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Institute of Continuing Education (ICE)


It was a sad day in mid-March when Madingley Hall temporarily closed. But that closure lasted little more than a week. Head of Hall Operations and Estates Development, Ian Hardwick, tells us about a busy and unusual few months for the Hall team.​

“When we closed, we donated the Hall’s stock of food to Jimmy’s homeless shelter in Cambridge,” begins Ian. “It felt good to be useful. Then we started to appreciate the strain COVID-19 would put on the NHS. Tired doctors and hospital staff would be travelling back-and-forth to work at all hours. Rather than returning to their homes, we could keep our facilities open as a place for them to rest and relax”

Once we floated the idea, it didn’t take long to arrange the details with the local NHS Trust, and by the end of March, hospital staff began moving into Madingley Hall.

A safe space for NHS and Hall staff

A core team of Hall staff pulled together to help out. The Operations team took turns working 12-hour shifts staffing reception, while the Chef team prepared fresh food on-site every day. Safety was paramount, so meals weren’t served in-person. Guests simply picked up a well-stocked breakfast bag on their way to work and an evening meal later on. With COVID-safe cleaning and laundry services also included, all NHS staff at the Hall could focus on using the time and space to unwind – take a shower, stroll around the gardens or catch up on some hard-earned sleep.

All the hospital workers who stayed in the Hall’s single-occupancy, en-suite rooms – there were up to 28 guests at any one time – were either shielding vulnerable family members or resting nearby in lieu of long commutes, so Madingley was a valuable resource for protecting the health and welfare of NHS staff and their families.

“We just wanted to provide the best, and safest, service possible,” says Ian. “Colleagues across ICE pitched in, volunteering for support shifts. It was great to see people coming together. We encouraged staff and their kids to draw rainbows and write messages of support to display in the reception area.

“When the Addenbrooke’s staff left in May, we were humbled by some lovely feedback about how safe and relaxing the environment felt. Our guests left ‘Thank You’ cards and boxes of chocolates for the team and told us they were sad to move on.”

Delivering for our neighbours

Having realised how much they could offer the community, the Hall’s staff wanted to continue being of service. So in May, they launched a food delivery and takeaway business.

“Everyone wanted to keep contributing,” recalls Ian “We spoke with local people and knew that some were too worried to go to the supermarket and couldn’t get online delivery slots, so we figured we could help them.”

Making the most of local suppliers, Madingley Hall staff began deliveries to surrounding villages. From freezable ready meals to meat and veg boxes, the Hall food hampers contained much-needed supplies for local villagers – and some little luxuries too. The Hall’s team of Chefs also set about preparing hot food for takeaway and delivery, including beef and plant-based burgers, curries and the ever-popular fish and chips.

“From the Food and Beverage team to the Madingley Hall shuttle bus drivers who are normally ferrying people back-and-forth to Cambridge station, everyone was out delivering,” says Ian. “I’m proud of the whole team for the hard work they put in to create a valuable and successful community resource.”

Pop down to the pop-up café 

Home deliveries are continuing, but with lockdown restrictions slowly easing, July saw an outdoor pop-up café launched in the grounds at Madingley Hall. Open from 8am to 4pm, seven days a week, the dog-friendly café even has a marquee in the garden so that coffee catch ups can go on whatever the weather. The marquee can also be hired out for private events.

“It’s been non-stop; a really challenging time for everybody,” accepts Ian. “But right across ICE, from the Hall team to our extra volunteers, people here have pulled together to create a fantastic experience for our community. Now the café’s up and running, and the gardens have reopened and look fabulous thanks to the Garden team’s efforts throughout lockdown. Everything feels more positive, and we’re honoured to have been useful during a difficult time.”

Learn more

To find out more about home deliveries, the pop-up café and other services at Madingley Hall, visit: 


This article was originally published as part of the 2020 Long Vacation - Michaelmas edition of Inside ICE.





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