Kent got its first Abbeyfield home in 1967, when Rev Tom Rogers set up a home in Gillingham called Kingswood House. He noticed that older people in the area were lonely and in desperate need of care. Trevor Cox, a volunteer with a strong commercial background, brought financial stability to the organization then known as Abbeyfield Gillingham. Cox’s leadership proved inspirational in the construction of Rogers House in Gillingham, the first residential care home in Kent to provide 24-hour care and compassion.
The Society, then known as Abbeyfield Gillingham, developed a strong purpose in the Medway Towns. By 1999, the movement had expanded to include five properties in Rochester, Gillingham and Maidstone and changed name to the Abbeyfield Medway Valley Society. Robert Barnes, a Medway Valley Trustee and now Chairman of The Abbeyfield Kent Society, recalls: “Pooling finances and resources was essential if we were to meet the challenge of providing social care for the elderly. We were subject to an increasing amount of government regulation and facing a rise in the number of dementia cases among our residents. We needed a dedicated home for dementia sufferers but because of the mid-90s housing boom, every site was snapped up by builders”.
The solution came that same year when Kent County Council decided to sell their local authority run care homes, approaching the Abbeyfield Medway Valley Society as a buyer. The Trustees decided to buy nine of the homes, taking on houses which needed major investment. It was a remarkable leap for the organisation. The acquisition was finalised in 2000, thanks to a loan from the National Westminster Bank.
Expanding the Society
Soon after, other homes from throughout Kent were applying to join. Properties from Maidstone, Paddock Wood, Whitstable and Sevenoaks were incorporated into the Abbeyfield Medway Valley Society. In October 2005, trustees decided The Medway Valley Society needed to be renamed to reflect the new nature of the organisation. The Abbeyfield Kent Society was born. As part of the process, new headquarters were set up alongside the River Medway in Cuxton. Although its name had changed, its passion and ambition had remained, and The Abbeyfield Kent Society continued to expand with the opening of Watling Court, its first extra care scheme, in Gravesend in 2011. Presently, The Abbeyfield Kent Society is one of the largest independent societies in Britain with nine residential care homes, six sheltered housing units and one extra-care scheme.
The Society remains firmly founded on Christian principles of caring, compassion and companionship. Alan Ford, a former secretary to some of Britain’s biggest companies and volunteer administrator at an Abbeyfield Kent home in Whitstable said: “We have been motivated by a care model which is predicated on small homes. Our residents feel valued, comfortable and pay less than would be charged by a commercial, profit-minded organisation. Our staff is excellent and supported by a great team of volunteers.”
Our Mission Statement
The Abbeyfield Kent Society is passionate about providing affordable caring solutions for older people through a range of high quality services, based on our Christian values and ethos. Our strength lies in catering for the needs, wants and aspirations of older people in a friendly, family environment, regardless of the faith or the absence of it.