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New almshouses continue town's charitable tradition

Mable Luke Place energy-efficient flats officially opened at ceremony

Fiona Tomas

Fiona Tomas

fiona.tomas@newburynews.co.uk

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01635 886639

New almshouses continue town's charitable tradition

NEWBURY celebrated the grand opening of 16 almshouse flats in Mabel Luke Place last week, proudly continuing the legacy of the area’s rich charitable heritage.  

Newly-accommodated families, company and charity representatives, town councillors, architects and project managers gathered at the new site on Mill Lane for the official unveiling of the dwellings.

The scheme, which saw the demolition of the original four houses on the site to turn them into 16 modern energy-efficient flats, was part of a joint collaboration between several agencies.

This included a £238,000 grant from West Berkshire Council, with the Greenham Trust match- funding £125,000 and a £560,000 funding initiative from Homes England.

The project was also supported by The Charity Bank, which provided a substantial loan of nearly £1m.

Feltham Construction oversaw the demolition of the original almshouses and the development of new dwellings.

One of the new residents, Lindsay Malyon, who has moved into a one-bedroom flat, said: “I’m still pinching myself.

“It’s really glorious and amazing. 

“I think the location is the best bit to be honest – it’s only two minutes to Sainsbury’s and close to the town centre.”

Almshouses, which are only available to let, represent a distinctive part of Newbury’s building heritage, with the town boasting more than 100 – accounting for more than 80 per cent of those in Berkshire.

Many of these date back to the 17th and 19th centuries.

In 1928, Mabel Luke, from North Hampshire, bought the land fronting Mill Lane in Newbury after coming to live in the area with her husband Paget Luke, at Adbury House, Newtown.

It was during her visits to the town in the 1920s that she was moved by the plight of poor families and their living conditions.

She founded The Charity of Mrs Mabel Luke and focused on finding accommodation for families with children, although those eligible are not restricted by age.  

Those present at the unveiling included West Berkshire Council vice chairman Peter Argyll, Greenham Trust chief executive Chris Boulton, Charity Bank deal manager Sharon Gooch,  The Almshouse Association assistant director Sue Turner and Almshouse Consortium Ltd programme manager Kathy Green. 

In his speech, Mabel Luke Trustee Ltd chairman William Piner recalled the history of the almshouses and thanked the trust’s partners, including the local and district council, for their work in helping to co-operate the scheme.

Deputy Lord Lieutenant Dr Christina Hill-Williams unveiled a Mabel Luke stone, which had been preserved from the original almshouses when they were constructed in 1928.

It bears a modest reference to Mrs Luke through her initials and is sited at the entrance to Mabel Luke Place.

Before unveiling the stone, Dr Hill-Williams hailed the houses as a “wonderful project” at a time when affordable housing was critically needed across the Thames Valley.

Afterwards, attendees gathered to enjoy some light refreshments and Newbury’s mayor Margo Payne cut a cake which was decorated to represent the Mabel Luke stone. 

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