Devizes Almshouses restoration is complete after long battle

This Is Wiltshire: Devizes mayor Kelvin Nash with residents at the almshouses completion ceremony Devizes mayor Kelvin Nash with residents at the almshouses completion ceremony

The modernisation of Devizes almshouses has been achieved with money raised from the controversial sale of allotment land at Spitalcroft.

The land was owned by St Mary’s, Devizes Church and Poor Lands Charity, which stopped using it as allotments in 1998 to sell it off to housing developers.

There followed a long fought campaign against the housing plans involving the Spitalcroft Allotment Association and others, which spanned four public inquiries.

The land was eventually sold to Crest Nicholson, which was granted permission to build more than 170 houses in 2009.

Money from the sale of the land was reinvested by the charity in savings accounts and the income has been used to upgrade the 12 almshouses in St Mary’s Gardens, Victoria Road, Devizes.

The almshouses were bedsits and in 2001 ten of them were modernised by building separate bedrooms and bathrooms at a cost of £440,000.

A new garden room was also built for residents to meet and hold events.

In January 2003, Prince Edward and Sophie, the Countess of Wessex, officially opened the newly refurbished almshouses.

The culmination of the project happened this year when the remaining two almshouses were modernised at a cost of more than £100,000.

Last week Devizes mayor Kelvin Nash was at a ceremony to mark the completion.

The almshouses are for older people who live in St Mary’s parish.

Richard Evans, chairman of the charity, said: “We have progressed into the 21st century with accommodation to match the standards of the era.

“The almshouses have wonderful shower rooms now, they are out of this world.

“One resident said she wouldn’t use it if it were put in, but she is now delighted with it.

“The garden room has been an absolute boon. It’s a wonderful amenity and has brought the residents together.

“There is a wonderful atmosphere there and they have a Jubilee club and do activities including whist drives and jigsaws.

“This, and the work to the almshouses, would not have been possible without the money received from the Spitalcroft sale.

“As trustees, we have to be good stewards and we felt we were acting as good stewards.”

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