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New Wellingborough housing scheme honours wartime French connection

A new housing project in Wellingborough has honoured a French war heroine with an historic local connection.

Work has now started on turning the former Railway Club site off Broad Green into a new development of 48 flats named Mitchell Court, bringing much needed affordable housing to Wellingborough.

Yet before it became home to the Railway Club, the site housed a Free French convalescent home for injured soldiers during the Second World War. Known as ‘Spring Hill’, the home was run by Mrs Jeanne Mitchell, a French military nurse who moved to Wellingborough from London in 1940. The new housing scheme has been named in her honour.

Spring Hill looked after 36 soldiers of all nationalities during the war years and was visited by General Charles de Gaulle and the Duchess of Gloucester. The Mitchell family had initially housed evacuees before opening their doors to the soldiers. Mrs, or Lieutenant, Mitchell returned to France to work as an Army nurse when the Wellingborough home was closed in 1944. One of the first women to join the French army, she was later awarded the Croix de Guerre, a top French military decoration.

Two of Mrs Mitchell’s daughters, Pauline and Therese, both married French soldiers who’d been under their care at Spring Hill in a double wedding held at Our Lady’s Church, Wellingborough, in March 1942. Pauline Genu (née Mitchell) revisited the town twice, the latest time in 2012 with her daughter and grandson, at the age of 89. She is still living in her native France.

Thanks to a local partnership between Wellingborough Council, Greatwell Homes and local independent construction company Seagrave Developments, Mitchell Court will provide 24 one bedroom/two person homes and 24 two bedroom/three person homes, all for the rented market. The development will be partly funded through grant from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA).

The site sits behind a new development of close care apartments currently being built by Seagrave and is next to two existing Greatwell Homes properties. Work has already started to install water supplies and drainage to the site and foundations will be laid during March.

“We’re delighted to be bringing this historic site back into use to deliver much needed affordable housing to Wellingborough and to help the Borough Council address its housing waiting list. I’d like to think that Jeanne Mitchell and her family would be proud of not only the scheme being given their family name but also the benefits the scheme will bring to local people,” said Tim Davy, Chair of Greatwell Homes.

“This is very much part of our continuing commitment to develop and invest in Wellingborough. We are pleased to be working in partnership with Seagrave and the Council and also to have the chance to pay tribute to what is a very special slice of Wellingborough’s history.”

Councillor Paul Bell, Leader of Wellingborough Council, who yesterday unveiled a plaque and turned the first sod at the site, said:

“I’m really pleased to see work starting on this project. It’s a great use of an old site. By successfully working together we are developing much needed affordable housing in Wellingborough, and in particular one and two bedroom homes. The location of these new homes so near to our town centre will mean ease and convenience for the residents, and will give our local economy a boost too.”

John Harmon, Director of Seagrave Developments, said “Seagrave Developments are delighted to be working alongside Greatwell Homes again on this, our largest project together to date. We are hoping to replace part of Wellingborough’s history with something that fits well with the local vernacular and suits the local residents’ needs.”


Photo shows: (left to right): John Harmon (Director, Seagrave Developments), Eric Ellis (BCA Architects), Jo Savage (Chief Executive) and Tim Davy (Chair) of Greatwell Homes and Paul Bell (Leader of Wellingborough Council).