When Henrietta Frances Le Personne died in 1925, her husband Louis wanted to ensure that her lifetime of hard work was commemorated in a meaningful way. She had been a formidable woman: not only was she the first female county councillor in Surrey but she also dedicated her time to helping her community, particularly women of Caterham living in poverty.
Louis passed away in 1939, and in his will he bequeathed that a trust should be set up in Henrietta’s name, to provide ‘homes and charities for the benefit of old women folk in reduced or poor circumstances living in Caterham but more particularly in Upper Caterham and quite exceptionally greatly deserving cases outside of the area.’
The Mrs Henrietta Frances Le Personne Benevolent Trust for Old Womenfolk, as it was originally named, was founded in September 1941. Le Personne Homes on Banstead Road in Caterham on the Hill opened its first 22 flats in 1952; 20 more were added in 1976 and, following a major refurbishment in 2009/10, it now has 43 one-bedroomed flats – including ones suitable for wheelchairs – which are managed by the Le Personne Benevolent Trust. The trust’s primary aim is to provide supported accommodation for single women aged 60 and over, of ‘limited financial means’. Following Louis’ original request, long-term residents of Caterham are given priority, but applicants from other areas are considered at the trustees’ discretion.
Le Personne Homes is one of more than 1,600 Almshouse charities in the UK which are supported by the Almshouse Association. Run by volunteers, the charities oversee low-cost housing in secure communities that enables single people to find companionship but still live independently.
The flats at Le Personne are supported by a resident homes manager and other staff, plus a maintenance team. On site there is a laundry room, a library and a lounge, which is used for events and social occasions. The building surrounds a well-cared for garden with seating areas, and there is space for green-fingered residents to grow their own flowers, fruit and vegetables.
Residents can be as involved in as many or as few communal activities as they would like, but the option of a full recreation programme ensures that nobody needs to feel isolated.
Sherry has been living at Le Personne for two years:
“I am very happy here. I like that it’s safe, and that there is somebody here to fix things in my flat if necessary. I love the view from my window of the gardens – in fact, I think I have the best view here!”