Sixty years in Merrow

Hedger’s Almshouses, Wykeham Road in Merrow.

A recent survey proved statistically that almshouse residents tend to live a bit longer (2½years !) than they might otherwise have done, thanks to the community spirit they foster.

Hedger’s Almshouses, Wykeham Road, is a charity which has been situated in Merrow for almost 60 years. Before 1965 the dwellings were in London, tucked between Lambeth Palace and the railway lines going into Waterloo. The buildings had suffered bomb damage and were badly in need of modernisation – for instance, there were no bathrooms. Hot water had to be fetched from the Warden’s boiler or a trip to Lambeth Baths was necessary. The Trustees decided to sell up and begin again outside London. Several sites were considered but turned down, being too remote from shops or too close to motorways. However, the Managing Trustee, Lilian Disney (née Hedger), happened to be a neighbour of Alderman Wykeham Price, former Mayor of Guildford. He heard about the search for a site and knew that the Poyle Trustees had just acquired Merrow House which had been bequeathed by its last owner, Major Browell, expressly for the purpose of housing the elderly. To raise capital, the Poyle Trustees needed to sell off part of the garden. What could be a better match than to sell it to another charity to build 8 bungalows for ‘poor widows or spinsters of good character not less than 50 years of age’? *

Hedger’s acquired a beautiful, peaceful garden site and Wykeham Road was named at the request of Mrs Disney in honour of Colonel Wykeham Price ‘through whose introduction the new site had been obtained’. In September 1961, she recorded in the Minutes that the naming of the ‘new road off Bushy Hill Drive as Wykeham Road’ had been approved.

In 1963 building started and by 1965 a warden and 7 residents had moved in. Since then, we have continued to modernise the bungalows as best we can while keeping maintenance contributions (rent) affordable. Fireplaces with coal-burning back boilers are gone. Instead, the bungalows have central heating and double glazing, and Bosch condensing boilers which heat water directly off the mains. The coal bunkers became spaces for fridge/freezers, the bathrooms are walk-in shower rooms. We maintain them to a high standard and invite applications to occupy from single women of ‘modest’ means able to live on their own independently. Generally, residents are retired from employment and over 70 years in age, but this is not always the case.

Thanks to an amazing team of resourceful and dedicated Trustees, we have been able to keep costs down while providing housing of the best possible standard. Our Trustees have all been exceptionally lovely people and we are grateful to them all.

We are currently looking for new Trustees who live locally, so if you are interested in helping us we would welcome your interest.

For more information, do please contact me at susan@edmart.plus.com or call 01243 555778.

Susan Martineau, Clerk to the Trustees of Hedger’s Almshouses.