The Residential Care Home built by the Community... Celebrating 40 years!

Celebrating 40 years


The inspiration for the founding of a 'Welfare Centre for Old People' came from a local General Practitioner, Dr Ian Pratt, as early as 1961. A Steering Committee studied many of the practical details of setting up such a centre and called a public meeting in October 1962 at the George Hotel. This was attended by a large number of people representing local organisations and concerned individuals.

Mr I J Morgan, who chaired this meeting, stated that the ideas was not to set up an Old Peoples Home, or a nursing home only, but an Old People's Centre. This was developed by Mr J J D Duke. He explained that the Somerset County Council had no plans for building residential accommodation for Old people in Ilminster for the next ten or fifteen years, and so if anything was done "it would have to be done by Ilminster itself". He envisaged a Home for ten or twenty, with a Common Room for the use of Senior Citizens. The cost of a residential home was estimated at £1,000 per bed-sitting room, and he hoped the Ilminster Urban District Council would be able to make a loan to cover the capital cost which was not raised by other means. The Somerset County Council Welfare Committee would be able to support residents who were unable to pay the full rent.

Dr Pratt enlarged on the humanitarian problems facing old people who were unable to care for themselves, and who had to go away from their friends to institutions in Yeovil or Taunton. He hoped that he home could be run by voluntary help. The residents would be looked after when they were ill and the District Nurses could give their professional help.

Mr P J Gard discussed the financial aspects. He explained that the Local Government Act permitted loans of up to 90% of the capital cost, but the interest was high and he advocated raising gifts to the value of £5,000 for a scheme costing £10,000.

The County Welfare Service Officer, Mr Lane stated that he running cost per resident in a County Home was nearly £7.00 per week. He thought it possible that Ilminster UDC could make a grant towards the cost of the Common Room.

The Chairman of the UDC, Mr R E Marks, gave support to the Scheme, saying that the Council had looked for a site and thought one at Orchard Vale was suitable. A loan would be available.

Mr H W Hutchings, proposed and Mr W Hosegood seconded the proposition that 'the Scheme would go forward'. Mr Morgan produced a cheque for £50 from Mrs Vaughan Lee to defray expenses and the assembly voted for ten of its members to form a Housing Association to be the legal authority. Another meeting was to be held to set up a General Committee.

The following detailed account from The Chard and Ilminster News is a careful record of the start of an organisation which worked for eight years to provide Vaughan Lee House which opened in February 1970. The details of the administration have changed but the spirit of service and co-operation which brought the project through to fruition remains the essential ingredients of its continued success.

Working towards the Establishment of Vaughan Lee House.

The General Committee met on December 12th 1962.  Its members were drawn not only from Ilminster, but also from surrounding villages, within a five mile radius, which seemed to be a natural catchments area for the Home. It was agreed to set up Committees to deal with Appeals, the Site, Buildings, Legal and Welfare questions. The following meeting agreed that the Society should be registered.

In March 1963 two important meetings were held. The first was the General Committee, which agreed on appeals for funds. It was informed that the Ilminster and District (OPW) Housing Society Limited, was registered and it was resolved that Mr A D Mitcham should be the Secretary.

The second meeting was of the Committee of Management of the Society. It consisted of F S Carpenter (Chairman), Miss R Hatfield (Vice-Chairman), Mr A D Mitcham (Secretary, Mr P J Gard (Treasurer), Mr J J D Duke (Legal Adviser), Dr I Pratt, Dr W G C Forrester, Mr I J Morgan, Mr A F West (Surveyor) and Mr H W Hutchings, all of whom were voted for at the inaugural meeting. Col J C Coombes was invited to join, because of this work for the Senior Citizens' Club.

Resolutions were passed on several legal matters, including the purchase of a seal and for applications to join the National Federation of Housing Societies and to be registered as a Charity. Accounts were held with Lloyds Bank and the Auditors G J Pollard of Taunton were appointed.

At this stated, and until 1969, this group met only formally twice a year, but its members were active members of the General Committee also, and the officers; Chairman, Vice-Chairman, and Treasurer were the same. Mrs N Baird became Secretary in 1964 and her minutes provide most of the information for this account.

The next years were devoted primarily to fund raising in which Mrs R Cropper and Mr I J Morgan took the lead, and secondly to arrange small Committees to make detailed plans. By December 1963 a Building Committee was formed, and artist's impression was made and an Appeal leaflet issued.

Two years later in April 1965 an Executive Committee was formed which supervised the detailed formed which the large General Committee could not do. It was to meet monthly.

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 the site (0.85 acres) for £500 and agreed to put in the road and sewers, earlier than was necessary for their own estate plans. This was accepted, in preference to a site offered by Mrs Cameron of Dillington, near the Blackdown Estate.

When firm offers of loans by the UDC (£17,000) and Somerset County Council (£27,000) had been made, it was agreed by the General Committee to build the Home, as a twenty bed unit. The estimated cost had risen to approximately £50,000. This led to a financial problem - a shortfall of capital. When the SCC Finally 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 was instrumental in arranging the financial transactions entered into between the Society and the Council joined the Committee.

From this time, 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 formed later.

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's original gift, was unveiled by her daughter, Mrs Cameron, as Mrs Vaughan Lee was not well. The bouquet was presented by Mrs M Norris, a devoted fundraiser.

The first 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 appointed and so the Home was fully operational on February 3rd 1970 when the first four residents entered it. 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 are available on the ground floor. The opportunity was taken of removing steps leading to one wing, making an office=interview room 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 Architect's Department of the County Council. This building 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 the Somerset County Council. The financial situation worried the committee in the early days when the first loans were for 60 years at 7% or slightly more. The extension cost more than the original building and the loan was for 30 years at approximately 13%.

Vaughan Lee House Today 2008

At Vaughan Lee House we seek to provide and maintain a high standard of care, 24 hours a day, for our close family of residents. 

Our staff are trained to give any help required to meet the needs of day to day living, to be supportive without being intrusive and, to ensure that the dignity of the individual is preserved. Care at Vaughan Lee continues until, on the advice of the GP, a resident needs permanent full time hospitalisation or nursing home care.

Vaughan Lee House is a long established and purpose-built residential Care Home catering for older people who are no longer able to manage on their own. It is a non profit making charity run by a Committee of Management and is registered and regularly inspected by CSCI.


There are 30 single rooms, 10 of which are en-suites and all are fitted with wash-hand basins. All rooms are complete with a fitted call system together with provision for a personal television. Where appropriate, residents may bring their own furniture and also have their own individual telephone installed.

There are three lounges, 2 of which have televisions, and there is full central heating throughout the Home. A visitor's room is available where residents can entertain guests in complete privacy. There is also a pleasant south-facing patio and attractive flower garden that is much enjoyed by residents during summer months.