FOR many people, this view of St Ann’s House, in Suffolk Road, will be such a familiar sight, that it is strange to think it is no longer there; but it was demolished a few years ago and replaced with a new complex of flats and houses better suited to 21st century needs.

When Charles Wardell took this photograph in 1960, St Ann’s was brand new. Indeed, it was a new idea, that of creating an old people’s home where independence could be retained in a setting that did not waste valuable accommodation and had some social support in the form of a warden to oversee safety and wellbeing. Although each flat was self-contained with a kitchen and living room, features that would be unacceptable today were the accompanying bedroom which was just a recess separated from the living room by a curtain, and the bathrooms and lavatories which were shared within blocks of three-flat groupings.

The adjacent St Ann’s Hall - that still stands today – had been opened in 1955 but then followed a period of budget cuts and general belt-tightening caused by rising interest rates and this meant that the principal building was delayed. The complex had been planned as early as 1951- part of the need for more housing following the Second World War. Although Andover had not suffered from bombing, much of its housing stock was considered sub-standard. A certain amount of slum clearance had been carried out in the 1930s, with residents being moved to new houses on the western side of the town, but there was still more to do.

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Andover Advertiser: St Ann’s House, Suffolk Road, in 1960The new home was designed by G F Walters who worked as an architect for the borough council. He had recently also designed the block of flats in Clarendon Avenue, opened a few months before. At that time, multi-coloured bricks were in vogue and a light, yellow brick was used on the walls of both buildings, forming patterns of lighter colour against the darker red. Hanging, dark green fish-tail tiles were used on the upper storey of St Ann’s, a contrast to the solid walls of brick. This feature of the period was much used elsewhere, particularly between ground floor and first floor bay windows. Such fish-tail tiles can be seen all over the town, not just on houses built in the 1960s and 1970s but also as part of renovations to older properties.

In 1960, there were 139 elderly people on the council’s waiting list for accommodation. St Ann’s was built to house 24 single people and nine couples. Priority was given to those living longest in Andover, to those already in council accommodation - either too big for them or in poor condition - and to those who were reasonably healthy and could look after themselves. Clearly, if a single tenant living in a three-bedroomed house were willing to move to St Ann’s this freed up a family home that could accommodate several other people. From the outset, it was stressed that the new home was not intended for the chronically sick or the infirm; it was not a hostel or an institution, nor was it charitable. Residents had to be both healthy and able to pay the rent.

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The new home had central heating which pumped warm air through air ducts near the floor of each flat and was pumped out again through ducts near the ceilings, in a continuous circulatory system. There was a communal lounge, in which there was a television set for those who could not afford to have one in their own flat, while French windows opened out from there onto a terraced area on sunny days.

There were only two open fireplaces – one in the lounge and one in the warden’s flat. However, three electric points in each bed-sitting room enabled a fire to be plugged in on cold days. A communal laundry in the basement was equipped with washing machines and a spin-dryer. All of this seems pretty basic to us today but by the standards of the time, it was luxurious - and probably not matched by most of the private homes in Andover. 

The official opening was on Wednesday, 8 March 1961. It was a ceremony performed by Sir Keith Joseph who was then parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Housing and Local Government. He said that he wished every town would do the same thing and the mayor of Andover, Cllr Percy Batchelor, said that it was a day of great satisfaction to the borough council, and particularly to the housing committee and he hoped that in these flats, the elderly who were often left lonely would find peace, friendship, security and happiness. The vicar of St Mary’s, The Rev Dr Ivor Machin, then blessed the house and Sir Keith cut the white ribbon and declared the building open, after which those assembled went on a conducted tour. Reportedly, the opening ceremony was filmed by both the BBC and ITV.

If you are interested in local history, why not join Andover History and Archaeology Society? Details can be found at