can be demanded and the owners go off on holiday to pursue other matters.
Who was Catherine Dalley?
Someone asked me recently, “Who was Catherine Dalley?” It was a fair question to which I did not possess a ready answer, as the care home bearing her name has been with us in the town for perhaps a half a century or more and has only recently bid us its sad farewell; so who indeed was the lady? As it happens, Catherine was not too difficult to trace since as suspected, she was clearly a real person and not of fiction and it was thus interesting to discover some of her background as I searched for items of interest in the biography or genealogy of this interesting socialite who once inherited a chemists shop in Syston which doubled as a busy post office and who was to marry Leicester surgeon of some repute.
Catherine’s father was Thomas William Stain (1845-1947) a well respected chemist who also doubled as the local Postmaster for the Royal Mail for the nearby village of Syston on the periphery of Leicester, who lived and worked with his wife Mary (Hack). Born in 1845 in Oundle, Northamptonshire, Thomas was to marry Mary and the couple worked as a team in their small shop in the High Street, the main road to Melton Mowbray. Two daughters were born to the couple; Catherine Emma Stain – the subject of my search – being born in July 1871 and she followed by sibling Frances Martha the following year.
In 1897, by now aged 29 yrs and successfully educated in medicine, Catherine had become legally registered with the Post Office on taking over her father’s licence on his retirement, to act as the new Postmistress at Syston from the family home then known as ‘The White House.’
Marriage and Medicine
Three years later, in 1902, Catherine married Harry Parker Dalley, a highly respected Leicester physician/surgeon, but no children were born to the marriage. Throughout a lifetime of being connected with medical matters, Catherine also became involved in the day-to-day working of the Leicestershire Hospital Boards and it happened that Syston was the location of the department which dealt with the elderly and all care homes of the County. When it was decided that Melton Mowbray should support such a hospital, a suitable building, namely ‘Highfields’, as above was found to have been available just then and suited the needs of the proposed new home. It was duly purchased by the Board and converted ready for its official opening in 1957 to complete the advent of what was to become became the popular – and now alas, mourned – Catherine Dalley Home which was to provide for more than a half-century, comfort and succour to many grateful people.
JM Feb. 2020