The History of The Abbeyfield Society
Sir Nicholas Winton
Sir Nicholas Winton was born in England two years after his parents had moved here from Germany. The family name was changed from Wertheim to Winton, and the family converted to Christianity from Judaism. This was in order for the family to integrate into the UK more easily.
Sir Nicholas attended Stowe school and entered the world of banking upon graduating. He moved around Europe in the early 1930s, and eventually returned to England to work at the London Stock Exchange.
Sir Nicholas first became involved in humanitarian work shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War. He volunteered to work with others, bringing young people from Prague, Czechoslovakia to the UK. This was at great personal risk, but it guaranteed these young people sanctuary and rescued them from the persecution of the Nazi regime. In all, 669 children were saved during the summer of 1939, just before the invasion of Poland.
While Sir Nicholas did not deliberately hide what had happened, the full extent of his work didn’t become public knowledge for 50 years. His wife discovered notes and diaries in his loft, and this when people found out what he’d done for those children. After the war, and a spell of service in the Royal Air Force, Sir Nicholas and his wife Grete moved to Maidenhead, where they settled with their three children.
Forming Abbeyfield Maidenhead Society Ltd
Having worked with Major Richard Carr-Gomm OBE, the founder of the Abbeyfield Society, in St Albans from 1960, Sir Nicholas formed the Abbeyfield Maidenhead Society in 1973. He built a sheltered housing unit in Maidenhead for eight people. This was followed by the establishment of Winton House in 1980, and this provided care for 29 more people. Having established a solid financial base for the society, a second residential care home was built in 2011 – Nicholas House.
Sir Nicholas maintained an active interest in the society up until his death. He is remembered fondly for his attitude of just getting things done, as well as his ability to persuade others into carrying out work on his behalf.
Sir Nicholas Winton’s legacy
Our Chairman, Mr David Cager, reflects Sir Nicholas’s approach fondly, always making a positive statement of intent, and always thinking about how success would be achieved.
A book entitled If It’s Not Impossible was written about the life of Sir Nicholas Winton. Fittingly, it was his daughter, Barbara Winton, who wrote it. The title sums up the mindset of Sir Nicholas, especially if you follow it with “don’t ever give up”.
Sir Nicholas remained President of the society until his death in 2015. He reached a grand age of 106. This extraordinary man always took an interest, and was kept up to date with all business. He attended his last AGM in November 2014. Everyone involved with the society is proud of our connection to him and we take every opportunity to share his amazing life story.