Obituary: Former seaside care home manager dubbed a Cromer 'legend'

Bridget Mayes pictured at the Tower of London

Bridget Mayes pictured at the Tower of London - Credit: SUPPLIED BY FAMILY

The former manager of a seaside care home has been dubbed a “Cromer legend” following her death aged 86. 

Bridget Mayes remained at the heart of all things Royal British Legion (RBL) long after retiring as manager of Halsey House – one of six Legion-owned care homes providing care for the armed forces community and their families. 

However, it was more than the work ethic that earned her the accolade as she enjoyed a busy social life.

Her love of socialising began at a young age when she participated in roller skating. Looking at photographs from the time, her granddaughters were amazed at the length of their nanny’s skating skirts, to which she would reply that “cloth was in short supply in those days”. 

And as an adult, she would take on jobs to earn “an extra shilling” so that she could go to bingo on a Friday night at her local village hall. 

Born Bridget Bridges in August 1935, she grew up with her elder siblings, Mary and John, in New Street, Cromer. There she spent much of her time on the beach and helped her mum at their family-run guest house. 

As a teenager, she was an active member of the Roller Dance team in Garden Street, spending many hours at Norman Trollors' skating rink, where her future husband, the late Donny Abbs, was part of the roller hockey team.  

BRIDGET MAYES, ROYAL BRITISH LEGION POPPY APPEAL COUNTY CO ORDINATOR AND ADRIAN ALLENBY RBL COUNTY F

Bridget Mayes when she was RBL poppy appeal county co-ordinator, pictured with Adrian Allenby (left) and Derek James (middle) with a copy of Norwich in the Blitz supplement published in 2002 - Credit: © ARCHANT } NORFOLK 2002.

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She began her working life at Hansells solicitors in High Street, putting her shorthand skills to use, and worked there until 1959, when her son, David, was born. The couple moved to live in their first family home in Jubilee Terrace, and then to Top Common, in East Runton, between Sheringham and Cromer. 

In 1961, Michael was born, followed by a third son, Peter, in 1964. 

A working mum of three young boys, she took on extra work at Runton Hill girls’ school, in West Runton, where she would cycle to daily with a young Peter in the seat on the back of the bicycle. 

During the early 1970s, she applied for a job as secretary to the manager at Cromer’s Halsey House. She got the job and relocated back to the town in 1973. She eventually took on the role of manager herself just a few years later.  

President Bridget Mayes with her son at the Tower of London Poppies in 2014

President Bridget Mayes with her son at the Tower of London Poppies in 2014 - Credit: Archant

Michael, who is known as Mick, said: “As manager at Halsey House, she quickly established herself, in what one would call the ‘old school’ way - forthright and sometimes sharp in her manner, developing a strong, united team.   

“Mum was in her element in that role, hosting many high-profile visits including the Duchess of Kent in 1984, and encouraging activities that provided care for the residents, such as fetes and music events, raising funds and awareness of what the RBL provides.  

“She loved to take part in the annual carnival, and would spend hours creating floats for the parade, but also ensured that there was a gin and tonic close by to help oil the wheels.”  

Mrs Mayes was also an accomplished pianist, who loved to play at Halsey’s weekly church services and for the residents on a Friday evening sing-song in the bar.  

Mick added: “She loved that job more than anything else. Anything connected to a poppy – mum was interested in.” 

She and Mr Abbs divorced during the early 1980s, and Mrs Mayes went on to marry Ron Mayes – Cromer's former police sergeant. 

The couple lived together at Runton Road and St Margaret's Road, and played an active role in the town where they enjoyed a “wonderful” social life. After Mr Mayes died in Halsey House in 2011, Mrs Mayes moved into Homecolne, then Ashdown Court. 

Peter Sanderson and Bridget Mayes at the Macmillan Cancer Support fundraiser at Woodlands Caravan Pa

Peter Sanderson and Bridget Mayes at a Macmillan Cancer Support fundraiser at Woodlands Caravan Park in Upper Sheringham - Credit: Archant

Following her retirement from Halsey House in 1997, aged 62, she continued to be heavily involved with the RBL. She was the president of the Norfolk County Women's Section, the county’s Poppy Appeal coordinator for six years and spent two periods as the county treasurer.   

With her sister Mary, she spent time in Overstrand, mainly in the Conservative Club on the committee and helping out at the sports club, where she became the treasurer until last year. She also played bowls in the local leagues with her husband. 

During her 80s, she took on a part-time role with the late Dougie Wright, as a receptionist at Woodlands Caravan Park in Bodham, near Holt – another role her son said she "loved”. 

“She was always so proud of her three boys,” he said.  

“As the middle child, I was always the one coming home with holes in my knees, after playing football in the school playground and feeling her wrath. Mum was the disciplinarian in our house.” 

His brother, David, added: “I remember fondly [being] herded out to the local farms fruit-picking throughout the long warm summer months. We perhaps didn’t realise it at the time but those far distant memories are now to be cherished.  

“The pricked fingers and thumbs and the pains of our labour – soon forgotten, after being soothed by a hug from mum.” 

She was also proud of David and Peter for giving almost 70 years of service between them to Norfolk Fire and Rescue Service, both as retained firefighters in Cromer and full time across the county, as well as Mick’s military career. 

He added: “Mum was never one for much fuss. Often, she would just get on with it and encourage us boys, and others, to do the same. 

“Mum was a strong lady, in many ways. Those of you that knew her well would agree that she could be direct and assertive, nor did she suffer fools, but all the time being polite and courteous. 

“Confident in her style and appearance too - [always] immaculate. 

“A remarkable woman, she displayed dignity, warmth and love throughout her life and in her death. 

“A Cromer lady through-and-through, fiercely proud of this town, its people and its heritage. I told her that she was a Cromer legend.” 

Mrs Mayes died on December 9. She leaves behind her children, their spouses, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, as well as many friends. The funeral will take place at Cromer Parish Church at 2pm on Wednesday, December 29, followed by a private cremation.  

Donations are being collected for Halsey House amenities fund c/o Cromer and District Independent Funeral Services, 32 West Street, Cromer, Norfolk, NR27 9DS. Alternatively, donations can be made online under funeral notices at www.cromeranddistrictfunerals.co.uk

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