In the 1960s, Dr Ian Pratt was considering the welfare of his elderly patients. He formed a Committee which studied the practicalities of creating a new facility and a meeting in October 1962, at the George Hotel, was attended by a number of equally concerned individuals and local organisations.
Somerset County Council had no plans to provide new residential accommodation in the next fifteen years and therefore Ilminster would have to take action itself.
Dr Pratt spoke about the problems faced by the elderly in caring for themselves and the all too common scenario of having to move into the relative isolation of homes in Yeovil or Taunton.
Mrs Vaughan Lee was kind enough to provide an initial contribution and over the years, many have followed her generous example.
A housing association was formed and committee appointed. Further committees were established, with members from the local area taking responsibility for various aspects, such as planning and fund-raising. Mr AD Mitcham was appointed Secretary in 1963. The Committee of Management of the Society consisted of FS Carpenter (Chairman), Miss R Hatfield (Vice-Chairman), Mr A D Mitcham (Secretary), Mr PJ Gard (Treasurer), Mr JJD Duke (Legal Adviser), Dr I Pratt, Dr WGC Forrester, Mr IJ Morgan, Mr AF West (Surveyor) and Mr HW Hutchings, all of whom were elected at the inaugural meeting. Col. JC Coombes was also invited to join, owing to his work for the Senior Citizens’ Club.
Until 1969, the group met formally only twice each year and the officers; Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Treasurer remained the same. Mrs N Baird became Secretary in 1964 and her minutes provide most of the information for this account.
The following years were devoted primarily to fund raising, in which Mrs R Cropper and Mr IJ Morgan took the lead. By December 1963 a Building Committee had been formed, an artist’s impression created and Appeal leaflet issued. Two years later an Executive Committee was formed which supervised details not undertaken by the General Committee. By November 1965, Stone and Partners of Taunton were commissioned as Architects, and in the following year the site was finally agreed. The Ilminster UDC offered a 0.85 acre site for £500 and agreed to put in the road and sewers earlier than was necessary for their own estate plans. This was gratefully accepted. When firm offers of loans by the UDC (£17,000) and Somerset County Council (£27,000) had been received, it was agreed by the General Committee to commence the building of a twenty bed unit. The estimated cost had risen to approximately £50,000, highlighting a shortfall in capital. When Somerset County Council agreed to increase its loan to £33,000 the building contract was signed with W Coombes and Sons for £47,496.16.6d, the instruction being given by the Management Committee in January 1969.
Mr W Lawson, Clerk to Ilminster UDC, who had been instrumental in arranging the financial transactions entered into between the Society and the Council, joined the Committee. From March 1969, the organisation changed. The Management Committee, which had dealt solely with the affairs of the Society, took over the running of the project, setting up two sub-committees to deal with Staffing and Equipment. Members of the former were Dr Pratt, Mrs Baird and Miss Hatfield and of the latter Dr Pratt, Mrs Cropper and Mr West. A Residents’ Sub-Committee, to interview Residents was later formed. The General Committee remained as an Appeals Committee, known as the Friends of Vaughan Lee and Mr Loaring (Ilminster), Mr Welch (Broadway) and Mr Pitman (Horton) with other assistants, worked hard to raise funds.
The plaque naming the Home, Vaughan Lee House, in memory of Mrs Vaughan Lee and her original gift, was unveiled by her daughter, Mrs Cameron and a bouquet was presented by Mrs M Norris, a devoted fundraiser.
The Matron, Mrs Earley, took up her appointment on January 12th 1970, although the building was not quite complete. Two Care Attendants, a Cook and Cleaners were engaged and the Home became fully operational on February 3rd 1970 when the first four people came into residence. The building was so quickly filled that two extra rooms upstairs, were put into use.
Continued requests for accommodation led to a decision to extend the building so that now 28 rooms, 24 single and 2 double were available on the ground floor. The opportunity was taken to remove steps leading to one wing, creating an office and improving the Staff Room. The work was completed by Messrs Coombes and Son by January 1980, the design and supervision being undertaken by the Architects’ Department of the County Council. This work was paid for from a grant of £2,000 from the National Corporation for the Care of Old People and a loan of £50,000 by Somerset County Council. The financial situation worried the committee in the early days, when the first loans were for 60 years at 7%, with the extension costing more than the original building and the loan being for 30 years, at 13%.
Vaughan Lee House Today
We have a capacity for 30 residents, with no plans to increase numbers. Residential homes reach an optimum size, beyond which they are in danger of becoming institutions and we very much wish to provide the sort of ‘family’ care which is difficult to emulate in a large home.
Vaughan Lee House enjoys the patronage of many friends locally and we value the continued support of those whose heart is to provide the care needed by our elderly population, as originally envisaged by Dr Pratt and his friends.