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Charity offers help for ‘Her’oes

Free seaside bungalows for women who have spent a lifetime serving their country and community.

The Home of Devenish, a charity based in Dorset, is offering free seaside retirement housing to Christian widows of vicars or military officers who are in need. The homes in the seaside resort town of Weymouth are being offered to the unsung heroes of the community: vicars’ wives who spend their lives working seven days a week and soldiers’ wives who constantly live one step away from sacrifice.

There are around 16,000 Anglican clergy and 25,000 military officers. The scheme is open to the widows of any of them who are in need. Amazingly, the charity, which has been operating since 1962, doesn’t have a waiting list right now.

The charity will now open its doors to a new wave of women. It used to be just widows – but times change – in 2019, Reverend Peacock or Captain Scarlet is as likely to be a Cathy as a Clive. Now, The Home of Devenish wants to give back to the women who are doing it for themselves – it is opening its doors to retired woman vicars or women officers, too.

The women who live in the pretty bungalows, some with views of Portland Harbour and Weymouth Bay and each with a generous-sized kitchen and living room, a spare bedroom for family or friends to visit, and a south-facing sun room, don’t have to pay any rent or council tax – and all house and garden maintenance is sorted by the charity. The tenants just have to bring their own furniture and pay for electricity.

“We’ve been trying to get this change made for some time, and it’s brilliant that we can now offer our houses to these women who’ve given so much for their country,” said Diana Ludlow, chair of The Home of Devenish Trust.

“We’ve had women as young as 60 arrive, some still working, but some join us when they’re over 80,” said Diana. “As long as they’re still independent, age is no barrier. We often find they get a second lease of life once they’re here. One of our women is an active member of the local sailing club and Coastwatch. Others simply enjoy the tranquility of our sites.”

The women themselves are enthusiastic about the homes. Patricia has been a resident for 29 years: “We’re so well cared for. If something goes wrong, I don’t have to worry about it.” Caroline, a vicar’s widow, loves being able to afford her hobbies of patio gardening and art. Eleanor, who has been a resident for eight years is another officer’s widow: “Honestly, we can’t believe our luck,” she said. “Weymouth has lots of facilities. There’s something for all interests.” She joined Coastwatch when she arrived, and helps with Sailability. They all look out for each other and love the sense of community.

“The hard part is getting the word out, and, unusually, we have five empty bungalows at the moment,” Diana Ludlow added. “And we’re especially keen to let people know about this exciting change. Our first newly-qualifying resident, a retired woman vicar, has just been accepted and will be joining us soon. She becomes the 101st resident. It would be wonderful if we could help other women like her, too.”

Photo of The Nothe and surrounding area by drone photography specialist Guy Carpenter

The Home of Devenish is a Dorset-based charity offering rent- and council-tax free housing in the seaside resort of Weymouth to single Christian women in need who are widows of Officers of HM Forces or Church of England clergy, or who are retired female Officers of HM Forces or Church of England clergy. For more information, visit homeofdevenish.org.uk

More than 100 women have enjoyed a coastal retirement courtesy of the charity since its foundation in 1962.

Photo by drone photography specialist Guy Carpenter.