Hoddesdon. Dr West Memorial Home
‘I am not cynical but my own view is that these memorials when organised in moments of enthusiasm by living people cannot expect as the years roll by to excite the same interest in the generations that follow’. This was the opinion, in a letter dated 11 Dec 1946, of one of the solicitors of Curwen Carter & Evans, the firm appointed to set up the Trust. The same comment could apply to many almshouses, and has a lot of truth in it.
By the time the home was built only £11 9s. 7d remained. In 1973 there was a note to say that there was no money left in the Bank. A letter dated 1985 noted that the home had so far been maintained by a few donations and the occasional rummage sale.
Dr Leonard West was born in Leeds, and qualified as a doctor in 1903. He relocated to Hoddesdon in 1907 and stayed till his death in 1945. It appears he was popular both as a doctor and for his contribution to the area. When he died, his widow wanted a memorial. A home for ‘necessitous aged persons’ was suggested.
The land was provided by the Barclay family. While they wanted to donate the land (Robert had donated the land for the Queen Victoria Cottage Homes half a century earlier), the terms of his will meant that it had to be sold. The Government Valuer at St Albans suggested £130.
The almshouse would be paid for by public subscription, in the same way as the Queen Victoria Cottage Homes. £890 had been raised by July 1947. Remember this was just after the end of World War II, when rationing was still in force, personal finances were tight and there was a lot of rebuilding to be done. It reflects on the esteem in which Dr West was held.
Hayllar’s book, page 45, includes an architect’s drawing of the home to be erected.
The Trustees were to be between 7 and 12 in number. The solicitor suggested that the assets be held by the Official Trustees as new documents would not have to be prepared when Trustees changed.
As noted above, provision was made for building the almshouse but not for its continued maintenance.
Known donations are:
27 Feb 1950 Women’s section of Royal British Legion donated £2 2s.
25 Apr 1972 Mrs M M Turner bequeathed £50.
1 Sep 75 Mrs Daisy Merchant bequeathed £500.
Inmates (later known as residents) were elected by the Trustees. They had to be from Hoddesdon. They could be either sex, with preference given to a married couple. Religious affiliation (or lack of it) was not to be a factor. They would live rent and rate free. Some tenancy documents are held at Lowewood Museum.
Miss Christie (a Trustee) took a lot of interest and could often be seen up a ladder clearing the gutters. Mr Luxon did the garden and was paid a small fee. A 1985 letter from Curwen Carter & Evans to P J Gandon at the vicarage noted that Mr & Mrs Hummerstone (both about 85 years old) were to be allowed to live in the home till they died. Proposals to instal a bathroom were to be left till then so as not to disturb them.
A 1972 letter from Queen Victoria Cottage Homes to the Charity Commission commented that the Dr West trustees ‘have rather run out of steam. The Trustees are mostly very elderly and fail to attend meetings’. The Trust had remained separate until Nora Christie died; she was the only original trustee left. In a typed history of Queen Victoria Cottage Homes held at Lowewood Museum there is a note to say that the Dr West Home was taken over in 1973; at that stage there was no money left in the Bank.
In 1984 it was decided to combine Dr West & Queen Victoria Cottage Homes under one management under the auspices of The Almshouse Association and The Charity Commission. The accounts for the two charities would be kept separate.
By 1996 it had become increasingly difficult to find trustees, so Springboard Housing Association was approached to take over (others had previously been contacted with no result).
LEAP Almshouses (Legacy East Almshouse Partnership) was established in 2013 and registered in Feb 2014 (Charity Commission ref 1155672). They took over the management of 6 almshouse charities in 2015. The assets of each remained separate and intact. The Dr West Charity Commission ref is 214529.
Despite the original solicitor’s reservations, the home was still functioning 70 years later, and looks set to continue under LEAP Almshouses.
The Future of Almshouses
Address: 5 Beech Walk Hoddesdon EN11 8NS
OS grid reference: 51o 45′ 37″N 0o 01′ 01″W
Georeference: 536982 208685
Documents held at Lowewood Museum 2016. Includes a letter of appointment which includes some of the regulations and the 1976 Charity Commission scheme recording that the Victoria Cottage Homes are the Trustees.
The Chronicles of Hoddesdon, by H F Hayllar
pub Thomas Knight & Co, The Clock House Press, Hoddesdon (preface 1948)
Newspaper and magazine articles about Dr West and the opening of the home can be found in:
Obituaries: Hoddesdon Journal 1 Feb1945 p1 and Hoddesdon and District Legion News 1 Feb 1945 p2
Opening of the home: Hoddesdon and District Legion News 1 Apr 1945 p2, Hoddesdon Journal 1 Sep 1945 p3 and 1 May 1950 p6. Copies of these are available at HALS.
Websites accessed June 2018:
Charity Commission. LEAP Almshouses http://apps.charitycommission.gov.uk/Showcharity/RegisterOfCharities/CharityFramework.aspx?RegisteredCharityNumber=1155672&SubsidiaryNumber=0
Charity Commission. Dr West Memorial Home