A key part of Melksham’s heritage has been brought up to date, ready to help a new generation of people in need.

The town’s five 19th-century almshouses have been completely restored.

The almshouses were built in 1862 by philanthropist Rachel Fowler to provide homes for the poor women of the town, and were left to the benefit of the parish after her death.

Now, after a series of charitable grants, they are once again providing shelter to people in need.

Russell Lewis, secretary of the Melksham Almshouses Charity, helped oversee the refurbishment, which started last April.

He said: “It’s a complete modernisation. We literally gutted all five houses, so they have modern interiors with state-of-the-art insulation and energy-saving equipment and heating, with the same historic exterior.

“The gardens have also been modernised, and there’s a communal garden for the five residents.”

The bulk of the work was funded by the charity which maintains the houses, with several grants contributing to the cost.

Mr Lewis said: “There was £80,000 from the national Almshouses Assoc-iation, and about £150,000 of our own money.

“Several smaller charities combined to form the Almhouses Charity in 1960, and their investments have carried on.

“The five new residents are now in, one lady and four men, and we will continue to give grants twice a year.”

The renovation work was carried out mainly by local firms, including Bowerhill-based Rigg Construction and Corsham architects CMS Bath Ltd, with local subcontractors completing the bulk of the work.