Monday, 24 Jan 2022

Man comes home after year in hospital to find whole new estate built around him

A man decided to remain in his home despite being the sole property remaining in an area of open wasteland.

Charlie Wright has lived in Wirral estate his whole life and saw the surrounding houses gradually flattening and his neighbours relocated until he become the only resident and house left in a wasteland.

Stubbornly refusing to move, Charlie was admitted into hospital for a whole year but found a big change waited for him when he arrived home.

A whole new housing estate was built around his house and Charlie was greeted with neighbours he didn’t even know about, reports Liverpool Echo.

The last time the ECHO visited Charlie's four-bedroom Ilchester Road home, it was still a mid-terrace property between two tinned up houses – the only reminders of the old estate known as River Streets, so called because the streets were all named after British rivers.

But what a difference four years makes. The house is now a detached property after the removal of the two homes either side, the outside has been repainted, and Charlie no longer lives in splendid isolation but has a fresh set of neighbours as a new, 178-home estate springs up around him.

The speed of the housing development took 70-year-old Charlie completely by surprise.

He said: "I'd spent most of the last year in hospital. When I left, they told me 'let's go and see your house.' I couldn't believe it, I said 'look at all these houses here.'"

Charlie's fierce attachment to the home where he grew up with his parents and brothers and sisters (he was the second youngest out of nine) hasn't diminished over the years.

He said: "I won't move from here. My family has had this house for 100 years. It was my parents' house and they raised their children here.

"Twenty-odd years ago they began pulling the estate down, and the council offered people £2,000 and a house to move to.

"I just said, 'look this house is not up for sale.' Margaret Thatcher gave the ordinary person the right to buy their council house. There's nothing to think about, this house will never be sold.

"The only way anyone will get their hands on this house will be when I'm six feet under."

Charlie was formerly one of the founding members and chairman of the River Streets Community Association Ltd, set up as a registered charity to look after the interests of the residents then living on the 600-home council estate.

He said: "We bid successfully for government grants to do the streets and houses up, with new windows and doors. We had our own sports and social club, and did free meals on wheels for the pensioners. Everything was running perfect."

With a job as a boilerman at the nearby Mobil Oil site – where he worked all his life – Charlie's horizons have never stretched far beyond the estate. Even a trip over the water to Liverpool was a rarity.

He said: "I've never had a holiday in my life. It just never bothered me. Living round here, when it was the old estate, everybody knew everyone. It was brilliant, everybody mucked in.

"It didn't bother me after they knocked it down. I used to go out every day with my dog, have my mates round. I could sit on the step here and foxes would come up and I used to feed them."

Sadly Charlie's life was turned upside down last December, when a thug broke into his house, held a knife to his throat while demanding money, and then hit him three times over the head with a hammer.

Charlie suffered life-changing injuries, including memory impairment, and spent the best part of a year being treated in hospital and then at a specialist brain injuries unit.

He said: "It doesn't change the way I feel about living here. I'm never moving out of my house. Before this happened, I'd never had so much as a break-in in the 70 years I've lived here.

"Most of the memories are really good ones. I'm quite happy with myself.

"I've gone from living in a terraced house to a detached house with a driveway, so it's paid off for me in the end.

"I've got neighbours now, after 20-odd years of being on my own. It makes me feel safer."

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