“Coming here has brought it all back to me.”
Weaver Vale tenant Ken Taylor has returned to the homes he helped build nearly 50 years ago.
Now 87 and retired, Ken is reminiscing about his days as a fresh-faced engineer who installed the heating system at Oakwood House in Barnton
Before Weaver Vale took over responsibility of the building, Oakwood House was built by the local authority in 1968 to provide both supported and independent accommodation for elderly residents.
With the building fast approaching its half century birthday, it was in need of much-needed upgrade. Oakwood House is now in the process of being demolished, with the site being earmarked for the development of modern, affordable homes.
“It’s strange coming back here as the area has changed quite a bit,” Ken said
“It was a busy site - you had bricklayers, decorators, joiners and engineers. I was on site for a few months but it was a straightforward job. I helped install some piping and also helped out with the plumbing.
“Oakwood House was pretty ground-breaking for its time. As far as I was aware, councils’ weren’t providing this kind of accommodation for older people – you usually had to go private. The accommodation was a mix of supported and independent living and I remember there even being a matron on site. I had worked on similar sites in the past, but nothing which had individual flats with those kinds of facilities.
“I was proud to work on something like this. It meant that older people could live somewhere they could afford whilst also receiving help if they needed it. It’s pleasing to hear that the site is once again being used to provide homes for people who need them.”
Ken started training to become a heating engineer when a family friend offered to take him on as an apprentice.
His apprenticeship was a thorough one – Ken spent 7 years learning his craft before qualifying. He also juggled this with a two year stint in the Navy!
Ken said: “I was lucky to have a really good grounding as an apprentice. I learned loads from some very experienced people. You had to put n a really good shift before you became a qualified engineer.
“As part of my national service, I did a couple of years in the navy. I loved it – I was based in Plymouth but got to see a bit of the world. My experience came in handy as I got to work in the engine room of the ship - definitely something I’ll never forget.”
Since his retirement, Ken has become a dedicated member of Weaver Vale Tenants Consultative Committee (TCC), the group responsible for promoting resident involvement.
He added: “Being on the TCC has been an excellent experience. I think we’re valued and our input is appreciated. I think its good that they’re listening to tenants as we’re the people on the ground with a lot of knowledge about what is going on in the community.
“When my wife died a few years ago I was lost and wasn’t in a good place. Weaver Vale were brilliant and lot so things were done for me. Becoming part of the TCC really helped me through it and it was good to meet people who have had the same experiences. I hope to keep going on until I’m 100!”