THE history of the site of Castle Hill House on Bournemouth Road, Parkstone, can be traced back to the 1920s when the building was owned by Dorset County Council and was used as a home for tuberculosis patients. Later it became part of Poole Hospital and was used for nurses accommodation.

"The site remained as hospital property and in 1971 work commenced on the construction of a locally based hospital for children with a mental handicap as an experimental unit from the results of work being done by Albert Kushlick and the Wessex Research Team. Albert was the director of research into mental handicap care for the Wessex Regional Health Authority and the director for the Wessex Research Project," said Joan Wards, who worked at the home.

In 1972 Castle Hill House became the 'home' to 13 mentally handicapped children who were transferred from Tatchbury Mount and Coldharbour hospitals and Field Place, a private children's home. It was revolutionary because it was established amidst the community it served. Parents of the children lived in the Poole area and could visit them any time, help dress and feed them, put them to bed and read them bedtime stories. It was a branch of the children's own home and removed the remoteness of them being in hospital care miles away making frequent visits difficult.

Castle Hill set in beautiful wooded grounds had an enclosed playground, playrooms and brightly decorated children's bedrooms.

"The research team worked with the staff and children for the first year to complete their research work which involved recording data and filming. Following on from their research, similar units were opened later for the care of adults in the surrounding areas," said Joan.

"Castle Hill offered residential care, respite care and day care and was a lifeline to all families who were caring for children at home. Over the years hundreds of children and their families saw Castle Hill as an extension to their home. It provided a range of facilities including a hydrotherapy pool and a Snoozlem multi sensory room funded by the League of Friends."

Formed in 1976, the League of Friends also raised money for a mini bus, provided the home with specialised equipment and funded holidays.

"We all worked to the same goal to enable the children to have a comfortable and varied lifestyle and develop to their utmost potential despite their disabilities. The house was a hub of activity, days out, visits to shows and the cinema and memorable parties and holidays,"said Joan.

New innovations of care were introduced and Castle Hill saw many changes. Residential children now went to school at Montacute, Langside and Linwood, before then children had a home teacher.

Then the house was separated into three flats, two on the ground floor, Pinewood and Nirvada with Rooftop upstairs. The more vulnerable children downstairs and the active upstairs cared for in smaller family environments.

As care was transferred to the community, fewer children required residential care but it was noticed there was an increase in children with behavioural problems. Rising to the challenge a multi disciplinary assessment unit was opened at Castle Hill and a Behavioural team was set up with extra special skills. This team are now based in the community.

Over time the more vulnerable children slowly decreased in numbers and the children at Castle Hill were now young adults ready to move to adult accommodation.

In 2011 Castle Hill House closed and the young adults and their care staff moved to purpose built flats at Broadstone.