Valley End has it’s own almshouses. It shares them with Windlesham.
The story starts in 1936, when William Charles Lee died. He had been born in a poor family in Windlesham, and understood poverty. Sally Clark has written about his life.
Lee’s Court; the almshouses in Thorndown Lane.
“When William Charles Lee died on 15 December 1936 he established by his Will, two trusts – the first of £1000 to be invested and the income to be applied ‘for the general purposes of the Windlesham and Valley End Nursing Association’. This trust was known as the Windlesham Sick Poor Fund. The residue of his Estate, after some bequests to family (he never married and had no issue), he left for a second trust ‘to establish and maintain almshouses for aged poor persons born in (or if such are not available) residents of the parish of Windlesham and Valley End.’
“This trust was registered as W.C. Lee’s Resthouses, Windlesham.
The Resthouses, Windlesham. (Image courtesy of Ann Wolfe.)
“William Charles Lee was born in Windlesham on 6 April 1840, the eldest son of James, and Sarah Lee. In July 1858 his brother George and his sister Emma died within a week of each other at ages 7 and 4 respectively. The nearest hospital was at Windsor and required membership of a hospital scheme at 2d a week. A single visit to a doctor could be as high as a shilling. James’s agricultural labourers wages were low and it would have been difficult for him to provide adequate nursing care for the family – something at age 18, William would have been very aware of.
“A year later in 1859 his mother Sarah died too. His father was unable to look after his remaining children and so Elizabeth, William, James and Eliza were passed to various relatives and again this was bound to have had a huge impact on William..
“William had been a farm labourer but on moving to live with his mother’s sister, Aunt Elizabeth Manzi and her husband, Innocent Manzi in Bermondsey, East London, his life changed significantly. Innocent worked as a picture frame carver and gilder (a process of covering a wooden frame with thin gold leaf to replicate solid gold) and he taught William the trade.
“William’s father James subsequently seemed to drift from lodgings to lodgings, probably following farm labouring jobs available to him and eventually died in Valley End. William’s brother James, described as a farm labourer and cowman at different times of his life, never married and also drifted from lodgings to lodgings until finally taking refuge in the Union Workhouse at Epsom where he died of pneumonia on 11 January 1892 at age 50. His death certificate lists his occupation as a stableman of Epsom. Again, the circumstances of neither of them having a permanent home right to the time of their deaths must have influenced William’s decision regarding his Resthouses.
Gustave Dore. “Applying for admittance to a refuge.” 1872.
“By 1871 William had moved from the Manzi home but was still living in Bermondsey where the census describes his occupation as a picture frame maker. He developed his business, expanding as the years went by to include publishing and selling of art prints. It supported him for the rest of his life and at times his sister, Eliza who lived on and off with him.
“Eliza married Thomas Martin in 1878 and their son Percy was born in 1881. Relatives described the marriage as unhappy due to their heavy drinking. Percy left home at age 12 for this reason – in his own words he said that he no longer wished to sing in pubs for his father’s drinks and joined the merchant navy. Percy was a sailor most of his life. He met and married Margaret Maxwell on the east coast of Canada but ultimately took up US citizenship, settling finally in New York where Eliza visited them in 1930.”
Plaque on the Resthouses.
On 15 December 1936 William Charles Lee died, and set up his trust to build and run almshouses, for the benefit of Windlesham and Valley End.
Two years later, some land was given by Charles Henry Bulwer Caldwell, of the Cedars, Windlesham, and W. C. Lee’s Resthouses opened in 1948.
Memorial to Charles Henry Bulwer Caldwell in St. Lawrence’s Church, Chobham.
When the houses first opened the Trustees were able to avoid charging rent, but they were unable to continue to be so generous. At present, “the Trustees aim to charge around half of Equivalent Fair Rent as assessed by the Valuation Office Agency.”
At one point Joan Weymouth was a Trustee. “When I joined, you had to go and visit the people. I had the difficult lady.” Then the lady discovered that Joan’s mother had nursed her in the Cottage Hospital. “Not Mrs Millard? She was the only one that dried between my toes!” After that they were firm friends.
The almshouses still stand in Thorndown Lane, providing housing for the elderly, and continuing to fulfill the aims of William Charles Lee.
Memorial to William Charles Lee in Windlesham churchyard.
With many thanks to Sally Clark, for her permission to include her article on W. C. Lee. This was first published in the Windlesham Magazine, who have kindly agreed to let us use this item.
In her article Sally Clark added “My thanks to Marianne Robbens, former Trustee and Pat Tedder, current Trustee of the charities for all the material and putting me in contact with Linda Lee Franks Beeb.”
With thanks to Joan Weymouth.
Aviva Community Fund. W. C. Lee’s Resthouses.
Open Charities W. C. Lee’s Resthouses.
Charity Commission W. C. Lee’s Resthouses.