When Amber Fitzpatrick brought her parents to see the gold medal-winning show house at Gun Hill Park in Aldershot, her father was shocked by the familiarity – he already knew this place. For Gun Hill Park is the transformation of the former Cambridge Military Hospital into grand apartments and houses by Weston Homes, the quality new homes developer founded by Bob Weston. Amber’s father had climbed the very same staircase as a young man, when he came to the magnificent Grade II-listed Victorian hospital for his medical before joining the Royal Engineers.
As Amber says: “This building means so much to so many people. When Bob Weston took it on, he didn’t just take on a building – he took on so many peoples memories.”
Gun Hill Park does have a certain magic. Buyers of the handsome homes carved from the hospital building and built on land around it during the £60 million regeneration, talk readily and proudly about its history – first as a famous military hospital for war-injured soldiers, and later as the NHS hospital for people of the surrounding community, until it closed its doors in 1996.
Based on the design principles of Florence Nightingale, the heroic nurse stipulated it should have large rooms and tall windows, to deliver maximum light and fresh air to aid soldiers’ recovery. Today, on a hill in the new neighbourhood of Wellesley, overlooking Aldershot and the Hampshire countryside, the conversion of the once-dilapidated and abandoned hospital is nothing short of magnificent. ‘Bob Weston has ensured this special place lives on, and he has done it so sympathetically,” says Amber, 56.
‘FOR ME, GUN HILL PARK WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT!’
With a 27-year-old daughter, Holly, Amber discovered the prestigious Weston Homes development after deciding to downsize from her home in Chobham in Surrey. Setting her home search parameters, she knew she wanted to stay near her community and her parents. “I trawled the websites and Gun Hill Park jumped out,” she says. “I fell instantly in love with the clock tower and made an appointment to visit. It is such a famous landmark building.
“The apartment I chose was not even built – I bought off-plan but I had done my research and I felt happy with Weston Homes, they are good builders.
“My home is in a low-level building on the hill with two fabulous balconies. I was giving up my garden… but the second balcony is a garden balcony. And it has total privacy and amazing views over countryside. I was in love.” Amber’s mother fell under the spell, too, and wanted to buy at Gun Hill Park – as does Amber’s brother, Shaun.
A beauty technician and hairstylist, Amber currently works as a receptionist at a nearby private residential home. She was a cash buyer, and as she waited for her apartment to be built, she gleefully got to grips with her design options for its interiors. “The sales team was so helpful,” she smiles. “I was really excited and I love interior design so I was always popping in to ask something. I made a style board for every room.”
RIGHT CHOICE, RIGHT TIME, RIGHT REASONS
When Amber set her heart on moving, she wanted a brand-new home where she could make the most of life, rather than a doer-upper that would take time and energy to sort out – and with good reason.
When her daughter Holly was just a year old, Amber was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Thinking she’d been cured at one stage, she was told that unfortunately, she’d need more treatment. Eventually she got the all-clear. “That sort of experience puts everything into perspective for the rest of your life,” she says. “You just feel grateful for everything you have.”
As the young wife of a developer, she’d become used to moving and doing up old houses, often living with bags of cement in the living room and a cement mixer in the hall. “But when it came to this move I knew I did not want to do any of that again. I wanted a new build. “In any case, it isn’t easy for anyone to move into a doer-upper now because it would cost a fortune to make it sustainable. Weston Homes is passionate about sustainability – everything in this house feels really well thought-through.”
SMALL ON RUNNING COSTS, BIG ON DESIGN
Amber’s two-bedroom ensuite apartment is on the second floor, which is the top of her building. It’s on a hill, “and since I moved in during October, we have had some howling gales. But this is a well-insulated and cosy home. I feel so safe here. I never have the heating on. And it is so bright from the huge windows that often I don’t need the lights on. My bills are very small!”
As the ex-wife of a builder, Amber appreciates the finer details of her new home. “The cabinetry is of such good quality and there is loads of storage space. I adore my built-in bedroom cupboards and I have two ovens in my kitchen, which came with all the white goods and so many cupboards I can’t fill them all. Buying off-plan gave me the opportunity to take advantage of all the interiors choices on offer from Weston Homes.”
While Holly has flown the nest, the ensuite is ideal for her visits, says Amber. “I was really impressed with the apartment layout because the main living area is in the middle of the floor plan, so guests have their suite and total privacy, and I am on the other side of the living room. My bedroom leads on to the huge garden terrace and has bags of light. I am a crazy gardener so I am already planning my terrace for spring.”
Amber’s interior style features calming, neutral colours, warm and welcoming natural wood, many textured cushions and glass accessories, plus a cat tree in the corner, for a hoity-toity tortoiseshell who’s very fussy about who she’ll have anything to do with. It’s a truly delightful home.
A SPECIAL PLACE
“This is the best decision I ever made,” says Amber. “This is a special place and there are some lovely people here, we all appreciate it. The community here, and the bigger community around, have so many memories of children being born here, and decades of dramas both sad and happy. This special building is keeping those memories alive.”