Charlie Wright had lived alone on wasteland in Birkenhead, Merseyside, for the last 20 years, but after suffering an attack which hospitalised him for a year, he was shocked to return home and find his house in the middle of a new 178-strong estate
Image: Liverpool Echo)
A man who had no neighbours returned home from hospital to find a whole new estate with 178 houses had been built around his home.
Charlie Wright, 70, has lived in the same house all his life, on Ilchester Road in Birkenhead, Merseyside, the Liverpool Echo reports.
But he watched as the once-bustling community was reduced to simply an area of open wasteland 20 years ago when the council offered residents £2,000 to give over their house for demolition and move elsewhere.
Stubborn Charlie, however, refused to move, even as his once mid-terraced four-bedroom house became a detached property, leaving him with no neighbours.
Content with his decision though, the retired boilerman enjoyed his peaceful life in his solitary home which became a familiar and curious sight for passengers from nearby Birkenhead North station.
Speaking to the Liverpool Echo, Charlie said: “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.
“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.”
But Charlie’s life was turned upside down when he was attacked in his own home last year, by a thug who broke in and held a knife to his throat before hitting him over the head three times with a hammer.
Devastatingly, the man who had never been on holiday and rarely even left home to cross the Mersey to Liverpool was forced to spend almost a year in hospital and then received treatment at a specialist brain unit.
When he finally returned from hospital, he was shocked to find that a brand new housing estate with 178 dwellings had been completed in that time.
Speaking of the attack, 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.”
Before the council launched the buy-up scheme which saw the complete demolition of the original estate, Charlie was formerly one of the founding members and chairman of the River Streets Community Association Ltd.
The community had pulled together to set up the registered charity to look after the interests of the residents then living on the 600-home council estate known as “River streets” because all the roads were named after British rivers.
Charlie 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 perfectly.”
Charlie might have lost some of the splendid isolation he once had, but now has the opportunity to meet and bond with new neighbours again and form a community.
He continued: “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.”