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22 July 2020

Abandoned canalside care home was like 'Marie Celeste'

FOR most people buying a rundown care home and spending £300,000 on doing it up at the height of the coronavirus emergency would have seemed like business madness,

But for Chris and Geraldine Smith the abandoned building by the side of the canal in Devizes was an opportunity they could not miss.

When they first viewed the home in Canal Way it resembled the Marie Celeste with dirty coffee cups abandoned on tables. But it has now been transformed and has become the ninth home owned by the husband and wife team that run Coate Water Care based in Swindon.

They came through the worst of what coronavirus could throw at their other homes by being prepared and shutting down to visitors early. They realised that PPE was going to be at a premium and made sure they had plenty in stock.

The company’s operations director Sue Houldey said: “Being a small company we did not have all the bureaucracy to deal with that bigger care organisations faced.

“We could see what was coming and we were as ready as we could be.”

On Monday Devizes Mayor Chris Gay cut the ribbon to declare the newly named Avebury House Care Centre open.

She said: “People have been concerned about what was going to happen to this building as it has been empty for a long time and become very rundown.”

Mrs Houldey said: “We have been made very welcome by the people living around us.They seemed very pleased we are here.”

The former Avonmead Care Home closed unexpectedly in December, 2016, leaving staff without jobs and families of residents having to quickly find new places for their loved ones to live.

At the time is was owned by Four Seasons Healthcare which earlier this year sold the building to Coate Water Care.

Now the new owners are looking to recruit nurses and care assistants and expects its first residents to move in at the end of July. Former employee Carol Spanswick has already joined the staff.

So far the outside and downstairs bedrooms, dining room and lounge have been kitted out to hotel standard and the upstairs will follow.

Mrs Smith said: “I choose all the interiors myself. I wouldn’t want anything put in here that I wouldn’t want to live with.”

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