'Larger-than-life' Ipswich drama teacher Gloria Henshall dies

Star feature..words james marstonProud parents David and Gloria Henshall surrounded by pictures

David and Gloria Henshall at home with portraits of their West End actress daughter Ruthie Henshall in the background. Drama teacher Gloria died this week aged 88. - Credit: Owen Hines

A force of nature - that is how former Northgate High School drama teacher Gloria Henshall will be remembered following her death, aged 88.

Mrs Henshall, wife of former EADT news editor and Ipswich Star editor David Henshall, and mother to West End star Ruthie Henshall, was moved into a care home shortly before the death of her husband last April.

Ruthie announced the death of 88-year-old Mrs Henshall on Instagram on Tuesday.

She wrote: “My beautiful mummy Gloria passed away very peacefully early this morning.
“I managed to care for her for a few short weeks. It was my honour and my privilege."

Ruthie and her sisters Abigail and Susan found it increasingly difficult to visit their mother because of stringent lockdown regulations during the Covid pandemic.

Gloria Henshall and Ruthie

Ruthie Henshall and her mum Gloria before lockdown forced them apart as care home visits were suspended - Credit: Ruthie Henshall

Ruthie spoke to the EADT and Ipswich Star earlier this year about the unnecessary strictness of Government regulations which kept family members and care givers away from their loved ones.

Following the death of her mother Ruthie has again hit out at the insensitive nature of the regulations which she says “kept out love and hope” and reiterated her belief that not allowing visits from loved ones was “totally unnecessary” and “utterly inhumane”.

In February, Ruthie said her mother’s condition had deteriorated rapidly after being isolated by lockdown regulations, and revealed that she was “dying from loneliness”.

She said that her mother responded best to touch and enjoyed being hugged and massaged.

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Rules have since been relaxed and Ruthie could spend time with mother before her death, but sadly her sisters could not.

“I was Gloria’s essential care giver for her last weeks. I read to her, sang to her, cuddled her, fed her, massaged her hands and feet and told her I loved her at least 20 times a visit.”


David and Gloria Henshall celebrating their golden wedding anniversary in 2002 - Credit: James Fletcher

By contrast her sister Susan was only allowed two indoor visits because of the way that government regulations worked.

In her social media post Ruthie said: “If the government had made their guidance law my sisters would have seen her more than a couple of times before losing her.

“Even recently my sister Susan was doing window visits because she wasn’t able to get an indoor visit for three weeks.

“Shame on every government official and care home provider that decided to ignore residents’ human rights and just batten down the hatches.

“You kept out love and hope.

“I am devastated. I hope it was worth the cost to keep them behind locked doors.”

Since last Tuesday, care home residents leaving their home to go for a walk or to visit a loved one’s garden no longer have to isolate for two weeks on their return.

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) removed the requirement after being threatened with legal action by the charity John’s Campaign.

Under the rule changes, residents on visits out must be accompanied by either a member of staff or one of their two nominated visitors, and follow social distancing throughout.

They cannot meet in groups or go indoors, except for the use of toilets, and public transport should be avoided where possible.

It is understood a resident would be able to eat outside at a restaurant or cafe with their care worker or nominated visitor if they agree this with the care home in advance.

Ms Henshall joined a group of campaigners in Parliament Square last week to deliver a petition calling for all care home residents to have the right to an essential visitor in the event of another wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which was signed by more than 300,000 people.

Referring to her sister Susan’s inability to visit her mother before her death, she said: “This was completely and totally unnecessary.

“Utterly inhumane to these beautiful residents who are not really living much of a life.”