A Public Meeting was held on 11 May 1897 to discuss what to do for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. From 80 to 100 people attended the meeting and it was agreed that there would be two types of celebration – a sports day on the 6 July – the official national day – and the erection of two almshouses which would be available rent free for widows of over 60 years of age. Many committees, which later blossomed into many sub- committees, appointed themselves. Committees were usually chaired by Samuel Hope Morley (who was later to become the first Lord Hollenden) and had all the people who headed other parish matters – the Parish Council, the United Charities, the School Managers, the Leigh Institute and so on. These included the very long serving Vicar (the Rev. Hugh Collum), Mr Sturgess, Mr Goodwin from Paul’s Hill Farm, Mr Boby, the school head, and Dr Fraser. The various Committees were separate from the Parish Council, with whom protracted debates over the alm houses and the legalities continued for several years. It was agreed that “not more than £25 should be spent on the Sports Day” which initially was going to be on the Green. [But remember that average costs today are fifty times greater, so that £25 was a reasonable amount].
A good deal of preparatory work had to be done, particularly on the alms house scheme including liaising with the Charity Commissioner. They strongly recommended that rent of a minimum of five shillings a week be charged so that there was income for repairs and improvements. Early debates covered who should lay the stone (Mrs Hope Morley) and details of the special silver trowel which should be used, together with details of the service over which the Rev. Collum would preside. If these type of ceremonial details seem to have been discussed before the plans, the sewers and the water, it should be remembered that it was the village luminaries in the celebrations who would be expected to pay for a good proportion of the cost of the alms houses. Dr Fraser’s brother, a solicitor, whose help seems to have been called upon for several pieces of village business over the years, drew up the deeds for free – “thus saving the Committee about £15” – and specially printed invitations to the dedication service were sent to all who had contributed. The best method for choosing suitable tenants was discussed and spinsters were added to widows as possible eligible tenants.
In the event, the games and celebrations were held in Hall Place grounds rather than the Green, although there are no details of the events other than that teas were served and there were sports. The almhouses were formally dedicated on Wednesday 22 December 1897 and were formally opened to their first lady tenants on Tuesday 20 September 1898.
The estimate for the two cottages, including the drainage and sewers, was £306 – not bad value, even if the cost is multiplied by fifty. In the event, there was a slight deficit in the funds collected when various extras, including a second bedroom and heating in the bedrooms, had been included; and at the last committee meeting, held on 2 October 1900, “Mr Hope Morley kindly offered to pay the outstanding £13-7-4d.”
Parish Magazine Article: Oct 2001: by Chris Rowley