The Home of Devenish was founded in 1961 with a bequest from Major John Herbert Clark Devenish, to help widows of clergymen and officers in need.
He, along with his sisters, had inherited Springfield House, where our homes now stand, after his mother died in 1916. With no heir, Major Devenish left the residue of his estate in trust to provide accommodation for the widows.
The Trust was to be named “The Home of Devenish”.
Springfield House and its surroundings were sold with planning permission for 25 dwellings. The Trustees kept back enough land to build six bungalows and two flats in an area now known as Devenish Gardens, and these were completed in 1962.
In May 1964, the Charity Commissioners gave the Trust permission to purchase a newly built bungalow, No 1 Portwey Close, just around the corner from Devenish Gardens.
Further astute deals by the trust saw the purchase of two properties in Bincleaves Road. One of the existing houses was demolished and redeveloped with eight bungalows and two garages on the plot. This development was named Devenish Close. The other property was sold to help fund the new buildings.
At the rear boundary of Devenish Close, which abuts Belle Vue Road, a plot of land stretching towards the foreshore of Portland Harbour came on the market. The Trustees, having obtained an independent surveyor’s report that the land was suitable with regards to stability, as required by the Charity Commissioners, gained permission to build eight further bungalows, similar in design to Devenish Gardens and Devenish Close. These were completed in 1974.
With the communal gardens being dog and cat free, the residents have found that they often get to watch the visiting deer and squirrels, with nocturnal visits from badgers, too.
The Trustees have provided accommodation to over 100 widows, including the present residents, since the Charity Commissioners Scheme was sealed in 1961. They have ranged in age from 60 to 105.
How the Trust deed has changed
The Trust's deed stated that it was for:
1. Widows in need, provided they were members of the Church of England, of
a. Clergymen of the Church of England
b. Officers of Royal Navy and Royal Marines
c. Officers of HM Army and Royal Air Force
2. To use Springfield House as a residential home
In Major Devenish's day, there were no female Anglican clergy, and no female officers in the regular Armed Forces.
Times change: the 1990s saw the first female Church of England ministers ordained (now new female applicants outnumber their male counterparts), and, from 2018, women can apply for all roles the British military, so it was felt that the changes brought in in January 2019 are timely.
Early in 2019, the Trust received permission from the Charity Commissioners to change the qualifications to bring the charity up to date.
We now look forward to welcoming women in need who are single and Christian, and either:
1. Widows of ordained Church of England clergy or officers in HM Armed Forces
2. Or themselves retired Church of England clergy or officers of HM Armed Officers
Springfield House, which had been built in 1879 by Major Devenish's father, was damaged during the War and, though repaired, was deemed unsuitable to provide accommodation for the widows due to the high ceilings and the cost of heating.